Best Beginner Climbing Harness

Posted August 11, 2014 by Joel Schopp in Climbing

The Black Diamond Momentum SA (Men) and Black Diamond Primrose SA (Women) are the best beginner and all around climbing harnesses. They offer great affordability, durability, versatility, and comfort.


The cheapest harness will be whatever is on sale.  The cheapest harness based on full retail price is the Black Diamond Alpine Bod, which we recommend only for Mountaineering.  After that most gear manufacturers’ cheapest harness will run $55 retail.  Unlike most other manufacturers, Black Diamond’s intro level harness really doesn’t cut any corners.  We think it is 95% as good as the top of the line $125 – $160 models out there for experienced climbers who know exactly what they want in a harness, and is better than any of those expensive models for beginners.


All climbing harnesses will have good durability, but Black Diamond in particular seems to pay attention to durability on their harnesses.  We’ve owned the previous version of this harness, the Momentum AL, and despite getting a lot of use over the years it looks very much like it did when it was new.  We’ve seen many other Black Diamond harnesses on friends and at climbing areas and durability has never been an issue.


With 4 gear loops, a rated haul loop, and very good overall comfort this harness can do it all.  You can use it in the gym, sport climbing, trad climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, and even big wall climbing.  Can you find a harness that is better for one of those things, sure.  But you won’t find a harness that is better at all of those things, and for certain you won’t find it at this price.


Many older climbing harnesses, and some new climbing harnesses, had a buckle that you had to double back the webbing to secure.  It is a very common error to forget to double back this buckle, it is also a potentially deadly error.  The SA in Momentum SA stands for Speed Adjust, also known as a speed buckle.  This type of buckle is secure at all times, no need to double back.  We think this increases safety and feel so strongly about it we don’t recommend any harnesses without speed buckles.

The Momentum SA also has adjustable leg loops, which helps your harness fit your naked legs in the summer or over your insulated pants in the winter.  Adjustable leg loops also means that you are more likely to be able to have your harness fit a friend if you need to switch off harnesses.  Like the speed adjust buckle on the waist these leg adjust buckles are always secured, no need to double back.  Some lightweight harnesses go without adjustable leg loops to save a couple ounces, which is OK if the leg loops happen to fit you perfectly, but we think the flexibility of adjustable leg loops at the minimal extra weight is totally worth it.


Comfort is quite subjective and personal so we suggest you try on any harness before buying. One of the great things about the Black Diamond Momentum SA is that most of the places that carry climbing gear carry this harness. This allows you to try it on in-store. However, if you decide to purchase it online you have a better chance of it fitting well with adjustable leg loops and a good range of size adjustment in the speed buckle waist. Other technical features that make it more comfortable are the rounded edges on the waist and leg loops and the breathable waist which keeps you drier in hot temps.

For more on the technical design that contributes to the comfort we found this Black Diamond Video that shows a nice cutaway of the waist belt and talks with some of the design engineers.


What Others Are Saying

37 REI users gave the Momentum SA 4.2 out of 5 stars

62 users gave the Momentum SA out of 4.6 out of 5 stars

40 Moosejaw reviews gave the Momentum SA 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Outdoor Gear Lab did a review of the Momentum SA and said, “This is one of the best values in harnesses with speed adjust leg buckles.”

31 users gave the Primrose SA 4.7 out of 5 stars

23 REI users gave the Primrose SA 4.5 out of 5 stars

21 Moosejaw users gave the Primrose SA 4.9 out of 5 stars


About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.

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