Weight: 100 grams or 3.5 ounces (size medium)
MSRP: 55 Euros
Every summer in Chamonix, among the 350+ mountain guides working in the valley, there seems to be one piece of gear that becomes eminently popular, and by the end of the season most guides have it. This year it was the Cilao OZ 22 Race harness, which weighs in at an insanely light 3.5 ounces. Easily recognizable by its bright green color, you would constantly see it traversing the range, from glacier slogs across the Valle Blanche to the higher elevations of Mont Blanc.
The winter before, this harness exploded on the ski randonee racing scene. It was only a matter of time before this CE- and now UIAA-certified harness was adapted to alpine climbing. I got my first chance to use it last spring just before the Trofeo Mezzalama, a big ski rando race.
Being a lightweight freak, I knew I had to try this harness for the race, an eight-hour, all-out ski tour over some of the tallest glaciated peaks of Zermatt. The harness seemed like a perfect balance of lightweight construction, comfort, and cool looks. The first thing I did when I got my Cilao OZ 22 Race, size medium, was to weigh it: 100 grams (3.5 oz). Just as they had advertised–not bad.
Although I didn’t perform as well as I had wanted, the harness did; I literally did not feel it the whole time. After over eight hours of high-speed kicking and gliding, and an equal amount of downhill racing, there was no chafing or discomfort. The medium was the perfect size for me (6’1″ with a 32″ waist).
The OZ 22 Race had performed better than expected in ski mountaineering, and I was eager to use it for summer alpinism back in Chamonix.
Sometimes when I am wearing a bigger, stiffer harness at high altitude, I feel it’s working against me rather than with me. But on the twelve-hour climb of Mont Blanc, I had no such problems with the OZ 22 Race. It was super comfortable in most situations, particularly while climbing. Some of the steep granite walls had hanging belays: this lightweight package was not at all comfy in those situations, but I sure was fast.
Other drawbacks include a high-sitting tie-in point, an uncomfortable design for carrying tied-off coils (shortroping or crossing glaciers), and the fact that it has only one very small gear loop big enough for a single carabiner. Obviously, this harness is built especially for one thing: to move quickly over lots of ground, whether that’s glaciated ski mountaineering or uber-light climbing. The Cilao OZ 22 Expert and the OZ 33 Pro have more features at heavier weights, if that’s what you’re looking for.
I’ve spent a lot of great days in the OZ 22 Race, which I’d consider a great harness for climbing Denali, skiing the Haute Route, going fast and light in the Tetons or making the second ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face!
Pros: Great for glaciated ski touring and mountaineering; unbelievable comfort and light weight; packs to the size of your fist; easy-to-use, single-point tie-in.
Cons: Tie-in point sits high and is slightly annoying when you are carrying tied-off coils; uncomfortable for hanging belays; has only one very small gear loop big enough for a single carabiner.