The Petzl Sitta (pronounced SEE-Tah) is a stand-out harness in the very small and exclusive class of high-end technical harnesses. I bought my first top-of-the-line harness back in 1995 when I realized I was addicted to climbing. The Petzl Guru was a stand out at that time both for its notice-able rescue orange color and its high price point (it was double what most harnesses cost in the 90’s).
Despite the price tag I never regretted the purchase as it was really comfortable for the era and served me well for the start of my climbing career from Red Rocks to the Rockies and back East. Since I retired it around 2000 I’ve gone through a steady stream of harnesses, almost always Petzl; Adajama, Corax, Calidris, Sama, another Adajama, then a Hirundos (review), and now the Petzl Sitta.
Let’s take a close look at this technically advanced harness!
Without question the first thing you will notice when holding this harness in hand is how unbelievably light it is. My size large weighs in at 10.5 ounces (or 294 grams) on my home digital scale. Manufacturer specifications indicate a size large is 300 grams (10.58 ounces), so I’d say the claimed weight is easily met! The only similar featured harnesses on the market in this category are the Arcteryx FL-365 which weighs in at 365 grams / 12.9 ounces (size not given) and the CAMP Air CR which weights in at 350 grams / 12.3 ounces (size medium).
That makes the Petzl Sitta the lightest full featured harness on the market designed with a broad spectrum of climbing disciplines in mind.
I’ve always preferred harnesses that pack up small. Since we usually don our helmets at the same time we put our harnesses on I’ve been in the practice of folding my harness up and storing it neatly inside my helmet like I show here in my Hirundos harness review:
I’ve started doing things a little differently with the Petzl Sitta. Like most harnesses the Sitta comes with a storage bag. With every harness I’ve ever owned I’ve tossed the storage bag or used it for something else; make-shift crampon pouch, random organizing stuff sack, etc. But the stuff sack that comes with the Sitta is a bit more utilitarian. First, it’s small:
The harness packs up so small I find the space inside my helmet is too large to store the harness snugly, so I started using the stuff sack to store the harness in my pack. It’s small profile allows for more efficient packing when trying to maximize available space. After gearing up I started using the stuff sack as a mini-essentials kit since there is a conveniently sewn loop on the sack allowing you to clip it to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground. I typically toss in some snacks, bug dope, small climbing knife, headlamp, phone & car keys!
While this isn’t re-inventing the wheel I think most harness stuff sacks are too big to really hang off the back of your harness. This one isn’t and the quality of the stuff sack material and zipper instills confidence. In fact you can clip a small loop from the zipper and the carry handle with one carabiner, which adds some redundancy and keeps the zipper closed when scumming your way up a chimney!
Reviewers all over the web have commented at length on how surprisingly comfortable this harness is and I’ll be echoing those sentiments. To quote Climbing.com’s review (which also granted Climbing’s Editor Choice Award to this harness):
“Lightweight harnesses aren’t supposed to be this comfortable”
I’ve worn the harness now for a little over two months and find it just as comfortable as the more padded Petzl Hirundos that I reviewed earlier this year. Petzl achieves a high degree of load distribution via their “WIREFRAME” construction. Spectra® strands are incorporated in the waist-belt and leg loops to aid with this. Basically Spectra® is a super strong static material. Because it does not stretch like regular nylon load distribution can be optimized with careful design. I would say this harness is as comfortable as any harness I have worn in the last 10 years! Another benefit of this high tech design is the harness is very breathable in hot humid weather and has a very sleek low profile when climbing with a larger backpack.
Elasticized fixed leg loops:
I’ve said it before that I prefer this style of stretchy leg loop. It offers excellent freedom of movement, less weight, and less bulk. I actually feel these shouldn’t be called “fixed” because they really are “auto-adjustable”. The stretchy adjustable part stretches up to 2.5 inches which is more than enough for me to add some long-underwear and soft-shell pants for this winters ice climbing season!
The reinforced tie-in points are made with high-tenacity polyethylene which resists fraying and wear from repeated rope movement at these high stress points. This really is a nice feature since I usually decide to retire my harness when I have notice-able “fray” in this area and this material will definitely slow any the harness “fuzz” development.
Here’s another area Petzl has really been innovative with! The Petzl Sitta has the traditional 4 gear loops but there are some important design considerations to take note of. First, the front gear loops are LARGE and RIGID! I can rack a standard rack easily on the right front gear loop. The rigid support facilitates clipping & un-clipping protection and quick-draws.
The gear divider is interesting, it can be adjusted forward or back to give you some customization. I keep it in the middle and rack passive pro and small cams in front, and every thing bigger behind the divider. I’ve found having the divider is a really nice “blind reference” when reaching for gear without looking down. Need a .4 Black Diamond C4? Find the divider and it will be the carabiner right in front. Need a .5? Find the divider and it will be the carabiner just behind the divider.
Different but related to comfort, how a harness fits is quite personal. We are all shaped differently, so to help you choose the correct size lets start with the official size chart from Petzl:
|References||C10AO S||C10AO M||C10AO L|
|Waist belt||67-77 cm||74-84 cm||81-92 cm|
|Leg loops||48-53 cm||52-57 cm||55-60 cm|
|Weight||240 g||270 g||300 g|
You really should measure yourself accurately before you order, but for your convenience here’s a quick conversion of the waist sizes:
Small is for 26-30 inch waist.
Medium is for 29-33 inch waist.
Large is for 32-36 inch waist.
I have a 34 inch waist, and the large waist belt fits perfectly. My thigh, measured at it’s thickest part, is about 59 cm. I still have plenty of stretch in the leg loops to accommodate thicker ice climbing layers.
The above features make this harness an excellent choice for a slew of climbing disciplines. I’ll briefly give a 1-10 rating with a short explanation based on the features for each discipline before jumping into a summary:
- Gym Climbing 5/10– If all you need is a gym harness this is overkill. Get a cheaper harness.
- Sport Climbing 9.5/10– I can’t think of what else a dedicated sport climber could want from a harness. This is an excellent pick for sport climbing!
- Traditional Climbing 9.5/10– Again, this harness has everything I would want for multi-pitch trad climbing
- Ice Climbing 8.5/10– I’m REALLY looking forward to this ice season but wish they added just one more Petzl Caritool slot, preferably under the back of the right rear gear loop
- Mountaineering 8.5/10– A great choice if skis and glaciers are not involved!
- Glaciers & Ski Mountaineering 7.5/10– Closed leg loops make this less than ideal for glacier travel and ski mountaineering, but it’s not the end of the world. Just wear your harness all day, with this one you will forget it’s on!
- Bouldering 1/10– What are you thinking?
It’s really hard to fairly compare this harness with what else is on the market.
Price-wise it is at the far upper end in the recreational category, but its incredible light-weight pack-ability and comfort can make it easy to justify the purchase. As mentioned near the beginning of the review only the Arcteryx FL-365 and CAMP Air CR come close and I’m hoping to get samples of those to review here soon. For now I’m eagerly awaiting the cooler temps and early season ice climbing. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself and should just enjoy the quickly approaching foliage climbing season, definitely my favorite time to rock climb in the White Mountains!
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and opinions on the the review, harnesses, etc. below in the comments!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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