Arc’teryx started with rock climbing harnesses but has offered few. It recently launched the Konseal, a comfort-driven workhorse and the most affordable harness in its line.
Recently, “Konseal” has become synonymous with Arc’teryx’s fair-weather gear for rock climbing and hiking. From approach shoes to crag packs, the Konseal line is a rock climber’s bread and butter.
In short: The Konseal harness prioritizes comfort above all else. The Konseal uses a new waist belt shape and the most generous padding we’ve seen. This harness may be the cure if a sore back or thighs have plagued you.
A New Harness Shape for Arc’teryx
The defining feature of the new Konseal harness is the butterfly shape of two thick hip pads that line the waist belt. Butterfly harnesses are common in today’s market, but Arc’teryx has elevated the concept to a new level.
For years, most brands crafted harnesses with waist belts that were widest at the back, along the lumbar spine area. Major harness makers have since moved away from this concept, and butterfly harnesses have taken over.
An improved understanding of human anatomy inspires this butterfly trend. Channeling forces to the hips can relieve discomfort in other areas, such as the lower back. Backpacking pack designers have understood this for decades.
The Konseal is the first Arc’teryx harness to feature the butterfly shape and, oh boy, did the brand go all-in. The hip pads on the Konseal are massive, and the waist belt tapers aggressively to a narrow constriction near the spine.
Aside from the Konseal, all other Arc’teryx harnesses remain the widest at the back. The Konseal may represent a new path for the ol’ dead bird brand.
Climbing in the Arc’teryx Konseal Harness
The aggressively padded waist belt felt very comfortable — especially while multipitch climbing or hanging at a belay. We found it to be the perfect tool for long, drawn-out belays. As our climbing partners hangdogged relentlessly on their projects, we appreciated the generous padding on the Konseal.
If you’re prone to harness-induced hot spots or have especially pronounced iliac crests, the Konseal is a clear winner. We’ve combed the market, and these hip pads are the best in existence on a harness that isn’t strictly designed for big wall climbing.
While the pads did an excellent job dispersing pressure and preventing discomfort, they felt overly bulky in certain applications. At 12.9 ounces in a medium size, the Konseal is middle-of-the-road in terms of weight.
Arc’teryx describes the Konseal as “refined for single and multi-pitch climbs.” While we agree it is a versatile harness, the thick waist belt and bulky leg loop buckles would never be our go-to for redpointing sport climbs or fast and light alpine missions. Other harnesses — such as the Edelrid Ace II and the Petzl Sitta — are much lighter and have lower profiles.
“Warp Strength” Free
The Konseal is Arc’teryx’s only current harness without the brand’s Warp Strength Technology. When the brand introduced Warp Strength in 2015, its “split webbing” concept sparked a new era of harness design.
Traditionally, the weight-bearing structure of a climbing harness comes from a single piece of nylon webbing that runs through the entire waist belt. Split webbing harnesses divide the structural material into several smaller strips to disperse the pressure, eliminating the need for cumbersome padding.
Strangely, Arc’teryx has foregone Warp Strength in the Konseal and returned to the old-school design principle of one-inch webbing underneath foam pads. There is nothing inherently wrong with this tried-and-true construction.
Still, it’s surprising that the brand credited with inventing split webbing has now stepped away from it. Plus, $130 is a bit pricey for a harness that couldn’t be described as cutting edge.
The lack of Warp Strength isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a split webbing harness with as much hip support as the Konseal.
Perhaps the major downside of the Konseal is its lack of ventilation. The harness sacrifices some breathability by using thick pads for pressure dispersion instead of split webbing. The pads have some perforations, but we still had sweat lines around the waist and thighs on warm summer days.
Other Features and Feedback
The Konseal carried a double rack of cams without issue. All four gear loops are roomy but not oversized, and we like how the shape of each loop naturally pushes gear toward the front, where it is most accessible.
A small unrated haul loop is a nice feature for multipitch climbing. Ice clipper slots are not on the Konseal’s features list, but two small gaps between stitch points on the nylon webbing may accommodate particular ice clippers in a pinch. If you plan to add or remove layers while out climbing, the Konseal’s adjustable leg loops will come in handy.
As seasoned climbers know, harnesses wear out where the belay loop makes contact with the lower tie-in point. Many modern harnesses are reinforced with plastic in this area — the Konseal is not.
Still, the belay loop and hard points have held up perfectly well to our initial testing. Arc’teryx harnesses are generally known for their excellent durability.
We recommend the Konseal for climbers who struggle with hip and lower back soreness while climbing and belaying. It’s more expensive than many similar options on the market, but it’d be a fine choice for a new climber building their gear kit.
Ultimately, our review revealed that the Konseal shined brightest on long multipitch routes where comfort was key. Or when your sport climbing partner pulls on for “one more go” after attempt number 27 on their project.
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