The Classic Diaper-Seat Harness

| September 15, 2008

After years of looking, I still haven’t found a harness that works better for general ski mountaineering than the trusty “diaper-seat” design.  This design is at least 25 years-old and its most famous incarnation is the Black Diamond Bod Harness, (named after Rod “The Bod” Johnson who designed it) although many other companies make them as well.  The diaper-seat name comes from the idea that after the waist belt is put on, you then pull the leg-loops through like a diaper and clip them off.

Because you are usually wearing thick, warm clothes when ski mountaineering, padding is unnecessary and is even undesirable as it absorbs water.  A spare set of gloves can provided extra padding if you need it, like when pulling a heavy sled. This style of harness works well for glacier travel, alpine and/or technical rock climbing, kiting, rappelling or hauling sleds. 

The time tested diaper-seat harness.
The time tested “diaper-seat” harness design.


– Can be put on/off while wearing skis
– The leg loops can be dropped to drop your pants while still remaining tied in
– Has no padding or lining to get wet.
– Is compact, lightweight and inexpensive
– Can haul sleds off of the gear loops
– Has a full-strength rear gear loop for belayed skiing and/or glacier travel (or sled hauling)


The two major disadvantages of the Diaper Seat design is that it is decidedly unsexy and very low tech in a high tech harness world, and there is a higher chance of ROTT (Risk Of Trapped Testicles) if you spend a lot of time hanging in it.

Help support and get the original diaper-seat Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness from! Click on the photo below…


Category: 02 Gear

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (7)

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  1. Polly says:

    I’ve used harnesses a lot in Europe, but never in the Wasatch. At what point do you think a harness should be used or brought along?

  2. Marcin says:

    HI Andrew,

    Your today’s text about a Harness was very helpfull since I was intending to buy one and I was not sure what should I choose. Based on your text I have made my final choice and I have bought one at (I have swithed from CAMP ultralight XLH 95)
    Greetings from Warsaw!

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi Marcin – It’s great to hear from Warsaw!

    I’d put the Alpine Bod in the same category as the Dynafit TLT binding as a “classic” design. It is easy to add feature onto harness and bindings, but if it is just adding stuff for the sake of adding it, I think that actually detracts from the design.

    I bring a harness anytime I think/know that I’m going to be on a glacier or do any sort of belayed climbing. For local Wasatch skiing, I only bring one if I anticipate a long semi-free hanging rappel. A lot of ski mountaineering rappels can be done with a Dulfer-Sitz (ouch), by using a piece of webbing as a waist harness, or even tying the end of the rope around your waist and using that as a harness. If it is low angle rappel, I wrap the rope around my hand like a Munter hitch and use that to create friction, although it can be tough on gloves/mittens.

  4. Hacksaw says:

    My favorite climbing harnesses where the old Forrest Mountaineering 2 piece or the Chounaird Alpine harness (this is the one that got the bad rap in the lawsuit). I am not impressed with many of the current market harness. Too many bells & whistles and electical outlets on them for me.

    On my Baffin Island ski trip I used a 2″ X 12′ webbing swami belt and a pair of Forrest adjustable leg loops. The great thing with this old school system was that it was easy to adjust to how much clothing you might have on.

    After using this system on Baffin, I decided to make a 1″ X 16′ webbing swami belt with a CAMP harness buckel on one end. It makes it easier to put on and rig-up quickly, etc…..

    While heliskiing I do carry 12’X 1″ webbing for an quick lightweight emergency harness.

  5. Stewart says:


    My Alpine Bod harness has served me well for 15 years now, although threading the ice encrusted webbing through the buckle once is challenging enough in wild weather, doubling back impossible. I’m wondering about the integrity of the webbing after 15 years, and would love to see a super light version with a more user friendly attachment, for glacier travel and ski mountaineering.

  6. Andrew says:

    Hi Stewart,
    I know what you mean about the double back buckle – it can be kind of a pain. I think BD has gone back and forth on single vs double for a while and I’m not sure where they are now. Mine has a single pass stack buckle, but it might have had the second buckle sawn off at some point. I think the wear indicator on them is the coded bar tack threads – when those start to go, you should replace the harness.

    When I had access to industrial bar tackers, I made a super light version of the Bod, which ski mountaineers liked, but it didn’t pass the UIAA specs for leg loop width, so nothing ever happened with it.

  7. Hacksaw says:

    It really helps when you expert sewer is your Mom and she has an industrial sewing machine….

    Last time I tested her bar tacks they blew out at 2K

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