Adjustable rise (distance between your crotch and waist)
High-strength gear loops
Reinforced items throughout harness.
Bulky rear drop-seat buckles
Crescent-moon gear loops hang low and don’t stay organized when loaded.
Rear gear loops are far back on waist belt.
The Metolius Safe Tech Trad is equally suited to the first-time harness buyers or the seasoned big wall or ice climbers—though its chief advantages are durability, versatility, and comfort, not fast gear grabs or long hangs. Important features are heavily (even redundantly) reinforced – from the leg loop elastic to the gear loops — for extreme durability without sacrificing smooth-on-the-skin comfort (although it's slightly more expensive than others in its class).
One word sums up this harness: Bomber. Lighter and now equipped with an auto-locking waist belt, two Spectra/nylon blend belay loops, and narrower webbing and buckles, the Safe Tech Trad is a slimmed down version of the long-standing Safe Tech. It has even, supple padding throughout, is completely adjustable (including the rise: the distance between the waist and your crotch), making it the only harness we tested that has this feature. It also has high-strength gear loops.
Metolius only makes two harnesses: The Safe Tech Comp, made without adjustable leg loops/rise and with a releasable drop-seat feature, and the Safe Tech Trad, which is fully adjustable and has a hard to use drop seat feature.
The Specta gear loops, coated in clear plastic tubes, are wide enough to accommodate lots of gear, but they also droop heavily when supporting only a few items. They are also not as clean for organizing your gear as the BD Momentum SA, Wild Country Elite or Petzl Adjama. It’s possible to snag the nose of a carabiner when unclipping pro from these gear loops.
The thin Spectra double belay loops (see above photo) are useful. It’s reassuring to be able to belay and rappel with this added security. Together, they are about as wide as the average belay loop in this review. You can use the full-strength belay loops independently, say, when anchored and re-tying in at the anchor, or when lead aid climbing. The Safe Tech Comp only has one, wider belay loop.
The high-strength gear loops are useful for clipping packs to while at belays when multi-pitch climbing, or in big wall situations when everything you handle is heavy, like the portaledge which can be clipped off to the gear loop before being deployed.
With about a 30-inch waist, I was right on the line between a small and medium harness. I tested both. The small fit securely, but the waist belt tail was too short to tuck into the retainer. If I had my shirt up or off, I could cinch the waist tighter and tuck the slack away. The medium size had too much extra webbing slack on the waist belt, but also fit securely. The gear loops can ride evenly on either side if there’s an optimal fit, but when wearing one that is too big or too small uneven gear loop positioning relative to the front of the harness is a problem.
Comfort-wise, the Safe Tech had high marks. The waist belt and leg loops provided even support throughout and the material is not too rough against bare skin. The bulky front adjustable leg loop buckles and rear-drop-seat feature buckles are prone to rubbing in chimneys and offwidths.
The Safe Tech Trad and Petzl Adjama both have a low profile rear-haul loop. But the Safe Tech has two rear manual-locking/releasable drop seat straps which add a great deal of bulk to the back of the harness, thus canceling out any bulk reduction the haul loop saved. However, thick rear buckles and the surrounding high-tensile webbing scrape against the rock in chimneys causing wear.
Overall, the improved Safe Tech Trad provides similar support and features to the previous generation Safe Tech harness, but in a slimmer design. Other improvements include an auto-locking waist belt (which is about at tricky to operate as the BD Momentum SA but a little smoother), and two belay loops.
When reaching fast for a piece of gear you may snag the nose of a biner on the gear-loop tubing causing you to fumble the clip. For steep aid routes you’ll want a wider, more supportive harness which will apply less direct force to your hips and legs. Finally, if wide cracks are your game you’ll grind the buckles that hold the rear leg loops in place as well as the front leg loop buckles — you’re better off with the Safe Tech Comp, which has less buckles.