My current harness has these single-piece buckles:

buckles (source: http://www.mountaineeringmethodology.com/harness/)

It might be due for replacement in one or two years, and I really like these buckles, since I can completely open all parts of the harness if I need to. Also, I heard friends complaining about their harnesses (with other types of buckles) becoming slightly loose while wearing them.

I am having a hard time finding any new harnesses with that type of buckle. Is that kind of buckle considered obsolete? If so, what is the reason for this?

Is it because you basically have to double check your harness to be sure that you have correctly fixed the buckles? Or are there other reasons that might make them unsafe?

  • You can typically "completely open" speed buckles as well. On what brands have you run into captive ones?
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 22, 2015 at 20:05
  • I don't remember a specific brand. It's been quite some time, but the situation was basically as follows: I often put on my harness while still wearing hiking boots, so that it's really helpful to open the leg loops on my old BD Momentum AL (IIRC) harness. When I used a loaned harness one time, I had to fiddle around a bit to close the buckles again. Probably I just wasn't used to that, though...
    – anderas
    May 26, 2015 at 15:28
  • That makes more sense. A number of leg loops are being made completely without buckles now (just elastic or some kind of tensioner) so it does not surprise me if the ones with buckles are (semi?)captive as apparently they think these don't need to be openable. I'll keep this in mind the next time I am shopping for a harness.
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 26, 2015 at 15:32
  • Metolius still sells a harness, the Safe Tech model, that uses old-style buckles. It appears to be a harness that's mainly designed for trad.
    – user2169
    Jun 21, 2015 at 21:45
  • Right, one of the cheap BD ones still has one of them, too. But no adjustable leg loops... My question was more about any potential issues that are unknown to me, than about finding a harness with these buckles. But thanks anyways Ben!
    – anderas
    Jun 23, 2015 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


Is that kind of buckle considered obsolete?

Obsolete, no, they work fine they've just been superseded by autolock style buckles.

what is the reason for this?

Quite simply they're just harder to do up wrong. It also means you can adjust your harness faster.

Some cheaper harnesses still have single buckle harnesses but the autolock one's are pretty much ubiquitous now.

Also, I heard friends complaining about their harnesses (with other types of buckles) becoming slightly loose while wearing them.

They can slip a little but not much. They, also won't come completely open, which an incorrectly done single buckle can!

  • 2
    So it really comes down to ease-of-use (and eliminating one possible source of errors). Thanks!
    – anderas
    May 11, 2015 at 9:15
  • Pretty much, yep!
    – user2766
    May 11, 2015 at 9:26

The real safety issue is the condition of the harness webbing, not the type of buckle. Metal buckles don't soon wear out, whether you have to manually double-back the webbing belt or not.

I don't believe the new buckles are mechanically safer, however accidents occurred simply because too many climbers forgot to double-back the webbing belt—enough so that manufacturers took notice. The new buckle design is an "innovation" dedicated to the prevention of user error.

That said, if your harness has an old-style buckle, it should be an indication to you that the webbing may soon be reaching the age of retirement, which is a subjective call based on use, your personality-type, and manufacturer's specs.

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