How to make your climbing gear last almost forever

Tips on Climbing Gear Care and maintenance

Frankly speaking, before the hype came, back in the 80ties and 90ties, rock climbers were probably the nightmare of every sales manager. They were one of the worst target groups to make profit from. They wore their clothing until there were holes, some even tore those holes bigger for more ventilation in the summer. Girls would climb bare breasted on hot days. If the guys can go topless while climbing, why can’t the girls too? Remember those days? Slings and carabiners that have decayed prepped up with rubber and tape, to make it last longer…. And yes, in some ways, thank goodness times have changed. The industry has finally learned how to make gear and attire more appealing.

We splurge today in colourful and lighter climbing gear, yet you will still want to make it last forever. Here are 10 tips on gear care and how to make it happen. Good care will keep them in top condition for a few years.  If any gear that assures your security wears out and start showing signs of retirementchange them for a newer one immediately.

10 tips for longer lasting gear:

1. Clean shoes
I see often people wearing their climbing shoes in the dirt the whole day. If you expect your climbing shoes to perform well and “stick” to the wall, learn to put them on just before you start climbing.

  • clean shoes mean good grips and friction on your toes. Stones and dirt makes friction impossible and polishes the climbing route after many tries. A piece of old carpet or rag helps just before you start, or wipe them on the rim of your climbing pants.
  • clean shoes inside: some of us swear by wearing socks. Some find that looks like a nanny. But wearing a thin layer of a nylon sock can prevent your climbing shoes from smelling really gross after the climbs. Bacteria will have less chances of multiplying if u stop offering them the cheese sweat of your feet, and socks can be washed regularly.
  • wash your shoes now and then. Climbing shoes can be washed and tumbled gently in the washing machine: 30°C, a light washing detergent and absolutely NO softener. Do not tumble dry.
  • air your shoes regularly. (not in direct sunlight!)
  • Once your climbing shoe soles are down, resole them. This extends another 6-12 months of climbing, depending how often you climb.

 

2. Longer Rope life

  • A clean rope causes less wear and tear to your belay device, it’s lighter, softer and feels like new
  • use a rope bag to protect your rope from dirt.
  • clean your ropes regularly. Beat out the dirt after the climbing day, or wash them once in a while in the tub using a very mild washing detergent. Again, no Softeners please.
  • Top-ropers:
    • Use 2 carabiners to top rope (Reasons: 1. Prevents unintentional unclipping when the 2 biners are placed facing each other 2. continual load on a single carabiner reduces rope life. 3. Longer anchor life )
    • If the anchor is placed at a sharp ledge, extend this in such a way that the rope does not go over the bend.
    • Avoid contact with sea water and sand. If you can’t avoid them, give your rope a wash after the vacation.
Tips on Climbing Gear Care and maintenance

Use a rope bag to keep your rope free from dirt.

3. Belay device

  • less dirt, less friction in your device, less wear and tear
  • our last belay device lasted 10 years. I replaced the old one because the metals were getting too thin from all the friction

4. Clothing

I am so glad that the industry has finally moved towards the climber and mountain enthusiast to feed their needs. Today, pants are cut to fit so you could move in your dynamic ways, tops are colourful and inspiring to wear instead of hyperventilating, down jackets are warmer, lighter, more affordable in pricing rather than having to buy an expedition model just to finally keep the belay bunnies warm.

  • And these clothing do last forever if you treat them well. Washing your hard shells or down jackets correctly now and then are very recommended and extends their life cycle.

5. Helmets

  • they last forever too until you experience your first and hopefully not the last, rockfall that landed on your head. If the helmet saved your head, great! But get a new one after that.
  • Even though you don’t see it, plastics harden up after a number of years and renewing a helmet that’s more than 10 years is definitely a good investment for the only one head that you have.

6. Chalkbags and Harnesses

  • Chalkbags will probably not cause any safety problems while climbing. They are a trendy, fashion thingy. Great to buy always new ones. However, you can recycle parts of your Chalkbags, or make one yourself too? Or repair the holes that you find in them after a good wash and make it look like new again.
  • Check the belay loop of your climbing harness regularly. If this shows signs of tear, it’s time to get a new one.
  • Keep your Harness in a cool, dry place, away from your car trunk, and any corrosive liquids (car battery, etc)
  • After washing them (with a mild detergent soap) air dry them away from direct sunlight.

7. Carabiners / Quickdraws

  • keep your rope clean to prevent as much as friction possible, so keep the dirt out.
  • keep sea water away from your carabiners. Sea water corrode metals. If it wasn’t possible to avoid the contact, handwash your carabiner with luke warm water. No chemical detergents! No washing machine! Then dry thoroughly, but naturally.
  • oil if necessarily, with acidic free silicon oil. Wipe off any excess dirt or oil
  • Avoid letting carabiners fall from a high altitude. If this happens, it’s static might be effected, you may want to retire it. Nothing worse than falling in a carabiner that breaks.

Update: 03.08.2014:

  • Check your quickdraws every now and then. If you find your quickdraws start to wear out (when deep grooves and sharp edges starts to appear, like this picture below) replace them soon with a new one.
  • Check if your Biners gate still close properly. An open Biner is more likely to break during a fall than one that’s closed. But what’s worse, your rope slips out when you fall!
Tips on Climbing Gear Care and maintenance

Keep an eye on when the biner starts to wear out

8. UV Rays are harmful 

  • keep and store your gears away from extreme heat or cold places. Here’s an interesting article on slings and draws from Black Diamond

9. Salty environments corrodes your gear and other dangers

  • Nothing is more awesome than spending a climbing trip along the sea, stunning sunsets, sun rocked crags in the winter. A dream. But while you are thinking about yourself and less about your climbing gear, you will have to know that areas near the sea are the number one killers for your gear. If it can’t be avoided and your equipment catches some sea water, you can wash it with a very mild detergent and dry thoroughly after the trip. Corrosion is not the gears best friend.
  • Also avoid putting your rope anywhere near a car battery/ unprotected on a road. Leaking car batteries are nr. 1 killers for rope and your life.

10. Dry your gear.
You can’t avoid rainfalls or bad weather. But after getting caught in one, make sure your rope and equipment is dry before storage to prevent any fungus growth. Moreover, belaying with a wet rope is not fun.

Bottom-Line

Generally, treat your climbing gear like a marshmallow (the army would say “Treat your M16 like your wife”). Don’t throw it on the ground. Keep it away from excess heat, UV rays and corrosive liquids and dirt.  Keep your climbing gear well ventilated at all times and avoid moldy and dewy places for storage. Keep it clean.

These are my tips on care and maintenance for your climbing gear. Feel free to comment if you have more suggestions. The motto says:

whenever in doubt, replace your gear with a new one.”

Climbing is a dangerous sport, and your gear is your life insurance. Rock on!

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