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Petzl Sitta: Full Function and Barely Even There
Posted on: January 7, 2016
The author leads shell ice in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. The Sitta was comfortable and unrestrictive while ice climbing. The harness easily carries a full rack of screws, quickdraws and a few trad pieces. [Photo] Christopher Marshall collection
Though I spend countless hours in a harness every season, I rarely get excited about them. To me, they are merely utilitarian. As long as the harness is comfortable and functional, I don't think too much about it. That changed with the new Petzl Sitta harness.
I've worn the Sitta over the last month to see how far I could push the boundaries of the harness that Petzl bills as a "high-end climbing and mountaineering harness that offers maximum compactness, light weight, and comfort."
From hard single-pitch traditional and sport climbs to 12-pitch rock climbs, to multi-pitch ice routes in the alpine, the Sitta was as comfortable as the more padded, bulkier harnesses I've used, and I found myself reaching for it more and more.
The first thing I noticed was its light weight (270g) and packability. I was impressed that a fully-featured harness with four gear loops and two ice clipper slots weighed only 40g more than the Black Diamond Couloir harness that I frequently use—which is not padded. Even with its additional features, the Sitta packs down almost as small as the Couloir. The medium-sized Sitta fit as predicted on the waist, and the elasticized, non-adjustable leg loops stretched to accommodate everything from lightweight shorts to hardshell pants with long underwear.
The author appreciates the Sitta's freedom of movement during the wide stem box of Coarse and Buggy (5.11a/b) at Joshua Tree National Park. [Photo] Laura Berridge
I was wary about the lack of padding in the harness's waist belt and leg loops, which Petzl manufactured with Spectra strands for load distribution and increased mobility. Petzl claims this unique construction shaves weight without compromising function and comfort.
The load distribution lived up to Petzl's claims, especially on hard single-pitch sport and trad climbs with gymnastic moves and wide stems. I barely noticed that I was wearing the harness and it didn't pinch my waist or legs while I was hanging. The minimalist design allowed for freedom of movement while breaking trail through thigh-deep snow to get between ice pillars.
I decided to push the envelope and test the all-day comfort of the Sitta on multi-pitch rock climbs. I wore a Sitta in Red Rock Canyon on Inti Watana (5.10c, 12 pitches) and Levitation 29 (5.11c, 10 pitches), both with semi-hanging belays. Despite my low expectations, the harness didn't cut into my frame as much as I expected. While I may not use it on big walls, it's a harness I'll continue to use for demanding multi-pitch free climbs.
The front gear loops have removable separators that help organize gear while rock climbing. The two supple rear-gear loops are accessible and sat nicely under a pack. The two ice clipper/Caritool slots worked as designed, and I was able to easily rack eight ice screws and the necessary quickdraws and slings, plus a few pieces of traditional gear while alpine ice climbing.
The author high on Eagle Wall while testing the Sitta on the 10-pitch Red Rock classic Levitation 29 (5.11c). [Photo] Nick Malik
The Sitta also has a rear loop for a tag line and thin elastic straps attached to a clip buckle for tensioning the rear leg loops.
The waist belt operates smoothly, is easy to use with bulky gloves while ice climbing and accommodates extra winter layers with ease. Tie-in points are reinforced with high-tenacity polyethylene, which is lightweight and protects the harness from wear. I didn't notice wear on the tie-in points, even after repeatedly tying in with both skinny half-ropes and single ropes to 9.8mm.
Durability was as I expected from a weight-conscious harness. I avoided chimney and offwidth climbing while wearing the Sitta because I didn't want to cut or abrade it. I did notice superficial wear on the leg loops, but its long-term durability remains unknown. The thin elastic straps connecting the back of the leg loops to the waist belt showed minor wear, likely from chimneying.
Overall, this harness is an improvement over the Hirundos, Petzl's ultralight harness that's been on the market for several years. While it won't replace the harnesses in my closet, I found the Sitta to be versatile and will continue to wear it climbing. I'm excited to use it this winter while ski mountaineering and next summer while alpine guiding.
Pros: lightweight, packable, functional; no restriction of movement; comfortable; supple gear loops accommodate wearing a pack without discomfort.
Cons: durability; price
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