CGR takes a look at the new lightweight Wild Country Blaze harness to see if takes the lobs and epic belay sessions.
Value for money****
Earlier in the season CGR reviewer Kasia, looked at the new Wild Country Aurora, a female specific harness from the UK based company Wild Country. Wild Country have been making harnesses since 1979, they were the first company to introduce bar tacking for extra safety and of course they produced the legendary Littlejohn harness which superseded the very painful Whillans harness from Troll.
Their harness range has come on a long way since then and the current harness range is very versatile, ranging from the all-round Summit harness to the children’s harnesses. To complement the new female Aurora harness reviewed by Kasia, Wild County also sent the new men’s rock climbing harness, The Blaze for test.
The Wild Country Blaze is the new breed of super light harnesses from Wild County. Light, comfortable and easy to fit. The Blaze is marketed as an all-round harness suitable for all rock climbing activities and I would agree. The harness would be fine for Alpine climbing and general winter climbing, but if you do a lot of icefall climbing the lack of ice clipper slots will impair the performance – Wild Country do have specific winter harnesses in the range, notably the Summit.
There is a great video from Wild Country athlete Tom Randall using the Blaze harness:
The technology is called LST which stands for ‘load spread technology’; this mimics the Arc’teryx Warp technology but is much less complex and therefore reduces the price. The LST is then laminated between the outer material and a die cut foam for comfort. This is now a proven weight saving technology and will become ever more standard on harness designs.
I tested a size Medium, I am a size 32” waist and the sizing was fine. The harness has a good range of size adjustment I would say a medium would fit waist sizes from 30” to 36”. The range comes in sizes S, M and L so you will find a harness to suit your size. Sizing is important as you will need to fit the harness so the excess waist tongue fits into both retaining loops, this will stop the issues Kasia was having with the Aurora and I was having when I first used the harness. I have become a fan of the fully adjustable harness of late as I have found the leg loop adjustability useful for my beefy mountain legs – I no longer have matchstick sport climber legs and feel all the better for it!
I have used the harness all season on plenty of trad and sport climbing and it has performed very well in both these areas. The Blaze is a fully adjustable harness; both the waist belt and the legloops adjust with a Ziplock buckle. This worked very smoothly with the 20mm webbing, it cinched nice and tight and never came loose. It also undid very nicely even after repeated falls in it. The waist belt had two retaining loops for the excess tape and I was able to locate and use these easily. One retaining loop, however was located in the centre of the rear, right hand gear loop and at first it cause a little trouble when I was clipping gear through it. Once I had tucked the webbing tightly under the waist belt it became less of an issue.
The legloops also tightened easily and smoothly and the rise felt just right for my height. This gave a good fit and ensured the waist belt stayed on my waist above the hips. When I teach climbing I spend a lot of time on fitting a harness correctly, having a harness on your hips is very dangerous. Also, a well fitted harness a much more comfortable experience for both climbing and belaying. The ziplock could be undone completely for fitting the legloops with crampons on. The excess tape was tidied up with a single retaining loop on the leg, this was a little oversized and occasionally the tape dangled down. Again careful sizing would be needed to ensure you had enough tape for it to go through the loop and stay there. The problem could be easily solved with a smaller sized retaining loop. The rear, elasticated, leg loop adjusters could be adjusted using the tiny steel buckles, they were fixed and not suitable for undoing in the field, so if you are taken short on a big route you would have to undo the leg loops completely to complete your toilet.
The waist was very comfortable due to the 5mm medium density foam, I have spent a lot of time belaying this season both prolonged sessions at Malham with Kev on his epic ascent of Totally Free and hanging belays for multi pitch trad and the comfort has been excellent. I haven’t noticed it being too sweaty even in our recent spell of hot weather, the waist belt foam felt breathable without the need for excessive ventilation.
The Wild Country Blaze harness comes with four gear loops. These were traditional 10mm tape encased with clear plastic tubing of semi-circular design. A tried and tested gear loops design that has stood the test of time. The front two were angle towards the tie in loop and the rear two were horizontal. They all worked fine, I had a minor issue with gear falling over my thigh when the loop was fully loaded with gear for trad but with a slight racking re-arrangement this was avoided. I was able to locate and replace gear easily, the loops were well bartacked so will last the life of the harness. There was a small loop on the back, large enough to take a karabiner but too small for anything else. This would be fine for clipping your chalkbag into the harness but not for much else. My preference is to carry my emergency kit on this loop (prussic and Ropeman) but most people clip their chalkbag directly into a harness so it’s fine for this purpose. It also removes the very dangerous temptation to belay into this loop, as I have seen done on numerous occasions.
The tie in loops were very burly in construction: triple folded and triple bartacked. It felt very reassuring in, what is the most important part of the harness. They were plenty big enough for two 9mm ropes and really did have a reassuring, burly looking feel to them. I had complete confidence taking fall in it and it performed well for falls as the back was wide and comfortable. The abseil loop was also double looped and triple bartacked, this complemented the rugged construction. It was large enough to take plenty of screwgates and other items on belays.
I have used the Wild Country Blaze harness for all the spring rock climbing season and if you are looking for an all round rock climbing harness you won’t go far wrong. It’s comfortable, light, super adjustable and has a great freedom of movement feel to it. Just remember to get the sizing right and the addition of a bigger loop or even a fifth gear loop would make it even better.