Double backed vs quick adjust harnesses

Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Hey everyone,

So, I'm shopping for a new harness and trying to decide between a classic double-backing design or the modern "quick adjust." For reference, I'm considering the two otherwise identical versions of the Misty Mountain Cadillac. I've only ever used a quick adjust harness (BD Momentum) and know that failing to double back a harness can be dangerous (e.g: Cliffhanger), but I was wondering if there are any advantages (besides hipster street cred) to a double backing harness.

Gavin W · · Surrey, BC · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 183

The only advantage that I can think of is that doubled-back harnesses can be totally separated at the waist quite easily, whereas most quick-adjust harnesses have some sort of sewn edge that makes that more difficult. I think the convenience and speed of adjustment of quick-adjust harnesses more than weighs out that small advantage, unless you plan on needed to put your harness on while wearing skis.

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 1,471

The Cadillac is awesome.

I use the double back because I end up in chimneys and offwidths. Having a harness that won't loosen up in those scenarios is very important to me.

Dave Carey · · Morrison, CO · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 120

I've had 3 harnesses. One double back and two quick adjust. I honestly trust the double back more. The auto adjust seems to walk sometimes which is a little spooky. Plus the auto adjust wears a little quicker. At the same time I like a tighter harness.

I would go with double back because I trust it more after the 3 harnesses.

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,352

I would go with the quick adjust. The differences in safety between the two are extremely small and only noticeable in a few very specific scenarios. Realistically, I would say the double back is less safe to a new climber simply because there are some new climbers out there who dont even know to double back their harness.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Hmm...that'd be a fair point if it was my first harness, but I'm very aware of how double-backing works. Dave: that's actually a really good point, and definitely something that annoys me about my current quick-adjust harness. Although it's never come dangerously loose, it is (as you said) a little unnerving. Thanks for the replies, guys.

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

If I remember correctly the failure in Ckiffhanger was from a bad buckle, not necessarily not doubling back. That line wasn't strong enough for two, he never should've been out there.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,430

Speed buckles are great but as has been mentioned- the buckles can walk. I consistently have to tighten my leg loops on my Cadillac. Waist is fine. Also, the buckle can get hung and loosened. Not a high likelihood but that can't happen with a single piece doubled back buckle. I have also noticed that the waist strap on my BD got thick and frayed long before my speed adjust straps. That's not necessarily because of doubling back but I think it contributes. There's my pros and cons of each.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Ah, you're right...the buckle was cracked and it just broke. Jeez, what are the chances of that?

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

The concept of quick adjust buckles never made sense to me - I've never thought that getting into and out of my harness was the place I really needed to shave off some seconds in my climbing day, and having a "quick loosen" buckle that is the main attachment between me and everything else is about as appealing to me as a "quick loosen" knot to tie in with.

You should know that the downsides of speed buckles are not only an annoying gradual loosening, but there have been incidents where the buckles have completely released suddenly. Every time this is reported, there has been a chorus of people basically calling the person a liar, but I witnessed one of these incidents in person just feet away from me, and I completely swore off these types of harnesses after that.

Just know that while the probability of occurrence may be low, the consequences could be extremely high. Whether that constitutes an acceptable risk is up to you. To me, I don't want a harness that has a failure mode like that, and certainly don't want to be thinking about taking a whipper and worrying that my harness may snag something on the way down and I suddenly won't be wearing it anymore. Taking, what, 5-10 extra seconds per buckle is well worth the extra security to me.

Another more mundane downside to speed buckles is as another poster mentioned, often (always?) they are designed so that you can only loosen the strap, not remove it from the buckle completely. With traditional buckles you can take off your leg loops completely while leaving your waist belt on, which is important when you need to drop trou but stay tied in.

ubu · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 0

I am a big fan of double-back straps. To me, it is more comfortable to completely undo/redo the straps when getting geared up, rather than stepping in and out of a quick adjust harness. Plus, a fully unbuckled harness rolls up into a nice compact ball when storing it in a pack.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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