Black Diamond Flight Harness
VL brings you possibly the longest harness review ever written…. by the one and only Steve Kelly
I am quite sure that most harness reviews are read about as much as the Terms & Conditions on the back of a Reparation Notice. What could you really get out of a review that you couldn’t just sort out yourself by simply trying one on? What, if anything makes one harness different from another?
Now I bet you thought that my next sentence was going to be formulated into just two words, starting with “FA” or “GL”. Well, you’d be right on the second guess. However, suggesting that a harnesses’ worth is categorised by how many gear loops it has is like asking how many ashtrays are built into a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Does it really matter?
If you’ve asked the GL question, then you’re undoubtedly going to go the next step further: start talking about adjustable leg loops – but are you for real? Unless you are planning on losing an immense amount of weight from your inner thighs between now and the next time you hit the cliff, I’m pretty sure these are worthless. Chances are you’re also too fat to get into climbing anyway. (I am told that 64kg and 5 foot 9 inches in height is the epitome of the climber’s physique, and anything less is just cheating.)
So what is it then? The colour? The brand name? Those micro belt loops designed to hang your car keys off?
Well it does depend on what you are going to do with it. I classify the intrepid harness purchaser into one of three categories:
1) You are going to fall a lot in it
2) You are going to sit a lot in it
3) You are going to look a lot (at it)
Now if you are going to look a lot at it (a Category 3 kinda guy/gal), then may I suggest you buy the most expensive bells-and-whistles-all-singing-all-dancing-harness on the market. While you sit on your sofa watching The Biggest Loser you can polish the buckles, caress the brand name, and marvel at the workmanship of your adjustable leg loops. Chances are if you ever put the thing on, you’ll need them.
If, however, you are going to sit a lot in it then go for something with comfort in mind. The Category 2 personality likes padding. They really can’t get enough of it.
Back in 1971 the legendary Mountain magazine ran a review of the earth shattering invention of “‘the Whillans harness’. This contraption was hailed as a breakthrough in modern day climbing equipment. It even took Chris Bonnington’s team up the South West Face of Everest in ’75. To be brutally honest, the success of that very expedition came down the entire entourage wearing the Whillans. Why? Because no one in their right mind wanted to take a fall in one.
This might explain why climbing wasn’t as popular back then as it is today. Category 2 people just didn’t exist. That’s about 60 per cent of today’s climbing market. (Category 2 is full of top-ropers, gym junkies and vertical access workers in case you haven’t worked that out).
Then there is the Category 1 personality. As previously suggested, Category 1 people like taking falls. They like climbing into unchartered terrain with no guarantee of success. They come from all walks of life (some even have moustaches). Others haven’t even got to the point where they can grow one yet. They climb (on lead) all the time, and their belief in themselves is only outweighed by their belief in modern day cross-stitching techniques. This comes from the knowledge that the gear they own is unquestionably more reliable than the person that wears it (weather dependant, of course).
And so on to the subject matter of this review (finally): the Flight, made by Black Diamond. This harness is without question a fine example of what today’s discerning man or woman of Category 1 looks for in an upwardly mobile waist support system. If you like hanging belays, all day multi-pitch routes or ice-cream in a tub, this harness isn’t for you.
On the other hand, if gear loops are your thing – don’t fret – they come in-built, and not in cheap plastic either (those are reserved for Mammut customers only). The makers of the Flight have done their job well in this department. Two flexible loops either side that don’t take your arm off when you reach for a draw. What more could you ask for?
For those that have to colour-code match their latest prAna top with their pants, beanie, shoes and chosen waist attire, don’t worry either. The Flight has a distinctly neutral tone (grey, spelt ‘gray’) supplemented with a distinctly aggressive tone (lava), perfect for blending in with your over-priced American T-shirt. Yes, I did say “lava”.
Now if you think that this is some kind of marketing ploy to brainwash you into a new-age Anglo-American-vocabulary, you may be right. However, the harness is made in the Philippines, and they’ve used plenty of other eloquent terminology to define the construction of what may actually be the best sport climbing harness on the market.
If “Dual Core XP construction”, “3D mesh panelling”, or “Mondo gear loops” don’t confuse you, try my personal favourite: “Bombshell Abrasion Patches for unparalleled durability”. Now I think I’ve heard that sentence before, only I wasn’t buying climbing gear at the time…
Put all these New Age expressions into a blender and what you’ll have at the end of it is simply this: a harness that is extremely comfortable, lightweight and very hard wearing. Indeed, in terms of overall weight, this harness is a mere 330 grams – coincidently about the same amount of sugar that a Category 3 person puts on their Fruit Loops every morning.
This brings us back to the adjustable leg loop subject. In the traditional sense these are long gone, but don’t fret, as they have been replaced by something even better: an innovative trakFIT leg loop adjustment system. “Bloody hell” I hear you say, “I’ve always wanted one of those!” Well simply put, this equates to a very user-friendly arrangement that doesn’t encroach upon your beloved inner thigh (or anything remotely near that region), nor does it alter the weight of the entire product. Basically, it’s a slide adjuster. Gone are the belt buckles. Genius!
Now if all of these new-fangled terms haven’t sold it to you, the lava colour doesn’t match your wardrobe, the dual core XP construction has you thinking of hard-drives, or you aren’t quite sure whether your partner will agree with buying something that has bombshell abrasion patches, do what I said at the very beginning of this epic review: go and try one on.
To find out where the Flight is stocked contact Sea to Summit (www.seatosummit.com.au) on 1800 787 677
If this review was somehow not enough and you want more information on the Flight, visit blackdiamondequipment.com