We take a look at the third generation adjustable harness to see if it is a truly all round harness from Canadian uber company Arc’teryx.
Built with ergonomic freedom and longwearing performance for versatility on rock and ice, the AR-395a hits the sweet spot where innovation, comfort and performance converge.
This is now the third adjustable harness I’ve owned and used from Arc’teryx. I bought my first x350a several years ago and was both aghast that I wanted something so badly that I was prepared to pay the princely sum of £100 for a rock climbing harness and delighted with such an object of technical wizardry (some said it ‘twas witchcraft at the time). I still have the original tin and use it for cakes and such like and sometimes just get it out to marvel that something as practical as a climbing harness could be packaged so luxuriously. The Arc’teryx AR-395A is still a fantastic harness, the ‘AR’ means All Round, the ‘395’ is the model version and the ‘a’ means it’s adjustable.
I then reviewed the updated R-320a version back in 2011 which offered a wider back; bigger gear loops and still managed to shave some weight off. Now I’m a real fan of this harness and especially the adjustable version, it’s all well and good having super light fixed leg harnesses but when your waist and thigh dimensions are different it poses problems. Long gone are the days of my super skinny sport climbing legs – I now have mountain legs and am much the better for them! Also I like to have just the one harness and an adjustable harness covers all bases for me. I can use it for sport climbing with just a thin t-shirt on or I can use it with full winter garb and everything in between.
So now I’ve sang the praises of using an adjustable harness what about the Arc’teryx AR-395a itself? Well the Warp Strength Technology is still a technological advance that other manufacturers are struggling to emulate. The waist band and leg loops are still super thin at roughly a 1mm thick. There is a double thickness of material and they are laminated together with what looks like a diamond patterned stiffener in between, so I’m assuming the Warp strands work their way around the waist and legs through this stiffener. As I said earlier it’s all technical wizardry that I am in no way qualified to comment upon, all I know is that it has allowed the waist band to be further widened at the back and that it is super comfortable to wear all day for days and days. I’ve worn this harness for all my climbing this season including some very long days out on multi pitch climbs and it has been awesome.
The wider waistband (the AR-395A has a wider waist belt than the rest of the range as it is a more all-round climbing and mountaineering harness)cinches closed with an 18mm burly tape and self-closure buckles that worked super smooth even when the harness was wet. The webbing tidies has been really smartened up on the updated harness and now keep the webbing tightly out of the way (this was an issue with the R320a). The aluminium buckles further saving weight; they are polished to be really smooth and the anodized to provide a really smooth action. They can also be fully released easily and rethreaded so that you can put it on whilst on a teetery slope without your crampon points catching on the leg loops (it’s happened to me before and is sure to get the red lights flashing and the claxon going off!)
The wide waistband was an absolute godsend on hanging belays and felt comfortable all day long. It also has 4 burly and well stitched ice clipper loops, indeed all the waist belt extras were bar tacked including the belt tidies and gear loops. The loops are, however 0kN rated so don’t get tying into them. The all-important tie in loops were mega burly and felt indestructible, the webbing was triple thick and then has a further cover stitched on. The range now has a wear marker system that shows orange threads when the loops are beginning to wear; when this shows the harness should be retired.
The gear loops are still the same design as on the original x350a with reversible polypropylene that clip into a tape. I previously reported that they were a faff to change over, especially in the field and I still maintain that so I don’t bother. The only situation I can foresee changing the gear loop configuration is if I desperately need to shed pack weight and I would take them off completely before I left the house. The addition of a fifth gear loop, to replace the plastic D ring is very welcome and a great place to stash all those extra bits that you don’t use on route like prussic loops, knife, hanging shoes off, etc. The gear loops were plenty large enough to swallow large trad racks with ease and with plenty of spare.
The leg loops are also nice and comfortable and utilise the same Warp Strength Technology to give a wide yet thin loop. The adjustable webbing was smooth to cinch up and the excess was tidied away into a slightly stretchy loop which kept the excess neat and out of the way. All stitching in this area is super burly bar tacking with a reassuring feel to it. The rear elastic straps were kept in place and easy to adjust with a stainless steel hook that meant dropping the seat for toilet stops were a breeze and the hook was easy enough to use with thin gloves on but not thick winter ones.
In conclusion there have been some subtle but good improvements to what has become an iconic climbing harness. The Arc’teryx AR-395A is a fantastic all round climbing and mountaineering harness and I’ve worn it for all my personal climbing activities all season. I have found it light, compact and very comfortable to wear.
The range comes in sizes Xs to XL and there is a women’s specific version the AR-385A
Gear loops still awkward to change over in the field.
About Dave Sarkar: Dave has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for almost 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA, working full time as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering or ice climbing as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!