If you’re ice climbing you’ll likely want a way to hold ice screw(s) on your harness. This is primarily done with the help of an ice clipper. Ice clippers are a specialized carabiner for holding ice screws. Most harnesses made for ice climbing will have special skinny ice clipper slots to hold the ice clipper.

For mountaineers, many lightweight mountaineering harnesses will often have webbing loops to hold an emergency screw.

This is an ice clipper (the model is the Edelrid Clip L 3R, made of recycled plastic):

Edelrid Ice Clipper 1
Most ice clippers have a relatively similar shape.

Ice clippers are generally made of plastic and have a wire gate. There is a notch at the top of the ice clipper to help sort ice screws. Ice clippers are not rated as carabiners (they’re not certified in any way) and should never be used for anything but holding gear on a harness.

Harness Ice Clipper Slots

Ice clipper slots look quite different from harness gear loops. They are usually a 1-2″ square or rectangle. The fabric is thin and tight and only ice clippers are designed to go in them. (You could technically fit a regular carabiner in them too – they just suck for holding ice screws.)

If your harness has ice clipper slots, typically there are 2 or 4. They are most often located in between the gear loops or just in front of the gear loops. They are virtually always an even number, with the same number of slots on each side of the harness.

Black Diamond ice clipper slots 2
The right and left side of the same harness. The leg loops have been detached to focus on the waist belt.

(If you don’t have these slots, no worries, we’ll get to that.)

Ice Clippers on Harnesses

Most ice clippers today (click here to see every option) will fit into most ice clipper slots. For those harnesses out there that don’t have these slots, many ice clipper models have attachment options to allow it to fit on the waistbelt instead (given the harness has enough structure to hold it). Some brands make a second model of ice clipper specifically made for this.

Example 1: The same Black Diamond Technician harness seen above with 2 Black Diamond Ice Clippers (that’s the model name). The right Ice Clipper is in the ice clipper slot, the left is around the waistbelt affixed with a very hard-to-see black rubber piece that comes with the Ice Clipper.

Black Diamond Ice Clippers 3
The Ice Clipper from Black diamond is shown attached to a harness using an ice clipper slot (right) and also using the provided black elastic band around the belt (left). These methods have significant differences in height.

Putting an ice clipper in the harness ice clipper slot is always more stable than using one of these other attachment methods to add the clipper onto the waistbelt.

Example 2: The Petzl Sitta with the Petzl Caritool Small in the ice clipper slot on the right and the Petzl Caritool Evo around the waistbelt of the harness, affixed with stretchy orange cord.

Petzl Ice Clippers 4
Petzl makes two types of ice clippers, the Caritool (right) and Caritool EVO (left) which are both made to attach to a harness with ice clipper slots, while the EVO can also attach directly to the waist belt.

As you can see in the photos above, when you use the ice clipper slot, the ice clipper will sit lower on the harness vs centered on the harness waistbelt. This could end up being a personal preference for your reach.

Recently, Karry Krab came out with a new style of ice clipper that attaches onto a harness gear loop (in addition to fitting in an ice clipper slot). This method was created based on a collaboration with the legendary ice climber Kitty Calhoun (you can read the full story here).

Karry Krab gear loop attachment with Kitty 5
Left is a closeup of the Karry Krab that uses a super strong band to latch onto the gear loop. Right is Kitty climbing using 5 Karry Krabs at once.

This gear loop attachment makes the ice screws stick out further from the harness and sit lower on the harness (a note, not a pro or con).

Mountaineering harnesses

Some mountaineers will carry one ice screw, in case of emergency anchor building. Harness designers have been accommodating this with a very thin gear loop + 1-2 stretchy leg loops that will hold the screw still while you walk. This could be on one side, or two sides, depending on the weight goals of the harness designer.

Example: The Petzl Altitude with a Petzl Laser Speed Light 17cm ice screw.

  • The orange arrow points to the small but strong gear loop.
  • The green arrows point to two bands of stretchy webbing that secure the screw to the leg loop.

This lightweight holster prevents the screw from bouncing and dangling as you walk (or ski).

Petzl Altitude Mountaineering Harness with Ice Screw holder 6
Original photo from Petzl.

Lightweight mountaineering harnesses usually don’t have enough waistbelt structure to hold an ice clipper. If you want a fast-to-access ice screw carrying option, other than buying a different harness that will hold screws, another option is to use a pack with gear loops (or modify your pack to do so).

Alpinists, who may be climbing through snow, ice, or rock, and might be carrying multiple screws will usually wear a lightweight but fully featured (4 gear loops / ice clipper slots) harness versus a lightweight mountaineering harness.

Bottom Line

Most harnesses do not have ice clipper loops. That’s typically fine, since most climbers don’t ice climb. There is nothing wrong with having ice clipper slots on your harness and never using them.

For ice climbing / alpine climbing

  • If you’re harness has ice clipper slots, you can use them to add an ice clipper and access ice screws easily.
  • If your harness doesn’t have ice clipper slots, you can still find ice clippers that will attach to the waistbelt or gear loops.

For mountaineering

  • If you’re harness has a gear loop + stretchy leg loops, these are to carry an emergency ice screw.
  • If your harness doesn’t have this feature, finding a pack with gear loops is a great option as most ice clippers will not sit well on lightweight mountaineering harnesses.