When to Replace Your Climbing Harness, And Why


A climbing harness is incredibly important for when climbing and descending, which makes the matter of replacing it an important point of consideration.

When and why should you replace your old climbing harness? To start with, your harness will be supporting all of your weight when you use it to climb up or down, so you need to make sure that it is in the right condition to do so. When your climbing harness is ripped or damaged in any way, you need to replace it right away.

Not replacing damaged climbing harnesses can lead to some extremely unfortunate consequences, but there are times when replacing them might not be the answer.

When to Replace Climbing Harnesses

You might think that the only reason why you would want to replace your climbing harness would be when it is damaged. However, there are actually a lot of occasions when it would be appropriate for you to replace your climbing harness. To start with, this particular equipment is meant to:

·         Help you climb or descend

·         Keep you in place to perform various tasks

·         Secure you when trying to reach a difficult spot

·         Let you rest when you have gotten tired

With these being its main functions, you can easily see why you would want to make sure that you are using a harness that you can count on. This then means that you will need to replace it when you need to. The occasions wherein this applies are discussed in the table below:

When to ReplaceDescription
When brokenRipped, torn, or cut
When loosenedThe material is stretched and no longer supports tightly
When frayedThe fibers are beginning to come off and is causing anxiety
When weakenedThe harness has become less durable due to overuse and exposure
When obsoleteNo longer relevant compared to new products
When uncomfortableToo hard, cuts too deep, or doesn’t fit well

This table represents just some of the major instances that would compel you to replace the harness that you already have. There are other reasons for doing so, of course, but they can be rather superficial and unnecessary. For example, if you pay particular attention to appearances, you might not like the color or the look of the harness that you got.

This is particularly common among casual climbers or first-time enthusiasts who might not understand the nuances behind climbing yet. They just want to do it for the experience or the bragging rights that come with the activity. Some might even replace their harnesses because it doesn’t come off as well when taking pictures. You can blame social media for that one.

On the other hand, you might have been gifted with a new harness by someone else and want to use that instead. In such cases, you’re not exactly getting rid of your old harness, but you’re not using it as your main choice either.

Broken – When the harness gets broke, you would obviously need to replace it right away. You don’t want to use the piece of equipment if it is already damaged in any way, regardless of how small it may be. Remember that the thing is supposed to hold up your entire body weight. If you are carrying other items with you, those will add to the burden, as well.

As for what form these damages will take, these usually come in the form of the straps having cuts or nicks. The metallic parts might have also bent or have suffered cracks. Both cases are certainly not ideal and when they happen, be sure to replace the harness as soon as you can.

Loosened – Harnesses are pieces of equipment that you basically step into and they will wrap around your legs, buttocks, and waist in order to provide you with support while you are climbing or descending. As such, they will need to have a certain level of tightness to them. Of course, you can also adjust this, if you want.

In any case, one of the times when you will need to change the harness is when it becomes too loose. This is when, for whatever reason, the straps have been stretched so much that they can no longer support you as needed. Loose harnesses are dangerous harnesses and are definitely worth avoiding.

Frayed – Harnesses are pieces of equipment that are made of straps, which themselves are made of intertwined threads of sturdy materials. However, no matter how tough they may be, they will wear down over time. Eventually, these threads will begin to fray and when that happens, you will need to replace the harnesses.

Although you might still be able to use it, the friction from the action and the contact with your body will cause the fraying to get worse. Eventually, the straps will become too thin and will become compromised.

Material Weakness – Speaking of which, even if you don’t really use the harness all that much, there does come a point when the material itself begins to degrade. You will notice this when you pick up the harness and it seems to have become lighter or feels more brittle. There are a lot of factors contributing to this, including exposure to direct sunlight or contaminants.

Either way, you can test it out by tug at it with your hands on both ends away from each other. If the harness feels a little too brittle, this means that it is time to replace it.

Obsolete – Then there are those cases where the harness that you got has just gotten outdated. To be fair, the general design of the harness has not really changed all that much. However, materials and manufacturing methods have improved over the years. As such, there are simply some harness products that are better than their previous versions.

Uncomfortable – Finally, while there is no avoiding the slight discomfort that you are going to feel when you are strapped to your harness as you climb, there is a limit. You can’t simply put up with it if the straps feel too hard or are cutting in too deep into your body. This can cause all kinds of issues when you ascend or descend, not least of all the level of distraction that it represents.

When you are climbing, your focus should be on what is in front of you. You can’t be distracted because you feel like the harness is pinching you too much. If this is the case, replacing it would be to your benefit.

Why Replace Climbing Harnesses

The appropriate times for when replacing a climbing harness have already been discussed. Now, we can look into the reasons why you should replace your climbing harness if any of the instances brought up earlier should arise. Simply put, you can’t climb as well as you could if the tool you are supposed to rely on is being undependable.

Among the most common reasons for replacing your climbing harness are the following:

·         Safety

·         Comfort

·         Effectiveness

·         Speed

If anything should affect your climbing harness in a negative manner, this will also affect your safety. Simply put, the better you can use the harness, the less likely you are to suffer from injury or death. As such, you need to prioritize the quality of the harness and replace it when necessary.

Comfort is another aspect that needs to be discussed in a frank manner when discussing climbing harnesses. You can never really get rid of that sense of discomfort that you feel when the straps and the metallic rings are pressing against your body. However, the most you should feel is localized pressure from wherever they are making contact.

You should not be feeling chaffed from the harness and you should certainly not feel as if they were cutting into you like solid objects. There is a reason why the straps are made of flexible materials, after all. They should not hurt when you are using them.

The reliance that you place on the climbing harness that you will use is not just about keeping you alive and comfortable, either. It’s also about allowing you to be a more effective climber. This happens when you don’t have to worry about falling or spending the rest of the climb in pain. You can do things like laying the anchors or reaching new heights, as you please.

If you are conductive observations or gathering data, you should not have to worry about the straps snapping on you. More than that, how easily do you think it would be to concentrate on the task at hand if the straps are cutting into you like knives? It would definitely be quite difficult.

Finally, if you are simply attempting to break your record or just want to reach the spot that you are aiming for when you are climbing, your harness needs to be reliable. This way, you can focus all of your energy on accomplishing your goals as fast as you can. It’s not that big of an issue, but a lot of climbers care about that sort of stuff.

How Long Do Climbing Harnesses Last?

Climbing harnesses are made of materials that take a long time to degrade, so you would think that they would last a while and they do, but only if you treat them right and if they are of good quality. Basically, different climbing harnesses vary in terms of the materials, the make, the design, and quality. This is why you need to make your choices carefully when you are shopping for them.

Now, if we are going to talk about how long you can use them, we need to discuss timeframes in the right context. If the climbing harness is still in its package and you just kept it in your closet or bag, it will last for decades. Untouched, it will be as pristine twenty years from now as it was when you first bought it.

Once you do take it out of its packaging, it comes down to how to treat it, use it, clean it, and store it. No matter how tough the materials may be, they will give in if you abuse them often enough. So, if you want your climbing harness to last you for a long time, you have to take care of it.

Okay, so assuming that you are a fairly regular climber and you don’t do anything too crazy. You also clean your gear when you get home and then store them properly when they are nice and dry. If this is the case, you can get a good one or two years of use out of that harness.

However, if you are the kind of climber who goes every weak and keeps pushing yourself to the limit along with your gear, you would be lucky to get a few months worth of use out of it. This is basically the kind of case where you climb for long periods of time, multiple times a day, at the most extreme spots you can find.

If you throw in a lack of care for your equipment into the mix like when you just let your harness sit in your trunk while it is wet and dirty, you can count on weekly replacements being the norm. This is why most serious and responsible climbers put in the time and effort to actually take care of their equipment after every excursion.

Now, there is no right or wrong way to go about this, in case you were starting to get the wrong idea. It is your stuff and you can treat it however you want. Just know that if you abuse your gear like your climbing harness, you will need to be a lot more vigilant with regards to damages. If you’re not careful, you might end up getting seriously injured as a result.

Related Questions

How Do You Store Climbing Harnesses?

You store a climbing harness in a clean, dry place where it is not exposed directly to the sun or gets constantly wet for any reason. It should be put away only after it has been cleaned and dried, as well. When you store a dirty and wet climbing harness, it become weaker and more brittle.

Can You Wash a Climbing Harness?

You can, but do not place it in the washing machine. You should only use your hands, which should not pose that much of a problem. It doesn’t really take much to clean but you should avoid drying it under the sun. You should only hang it for air drying to avoid making it stiff and more prone to damage.

How to Take Care of Climbing Harnesses?

If you want your climbing harness to last for as long as possible, you are going to have to take care of it properly. We have already touched on some part of how you are going to do that, but it is worth digging into this a bit more. Simply put, during the course of the gear being in your possession, you need to make sure that you:

·         Don’t abuse it

·         Clean it thoroughly

·         Dry it properly

·         Store it correctly

·         Transport it carefully

These might seem like going overboard for a simple climbing tool, but you have to remember that each and every single item in your equipment list represents life and death. If you are hanging 100 feet above the ground with only the climbing harness supporting your body, you cannot afford to not make sure that it will hold up.

Abusive usage while climbing, leaving it dirty, storing it wet in a damp and moldy room, and then just stuffing it in your bag without a care in the world are sure ways to increase your risk of injury. You would be lucky if it just stopped there.

What to Do with Old Climbing Harness

Assuming that you have already replaced your old climbing harnesses with new ones, you might now be wondering what to do with the old set that you are now stuck with. The usual response to this would be to simply throw it away and you can certainly do that if you want to. however, depending on its condition, it might still be useful to someone else.

With that being the case, you might want to simply give it to a less fortunate climber who didn’t have the funds to replace their equipment as often as you can. You could also just give it to someone who was interested in becoming a climber but has yet to buy equipment. Giving your old harness to such a person would basically help them save money.

On that note, you can also give the harness to goodwill. They are bound to find some use for it. It doesn’t even have to be about climbing cliffs or mountains, either. Whatever the case may be, throwing it away should be your last resort if it isn’t broken or too frayed for use.

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