A tree climbing harness is commonly called a saddle. Like arborist rope a tree climbing saddle is specificaly designed for climbing trees. Rock climbing and mountaineering harnesses should not be used for climbing trees.
Saddles and there attachment points should have a breaking strength rating of 5,000 pounds or 25 kN. There should be a minimum of four; one front and center for the main climbing line, two on the hips for a positioning lanyard, and one belay loop in the rear.
Two major inovators in saddle design are Buckingham Manufacturing Company and Petzl.
Recreational vs. Professional (work)
Attachment points on a recreational saddle may be made of heavy fabric or light metal, stiff enough to allow for easy clipping and large enough to accommodate two carabiners or rope snaps. A few companies manufacture saddles specifically for recreational tree climbing, one of which is New Tribe. Some work saddles make good recreational saddles due to their light weight and packability such as; my favorite the Petzl Navahoe, or the Buckingham Glide Light.
Professional work saddles must meet minimum safety requirements outlined by OSHA regulations and ANSI standards. These state a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds, and metal “D” rings for attaching a climbing line and lanyard. Labels that display an ANSI or CE logo meet industry standards. Saddles with labels no longer legible should be retired and not used in work situations.
Equipment carrying loops should be easily reached, and must be strong enough to hold a heavy chainsaw and other tools.
Domestic vs. Imported
American made saddles have changed little over the years. They use tried and true designs, built with heavy duty nylon, thick leather padding, and large steel “D” rings. Many are secured with tongue and grove buckles which are simple to use. These designs have proven themselves year after year, are inexpensive, and very popular. Buckingham Manufacturing Company makes some of the best saddles right here in the US.
Saddles imported from Europe are gaining popularity here in the US. European built saddles tend to be lighter weight, using smaller straps, aluminum or alloy “D” rings and synthetic padding. They tend to be more innovative in design and many feature seat belt type buckles which allow for a greater adjustability and comfort. European saddles conform to CE standards but some may not be recognized or approved by OSHA and ANSI .
The saddle I prefer is the Komet Dragonfly imported from Europe it is lightweight, practical and comfortable.
Legstrap vs. Buttstrap
Legstrap saddles are secured to your body with three separate components; a waist belt and two straps which wrap around each thigh. All three straps can be adjusted individually resulting in a secure and snug fit, especially when limb walking. The Petzl Sequoia is an excellent modern legstrap saddle.
Buttsrap saddles are a traditional and simple designs; a waist belt is attached to a single strap that cradles your butt. Some saddles feature retainer straps to keep the buttstrap in position, and when equipped with a batten to form a rigid seat; they can be the most comfortable of saddles often described as sitting in a swing. Buckingham’s Versatile is a full featured saddle built in traditional buttstrap style.
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