At first glance, most climbing harnesses look the same. They all consist of two leg loops and a waste loop connected together with a small fourth belay loop. This is not actually the case though. Some harnesses are made for regular rock climbing, some for alpine style climbing (with detachable leg loops), some harnesses have a lot of padding making them very comfortable to climb in all day long, while others (usually at the budget end of the scale) have considerably less. There are male and female specific designs available as well as many unisex ones. Some harnesses come with a large number of gear loops. These are usually plastic (although some are metal) “D shaped” rings which are attached to the side of the harness and used to clip your climbing gear onto when climbing.
A padded unisex climbing hanress with metal gear loops.
Before buying a harness it’s important to know if it feels comfortable. Many good climbing shops will have a harness hang facility, which allows you to put the harness on and suspend from a rope. This will give you the best indication of the comfort of the harness. As with climbing shoes, it is worth trying a few harnesses on to see which one feels the most comfortable. After all, you will be spending quite a bit of time in it, so it may as well feel comfortable.
An apline style harness
(notice the leg loops are not padded and can be quickly unclipped, making it easier to put on and off in alpine conditions or whilst wearing more padded clothing).