I've spent the past two years infatuated with the lightest, sleekest climbing harness available. But I've discovered the benefits of going skimpy can be fleeting. On one minimalist rig I've been wearing, the light-duty elastic straps on the leg loops are shot, the reinforcement patch at the tie-in point is badly frayed, the webbing now refuses to slip through the micro buckles, and the rope keeper loop has broken off the crotch strap. And this cost well over $100!
My mantra now is Gimme the beef. I'll gladly pack on a few more ounces in a harness if those ounces add up to burliness.
Late last summer, two harnesses from Wild Country caught my eye. One, the Elite Men's (available in women's version) is graphically redesigned from a previous incarnation while the other, the Vision Sport, is brand new for this year. I wore both models for rock climbing, usually projecting and bolting, and logged serious hang time in the harness. Then, as temps dropped and snow flew, I used them for ice and mixed.
The Elite Men's is the heavier (16.5 ounces) of the two designs and is an excellent everyday working harness. Fully adjustable, this meaty rig performed as well on sweaty summer days as it did mid-winter when I wore it over several layers of bottoms and a jacket. Thunder Thighs, take note: the leg loops adjust to a whopping 10 inches. Much to my liking, the highly polished buckles on the waist and leg loops are as smooth to operate today, despite the webbing having gotten crusty, as they were when new.
Five gear loops, positioned two on each hip and one around back, let you rack as much gear as you'd care to clip to a harness. They also tip forward, urging gear to slide to the front, a nice touch. The plastic-tubing loops didn't hang up on carabiners, nor did they deform the waist belt when they were fully loaded.
The Elite Men's isn't billed as a big-wall harness, but aid climbers will dig it as much as tradsters. Besides its copious racking room, the Elite has a 10 kN haul loop and an equally strong accessory loop. Suitable for all-day hang sessions, the contoured waist belt and leg loops are amply padded and mesh lined; although it is supportive, the waist belt doesn't feel hard. The leg loops are less padded and on the soft side - more firmness here would be even better. A 25 kN belay loop and a red wear indicator sewn into the tie-in point round out the package, which for $69 is one of the better values going.