Arc'teryx R320

Review by planetFear
Monday 20th October 2008

- by Matt Heason and Dave Pickford -

Introduction by Matt Heason:

Every now and again somebody in the climbing world comes up with something truly revolutionary. Ray Jardine did it in the early 1970's with his prototype camming devices. Arc’Teryx have done just done it again with their WARP technology. It’s a simple concept, and one which has no doubt been tried before, but Vancouver-based Arc'teryx have perfected it.

Imagine a regular piece of webbing: it is made up of interwoven vertical and horizontal fibres. The vertical fibres are only there to keep the horizontal ones in place, and give very little, if any, strength to the webbing. They have thus removed these vertical fibres, massively decreasing the volume and weight of the webbing. More importantly, this allows the horizontal ones to be fanned out into a much broader and even thinner web. The whole thing is then laminated with some clever bendy plastic and coated in a very thin layer of foam to create an extremely thin, lightweight, strong, and evenly loaded web which is the harness! .

Not content with such a ground breaking step, they’ve added a few more features that make it without doubt the best harness ever built. The plastic gear loops are removable and reversible allowing you to rack your gear facing forwards or backwards. The buckles are extremely small, with a complete set of rounded edges to minimise wear, and very easy to use.

You may be interested to know that there are others in the range:

x350a (traditional climbing, 350g, adjustable leg loops)
r320 / r280 (mountaineering, 320g / 280g (men / women))
a300a (all-rounder, 300g, adjustable leg loops)
s240 (sport, 240g!)


The R320 in action: Dave Pickford flight tests WARP technology

 "I've had several opportunities this autumn to test the R320 from Arc'teryx, the new harness that everyone in the climbing industry on both sides of the Atlantic has been talking about with such enthusiasm over recent months. I've climbed in most of the leading lightweight harnesses currently available, and Petzl's hugely popular Hirundos has been a sport-climbing favourite for years. I was really curious to see if this snazzy new harness was actually worth £30 more than any of its closest rivals. 

Initially, the most striking things about wearing the R320 are its eerily skinny waist belt and leg loops. As you set off on a pitch, you'll have to remind yourself that you're actually wearing a harness at all. Once this weird sensation has subsided, though, the extraordinary freedom of movement that the new WARP technology offers really sinks in.

The aspect of this harness I found most suprising was its comfort. I'd expected it to be light and rudimentary - so light that hanging around whilst working a route or on a hanging belay would quickly become a foot-numbing experience. Quite the reverse turned out to be true. Although not as comfortable all-round as its much heavier, traditionally-padded rivals, the R320 is remarkably adapted to hours spent hanging from a rope or belay that are an inevitable part of sport redpointing or big-walling. 

Another feature that I've found most impressive is the level of support offered by the R320. Even after a big fall into overhung space - an experience de-rigeur in most of Europe's best sport climbing areas - the R320 leaves the climber comfortably upright, relaxed, and without any of the extremely irritating shifting of the knot and belay loop that is often a problem on some bulkier harnesses. It is the closest thing to a perfectly-fitting harness I have ever worn. For that, as much as for the ground-breaking new WARP technology, Arc'teryx deserve praise indeed.

It is curious to note that after the introduction of radical new innovations by leading manufacturers (of which the R320 is a strong exemplar), other manufacturers tend to follow suit. It seems likely that in a few years time we will all be looking back at the era of fatly-buckled, puffy-padded 'performance' climbing harness with the same sentiment as that in which L.P. Hartley opens his classic novel The Go-Between: "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."


To buy the Arc'teryx R3209 direct from planetFear, click here

To buy the Arc'teryx X350a (ice and mixed climbing) harness, click here







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