Got a kiddo chomping at the bit to climb like Mommy and Daddy? One of the first purchases you’ll need to make is a harness. Once a child climbs higher than an adult can reach, a parent is forced to trust that child’s safety equipment over a set of protective, high-reaching arms! Armed with that daunting thought, harness shopping can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for! Hopefully this post will clear things up a bit…
For the preschool and elementary-aged set, a full-body harness is the only way to go for safety reasons. With shorter legs and a proportionally heavier upper body, young children have a higher center of gravity than adults. For this reason (as well as just-emerging coordination and body awareness skills), children are much more likely than adults to tip backwards while climbing, or in some cases, even flip over. A waist harness is designed to contain an upside-down adult, but a child’s anatomy features a teeny-tiny waist and hips that aren’t well-defined yet – in the unfortunate event that a child was to flip upside down, there’s not much the harness can do to restrain them. Not only do the shoulder straps of a full-body harness address this problem, the higher tie-in point creates a lower center of gravity, causing the feet to naturally swing down and eliminate that “tippy” feeling. Note: This is also one reason why most pregnant climbers choose to switch into a full-body harness once their belly gets bigger…I actually JUST switched into my preggo harness (courtesy of Mountain Mama!), so stay tuned for the adult version of the full body harness review!
There are several different children’s harnesses to choose from – most of the major brands offer one. We started C in a harness when he was 15 months old (not for actual climbing, but for swinging and learning to be comfortable off the ground.) We went with the CAMP Bambino, since it was the only one that was adjustable enough for a climbing hopeful that small. Although it certainly got the job done safely, I was never a big fan – it had no padding, which besides probably not being very comfortable, meant that it did not hold it’s shape, so putting it on a wiggly toddler was near impossible. So many times I would get C all suited up and ready to climb, only to realize that one of his limbs was coming out the wrong opening (and he didn’t take too kindly to multiple adjustments…)
Once he hit 25 pounds, he was big enough to move into the Trango Junior Harness…and we haven’t looked back since! This harness has all the bells and whistles of a grown-up harness, packaged up into a preschooler-safe package! The leg loops are entirely padded, and once it’s adjusted for size, is easy enough to get into that C can take it on and off by himself. (It should probably go without saying, but even if your kiddo can do it him/herself, ALWAYS double check to make sure a harness is on correctly, and that all of the buckles are securely double-backed.)
We’ve used this harness for a little over a year and it’s proved to be very durable. The only complaint C can come up with is that there aren’t any gear loops, as the last time he went climbing he got 12 feet off the ground and announced that he needed a quickdraw! (FYI while he has no need for gear loops just yet, it’s pretty easy to clip one on even without the gear loops though…) With an 80 pound weight limit, I have no doubt that C’s Trango Junior will last him until he needs to upgrade into a waist harness.
For those of you with young kids, how old was your little one when they scored their first harness, and what kind did you get? What have you liked/disliked about it?
***NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, we received this harness for free as part of my sponsorship with Trango…but I guarantee everything written in this review is my honest, unbiased opinion.