Does anyone know if standard climbing harnesses (not chest harnesses) are actually rated (e.g. tested and certified) for use in upside down falls?

Obviously falling upside down is a bad idea, and we should avoid it for many good reasons.

But I sometimes playfully flip upside down while being lowered on toprope. I was recently queried about the safety of such antics.

I've been climbing a long time, and never had any reason to think that I could slip out of the harness from hanging (or falling) upside down. But a question of safety always bears analyzing. And I couldn't immediately reference anything authoritative on the question.

Extra points for any references to published tests of harnesses in upside down fall conditions.

  • 1
    I do not know about the official tests, but when fitting a harness this is one of the most important tests: Try pulling the harness down over your waist and make sure it is tight enough, that you do not succeed. Especially with small children this is often a problem. If this condition is met, you are save and I do not see what "official testing" should be necessary.
    – imsodin
    Apr 23, 2016 at 0:15
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    I've been told that if you fall upside-down, you should spread your legs to make it impossible to fall out of the harness, but I never had much confidence that I would have that much presence of mind. This probably depends a lot on the individual's body shape.
    – user2169
    Apr 23, 2016 at 4:29
  • This would be a bit difficult to test and quantify. It would heavily depend on body shape and weight. Even the way you playfully hang upside down while being lowered may not be safe for an obese person with a lot of upper body weight. Apr 23, 2016 at 5:07
  • I generally agree here, though I think this is something quantifiable, for example, let a dummy fall many times, judge the results of falls from varying positions. We drop test ropes and gear in much this way. And I think this is something that should be tested. It's very possible to take an upside down fall, and indeed hang limp upside down if you hit your head. It's a reasonable safety concern that I would expect manufacturers and the community to address and have confidence in. I suspect the harness will cam against the body in a fall and hold you at any angle, but I'd like evidence. Apr 23, 2016 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


Are climbing harnesses tested for upside down falls? ... No.

Harnesses have forces gradually applied to them of up to 15kN while attached to a dummy; the dummy is oriented in the head-up position and the force is applied as if a person was hanging from the belay loop. Alternatively, the harness belt is placed around a cylinder and forces are gradually applied directly to the belt up to 10kN.

The key measurements are slippage through the buckles; if your waist belt is above your hips and the diameter smaller than your pelvis, you should not be able to escape the harness unless loosening of the buckles occurs.

The second link has a video of the test being performed.


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