Review by: j_ung, 2006-03-30
[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com.[/b]
Brothers and sisters of RC.com, I present to you the holy trinity of climbing gear: harness, shoes, chalk bag. Even most habitual boulderers own all three (though sometimes, the harness never sees the hips). Out of those three items, itís hard to deny that the most feature rich will always be the harness. Behold gear and belay loops. See buckles and double buckles. Watch (or donít) as I drop my keeper straps and squat on a ledge to poop without ever untying!
And yet, though the features they be abundant, they also be for the most part boring. Hereís a Velcro tab to hold your swami together while buckling. Thereís a buckle that doesnít need to be doubled back. Yonder lays a gear loop that can withstand an 8kN dynamic load. Weíve seen it all before!
Last fall, CAMP sent me a Quartz, one of its new line up of harnesses that appear to actually enter new territory in a number of features. Iíve been using it since and, of course, I have an opinion or three. But first, letís run through the new features.
Auto Fit leg loops (left): The feature I most distrusted turned out to be the best! Designed to loosen when the harness is unweighted, it affords a freedom of movement thatís almost as good as not wearing a harness. When I fall or (gasp) take, the loops snug to a predetermined size for a comfortable, safe hang. Thereís a limit to how loose and tight the loops can go. I fall within that range, which is important. If the harness fits too big or small, this feature is uncomfortable. Note the size chart in the product description above.
No Twist belay loop (middle): This loop within the loop locks your belay biner in place, ensuring that it wonít cross load accidentally while your climber is mid crux. I distrusted this one, too, since it seems like a lot of effort to get a biner through this tight squeeze. If you have a keylock, such as a Petzl Attache, use it and youíll have no trouble. None of CAMPís biners are keylock, but I have to think that would be a good idea for future biner line-ups.
Flat Link elastic keeper straps (right): Theyíre low profile to eliminate snagging in chimneys and off-widths, and it works, but thereís a trade off: no droppiní the drawers for ledge pooping with this model. Women, youíre completely SOL. Of course, this only really matters on long routes. If youíre a cragger like I am, itís a non-issue.
OK, so the newness on CAMPís quartz seems to be working out fairly well. On the prototype model CAMP sent me, however, a few of the things I normally take for granted arenít all that hot. The soft, rubber gear loops are a little floppy, which bodes ill for harness-racking trad climbers. When the load is heavy, I have some trouble plucking gear attached to tangled biners from the loops. Yesterday, I re-bolted a few old routes and had a drill and sack of steel hardware hanging on them. Ugh! A CAMP employee gave me a tip that saved the day: flip the gear loops inside out a few times and they stiffen up nicely. One other issue: the buckle side of the Swami belt floats free for five inches at the end, which results in it sticking either straight up or down, instead of lying flat under the belt. It doesnít affect comfort or safety, but it is annoying. (I suspect that, if I were a bit thinner, I wouldn't have this problem!)
Those are my only complaints, which to my mind, make the Quartz a fine choice, as long as you aren't racking heavy loads on it. A moderately sized rack works AOK. To my mind, if CAMP fixed those two issues, they'd really have near perfection. As it stands, I'm torn... The new features are innovative and they work exactly as billed. They are the saving graces for a harness that is more than worth your time to check out.
[i]Note: Camp also has an ice climbing version of the Quartz that sports fully-adjustable leg loops, instead of Auto Fit. [/i] [/size]