April 2020: Fast-forward six months, and a pandemic has affected every aspect of life like nothing we’ve seen before. Whilst frontline staff go out and put their lives at risk, the climbing industry has been affected in every aspect – from indoor walls being shut, outdoor climbing is all but banned, and UKC logbooks have shut for the foreseeable future to discourage people from climbing. So how does one go about testing a product? With difficulty, but a bit of garden testing and ‘sending’ (the crimpy wall of the courtyard), the two Black Diamond harnesses will have to be tested from the limited confines of lockdown and pre-lockdown imagery…
So the Solution harness ( the grey and orange one) is the kind of ideal harness pitched at the sport climber. It’s got four loops, for sport climbing drawers, and weighs in at a mere 330g. The Technician harness ( the purple and grey one) is the kind of harness more suited for the mountaineer who wants a harness for outdoor climbing – be it sea-cliff Multipitch Trad routes , to big walls and abrasive rock and alpine mountain roots. It’s 376g but has ice clipper slots, five gear loops(!) and adjustable leg loops. It’s more practical since you can wear this over over-trousers and adjust if you’re wearing different layers.
As a Trad climber who is used to carrying gear on different loops (Quickdraws, nuts, cams, hexes slings PLUS rescue gear), having the fifth loop helps compartmentalise and separate the gear into an orderly fashion. It’s worth noting that the fifth loop is a cordlette style material, rather than the moulded plastic of the other four loops. On my outing to Stanage I found the gear loops did accommodate for most of my gear – but like all BD harnesses sometimes a bit of creativity e.g. clipping one quick draw to the others so they take up less room as a way round of maximising limited gear loop space.
The Solution is much simpler in design and doesn’t have the little gear loop at the back to clip a belay device or keep a prussick/ maillion at the back, which is a downside. It does have four pressure-moulded gear loops, which face outwards to make it easier to clip gear to the loops when looking down.
The Solution Harness was where I found the fit wasn’t as comfortable for me to wear The leg loops were much tighter as there was no adjustable buckle so unless you had very slim, non muscle-y legs (nope, not me) then the harness came up very uncomfortable and legs loops fully stretched wearing the XS. As someone who usually wears the XS harness in the BD momentum (not reviewed but one I use normally) adjustable leg loops are important feature and perhaps something that has been overlooked in the sport climbing harness design. In the Technician, I had adjustable leg loops, which were more comfortable to wear when climbing.
In the Technician harness, there was more padding in the leg loops thanks to the Fusion Comfort Technology, although they weren’t super padded so for any abseiling or sitting in the harness would be uncomfortable for long periods of time.
The Solution had thin technical fabric in the fixed leg loops which has a light amount of low profile padding thanks to the similar use of Fusion Comfort Technology but I felt this wouldn’t be comfortable to be sat in them for ages as it didn’t allow for the flexibility of adjusting the size of the loops and therefore easing the pressure. According to the black diamond page it says there is opportunity to create ‘superior load distribution while reducing pressure on sensitive points’
Both harnesses were a size XS - which in Black Diamond’s size chart, means in waist wise, if you’re 24inch to 27 inch ( 61-69cm) waist it’ll fit and leg wise 17-21 inches ( 45-53cm leg .) I usually wear a size 8-10 top and size 10 bottom, so I was surprised that the sizing was different between the harnesses, the technician being more in line with my normal harness sizing and the solution being a size too small. Black Diamond have a women’s specific rise and fit so they do make the harnesses taking into account the different curvature of women’s bodies although it would be fairly difficult to know which size you should buy unless you’ve owned a harness from them before. For climbers just getting into climbing it would be tricky to know your sizing unless you had a tape measure and ideally an opportunity to try this harness on in the shop.
EASE OF USE
Both harnesses are tailored at different types of climbing, and whilst the Solution is primarily a sport climbing harness, the Technician harness has four ice clipper slots so extra gear can be attached using the BD ice clippers for ice screws and extra winter climbing gear. It’s also light enough to be suitable for alpine climbing without resembling a wispy hairband and provide a sense of reassurance for big activities. It also has a quick drying, durable shell that will help when the harness comes into contact with rock, ice, snow and mud – a plus if the harness becomes the ‘go to’ harness in one’s kit .
Technician comes in ‘Rhone’ – a kind of dark berry purple which is only visible in the gear loop and inside padding of the leg loops, the res of the body is a dark grey. The colours were quite practical without being overly feminine.
The Solution I tested comes in ‘Orange/Black’ – a bright, accent dark orange colour for the whole of the leg loops and the gear loop complimented with the dark grey webbing. I did find that because the gear loop and the leg loops were in a brighter colour this was therefore were more likely to attract dirt and mud if you were planning on using the harnesses in more UK sport climbing conditions, where topping out/ sitting down could mean the harness shows the dirt marks more easily.
You’re probably going to buy the Technician harness if you’re after a harness that can cope with a wider range of activities. The Technician performed better and felt more durable as a multi-functional climbing harness that I felt comfortable trying when I used it for Trad climbing and for future winter and Alpine trips. The Solution harness felt it was more suited to a sunny sport climber going to a destination climbing location such as Spain and whilst the XS didn’t fit in this round of testing, I’d be keen to see if the ‘S’ harness fitted me better and provided more comfort to climb using that harness.
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