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Cadillac Quality: A Review of Misty's Classic Harness

Submitted by holdplease2 on 2005-11-15 | Last Modified on 2006-11-13

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I didn’t need a new harness. I didn’t want a new harness. I like the harnesses I have. I’ve climbed in Petzl, Arcteryx, and Black Diamond sport/trad harness and Yates and Metolius wall harnesses, and when a package from Misty Mountain arrived I knew it contained the Cadillac… a harness which has gone through very few changes over the past few years.

This Misty Mountain classic is favored for its versatility. It is rumored to perform well from the sport crag to long trad routes and the occasional bigwall. This harness has a pseudo-cult following of trad climbers and even some wall climbers.

But still… to say the least, I was skeptical. Honestly, when I opened the box I was a little disappointed. The harness was smashed flat in its package and due its unique padding, it felt like cardboard. I couldn’t imagine how this harness could be comfortable. Because of it’s low-frills gear loops, not-so-special packaging and subdued colors, I didn’t get excited like I do over a Metolius or Petzl harness. I’m a girl. I like frills.

However, after five days of hangdogging, trad leading, and belay-slaving in Joshua Tree, I owe Misty Mountain a big “thank you” for my new favorite all-around harness. Here’s why:

While the Misty Mountain Cadillac does not have Frills, it does have Features. What's the difference? Frills: Things that are desirable but not necessary; luxuries. Features: Prominent or distinctive aspects, qualities, or characteristics.

The Misty Mountain Cadillac is a hybrid-type harness, purported to have the everyday usability of a good trad/sport harness with the special features of a wall harness, perfectly designed for the all-around climber. For the sport climber, the Cadillac is trim enough to allow freedom of movement, while providing high-quality padding for those projecting days, but let’s face it… it’s also a little heavier and bulkier than a purely sport harness.

For traddies, hanging belays are almost bearable in this harness, which is designed for comfort, with some of the thickest leg loops on the market and firm padding well suited to the task. If you’re leading long pitches and like to rack on your harness, you’ll appreciate the extra two gear loops, positioned above what would normally be the rear two gear loops. I did find that the front gear loops were, perhaps, a bit too far back on the swami. This may be because the harness was a bit, um, small for me. If I lost a little weight, the gear loops would be further forward.

Ice climbers, if you need to add insulation layers, the adjustable leg loops will fit nicely over your weather gear and the dual swami buckles will allow you to expand your waste line while keeping your tie in points and belay loop nicely centered. Cons: I ain’t no ice expert.

For bigwall climbers, the removable and droppable leg loops allow you to sleep in your swami belt and make “taking care of business” a breeze. Six gear loops come in handy when organizing your personal gear and rack. But, the padding on the leg loops and swami don’t hold a candle to the Yates Big Wall/Shield harness or the Metolius Waldo. You will need a belay seat to be comfortable on long belays. (Importantly, however, the wall harnesses listed above probably shouldn’t be used for trad/sport, as they are impractical for crossover. Misty Mountain makes a Titan harness which is better suited to walls.) Also, there is no hammer loop, so consider an aftermarket loop, such as the BD Blizzard Holster.

Droppable/Removable Leg Loops:
• The leg loops and swami can be replaced separately when worn.
• “Taking Care of Business” is easy, even when in a hanging belay.
• The leg loops can be removed at night on bigwalls, allowing the wearer to sleep safely and comfortably in the swami.

• Six Gear Loops
• This reduces “cluster factor” for those who like to rack on their harnesses and provides a little extra space for storage of personal gear. The extra gear loops are stacked on the upper portion of the swami above the rear gear loops.

Full Strength Haul Loop
• This allows for haul lines and trail lines to be attached securely to the rear of the harness.

Adjustable Leg Loops
• This allows layering of storm gear and all-season climbing. Importantly, rain pants can be put on one leg at a time at a hanging belay without having to remove the harness.
• Adjustability allows for fine-tuning of harness rise and for adjusting the harness when loaning it to friends.

Two Swami Buckles:
• When the, ahem, expanding waistline demands swami adjustment, tie in points and belay loops can drift to the side of single-buckle closure harnesses. With two buckles, the tie-in points and belay loop can remain centered.

Closed-Cell Foam Padding
• The Misty Mountain Cadillac lives up to its name. The leg loops and swami are generously and firmly padded. While the padding may seem too stiff at first, the reality is that foam that feels soft out of the box will not be firm enough to keep a hanging belayer comfortable for long.

Comfort, usability, and versatility are the defining features of this Misty Mountain classic. As I spent the week climbing in Joshua Tree, I enjoyed the knowing nods from others who appreciated the low-profile, high-function Misty Mountain Cadillac. Thank you, Misty Mountain!


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