We first saw the prototypes of the Crest at the 2021 Coupe Icare. It looked like an interesting prospect: a reversible harness with airbag and under-seat reserve weighing less than 2kg in the medium size. Marcus King tested it over a period of several weeks.
The harness I was sent is the L size that weighs just over 2kg complete with the 70l outer rucksack. The rucksack is actually removable with four plastic connectors securing it in place; the process is slightly fiddly, but you won’t do it often. It’s available in three different sizes: 40, 55 and 75 litres so you can choose the perfect one for your kit.
The 70l version I was sent easily swallowed my hike-and-fly kit and I was able to fit in the ML Knight 2 we had for review still with room for helmet and jacket. The bag has a rolltop closure so you can adjust the sizing to the load you are taking. There are also compression zips up both sides.
At first glance the bag doesn’t look that technical compared with some on the market, but look closer and you will see it has plenty of features. There are two large elastic pockets on the side and one large one on the front of the bag. These have tie-in loops so you can secure equipment.
There is also a small zipped pocket on the front. There’s a routing hole and elastic keepers for a drinks tube and a Velcro patch on the shoulder for your mobile or tracker. This is clever in that it opens to reveal the Velcro hooks, so you only need loops on your phone, so no snagging the inside of your pocket.
The straps are relatively simple looking but are effective at holding the bag against your back and I found them comfortable in use. There is no padding on the back or any air channels and I would have liked to see straps running from the top of the bag to the shoulders that can be used to pull the weight over your shoulders, but the bag sits close to your body.
The hip belt is nicely padded without being too bulky. The haul loops for resting your hands are a nice touch.
Getting ready to fly
The process of converting from rucksack to harness is very simple. Emptying and fully opening the bag reveals an inner bag. Unzipping this and opening it out reveals the harness and this inner bag becomes the rear pocket which contains the outer bag, with plenty of room for carrying any extra kit. The reverse process is just as simple.
Once you have the harness sorted, clipping in is equally simple. The two leg loops clip into the main karabiners – they are clearly colour-coded and marked left and right so you can’t go wrong. Apart from that there is just a high chest-strap to keep the shoulders in place to do up and an elastic loop for the speed bar to put on your foot: simple!
Despite all this talk of simplicity, the harness is fully featured when it comes to safety and ergonomics. It features a self-inflating airbag for back protection with wires to help keep its shape before take-off. Above this, under the seat, is the reserve pocket. As with other Woody Valley harnesses it comes with a specific inner bag. The reserve bridles are routed to the shoulders through a zipped channel and there is a reasonably large handle making it easy to grab.
The seat uses independent leg loops without a seatboard. There is plenty of adjustment with straps for seat height, back angle, shoulder straps and chest-strap width. The former have a locking mechanism so they can’t slip but it means you have to set them before flight as they aren’t adjustable once flying.
The chest and shoulder straps are easily adjusted in the air. The shoulder straps also have a Velcro patch for a vario/tracker, a Recco reflector for search and rescue and routing for a drinks tube with a pocket for the bladder inside the back pocket.
In the air
On launch the harness gives plenty of freedom of movement, making launching a breeze. I did plenty of hike-and-fly outings with this harness, which of course involved the inevitable nil-wind or even backwind launches, and I was able to run unimpeded with the harness on.
Once in the air the harness has a nice secure feel, with fairly high clip-in points making for a stable feel. On the whole I found the harness comfortable, and I used it for several reasonably long thermal flights. It gives good back support, something I notice being tall. Just occasionally I could feel the seam at the back of the leg loops digging in slightly, but this changed if I moved position and mostly I didn’t notice it.
It should be noted that I was right on the cusp of the L and XL sizes of harness being tall and thin so maybe the sizing was an influence. As with any harness you should test it for your own body size and shape. The leg loops have a short tape between them that stops your legs falling apart and helps give a more united feel to the harness.
I was lucky enough to get some thermal flights during my time testing the harness and I found I could control the wing well with a mixture of brakes and shifting weight from one leg to another. Again, if part of the wing fell out of the thermal I didn’t find myself thrown over as much as some leg-looped harnesses, thanks to the geometry of the straps. I found it remarkably secure-feeling and comfortable.
I really like the elastic cord running from the foot to the speed bar. A simple idea but it makes getting on the speed bar so much easier than thrashing around trying to hook it with your heel. More important here as the speed bar isn’t stiffened so would flap behind more easily in the wind. With the elastic it works very well, and I made good use of it on our local ridge run.
Coming to land, it is easy to shift into a feet down position and run, should you need to. The only slight niggle was I found with the size of the inside edges of the leg loops the back of them dug into my buttocks a bit if I tried to run around the landing with the wing inflated above my head.
This is a great option if you want a light harness for hike-and-fly but don’t want the added hassle of a front-mounted reserve or to lose the added safety of an airbag. This gives you all this in a set-up that weighs around 2kg, including the bag. It feels more lightweight and compact than some of the competition on the market, but the rucksack feels a bit more basic in terms of materials and padding although fully featured in terms of pockets. The added flexibility of being able to choose the correct bag size or use a different bag altogether adds to its appeal. It’s great for hike-and-fly but also makes a good option for a travel harness.
Woody Valley say: “A reversible harness with a completely detachable rucksack”
Use: Hike-and-fly and travel
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Protection: Self-inflating airbag
Weight: 1.98kg for M
Published in issue 230 (June 2022)