Technically, you can make yourself a harness with a piece of webbing, looping it around your waist and up between your legs like a Swami belt. This might be technically possible, (props to you, pioneers of rock, for all that you did with webbing, hemp, leather boots and cojones), but it’s aesthetically ridiculous and profoundly uncomfortable.
For the gear geeks at Arc’teryx, which started life cooking harnesses out of heat laminate as climbing gear manufacturer Rock Solid, the riddle of the comfortable technical harness has long been their Holy Grail. And I am 100% with them on that.
For me, the single consistently best moment of a climbing day is not topping out on a multi-pitch classic or cracking the first beer back at the car or pulling through the crux in style. It’s taking my harness off.
That is the cue that now I can mentally relax.
And until I got my hands on the Arc’teryx R-280 harness to try, it was a long-awaited physical relief, too.
In my unscientific method, there are three tests to a good harness, (because if it doesn’t meet “safe and secure”, it shouldn’t even be on the shelf. This isn’t a fashion statement we’re making, this is fundamental “I don’t plan to take my life into my own hands today” equipment.)
3. Can you pee in it?
Bonus points if it makes you feel sexy.
In the interest of dedicated product testing, I’ve logged about 30 days in the harness. Here’s the verdict.
1. Does it make you want to lead, you chicken?
Typically, I have to be bullied or bribed onto the sharp end of the rope. The R-280’s rubber-coated gear loops, instead of being half-circles of webbing, have an articulated dog-leg kind of elbow which make your gear easier to sort through and get at. The rubber-coating can also be removed or reversed, depending on how you like to rack.
Since getting this harness, I have “manned up” to lead more often. I’m not sure there’s a causative connection, or whether I just got sick of being pathetic. But there you go.
2. Want to hang around a bit longer?
The Warp Strength technology that Arc’teryx has developed in the leg loops and waist belt means a smooth flat surface against the kidneys and thighs, so no harsh pressure points.
They’ve also reduced a lot of the bulk and heft of a traditional harness, so the R-280 is light and much less constrictive-feeling.
In fact, often on a cragging day, I will elect to leave the harness on, shoulder my pack, and walk around the bluffs seeking out the next mission – this despite the fact the harness is one of the easiest I’ve had, to get on and off, because of it’s lightweight profile, auto-locking buckle and reinforced belay loops and leg loops, that maintain their own structural integrity.
It’s that comfortable.
3. Need a private moment?
I suffer from recurring flare-ups of penis envy. Particularly when I’m clinging to granite several hundred feet above the ground, and a long way from an outhouse.
The elastic safety loops that connect the R280’s leg loops to the waist band are oriented to the outer side of glute/IT band, so even though there are “drop seat buckles” that would enable you to unclip for access in order to drop your pants, you probably won’t have to. Which is nice. Really. Because quick and discrete is what we’re aiming for.
4. About those sexy bonus points?
As an Aussie, the harness’ “Bondi Blue” nods to the sentimentalist in me. The aesthete just thinks it’s pretty. After years of climbing in hand-me-downs or androgynous technical equipment, I have to say that feeling somewhat attractive has performance enhancing benefits.
One note of warning to the curvy girls. Heads-up, she-climbers: don’t order this online. Try it on first. I’m a medium in Arc’teryx outerwear, but because the leg loops are not adjustable (they’re seamless, lightweight and made with warp-technology instead), and the waist belt comes with the Arc’teryx’ signature auto-locking buckle, some sporty girls might find the medium won’t accommodate their curves… At 34-28-38, I figure I’m not built like the mannequins. Then, again, I’d like to see a mannequin front up to the Squamish Connection.
Putting the Bondi Blue-coloured Harness to test in the homeland of its hue… Blue Mountains, Australia.
This review first appeared at CoastMountainCulture.com
UPDATE Jan 17, Robin O’Neill’s winning show:
On timing. (In which we argue that Deep Winter 2012 was a display of both exquisitely good and bad timing.)
Deep Winter Photo Challenge returned last night, the cultural highlight of the New Year.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, socially. We’ve recovered from the onslaught of Christmas parties, we’ve shaken off the New Year hangover, we’ve officially ditched the resolutions to be better people, to get drunk less.
It could have come at a better time, snowcially. Like now… with flurries forecast all week, 10-20cm expected on Thursday and 40-90cm expected by the middle of next week. It might have been the most un-deep winter week ever. But Robin O’Neill was too tired to even contemplate the hypothetical offer on the table, to go back in time and reschedule for a different weather window, when compere Feet Banks offered to play Wizard.
Feet: “Would you rather we push back the event to next week so you can get all that snow in the forecast?”
Robin: “No. Too. Tired.”
On microphone management. (In which we argue that Feet Banks is the host-with-the-most, and we hope he went home with an Arc’teryx jacket for keepsies.)
My vote for best performance of the night goes to Feet Banks, emcee extraordinaire, for his sartorial class (vest and bow tie, quite the wardrobe upgrade since he debuted as host of the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown in his skivvies), his microphone management and commitment to keeping the show moving (“we’re just going to give you a second to all get off the stage and then we’ll roll tape”), his willingness to go woo-woo for a minute so we could send some white light to Sarah Burke and Rory Bushfield, and his quicker-than-a-40-year-old-virgin’s-orgasm wit. (“Did you bring the short guy into the mix so the snow would look deeper?”)
(Give the dude an Arc’teryx jacket. It’s hard to throw love all night to the sponsors, and not get any warm fuzzy affection back. I’ve got an idea, Feet. Ask Robin for a jacket. I think she might have a few extra…)
On being bold. (In which we commend the photographers for having the cajones to enter the Deep Winter challenge and for inspiring and entertaining us.)
The stakes of this contest seem to have gotten so high that more established photographers are demurring the invitation to compete. All the more reason to give a shout-out to the six photographers who took up the challenge: Reuben Krabbe, Steve Lloyd, Mark Gribbon, Mason Mashon, Jussi Grznar and Robin O’Neill.
As Vince Shuley tweeted: “way to make hard snow look good.”
Their shows did not disappoint, although the line-up of fresh faces did come with a less intense, angsty vibe than last year‘s Deep Winter Photo Challenge, when Robin O’Neill stepped up for mountain women everywhere, competing alongside Blake Jorgenson, Ilja Herb, John Scarth, Tim Zimmerman and Andrew Strain.
Child prodigy, Reuben Krabbe, who has his sights set on breaking Jordan Manley’s “youngest photographer ever to win the Pro Photographer Showdown”, made an impressive debut, (ultimately coming in 3rd AND taking Best Photo) with an action-packed show jammed with “banger shots” captured with the help of Dan and Dave Treadway.
Utah native Steve Lloyd brought the fresh eyes of an outsider to the game – reminding us not to overlook the everyday beauty of the Canadian flags lined up at the top of Whistler gondy. Mark Gribbon brought the snowboarders into play. Mason Mashon (who proves his version of “lifestyle” means not taking your ADHD meds: “okay, we rode bikes to the hill, we’ve been skiing all day, who wants to go skate on the frozen pond?”) landed a shot of rime-encrusted bikes in the back of a pick-up truck that might be the Best Most Unlikely Cover for Bike Magazine.
Jussi Grznar put together an emotive show that started in bed and came full-circle for a 2nd place finish… And what says “and they all lived happily ever after” more powerfully than a guy and girl spooning in bed, with the dog booted to its rightful place on the floor.
But Robin O’Neill’s storytelling about Lifers was the most powerful. With stark portraiture, a few recurring motifs (back-to-back shots that pulled from shallow focus to long focus to tell instantaneous stories about movement and perspective, and triptychs that would fall away to reveal one full frame), and a confident delivery, O’Neill ((#robinneedstwitter) follows her Deep Summer win, deserving her title as All-Season Queen of the Lens.
On the Zeitgeist. (In which we try and read the tea-leaves.)
This year, there seemed to be more love in the air. (Is this a Zeitgeist thing?) There was more ice-skating than Deep Winter has ever seen. We also saw a preoccupation with injury, with the physical and emotional toll that a dedication to the mountains can exact. We saw bigger vistas, that only a stormless Deep Winter week can offer. We saw athletes working incredibly hard and bagging some stellar action shots. And we saw that what makes a photographer a cut above is more than technical proficiency and an eye for a well-composed shot, but the ability to create a mood, even without the moodiness of a storm.
On hard work. (In which we note the concentration of talented passionate hard-working people who make this place, as they say over at WIA, awesome.)
So here’s to hard-working mountain-loving people of Deep Winter. To the marketing and PR peeps at Whistler Blackcomb who work their asses off to come up with fresh and creative ways to engage people with the WB community, to bring people here, to represent this place as authentically as possible. To the athletes who, judging from the recurrence of images shot at the physiotherapist, are pushing themselves to the very edge. To the photographers who are brave enough to step up and showcase their work. (In a 72 hour time frame, the deadline bears down on you so hard, you don’t have time to think, to censor yourself, to second guess. Your naked work is up on the big screen.) So kudos to you all. Thanks for a great night.