Choosing a climbing harness: They’re not all created equal!
When we were first getting ready to head out cruising, we received a lot of helpful advice from some folks who were already out there, making it happen. One cruiser in particular, Jeff, was very helpful, sending me countless emails, full of valuable info. I thanked him over and over again, but all he requested of me in return for his help is that, if I had the opportunity, I should assist others where possible, essentially paying it forward. Over the years, through this blog and in person, I have tried to do that as best I could.
Our friends Steve and Darla, ZTC’s new owners, are right in the thick of their own cruising preparation. In a little under two months time, they’ll be here in Grenada, readying their new home to return to the water. Exciting times for them! I have enjoyed hearing about the work that they have been doing to get ready, and have tried my best to share what we have learned. Hopefully, by doing so, they can avoid some of the mistakes that we have made since starting on this path.
As you might imagine, part of their prep has included a bit of a buying spree, purchasing new items to outfit their boat for cruising. Steve has asked me for a few suggestions, and I have made recommendations based upon my experience. In one particular example, knowing that I’ve been using a rock climbing harness to do any up-the-mast rigging work, Steve asked me what type he should get. While I am in no way an expert on these things, I shared with him my thoughts on the subject.
What we use is not ideal!
The rock climbing harness that we have been using is one that I had on hand from some sport climbing that I had done in the past. In retrospect though, for up-the-mast work, it is not ideal. We’ve found that our harness is definitely not comfortable if we have to spend more than 15-20 minutes aloft. Why? Because sport climbing harnesses are not designed to have you sitting in them for expended periods of time.
Note: While some sailors still use a nautical-type bosun’s chair, most of the riggers I see use some type of climbing harness.
Typically, rock climbers climb, and if/when they fall, the harness supports their weight. They either then resume climbing, or are lowered back to the ground. The amount of time spent sitting in the harness is limited. Those who do big wall climbing on the other hand, something that, for the record, I have never done, do spend a lot of time sitting in their harness. As such, the ones that they use typically have much better padding. If you’re going to be using a harness to work on your mast, it seems to me that one designed for big wall climbing, something similar to this one or this one, would be a better option than one designed for use in a climbing gym. I know that, if I was buying a new one today, that’s what I would go for.