Some sports promote motor and mental development in children, and climbing is one of them. Outdoor sports such as climbing, bouldering, or via Ferrata walking are currently not only trending among adults. Children are often introduced to climbing at kindergarten or primary school age. In clubs or even in school sports, bouldering and climbing are increasingly included in the schedule, mainly at artificial climbing facilities like gyms. We did a review to find the best climbing harnesses for kids in 2020.
The harnesses we reviewed were: Skylotec Buddy Pads, Edelrid Fraggle, Salewa Bunny Climb, Mammut Elephir, Petzl Ouistiti, Petzl Simba, Wild Country Vision Kidz.
How Climbing Harnesses for Kids are Different from Adult Harnesses
Climbing with children is a little different from going vertical with an adult group in a hall. Besides the proper training of the supervisors or trainers in safety and security, the equipment used plays an important role. The use of safe, child-friendly equipment is not only essential for the children but also makes the work of the coaches during a course much more manageable and thus generally increases safety. Full Body climbing harnesses for children are usually used in classes, which offer several advantages over a regular hip harnesses.
Any climbing harness should transfer braking forces that occur during a fall as gently as possible to the body. As a rule, the climbing harness is loaded with static forces when resting and trying out individual moves in a route, when abseiling and when releasing. In the event of a fall, i.e., when dynamic forces occur, the potential energy of the person falling is distributed to the safety chain, within which the climbing harness is an enormously important part. The following test deals with Full Body harnesses, which are usually exposed to more static forces due to the Toprope securing system.
Small Children Should Use a Full Body Harness
For children between the ages of five and ten, the use of a Full Body harness is considered sensible. A Full Body harness is often used by clubs, groups, and courses, as the safety reserves are enormous, especially for newcomers. A Full Body harness offers better protection and additional stability compared to (child-friendly) hip belts. Due to the construction of the crossed chest straps in combination with the downward leg loops, Full Body harnesses prevent the climber from tipping backward in the event of a fall and automatically stabilize the sitting or hanging position. The construction, in particular the sternal catching eyelet (attachment point at the height of the sternum) on the full-body harnesses, prevents the harness from tipping over, especially for children whose head is heavier in relation to their body. Due to the high roping or tethering point above the center of gravity of the body, the climber has difficulty in reaching a critical position. In addition to beginner courses, children’s climbing groups, and the area of occupational safety, the Full Body harness is also often used in the rental of leisure facilities such as high ropes courses.
Make sure a Climbing Harness For Kids Fits Correct
As with any climbing harness, full comfort, and – even more importantly – complete safety can only be achieved if the harness has the correct fit: this influences the hanging position. The hip belt should, therefore, be neither too high nor too low. The leg loops must be relatively tight against the top of the thigh. The harness must fit snugly around the chest, i.e., it must neither force the climber into a particular position nor leave too much space. A full body harness, like other climbing harnesses, should not be too heavy, have buckles without back threads for adjustment, have markings for easier tightening (e.g., color separation) on the inside and outside of the leg loops and of course the CE/TÜV test seal. Children’s harnesses are available in various sizes and weight ranges. Here too, you must be careful before buying and obtain information in advance.
Most Climbing Harnesses for Kids are Tested Positively
What a good children’s Full Body climbing harness has to offer and which features are especially popular with children was tested. We put seven different models from different manufacturers through their paces. Important aspects here were how safe the children feel in the climbing harness and how it handles for parents, children, and carers.
When tested, most children’s climbing harnesses only came out positively. The testers have had their fun.
At first glance, all seven children’s climbing harnesses made a good impression in the test. More or less colorful with partly child-friendly patterns, the harnesses are designed quite differently. They are packed either in a handy net or a bag. Especially for schools, courses, and clubs, but also for families, the packing in a bag is quite practical, because this way several harnesses cannot get entangled.
All harnesses are cleanly processed and, of course, have the necessary CE, EN, and UIAA test marks. Every children’s climbing harness has a GAL (abbreviation for instruction manual), which explains how to put on the harness or how it works and safety instructions. Most of the descriptions are in English, but there is also always a German version, only in Wild Country this is almost impossible to read because the writing is too small. The enclosed instructions for use vary greatly in quality. Salewa, Edelrid, and Skylotec use universal instructions in which different harness models are described at the same time.
At Wild Country and Petzl, the harnesses are accompanied by instructions for use, which refer exclusively to the model purchased and cannot cause any errors. This can be very practical, especially for safety-relevant topics such as children’s climbing harnesses or similar. If you are not able to handle your new harness on your own or if you have open questions, you can always contact your trusted sports and climbing expert.
Different Kids need Different Climbing Harness Sizes
Which children’s climbing harness is suitable for which body size?
All harnesses in the test are – depending on size and adjustment – suitable for children of kindergarten and primary school age. For a better overview, we have prepared a corresponding table which should serve as an aid before buying a child harness. Unfortunately, this information is not always found on the belt or in the respective instructions. On the whole, however, the belts are very similar in their construction and function.
Weight and size limits of the harnesses
Skylotec Buddy Pads one size fits all 135 cm max. weight 40 kg
Edelrid Fraggle XXS / XS Chest size 30 – 40 cm / 40 – 55 cm max. weight 40 kg
Salewa Bunny Climb One size fits all 140 cm max. weight 40 kg
Petzl Ouistiti One size fits all door sizes 45 – 60 cm max. weight 30 kg
Petzl Simba one size fits all door sizes 35 – 60 cm
max. weight 40 kg
Wild Country Vision Kids one size fits all Torso size 50 – 70 cm max. weight 40 kg
Mammut Elephir One size fits all door sizes 50 – 68 cm max. weight 40 kg
Harnesses handle very differently, so make sure to try on with your child
Especially when tightening the harness, you will quickly notice where the differences in handling are.
As much as the climbing harnesses for children may look similar at first glance, there are significant differences in the handling of the test harnesses, even though they are almost identical in construction.
Questions such as “How should the harness be tightened?” and “Where does one tie in the rope?” in particular revealed dangerous uncertainties for children and untrained persons.
Some manufacturers, therefore, work with clear instructions or markings at the most important and critical points on the belt to provide support when putting on the harness. We noticed the harnesses from Skylotec, Edelrid, Petzl, and Mammut positively: Helpful when putting on the harness are the color differences between the inner and outer sides of the loops as well as the integrated padding. This makes it easier and more comprehensible to put on the harness without twisting the straps and errors. It was these four straps that could even be put on by the children themselves after a short instruction. Two straps stood out with special features: The padded construction of the Edelrid Fraggle always keeps the belt in its original shape and makes it much easier to put on and take off. The Wild Country Vision Kids Body Harness has clear colored markings on the right and left of the tie-in loops to prevent incorrect tie-in.
The Wild Country Vision Kids’ body harness requires a trained eye on how to put on and adjust the harness. For less experienced persons, however, questions remain unanswered. The Salewa Bunny Climb requires a lot more practice, both in putting on and tying in the harness. This one remarkably often raised the same questions among children and caregivers. With these two straps, it is important to practice adjusting and putting on and taking off regularly.
Buckles and adjustment mechanisms of kids climbing harnesses
What all harnesses have in common is the possibility of individual size adjustment. The fit is adjusted via belt buckles, which are usually found on the leg loops and chest loops. There are significant differences: With the exception of Salewa, all manufacturers use buckles on the children’s climbing harnesses, whose adjustment mechanism works without back loops. Basically, buckles of this type are always closed. On the market, they are called “DoubleBack-,” “Slide Bloc-,” “Easy Glider-” or “ZipLock-” buckles, depending on the manufacturer. They are only used to adjust the size of the harness and can only be opened with great resistance. This means that the ends of these buckles are sewn.
Two are safe from slipping
In addition to the standard buckles used to adjust the leg and upper body loops, the harnesses from Edelrid and Skylotec have an interesting feature in the form of an additional buckle on the belly. This means that the harness is always closed and does not slip off the body, even when you are romping around. With the Edelrid Fraggle, this closure is only a small clip that only contributes to the wearing comfort, with Skylotec the closure is part of the safety chain.
One of the seven tested harnesses falls out of the frame due to the construction of its buckles: The Salewa Bunny Climb, where the buckles have to be looped back after adjustment. This system is rarely found on climbing harnesses today and, according to the experience we have gained in our climbing group, has a high potential for error, especially during courses. Especially the readjustment and the necessary looping back is quite complex depending on the number of climbing children with different body dimensions. Nevertheless, the Salewa Bunny Climb has its advantages because once adjusted. It is a light and reliable harness with the possibility to carry equipment at the gear loops. On via Ferrata or when belaying exposed areas during mountaineering, the harness is certainly a good choice due to its lightweight, provided the harness is only used by one child.
The central point at which the child is tied into the rope with an eight knot is the rope loops at chest height. The ropes of the test harnesses are very similar in their design. With all harnesses, it was immediately clear to our caregivers how the child must be tied in correctly. Only one model, the Wild Country Vision Kids, was slightly confused due to the horizontally attached rope loops. On the positive side, however, the explicit marking with the inscription “ATTACH HERE” with a small sketch must be emphasized on this harness. The harnesses Mammut Elephir, Salewa Bunny Climb, and Petzl Simba are good in this respect due to the contrasting color of the attachment loops. Easy to understand, also for children, are the harnesses Skylotec Buddy Pads, Edelrid Fraggle as well as Petzl Ouistiti.
With the harnesses from Skylotec and Salewa, the children are not tied to a textile rope loop as usual but to metal rings. With Salewa, it is two rings through which the knot is looped, with Skylotec it is the reinforced tie-in point that makes tying up easier and reduces the risk of misuse. However, the requirements for the tying in remain the same for both harnesses. Generally, a figure-of-eight knot is tied directly, whereby at least ten centimeters of rope loop should remain behind the knot.
When adjusting the children’s climbing harnesses, the buckles and adjustment mechanisms were tested thoroughly.
Caution is advised with the Bunny Climb harness from Salewa. This Full Body harness is the only one in the test that has material loops. On the one hand, these are a good feature, for example, to fix the branches of the via Ferrata set on via Ferrata routes with easy unsecured passages, and on the other hand, they increase the risk of confusion. Particularly with very slim children, it can happen that the material loops are located in front of the child’s body and thus become a source of error when roping up.
Style and comfort – It’s good if kids like to wear their harness
The designs of the climbing harnesses vary from a rather simple grey to colorful patterns, especially appealing to children, to a strong neon green in the corporate colors of Edelrid. The Skylotec Buddy Pads, Petzl Ouisiti, and Wild Country Vision Kids harnesses are very popular with children because of their comfort. With the Petzl Simba, some felt a pinch on their legs in the leg loops when hanging in the harness. Surprisingly, we had to find out that the look and style of the individual harnesses hardly mattered to the kids.
The Petzl children’s belt comes up with a very colorful pattern. However, the children did not care much about design.
The Fraggle from Edelrid is not only an eye-catcher but also very versatile in use due to its strong color and unusual shape. The thick padding in the shoulder and crotch area provides optimal seating and carrying comfort. This innovative design is reflected in the high wearing comfort. For very small children, the belt is available in size XXS. It is the only harness with a carabiner eyelet at the back and can, therefore, be used in many different ways – for example, for additional protection in steep terrain or for guidance when skiing.
The children’s climbing harness ranking
Our climbing harness ranking is based on several aspects and presents a more or less subjective result. Important to our test team were, above all, the usability of the harnesses and their comfort. Colored design of the leg loops for intuitive use or wide straps and padding made the children – or rather our testers – feel the comfort, and accordingly, the harness became more popular. We, as trainers and carers, have taken a closer look at the sources of error and have also considered the putting on and taking off of the harness to be important for the children.
1st place: Skylotec Buddy Pads
The Buddy Pads offers many advantages: it can be adjusted quickly, easily, and safely and the children feel comfortable and safe in this harness. Once properly fastened, the belt sits firmly on the body and cannot be lost even when romping around.
The most important attribute: correctly applied, the harness is always closed. Mistakes when tying in the harness are thus minimized when re-tied-in. The Buddy Pads also scored well in terms of comfort. According to our experience, this is the safest bet in the test.
2nd place: Edelrid Fraggle
The Fraggle is not only well received by children because of its looks, but it also offers a high level of comfort. Practical is the plastic buckle, which keeps the belt closed and thus fixed to the body. Nevertheless, one has to pay attention to the correct roping up with the Fraggle. As the only harness in the test, the Edelrid Full Body harness is not available in one size only. Therefore it can only be adapted to the growth of the child in a limited range.
Unfortunately, the Edelrid climbing harness already has one small flaw: You can find it in the price. The Fraggle is more expensive than all the other models we have tested. If you believe what the children say, this is the most comfortable climbing harness in the test, which definitely justifies the higher price.
3rd place: Petzl Simba
The Petzl Simba is not exactly convincing in terms of comfort, but the belt scores points in terms of handling and safety. The color-coded attachment loops are easy to understand, and therefore the harness can be put on and off quickly and safely. An additional buckle in the abdominal area is missing. Therefore the belt slips when not tied.
4th place: Mammoth Elephir
The Mammoth Elephir is similar to the Petzl Simba. Here, too, comfort is a little neglected, but this is a very manageable model with loops in different colors on the left and right, which allow quick, safe, and intuitive dressing. Unfortunately, this harness cannot be closed in front of the chest or stomach either, so that the belt is open at first. When you frolic around, the belt slips down quickly and then has to be tightened again.
5th place: Wild Country Vision Kids
The Wild Country Vision Kids receives a decent average rating from us. Not bad at any point, but also not outstanding, this is a rock-solid Full Body climbing harness for children. However, it would be desirable to make the instructions to use more legible and to change the way the rope loops are attached. The horizontal alignment of the loops causes confusion, especially when tying in – a very important point in terms of safety, too often.
6th place: Petzl Ouistiti
While the safety standards are mostly good and comfortable for the children in terms of fit, the Petzl children’s belt with the hard to remember name still doesn’t really come across well. This is mainly due to handling. Too many straps, flaps, and bands make the Petzl Ouistiti a little confusing and quickly give rise to a feeling of insecurity. The fit is very good, but you don’t have the possibility to tighten the somewhat loose straps in the back area, even though they neither limit safety nor comfort. Furthermore, it is the only belt in the test that is only approved for a weight of up to 30 kilos.
7th place: Salewa Bunny Climb
The Salewa Bunny Climb could not score points due to its sometimes awkward handling and the comparatively complicated and error-prone design of the belt buckles. If the harness is only used for one child and is only occasionally adjusted to the child’s growth, the laborious adjustment of the buckles does not play a significant role. However, if you plan to use this harness for two or more children and also change it back and forth during a climbing day, adjusting the harness is simply too complicated and time-consuming. The fact that buckles can be fully opened also holds a certain potential for error and requires careful and constant control. In addition, when roping up the harness, care must be taken to ensure that the material loops are not inadvertently tied in when the child is very narrow.
Conclusion – There is no perfect harness and make sure to try the harness on before buying it
There is no such thing as a perfect belt. Depending on the preferences of the children and the area of application, different models show their strengths. But the most important thing is that the children feel comfortable and safe in the climbing harness. Which harness is most suitable in each individual case also depends heavily on the child itself. It is best to try several harnesses together with the little ones and find out which one fits best. Try out the harness and see whether it is comfortable enough.
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