We inspect the latest creation from Advance: the STRAPLESS is an minimalist mountaineering harness for alpine purists.
"The STRAPLESS weighs only 190 grams and is intended for hikers and mountain climbers who make no compromise when it comes to weight and volume," says Advance.
What this means is that there is nothing added for comfort or support geometry. It doesn't feel flimsy - it's surely strong enough - but it only has what is needed for you to fly down from a mountain. It's insanely light and beautifully sculpted. It wraps around your lower body without creating any pinch points.
The big 'surprise' is the lack of shoulder straps, which are 'replaced' by those of your backpack, which you wear outside the harness. Although it's a tidy solution for reducing weight, you get very little support from the hook and loop fastener loop that is hooked onto the top of your bag, because there's no link to the carabiners. If you use your speedbar, or like to recline, you'll feel the lack of support and worrying exposure as you tip back. You can only sit upright in this harness, which is when it feels perfectly comfortable and secure, even with moderately heavy gear in your bag.
The image below shows the STRAPLESS paired with the Advance PIPACK 2 rucksack, not included with the harness.
Although it doesn't have any buckles, the STRAPLESS is designed in such a way that you don't have to step through the straps; you bring the leg loops up through your legs and hook them into the carabiners. This is a thoughtful design which might help you when on some sketchy slippery slope, in crampons, or wearing skis.
The harness includes very light Grivel Plume carabiners with screw-gate locks. I love these! They are rated to 22kN (same as normal 58 gram carabiners) but weigh only 37 grams each, making them equivalent to 6 mm square maillons, but easier to use. Lightweight purists might prefer to keep their wings connected using 12 gram soft links (Sup'Air Connect). However, this would require stepping into the harness, which might be tricky with crampons.
For pilots who might be thinking of getting this for messing around on the coast or kiting on hills, bear in mind that it has no back protection, and it's not the nicest to transition from flying to running and back again. Leaning on the 'chest strap' (string) isn't comfortable: it's best to launch quickly, tip back into the loops, and stay in the 'monkey-seat' position with one foot hooked behind the other.
Flying without a speedbar seems like an unnecessary risk to me, so I would attach the optional Advance Strapless Speedkit, but using this in flight might require holding onto the risers to keep an upright body position and is likely to be uncomfortable.
The leg position can be widened massively by removing the loop from the front knot, making it possible to use as a tandem pilot harness for short flights.
Where it really shines is for alpinist purists, who have a long ascent and really care about extra grams. For these ultralight adventure pilots, there is nothing to complain about and lots to praise. The construction and material choice made me feel completely confident about the strength, the cut was perfect when I sat upright, and the design gave me a balanced comfortable feeling that suggests I would enjoy the glorious glide down from my summit success.
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