Cilao OZ 22 Race Harness: Built for Fast and Light

Posted on: February 11, 2008

Weight: 100 grams or 3.5 ounces (size medium)

MSRP: 55 Euros

Every summer in Chamonix, among the 350+ mountain guides working in the valley, there seems to be one piece of gear that becomes eminently popular, and by the end of the season most guides have it. This year it was the Cilao OZ 22 Race harness, which weighs in at an insanely light 3.5 ounces. Easily recognizable by its bright green color, you would constantly see it traversing the range, from glacier slogs across the Valle Blanche to the higher elevations of Mont Blanc.

The winter before, this harness exploded on the ski randonee racing scene. It was only a matter of time before this CE- and now UIAA-certified harness was adapted to alpine climbing. I got my first chance to use it last spring just before the Trofeo Mezzalama, a big ski rando race.

Being a lightweight freak, I knew I had to try this harness for the race, an eight-hour, all-out ski tour over some of the tallest glaciated peaks of Zermatt. The harness seemed like a perfect balance of lightweight construction, comfort, and cool looks. The first thing I did when I got my Cilao OZ 22 Race, size medium, was to weigh it: 100 grams (3.5 oz). Just as they had advertised—not bad.

Although I didn't perform as well as I had wanted, the harness did; I literally did not feel it the whole time. After over eight hours of high-speed kicking and gliding, and an equal amount of downhill racing, there was no chafing or discomfort. The medium was the perfect size for me (6'1" with a 32" waist).

The OZ 22 Race had performed better than expected in ski mountaineering, and I was eager to use it for summer alpinism back in Chamonix.


Sometimes when I am wearing a bigger, stiffer harness at high altitude, I feel it's working against me rather than with me. But on the twelve-hour climb of Mont Blanc, I had no such problems with the OZ 22 Race. It was super comfortable in most situations, particularly while climbing. Some of the steep granite walls had hanging belays: this lightweight package was not at all comfy in those situations, but I sure was fast.

Other drawbacks include a high-sitting tie-in point, an uncomfortable design for carrying tied-off coils (shortroping or crossing glaciers), and the fact that it has only one very small gear loop big enough for a single carabiner. Obviously, this harness is built especially for one thing: to move quickly over lots of ground, whether that's glaciated ski mountaineering or uber-light climbing. The Cilao OZ 22 Expert and the OZ 33 Pro have more features at heavier weights, if that's what you're looking for.

I've spent a lot of great days in the OZ 22 Race, which I'd consider a great harness for climbing Denali, skiing the Haute Route, going fast and light in the Tetons or making the second ascent of Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face!

Pros: Great for glaciated ski touring and mountaineering; unbelievable comfort and light weight; packs to the size of your fist; easy-to-use, single-point tie-in.

Cons: Tie-in point sits high and is slightly annoying when you are carrying tied-off coils; uncomfortable for hanging belays; has only one very small gear loop big enough for a single carabiner.


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Thanks for the correction, Kai. We've made the change.

2008-02-24 13:21:34

Perhaps you meant "eminently popular?" (I'm a much better editor than I am a climber.)

"Every summer in Chamonix, among the 350+ mountain guides working in the valley, there seems to be one piece of gear that becomes imminently popular, and by the end of the season most guides have it."

2008-02-24 13:01:21

That's what I wanted to know, thank you.

2008-02-18 11:04:17

Additionaly, the Cilao harnesses pass both UIAA and CE tests.

2008-02-18 06:04:38

When I first started wearing the Cilao 0Z 22, I had the same thought—that it might be able to be pulled off. So I asked the Cilao Company their thoughts. First off they said try it; play around with it in a gym hanging upside down and in different situations. Secondly, they pointed out that the U.S. and French Special Forces use this harness and, in particular, use it for inverted rappelling.

And after playing around with it, I quickly realized that this was even less likely to happen than with a standard waist belt harness. The longer protruding tie in point of the Cilao, actually creates leverage and pulls the harness together when weighted, virtually eliminating the possibility of slipping out during an upside down fall or a downward force of,for example, your partner pulling you into the crevasse he just fell into. And this tension of the waist belt being pulled together happens while the climber is upright or upsidedown.

Whereas a standard waist belt harness does not "cinch" itself down on the climber's waist during a fall and if this harness is a little loose, it is more likely to slip off during an upside down fall.

The Camp harness is a good lightweight harness as well, but the two loop tie in point system has its disadvantages. Years ago, a large US harness manufacturer(not BD), took their two looped tie in point harness off the market after an accident in which a climber had only tied into one of the two loops.

The Cilao OZ 22 is an elegant and safe solution to making a superlightweight bucklefree harness.

2008-02-18 05:32:23

Are Cilao and Camp similar brands? The only difference I can see in design between the two is the Camp has two tie-in points that draw tight, and the Cilao has one. I don't quite see how the Cilao can get tight around the waist but still easy to put on. On the Camp, there is elastic between the left and right tie-in points, so as long as your hips are wider than your waist and you bought the right size, there's no way the Camp is coming off.

I've been really happy with the Camp XLH 95. Previously I had been using a homemade swami that was half the weight of an Alpine Bod, but you simply can't beat 3.4 oz! I've been using it on Cascades routes with glacier travel or a few pitches of moderate rock. Comfortable enough for several rappels. On longer/harder routes, I tend to bring a beefier harness so that I have more flexibility with racking.

2008-02-16 15:46:51

I understand how this harness works when loaded "properly": the high tie-in point effectively cinches the swami in lieu of buckles. What happen when there is a downward pull? When carrying coils tied-off this could effectively act as chest harness and prevent losing one's "pants" but without it would seem that a sharp downward pull is all it would take to lose it.

2008-02-13 15:40:04
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