Dave takes a close look at the all season Aspect harness from Black Diamond
Ice routes in Canmore. Sport climbs in Rodellar. Splitters at Indian Creek. For those who climb it all, all year long, the Black Diamond Aspect provides four-season performance and comfort with our Dual Core XP Construction™.
I generally have two harnesses, one for my UK winter climbing and instruction work and one for my personal climbing. The Black Diamond Aspect harness falls into the latter, I’ve been using it for all my rock and ice climbing throughout the winter season.
A climbing harness needs to fulfill many requirements: safety (it’s the link between you and the rope), comfort (you are often wearing it all day) and utility (it needs to organise and make gear selection easy). So you need to think carefully about what climbing activities you will be enjoying and buy a harness to suit.
Black Diamond have done a good job with the Aspect harness of creating an all-round harness, with minimal fuss and weight. The specified weight is 410g and the CGR scales weighed it in at 389g, wow! It has nice styling and I liked the ergonomic back.
The harness is made using Black Diamonds Dual Core XP technology; this uses thin webbing with, what felt like, 5mm of EVA foam (a plastic with a wide commercial and medical applications but you will probably know it from a foam sleeping mat). This gave plenty of comfort and support but not much ventilation.
The waistbelt was very comfortable to wear and I could hang around for lengthy belay sessions both on multi pitch routes and ground belays. It cinched tight with a 20mm webbed belt and the colour co-ordinated, self locking buckle gave a very smooth operation. The excess webbing was tucked away with two, well designed loops situated on the left hand side. I am a 32/33” waist and the harness was a size Medium, it fitted nicely even with several winter layers.
The tie loops were burly and well stitched giving plenty of confidence, all stress points were heavily bar tacked. I’ve been doing plenty of falling in this harness and it’s been great. The abseil loop was also very burly; double looped and plenty of stitching and bar tacked finished.
The leg loops on the Black Diamond Aspect were made with the same Dual Core XP technology and were comfortable, easily adjusted with the excess tucked away with two loops. I did find the first loop a little on the large size and found the excess was often dangling around, especially in winter when I’m often wearing more clothing around my legs. This wasn’t too much of an issue when rock climbing as I usually have the leg loops tighter around my legs.
The leg loops were attached at the seat with 10mm elasticated webbing. These were secured with a hook and were easy to undo but not so easy to put back on. This does make toilet visits easy and the loops were fine an a warm rock climbing day, but fiddly in winter (when I’m more likely to want a toilet stop). To be honest though, I’ve never come across the ideal arrangement for this on any harness I’ve tested and I try to avoid defecating on or around the crag at all costs.
The gear loops were made form pre moulded, clear plastic tubing which worked really well. It’s now an established feature on the entire Black Diamond range and the Aspect harness was no different. They racked quickdraws perfectly for sport climbing and could hold an entire trad rack with no problems. I really liked the gear loops on this harness, the equal distribution of gear with no crowing in the middle or forcing down to the front.
The Black Diamond Aspect harness had 4 ice clipper slots, the front two were poorly sited and I never used them. When the harness was tightened it but the ice screws over my front thigh (which had be worrying whether the teeth were going to pierce my expensive pants). I only used the the better sited loops that were placed between the gear loops. There was also a rear loop made from 4mm cord, this was plenty big enough to put plenty of kit on the back of the harness – approach shoes, belay gloves, screwgates, etc. My only minor complaint with this is that it was fiddly to access kit with a chalk bag on and if the biner nose wasn’t ‘clean’ it snagged. There was also a 12kn haul loop on the back for hauling sleds and pucks (but shouldn’t be used for clipping a chalk bag on as the biner can really hurt your back if it’s forced in by falling)
So in conclusion I think Black Diamond have created a good all-round harness that would be suitable for most of you climbing adventures. My preference has been to use it for rock climbing for which it has been brilliant. I found it a little lacking for UK winter climbing (where more kit is needed) but perfectly fine for ice fall climbing.
I feel that it could be improved by trying to add some ventilation at the back and ditching the front ice clipper slots. Both minor points really so a great harness that’s well worth the price.