The Super-Burly Metolius Safe Tech: The World’s Safest Climbing Harness?

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Metolius builds its Safe Tech harnesses to handle any gnarly climbing missions you throw at them. In our testing of the newest version, that’s just what it did.

The Metolius Safe Tech harnesses have a reputation for being the safest climbing harnesses around. And testing the most recent All-Around iteration gave me no reason to doubt that status.

It stood up to multiple short, burly climbs (and my crappy trad technique) on sharp, coarse granite. It was also comfortable on longer routes in Red Rocks and gave a highly bomber feel on sometimes eventful sport belays.

In short: The Metolius Safe Tech felt beefy to wear and resisted abrasion better than any harness I’ve ever worn. Heavy-duty material choices and bartacks suit it for outings on sharp rock, alpine terrain, or repetitive trad climbing. A slight and easily correctable manufacturing inconsistency was the only drawback.

metolius safe tech
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

Years of Prior ‘Tests’ Prove Positive

My previous years of unsanctioned “testing” may have driven home the reliability point even harder.

I’ve been using Metolius Safe Techs for multiple generations of the rig. They’ve consistently held me together and proven dependable from long trad outings to grueling sport climbing work sessions.

But I’ve got a confession to make. I got my first one off the chemical-saturated shop floor of a window-cleaning business. I had no idea who’d previously used it, how much, or for what. In fact, in those days, I didn’t even know you had to double it back manually — I’d only ever used harnesses with quick-adjust-style buckles.

All I knew was that it kept me safe, and it endured consistent abuse season after season.

metolius safe tech harness at Enchanted Rocki
The author, with mediocre crack technique and even worse hair, in 2018; (photo/Cody Lee Hanson)

I soaked it in sweat on soupy days in the Texas shoulder season. I scraped it through chimneys and big, burly cracks at Indian Creek and The Diamond.

I’m more conscientious about my gear now, but I doubt it would bother my new Metolius Safe Tech All-Around harness if I weren’t. As expected, the safest climbing harness in the world didn’t budge during testing.

First Impressions: Negligible Weight Penalty

The Safe Tech’s utility was evident right out of the (included) storage bag. The harness is engineered directly toward heavy use and durability in abrasive conditions. Compared to my other, lighter-duty sport climbing harnesses, the rig was rugged — but punched at about the same weight.

The size small Safe Tech weighed in at 16.4 ounces. By comparison, I found the lightweight, less-padded Petzl Adjama barely saved me any weight at 14 ounces.

metolius safe tech climbing harness on the scale
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

Considering the Safe Tech’s sturdy materials, the minimal disparity surprised me. I also noticed how easy it would be to inspect each component — instead of hiding the webbing and stitching inside the belt, which is standard on most harnesses, Metolius opted to layer everything on top.

The belt webbing was one continuous, visible strip. The various loops tacked down on top of it or, in some cases, between it and the padded hip belt, but with visible bartacks.

metolius climbing harness bar tack detail
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

The top tie-in point was the most reinforced I’ve ever seen, with three layers of nylon.

metolius safe tech harness tie in point
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

Testing the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around Climbing Harness

I used the Metolius Safe Tech for trad and sport outings for a few months, including several multipitch days in Red Rocks. Aside from one hangup that didn’t affect safety and resulted from Metolius’ handmade manufacturing process, I had zero complaints. (More on that later.)

metolius safe tech climbing harness
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

This was the first time I’d worn a Safe Tech with a main buckle that I didn’t have to double back manually. I noted the departure from the traditional Safe Tech style, with “DANGER” stamped into the side of the buckle that the double-backed webbing covers.

As typical, though, the inside of the belt had an orange stripe to make safety obvious. As long as you’ve got orange on the outside by the time you start climbing, you’re good.

metolius climbing harness main buckle
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

Climbing in the Safe Tech was the same reliable experience I’d always found it to be. The gear loops gave me comfortable access to my equipment without sags or imbalance, even on the small harness size.

Double Belay Loop Utility

That said, the two belay loops did slightly crowd the pass-through space inside the top tie-in point. The system did make organization easy on long rappels — rapping off one loop while clipping into anchors with the other made sense.

And I can see the utility of the double loop for guides or anyone who typically does long routes with more than one partner. Keeping multiple belay devices organized would be easier with multiple loops.

metolius double belay loop harness
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

I did find that belaying with the same carabiner on both loops felt best. Each loop is a little narrow, and my belay carabiner tended to dance around a bit if I only used one at a time. Using a specialty belay carabiner with an “anti-cross-loading” system would solve the problem.

Long-Haul Comfort

While enduring half-hour-plus hanging belays during long days out, the Safe Tech never dug into my (bony) hips in a way that felt distracting. I’m not one to get overly cranky about discomfort on long routes — it comes with the territory — but comfortable equipment does make a difference.

metolius climbing harness rack
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

Falling felt as comfortable as ever. The Safe Tech didn’t have the widest belt of any harness I’ve ever worn, but it had plenty of cushion to keep me from developing sore spots.

Manufacturing Quirk Results in Home Fix

My only complaint centered around the rear attachment points for the leg loop risers. Metolius decided on a “quick-release” setup where the buckle slides through a nylon loop. The idea is that releasing the leg loop requires rotating the (capsule-shaped) buckle 90 degrees.

However, the loops on my particular harness were loose enough that the buckles could slip through on their own. On one occasion, I lowered from a climb and noticed it happened once I started dumping gear.

metolius safe tech riser loops
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

I fixed the problem with hair ties and found it less than critical for one crucial reason: leg loops are not a safety feature. The essential safety components of a harness are the tie-in points and belay loops — leg loops make hanging and falling more comfortable by helping facilitate a sitting position.

Metolius harness rear risers
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

The utility of dropping the loops is also clear: If you pull down your pants when nature calls, it gives you a lot more room to work with.

Metolius Safe Tech All-Around Climbing Harness: Sizing, Final Word

Overall, the Safe Tech did everything I asked it to do. The need for the slight home modification on the leg loop risers was a trade I was willing to make for Metolius’ hand-crafted quality everywhere else.

Metolius safe tech all-around harness at the New Wall
(Photo/Sam Anderson)

If you’re in between sizes, I would recommend sizing up if you’re going to load the rig down with gear. The small size harness positioned equipment just right around my 28-inch waist with up to a light jacket under it. Wearing layers of jackets would have made it a different story.

closeup of climber putting on harness
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