Arcteryx R320 Harness Review

I feel I’ve been letting the side down a little with regards to product reviews so over the next few weeks I’ll try to catch up with some that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Arcteryx R320 Harness

Over the past year I’ve been climbing less trad than usual and spending more time sport climbing and at the wall. This led to me deciding to replace my slightly clunky old Wild Country Harness (great when heavily loaded for long trad pitches but heavy and not the most comfortable to hang in) with a something a little lighter. After trying on a range of harnesses from Black Diamond and Petzl I settled on the R320 as being the best blend of comfort and features.

Arcteryx R320 Harness

I’ve used this harness on single pitch trad and sport in the UK and France, indoor climbing and for long bolted alpine routes however I haven’t used it for any winter climbing or long trad routes – these aren’t really my thing.

I love this harness for a number of reasons: it’s comfortable, light and low bulk. It fits as well over several layers of clothing as it does worn against the skin and it’s extremely comfortable to walk in. In fact because of the lack of bulk – especially around the legs – and breathability it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. It doesn’t impede walking and is comfortable when worn with a backpack.

Perhaps the biggest reason I love this harness is its pack size. folded neatly it packs down to around a third the size or my previous harness, into an area bout the same size as a tin of beans. In fact I can fit my harness, chalk bag, windshirt and lunch inside my helmet on the walk in to a long route. This is fantastic when you’re trying to carry a small pack on a mountain route or slinging your harness into your work bag for a quick evening session. It might seem like a fairly minor benefit but personally I find it a huge plus point.

Whilst I love the R320 it does have some drawbacks. It only has 4 gear loops which some people find is too few. Personally I’ve racked it up with 12 quickdraws, two sets of nuts, a set of cams and half a set of hexes without a problem and I’ve feel the need to carry any more than this. I can appreciate that on more adventurous routes and in winter you might appreciate more space and that this harness might not be ideal for these uses.

The other minor niggle is that it’s not the most comfortable harness to belay red-points in. Because of the way it fits it tends to dig in when holding a pull vertically upwards. This is easily overcome by sitting back into the fall but then if the leader moves without warning you’ll end up landing on your backside.

The Arcteryx R320 won’t be for everyone – if you only climb trad or you do a lot of winter climbing then you may be better off with a Wild Country or Black Diamond harness with more racking options – but for me it’s almost perfect.

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