Wondering exactly what is a haul loop?
It can be confusing and that’s ok, we are going to clear everything up for you.
In this quick article we clear up some confusion around haul loops that is often seen in online climbing forums or overheard at the crag.
The questions that usually come up are, “What is a haul loop used for?”
Or something like, “Do you need a full-strength haul loop?”
We are answer those questions and more. There is a lot of conjecture and misinformation out there so we thought we would present some actual facts.
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Truth is, knowing exactly what a haul loop is for and how to properly use it is extremely critical to you and your partners’ safety while climbing.
Read on to get informed and stay safe.
Because of the considerations you will learn about below, many modern harnesses opt-out of haul loops all together or feature lightweight–almost flimsy–loops like the Black Diamond Zone harness (shown below).
More often, you will find a fifth gear loop where the heavier haul loop of the past might have been. This provides a lot more storage and flexibility for you as the climber.
What Are Haul Loops Used For?
The haul loop is the loop located at the back center of your climbing harness.
Traditionally it is primarily intended for hauling up a tag line or extra rope.
You can also use them for clipping on your descent shoes, water bottle or a light pack.
According to Black Diamond, haul loops were made full strength because they looked similar to belay loops.
To decrease the risk injury associated with this confusion they made them full strength or near to it.
However, they were NEVER and are NOT intended for use as a weight-bearing harness point.
But It Looks Strong?
Older harnesses tended to have ‘full-strength’ or full-strength looking haul loops.
In addition to the reason given above, they were made this way because sometimes the extra rope or bag you were hauling up off of the haul loop was critical to your ascent and descent.
To ensure the loop holding precious cargo was solid it was made more durable than a gear loop.
Regardless, there has never been a harness manufacturer that suggested using the haul loop as a full-strength harness point or tie-in point.
The haul loop should NEVER be used to tie into, to anchor yourself or another climber, or to jug on as once suggested by great Mark Twight in Extreme Alpinism.
Twight is a legend who was accustomed to improvising and took a lot of high consequence risks.
Sure, he might of done it and survived. But should you?
Haul Loops Are For Hauling
Haul loops are called haul loops because that is what they are intended for—hauling things.
Whether ‘full strength’ or not, the haul loop is primarily intended for hauling up a tag line or extra rope.
You can also use them for clipping on your descent shoes, water bottle or a light pack, etc.
Today, many harnesses opt out of the bulky haul loops of the past.
Some, like the Aspect pictured above, have another gear loop at the back instead of a traditional haul loop.
Still, other modern harnesses have no haul loop at all or a minimal loop.
Black Diamond’s Zone harness has a flimsy loop at the back which is explicitly labeled as a zero Kilonewton attachment point.
What Does Full-Strength Mean?
What do people mean when they say a haul loop is full-strength?
A belay loop must hold a 15 kN of force or more in order to be safety certified.
So when people talk about a full-strength haul loop they are inadvertently referring to this standard.
It is very important to note however, there is NO standard for haul loops and haul loops are NOT required to be tested for safety.
Let’s repeat this again; haul loops have NO safety requirements.
So you could theoretically hang yourself or your partner off of your haul loop but you’re putting both of you and anyone else around you at certain risk.
DO NOT do this.
What About The Aussie Rappel?
You know those scenes in the movies when a group of covert operators walks down the side of a building face first?
That is called Australian Abseiling or the Aussie Rappel.
You may have heard of climbers doing the same thing. More often you hear someone claim that they anchor into their haul loop so that they can face their partner as they belay them up.
Again, this is NOT SAFE practice. DO NOT do this. That is not what the haul loop is intended for.
There are special harnesses you can use for Aussie rappelling that do have full strength loops in the back.
As you can see in the video below (Canadians will recognize this guy), when Aussie Rappeling with a standard climbing harness, the harness is turned around to access the proper belay loop.
Note in the video, the Black Diamond harness does have a ‘full-strength’ haul loop present. Still, they turn the harness around and used the actual belay loop for the Aussie rappel.
What is a haul loop?
A haul loop is any webbing or cord loop at the back of your harness intended for hauling up or clipping on an extra rope or light equipment such as descent shoes or a water bottle.
In general, the haul loop is stronger than a gear loop to increase security when clipping on an extra tag line or rope (a rope that you are not actively climbing on) that may be critical for your climb or descent.
Some harnesses have a fifth gear loop at the back as well as a haul loop
Modern harness haul loops are becoming smaller and lighter to the point that some new harnesses do not feature a haul loop at all.
Are haul loops full strength?
Haul loops are not full-strength, are not tested for strength, and have no safety requirements.
In fact, there is no such thing as 'full-strength' when it comes to climbing harnesses.
All harnesses and their parts will break at some point.
Harnesses are tested to certain standards. A belay loop, for example, must withstand a minimum of 15 kN of force to be safety certified by the CE/UIAA.
Haul loops, however, are NOT tested and have NO requirements for strength or function.
While some haul loops are made to be very strong they are NOT intended as weight-bearing points of a harness.
Haul loops should NOT be used for anything other than hauling a tag line or light gear and absolutely should NOT BE USED for anchoring in, rappelling, belaying, or Aussie rappeling.
They are not tested for nor are there any safety requirements pertaining to their use or strength.
How to use a haul loop?
Haul loops provide a lightweight-secure option for hauling or carrying up a tag line/extra rope or keeping your light equipment secure and out of the way.
Use them as intended. If they were meant for rappelling or belaying they would be called belay loops.
DO NOT use haul loops for anything but hauling light gear.
Be aware that haul loops are not required to meet any specific safety standard and are not traditionally tested for strength by their manufacturers.
Hopefully that clears up any confusion.
Moral of the story, DO NOT use a haul loop for anything other than hauling up a light tag line or light gear.
What are your thoughts on haul loops?
Have you seen them being used dangerously?