Editor Vince Hempsall puts the Arc’teryx AR-395a climbing harness and Konseal LT approach shoe through their paces on multiple alpine rock adventures. This is his review.

The Rock Solid company was established in 1989 in North Vancouver by Dave Lane and his first line of products included climbing gear. Two years later, other partners were brought onboard and the business name changed to Arc’teryx. They were the first Canadian adopters of heat laminate technology and used it to design the Vapor rock climbing harness in 1993. Since then, it’s safe to say the majority of rock climbers in Canada have owned at least one Arc’teryx climbing harness over the years because the company has been making and refining them for over three decades. The shoe market, however, is relatively new to Arc’teryx as it launched its footwear line in February 2015. I was given the latest model of Arc’teryx approach shoe called the Konseal LT to review as well as the futuristic sounding AR-395a harness. (It’s actually not that futuristic when you consider it’s an all-round harness that weighs 395 grams.)

Despite being lightweight, the AR-395a harness is a workhorse, able to carry lots of gear for long, multi-pitch adventures. And the Konseal LT shoes are so light, they weigh less than a #4 cam. Photos of the author in the Whitewater alpine climbing area, British Columbia, are by Vivian Haughn.

Snapshot: Arc’teryx AR-395a Harness

  1. Pros: One of the lightest fully adjustable harnesses on the market that’s good for every form of climbing.
  2. Cons: It’s double the cost of similar offerings but, like everything from Arc’teryx, you’re paying for the latest tech.
  3. Price: $200 Cdn
  4. Who Should Buy: Climbers who want one harness that does it all: rock, ice, mixed, and alpine.
  5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Penny-pinching dirtbag climbers. And boulderers.
  6. Helpful Hack: The AR-395a has four ice clipper slots, providing plenty of rack space for ice screws.
  7. Author’s overall rating: 9.5/10

Snapshot: Arc’teryx Konseal LT Shoe

  1. Pros: So light! At 270 grams, these shoes weigh about the same as a #4 cam.
  2. Cons: Like all ultralight gear, these shoes are prone to easy wear and tear.
  3. Price: $170 Cdn
  4. Who Should Buy: People who stick to well-trodden approaches or alpine climbers doing a multi-pitch foray with a long walk-off.
  5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Climbers who want an approach shoe that’ll last them longer than one season.
  6. Helpful Hack: The heel of the shoe folds flat so you can wear it as a clog while belaying or at camp.
  7. Author’s overall rating: 6/10
The Arc’teryx Konseal LT Shoes are perfect for multi-pitch climbers facing long approaches or walk-offs.

The Test

I spent this past summer in the the Arc’teryx AR-395a climbing harness doing everything from sport cragging to new routing in the alpine. I also took the Konseal LT approach shoes along for the longer adventures, which included putting up a new 10-pitch rock climb in the Valhalla Provincial Park alpine, a new two-pitch trad climb in the Dark Woods area of the West Kootenay, as well as ticking all six of the climbs in the Whitewater alpine area and adding a new one there for good measure. In short, these items saw a lot of action.

The Verdict

I’ve always been a one-harness climber. Having a harness that weighs a bit extra is fine as long as it has all the features needed for sport, trad, alpine and ice. Not that I do a lot of ice these days but ice clipper slots on a harness are great for storing tools used for new route development and I’m pleased the Arc’teryx AR-395a has no less than four. In fact, everything about this particular harness pleases me, except maybe the price which is double most other brands. Then again, I’ve owned Arc’teryx harnesses since the mid-90s when the first Vapor model came out and their durability is outstanding. I’d still be using my Vapor if common sense didn’t insist I get a new one every decade. Compared to the models of old, the AR-395a doesn’t have any noticeable padding but I can speak to the fact it’s still super comfortable. In one memorable instance, I hung in it for 45 minutes while my partner retrieved a hammer I had dropped trying to banging in a bolt on a new multi-pitch route in the Valhallas. Which only proves that no matter how many clips you have on your harness, you can still be clumsy.

Other features I like about the AR-359a harness include the large hook on the rear elastic risers, which is secure but easy to remove and reinsert again, as well as the wide, comfortable waist belt. Overall, I highly recommend this harness to all climbers, provided you can scrape together the $200 for it.

The other Arc’teryx gear I used a lot this summer was a pair of Konseal LT approach shoes. On one particularly gruelling adventure, I wore them for the three-hour approach on a rocky trail to a remote alpine slab, hauled them up a new 10-pitch rock climb we did in one push, and then hiked down in them for two hours through a scree field in the dark. They came along on two other new routing adventures in remote locations and their Vibram Megagrip soles performed amazingly well on boulders, gniess slab, wooded trails, wet rocks, and while bush-bashing through alder. The only time I ever slipped in them was on a forest floor covered in dry pine needles.

The Konseal LT approach shoes are so incredibly light, I barely noticed them on my harness or in my pack during all my summer forays. I did try climbing in them at a local crag but the shoes are so flexible they didn’t edge at all. And that relates to my one big complaint about these: they’re too willowy. After only three excursions in them I wore a centimetre-sized hole in the upper fabric near my outer metatarsel, exactly where it bends with each foot fall. Personally, I’m happy to sacrifice weight for durability and so, with these particular approach shoes, I can only recommend them to people who stick to well-trodden approaches through forests and up slab to their climbing destinations. Either that, or alpine climbers who don’t mind buying new shoes after a few excursions.

In summary, the Arc’teryx AR-395a harness should definitely be in your climbing quiver, provided you can afford the $200 price tag, while the Konseal LT shoes should only be used by those who stick to well-maintained trails and slabs on their way to the climbs.

The Deets – Arc’teryx AR-395a Harness

  • Double-weave, four-way stretch fabric
  • 7075 T6 aluminum anodized self-locking buckles at the waist and leg loops
  • Nylon 6,6 webbing
  • 4 Polyurethane gear loops
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Weight: 395g / 13.9 oz
  • 4 ice clipper slots
  • 4 gear loops
  • Rear haul loop
  • Wear safety markers on belay loop and tie-in points
  • Stainless steel quick hook on the rear leg elastic permits pit stops without removing the harness
  • Activity: Rock climbing / Ice Climbing / Alpine Climbing
  • Price: $200

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The Deets – Arc’teryx Konseal LT Shoe

  • 4.5mm thickness Dynamic Foam 3D molded insert
  • Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Sizes: 7-13
  • Weight: 270g / 9.5 oz
  • Activity: Rock climbing / Alpine climbing
  • Price: $170 Cdn

Author’s Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won’t review it.