Plus Size Climbing Harnesses: Resources & Measurements

Climbing is very intimidating, and even more so for plus size people. Check out these wonderful tips by plus size climber Sam Ortiz and say goodbye to worrying about whether or not a harness will fit your body and hello to taking on new challenges and reaching new heights!
Sam Ortiz Sam Ortiz
Plus size Latinx Mountaineer & Tacoma Basic Climbing Student
April 25, 2019

Climbing can be an intimidating sport. For plus size people it’s even more so. Worrying about whether or not a harness will fit your body is a huge barrier to so many. Many of you have told me that you’re scared or have felt uncomfortable trying a new sport when you’re surrounded by other straight sized folks. I really want to break down those barriers and offer a more comfortable space to learn in. Don’t worry, I’ll show you the ropes (pun intended)!

Last month I emailed my local Tacoma rock climbing gym, Edgeworks Climbing, on a whim to make a request.

By “on a whim” what I really mean is that I stressed over writing the ‘perfect email’ for about 3 weeks before sending it, because I wanted to make sure I got my point across.

Here's what I said:

  • My name is Sam Ortiz and I’ve been a climber at Edgeworks for a couple of years. I am writing to request that Edgeworks invest in 7 more ‘plus size’ harnesses, to bring your total to 10.

    As a climber at your gym, and a leader in the local outdoor and plus size world, I was disappointed to recently find out that you have just 3 harnesses to offer climbers above a 46 in size waist.

    A 46 inch harness fits over the hips of a women’s size 14 or below, while more than 60% of women in the US are above a size 14. That means that most women will not fit into your main harness sizes.

    Edgeworks is my home gym and a gym where I enjoy bringing friends and meeting groups to climb with. I am very interested in hosting climbing meetups for plus size women at Edgeworks, but I’m unable to do so with your current selection of available harnesses. With 10 plus size harnesses, I would be able to bring small groups of new climbers to your gym knowing that plenty of harnesses were available.

    I asked on my platform if anyone was interested in learning to climb and I got hundreds of responses. Many women shared that they have wanted to try rock climbing, but haven’t felt comfortable being the only one of their size around. Multiple people have told me they would drive up from Portland just for an evening with other plus size climbers.

    I would be happy to provide more information or demonstrate need upon your request. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

My email went out at 7pm on Sunday night, and by 8:45pm I’d already gotten a response from the Marketing Manager. She said she’d talked to the owner and they’re both excited to make it happen ASAP! 

Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Finding the right harness fit

Talking about sizes and inches can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, so for that reason I’ve included a sizing chart from Torrid Fashion below  as a reference. Note: A harness will sit on your waist.

Two important things to consider when looking at measurements:

  1. To pull up a harness, it needs to fit over both waist and hips, so these are the numbers I was looking at when initially measuring harnesses. 
  2. Some harnesses fully unclasp at the waist! This means that they don’t have to fit over hips, just around the waist, so you will not need to consider your hip measurement in your purchase deision.

BUYING A HARNESS:

I looked at every harness available on REI's website, and they sell two that *might maybe* fit a 2x-3x, depending on body shape. The Edelrid Jayne harness is your best bet, with the Metolius All Around harness coming in second. The waist fully unclasps on both of these models. 

A wider size range is offered by companies whose focus is on creating rescue equipment (for organizations like Search and Rescue) instead of rock climbing equipment. These harnesses will serve a very similar purpose, but won’t have some of the bells and whistles that are specific to rock climbing harnesses. Robertson, a rescue gear company, is the company that sells the plus harnesses that will soon be carried by Edgeworks.

I also want to share this recommendation from one of my friends: "I am 2X with 44-46in waist depending on my layers. I use the @metoliusclimbing safe tech all around. It’s super comfy if I have to sit in it. It is not auto-double backing so I have to manually double back it but I’ve gotten used to that. It comes completely undone so I don’t have to try to slide it over my butt and hips. It’s a little bulkier than other harnesses but as a plus size woman I’m used to my clothes and gear being bulkier, amiright? I also really like all the gear loops and appreciate the padding. Highly recommend." 

I found this post on Weigh My Rack that talks about some harness options for larger bodies. It’s important to note that in addition to this blog being a little outdated, I think it’s also written by someone from the UK? Which means some of those options aren’t available if you live in the US (I checked).

Have more questions? Leave them below!