Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Arc'teryx I-340a Harness Review

*You can read this review and others at http://www.gearthirty.com/blog/2012/06/08/arcteryx-i-340a-harness-review/.  You can also find information on hiking, climbing, and paddling destinations and outdoor news from around the world.  Please check out www.gearthirty.com.

Let me preface this review by saying that I am not really a harness specialist.  I have been using the same harness for years and years.  In fact, my BD harness was 7 years old before I replaced it (wouldn't recommend that and neither would BD).  I was so nervous about climbing in that harness that I would borrow one of Phil's when we would climb together.  I have hung in most BD, Petzl, and Arc'teryx harnesses on the market, but I have only climbed in the BD Focus and Xenos harnesses, and the Arc'teryx X-350a and I-340a harnesses (and various ultralight webbing harnesses while mountaineering).  When it comes to all of the harnesses on the market, I can't tell you which one is best.  But, if you're debating about one of the harnesses mentioned above, this may be helpful.

The Stats and Features

From Arc'teryx's Website
The I·340a is an ice specialist with the ultimate combination of lightness, suppleness and support. A wide Warp Strength® Technology swami gives greater support without adding weight. Brawny tie-in point adds more critical strength where needed and adjustable leg loops are patterned with an anatomical conical shape for greater comfort while hanging. Fourteen slots present more options for clipping ice screws.
Harness Features
  • Two drop seat buckles
  • Wear safety markers on belay loop and tie-in points
  • WST™ load is evenly supported across entire harness structure
  • Low-profile webbing haul/gear loop
  • Fourteen ice clipper slots
  • Belay loop
  • Thermoformed tie-in point
  • Self locking buckle
  • Extra Large width WST™ (Warp Strength Technology™) swami belt
  • Four injection molded reversible/ removable gear loops
  • Adjustable leg loops
  • $170, ouch

My Experience

I have been using this harness for the past two months and I can't say enough about it.  The few complaints I had about the X350a harness have been remedied and, in my opinion and according to my limited knowledge on harness design, this harness couldn't get much better.

This harness is light, flat, and supple enough that hiking in it is very comfortable, even while wearing a backpack with a wide, padded hipbelt.  The gear loops on the hipbelt are removable and reversible, so if one were to do a lot of hiking with a backpack, the plastic could be removed for increased comfort.

Arc'teryx's Warp Strength Technology makes this harness very comfortable to hang in.  In my experience,  the BD Xenos was as comfortable or maybe slightly more comfortable than the X350a, but also a little heavier and bulkier.  Well, I would have to now say that the I-340a is more comfortable than either of these other harnesses.  I think this is due to a wider swami belt and a slightly different shape of the leg loops.  I have also found that it breathes a little better than the Xenos.

One gripe I had (and so did Phil) with the X350a was that the ice clipper slots were just a little too big for my BD ice clippers.  This meant that the little flange on the ice clipper that is meant to keep the ice clipper oriented properly wouldn't catch, and the ice clipper would rotate through the clipper slot and hang funny.  This problem has been remedied by making the ice clipper slots out of elastic.  This means that the slots are tight enough to catch the flange and keep the ice clipper oriented properly.  The elastic also has multiple slots so that multiple ice clippers can be used and you can customize the position of the clipper.

Photos and Explanations

Arc'teryx I-340a Harness.  This harness has 4 gear loops, many ice clipper slots, and comfortable, warp strength technology.  This harness is a size Large.  I have a waist of about 34 inches and this size fits well with and without layers under it.

Self-locking buckles.  No need to double back.

These ice clipper slots are made of elastic which allow one to use any ice clipper or carabiner to rack ice screws or hold tools.

Removable gear loops.  You can remove the plastic, or you can switch it so that they're angled in the opposite direction.

Switching/removing plastic gear loop.  If using a harness with a backpack that has a big hipbelt, it is more comfortable to carry the pack without the plastic gear loops.  It is a nice option, but it is a pain to remove them. It's not particularly easy and I'd hate to try to do it in the field with cold hands or gloves.  Luckily, the gear loops hang down far enough that the hipbelt on my pack doesn't cover the plastic.

BD Ice clipper.

The flange on the BD ice clipper helps to keep the clipper oriented properly.  These ice clippers don't work very well with the X350a but do with the BD Xenos and I-340a.  In my opinion, the Petzl ice clippers are better than the BDs anyway, and will work well on any harness that has ice clipper slots, no matter what size they are.

You can also use carabiners as ice clippers, but they don's stay oriented as well as the real deal.

The belay loop and tie-in points are reinforced and have wear markers for safety.  Or, in other words, when they start to wear out, you will see red showing through.

Some of the ice clipper slots are too far forward and the ice screws hang in the way of one's leg.  When ice climbing and the teeth of the screws are exposed, that can be a problem.  That's only a problem on the right side.  Easy to avoid.  Just don't use them.

Screws in the way of one's leg.

This is one of the lightest and smallest, full-featured alpine climbing harness.  About the size of a nalgene.

This harness weighs 13.8oz with its stuff sack in a size large; 13.4oz without it.

The Verdict

This is the best harness I have used up to this point.  Admittedly, I haven't used a ton of harnesses, but I have used a few.  The only down side is the price.  $170 is definitely not cheap.  But, if you spend a lot of time in a harness and you want to make sure you're comfortable, this is worth it, in my opinion.


  1. Thanks for the review! Not planning ahead when I bought my Momentum AL harness that lacks ice clipper attachment points, I figured I'd replace it w/ the Xenos before next ice season. Not to mention, my AL is the 2008 edition...oh well. Clippers do work on the gear loops, but not as well. Now I think I'm leaning towards the I340a!

  2. The Xenos is a great harness, but if money isn't an issue, I'd go with the I340a. Maybe by next year you'll be able to find a deal. Who knows.

  3. In terms of year round use of the i340a, did you find the gear loops too small for a full trad rack?

    1. I don't think the gear loops are too small, but I usually use a gear sling when climbing big trad routes, so too much gear for the gear loops hasn't been a problem. If I wasn't using a gear sling, the gear loops probably would be too small for a really big trad rack, but I haven't used a harness yet in which that isn't the case. These gear loops are every bit as large as Petzl and BD gear loops on most of their harnesses.
      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading.