Although improvised harnesses are made from readily available materials and take little space in the pack or pocket, presewn harnesses provide other aspects that should be considered. No assembly is required, which reduces preparation time for roped movement. All presewn harnesses provide a range of adjustability. These harnesses have a fixed buckle that, when used correctly, will not fail before the nylon materials connected to it. However, specialized equipment, such as a presewn harness, reduce the flexibility of gear. Presewn harness are bulky, also.
a. Seat Harness. Many presewn seat harnesses are available with many different qualities separating them, including cost.
(1) The most notable difference will be the amount and placement of padding. The more padding the higher the price and the more comfort. Gear loops sewn into the waist belt on the sides and in the back are a common feature and are usually strong enough to hold quite a few carabiners and or protection. The gear loops will vary in number from one model/manufacturer to another.
(2) Although most presewn seat harnesses have a permanently attached belay loop connecting the waist belt and the leg loops, the climbing rope should be run around the waist belt and leg loop connector. The presewn belay loop adds another link to the chain of possible failure points and only gives one point of security whereas running the rope through the waist belt and leg loop connector provides two points of contact.
(3) If more than two men will be on the rope, connect the middle position(s) to the rope with a carabiner routed the same as stated in the previous paragraph.
(4) Many manufactured seat harnesses will have a presewn loop of webbing on the rear. Although this loop is much stronger than the gear loops, it is not for a belay anchor. It is a quick attachment point to haul an additional rope.
b. Chest Harness. The chest harness will provide an additional connecting point for the rope, usually in the form of a carabiner loop to attach a carabiner and rope to. This type of additional connection will provide a comfortable hanging position on the rope, but otherwise provides no additional protection from injury during a fall (if the seat harness is fitted correctly).
(1) A chest harness will help the climber remain upright on the rope during rappelling or ascending a fixed rope, especially while wearing a heavy pack. (If rappelling or ascending long or multiple pitches, let the pack hang on a drop cord below the feet and attached to the harness tie-in point.)
(2) The presewn chest harnesses available commercially will invariably offer more comfort or performance features, such as padding, gear loops, or ease of adjustment, than an improvised chest harness.
c. Full-Body Harness. Full-body harnesses incorporate a chest and seat harness into one assembly. This is the safest harness to use as it relocates the tie-in point higher, at the chest, reducing the chance of an inverted position when hanging on the rope. This is especially helpful when moving on ropes with heavy packs. A full-body harness only affects the body position when hanging on the rope and will not prevent head injury in a fall.
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