When it comes to getting kids off the ground on a rope or autobelay, a well fit harness is important for safety and comfort, and also for the peace of mind of their parent or guardian. Thankfully there are a lot of options available that are built to the same rigorous comfort and safety standards as adult harnesses to help keep kids comfortably attached while they explore the vertical world.

Harnesses for kids come in a couple of different types: a traditional sit style harness with a waist belt and leg loops, and a full body design that wraps around the legs and torso, and over the shoulders.

Sit Style Harness

Full Body Harness

Both options have benefits depending on the size, shape and age of your kid. Traditional sit harnesses are most common for taller, older, larger kids, and full body harnesses tend to be sized for smaller bodies.

Sizing Kids Harnesses

Kids climbing harnesses usually come in one size option, which is unfortunately not that consistent across brands. It is important to measure your child and consult the size chart for a harness before you buy, or if you can find it in person try it on.

If you’re wanting to get the longest life out of a harness before your kid grows out of it, you can look for a harness with a large upper size range. With sit harnesses specifically, you want to still be sure that it can get small enough for the size they are now. If a sit harness is too big, it has the possibility of slipping off over the hips in the event your kid were to turn upside down. Kids can have especially slim hips compared to adults, so it is even more important that when they tug down on the belt after tightening, that their harness cannot slip off. In the event you cannot find a sit harness that is small enough for your child, you can opt for a full body harness, or if that still doesn’t fit, it might be best to wait until they grow a bit and can fit into something safely.

Sit Style Harnesses

Most sit harnesses for kids take cues from their larger adult counterparts and several are simply shrunken down versions of the adult model that a brand already makes. The benefit of this approach is that the kids version will have many of the amenities and features found on the adult model, like nice thick padding, gear loops (though usually only 2), haul loops, and familiar buckles and webbing adjustability. Plus if your kid wants to dress like you on the wall, they can!

There are currently slightly more sit style options than full body harnesses available on the market.

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When correctly sized, a sit style harness made for kids should fit snugly around the waist above the hips.

Sit harnesses adapted from the adult world tend to be on the higher end of the kid sizing spectrum. Most are recommended for taller kids, and kids in larger bodies because they are essentially just super small adult harnesses. If you’re looking for a harness for older or taller kids, it’s also a good idea to check if the ranges overlap into an XS or S adult model, which can give them a lot more growing room.

You can also look for features your kid might want in the future in adult harnesses and see if there is a similar kids version. A benefit of this approach means that if/when your child outgrows their harness, they can comfortably step right into the adult version and keep on climbing with a familiar fit and feel.

The Twist Tech and Twist Tech Lady from Ocún feature adjustable leg loops and ‘gender specific’ fits for adult bodies with waists as small at 24.8 and 23.2 inches and leg loops down to 17.7 inches in their smallest sizes.

The Twist Kid from Ocún comes in one size and has all the same features and build as its adult counterparts, but fits waists from 18.8-26.7 inches and legs from 12.9 to 18.1 inches, well overlapping the XS from the adult models.

The Wild Country Movement harness comes in two sizes that cover a wide range thanks to the 4 buckle design.

The Movement Kids looks and functions nearly identically to the Movement, but with only 2 gear loops instead of 4. Wild Country also smartly prints an ‘R’ on the inside of the right leg loop and uses a brighter color on the belay loop to help to easily identify them when putting it on.

Full Body Harnesses for Kids

Partly thanks to the access of full body harnesses in super small sizing, kids can start climbing at a very young age. Keeping our littlest senders in a harness can be a bit more challenging, and this is where the full body harness is a great option. These harnesses can often fit a growing kid for a while, and the brand will have an upper weight limit and torso size limit for when it is time to trade up to a sit style.

Most kid’s harnesses only come in one size, but there are some that come in two sizes, such as the Edelrid Fraggle.

Because full body harnesses wrap around the shoulders and torso of a climber as well as the legs, they allow for a very secure fit, especially on small wriggly bodies. Thanks to the over-the-shoulder design, it is very difficult for a kid to get turned upside down, or to fall out of a body harness, which is especially important for those in very small bodies.

Full body harnesses can also be a great choice for kids with lower muscle control or motor disabilities thanks to the extra support provided by the shoulder straps. Make sure to measure for correct fit, or you can also try an adult full body harness if your kid is too big for the kids version.

Bouldering in a full body harness
Full body harnesses for kids offer support for the upper and lower body and can be a great option for small bodies.

Getting into a body harness requires stepping in and pulling up over both shoulders, and there is often more webbing and buckles involved than a sit harness. Most brands design their body harnesses to ‘open up’ in the center, similar to the straps on a carseat. To keep kids safe from accidental un-buckling, most designs have two tie-in loops that join the two sides of the harness and place the adjustment buckles on the back away from fiddly hands.

This ‘two tie-in’ design relies on the user to either tie the rope through both tie-in points, or clip both tie-in points with a carabiner in order to close the harness completely. It is important to note that designs with two tie-in points aren’t as foolproof as a single ‘easy to find, easy to clip’ point of safety like we would with a sit harness. If your kids body harness has two tie-ins, you must use them both at all times.

The Black Diamond Momentum Kids Full Body and Zaza from Singing Rock both use two tie-in points to secure the harness around the body, which lets the harness open widely for putting on and taking off.

There are models that are purposely designed to include a single-point tie in loop. These require a more complicated system of buckles and either use redirected webbing sewn to the back and front plate or have 1 or more extra buckles to adjust the fit. The one tradeoff of this approach is that they often require a higher amount of adjustment to open and close because the buckles have to allow enough adjustability to make an opening large enough for a body to go through.

The Flik from Singing Rock and Oustiti from Petzl both provide a single tie-in point in the front which can help the harness stay on without a carabiner or rope tied into them. They both require more webbing and adjustment buckles than models with two tie-ins.

A properly adjusted full body harness in use
When properly fit, a full body harness can provide all the mobility a kid needs to enjoy a day of climbing and activity while staying snug and safe.

The benefit of this construction method is that these harnesses are a bit more long-term secure and considerably more difficult for a little one to get out of without assistance. This also means they are tougher to get into, so be prepared for more fiddling if you’ve got a kiddo who needs a lot of potty breaks.

A properly fit full body harness should be snug on the shoulders, torso, and legs to ensure your little can’t worm their way out of it. A great test for this can be performed on the ground by simply lifting them up by the tie-in point and testing to see that everything stays put.

Things to Look Out for When Clipping or Tying-in

One thing to note about the front tie in points on most full-body harnesses is that they can be considerably higher up on the torso than a belay loop on a sit harness. This can mean knots or bulky carabiners in the face of your kiddo when they’re climbing, depending on how tall they are and the equipment you use to attach to ropes or autobelays. It is a very good practice to make sure children with long hair have it pulled up and back securely. Note: We’ve personally witnessed more than one unfortunate little sender pull some hair out on an autobelay clip in.

Some harnesses also have clip-in loops on the back between the shoulders. These loops should be used cautiously, not only for the hair-catching, but because they tend to point the child’s head directly toward the wall when they are hanging.

Kids Harness Safety

Climbing certified harnesses for kids undergo the same process and testing that adult harnesses do. We’ve written a more in-depth post about that which you can find here. The only thing that differs in this test versus the adult’s, is that kid’s harnesses are tested at a slightly lower weight. Adult models are pull tested at a whopping 15kN upright and 10kN upside down for full body (that’s equivalent to about 3,300 and 2,200 pounds, respectively). Harnesses for children only need to hold at 10kN upright and 7kN upside down for full body, which still includes a very generous safety margin (unless your child weighs more than 1,500 pounds, that is).

Any Other Questions?

Let us know in the comments if there’s something else you’d like us to cover about kid’s harnesses.

Kids harnesses can be tough to generalize since the age and size of a kid vary so widely. Really, your best bet is to try on harnesses to see what fits and what your kid doesn’t immediately try to peel off of themselves.