10/18/2017

Gear Review: Beal Phantom Harness


Photo: Gustav Janse van Rensburg

Beal harnesses have yet to become a common sight at US crags, however, with some new additions to the line and easy availability, Beal is poised to be a major player in the harness arena. The newly designed for 2016 Phantom harness falls into the category of lightweight, top of the line sport climbing harnesses. As I packed for my recent sport climbing trip to South Africa, I took a gamble on the Phantom having received a new harness just days before leaving. I yanked the tags off and threw the harness in my pack hoping I wouldn’t regret shelving my old harness without ever roping up in the Phantom. And the result? This thing is not only a solid option in the market, but hands down takes the win as my new favorite harness and my recommendation to anyone looking for the best performance harness out there. Let’s take a closer look at why this harness demands not to be overlooked stacked up against the best of the best. 

Roping up 
I slipped the Phantom on, easily adjusted the stetchy ‘butt straps’ to hold the leg loops where I wanted them and went about my pre-climbing stretching and prepping routine. My turn to rope up came, and I went looking for my harness. A moment of ‘shoot I forgot my harness’ flashed through my mind before I realized ‘wait a minute, I’m already wearing it. Duh.’ That’s how minimalistic and perfectly fitted this harness is. But ultimately the comfort of a harness for ground walking is trumped by taking it into the vertical realm. 

Pitch one 
Love at first climb! As I moved up the rock I tried to pay attention to my sweet new harness to analyze whether I had made the right choice in ditching the harness I previously swore by. Well I had a lot of trouble doing so because I could hardly tell I was wearing a harness at all. At the top of the pitch I called take and weighted the harness for the first time. Perfection. The leg loops and waist belt stayed snug distributing the pressure evenly without digging in or pinching my… family jewels. But fortunately, I did not fall on my warm up so testing was left to be done. 

Photo: Aimee Belt

Catching big air 
The line I was working on my trip was not for the faint of heart as the crux demanded skipping two clips in a row and facing a 40 footer if I blew the final fierce move to clip the next bolt. I blew it. Over and over and over. Guess what? I’m writing this review now, so the harness did its job. The whips were so buttery smooth and comfy that I could just about get away with chalking up my redpoint failures to simply wanting to build up frequent flyer miles in the Phantom. Just about. 

Day in, day out 
For better or worse, I spent an awful lot of time putting the Phantom through the ringer with big whips and lots of hanging on bolts. I never once complained about my hips hurting. Even shirtless I could go all day without experiencing any of the dreaded chaffing or looking like I was wearing a red skin belt at the end of the day. Near the end of the trip when the temperatures started to rise, I got to check out the breathability of the harness and was mega impressed. I didn’t even get the sexy sweat ring on my t-shirt I’ve experienced in many harnesses. 


FACTS, FIGURES AND COMPARISONS 
For comparisons I will stack the Phantom up against the lightest performance harnesses from Petzl (Sitta and Hirundos) and Black Diamond (Zone). 

Price 
I list this first as some readers may have heard enough about how awesome the Phantom is already and this final factor will put them over the edge and on the way to the gear shop. The Phantom comes in at a killer pricepoint of 69.95! The Black Diamond Zone or the Petzl Hirundos will set you back 99.95 And the Petzl Sitta costs a baffling 169.95. 

Weight 
The Phantom comes in at 325 grams (size medium) compared to 298 g for the Black Diamond Zone, 280 g for the Petzl Hirundos and 270 g for the Petzl Sitta. This makes the Phantom the heaviest of the bunch by 25-55 grams. If less than an ounce of weight makes the difference between sending or falling, take one less sip of water or snip a few strands of hair off before you leave the ground. Practically speaking, the Phantom is right on par with the lightest of the light. 

Photo: Dirk Smith

Sizing 
This has always been a downfall of Petzl harnesses for me. The leg loops on a small are way too tight but the waist belt of a medium cinches to the buckle and could stand to be tighter. Keep in mind I’ve got the standard rock climber’s chicken legs so I’ve never quite understood this. The Beal Phantom, however, allows me to wear a size small and the leg loops fit perfect. I find the same with Black Diamond harnesses and looking at the spec sheets of each harness shows the same. Size the Phantom as you would for a BD harness and as you wish you could for a Petzl. 

Comfort 
Best in class, hands down. Beal attributes the comfort to ‘Web-Core’ technology meaning the loops of the harness are each a single structural component (as best as I understand). I call it the first night at home in your comfy bed after sleeping on a camping pad in the dirt. 

Gear loops 
The gear loops are the perfect blend of rigid and flexible. A plastic piece fits over a webbing loop meaning the four gear loops stay open perfectly. This is similar to the BD design but the key difference is that the plastic part stops farther from the waist belt so the loops are free to move with your body. I find the BD design good but a little clunky compared to the Beal. The Petzl loops are stiff, not as accessible and the rear loops are too small. 

Durability 
To some extent durability is always going to be reduced if you want the lightest gear out there. The Phantom is right on point with the durability of the lightweight options from Petzl and Black Diamond, having worn each of those brands extensively. With this said, I do not find any of the lightweight harness to scream durable. If you are a weekend climber, this harness will last you years. Full time climbers, not as long as you might like, but again, on par with the other leading brands. 

Looks 
The most important consideration, right? The Phantom is the perfect blend flashy and subtle. The gear loops are neon green for the flash factor and the belt and loops are a flat black with subtle green highlights so you don’t feel like you’re blinding people with neon but still have a touch of flare.

Wrap up 
I would list a pros and cons of the harness, but frankly, there are no cons, only pros. The Beal Phantom is the best lightweight, high performance harness on the market. Go buy one now. Enough said. 


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