Having worked in climbing wall for a number of years I have seen some sights when it comes to climbing equipment. In fact, I have just walked up the stairs to write this from getting a coffee and seen some hideous spandex from the 80’s!

How Many harnesses have you seen in walls that look like this?

I have personally seen loads – and to make it worse people get really offended when you discuss this topic with them!

We hear it so often in the wall – “there is nothing wrong with my harness, I have had it 20 years and I have hardly worn it!”

So when should you replace your harness?

A good place to start is with the manufacturers guidelines and recommendations. These are usually 5 years. But remember these are guidelines for the maximum life of the harness. The actual duration will be affected by the intensity, frequency of use and the environment in which you are using it.

You should always retire a harness if it has visible wear or you have had a major fall. You should also retire your harness if it has been contaminated or cut in any way.

Is UV damage a factor? Recent tests are now beginning to question the impact of ultra violet on your harness. Abrasion and wear and tear seem to be the biggest factors in loss of strength in your harness.

Can I wash my harness? Yes – check with the manufacturers instructions but normally warm water and mild soap are the recommended option for getting dirt and chalk out of the harness. If your harness has been in the boot of your car or garage and has come in contact with Oil or petrol, then unfortunately it is time to change!

Let’s look at this logically – If you are asking the question and starting to wonder if its time to replace something then it probably is! A new harness is cheap in comparison to the consequences.

I just want to leave you with something I found on the BMC Website about ‘Is Furry to be Feared’.

Is Furry to be feared?

Possibly. Like a new car, slings and harnesses start to depreciate as soon as they leave the shop. Their strength is provided by fibres, and damage to these fibres will reduce their breaking strain. There is, however, a difference between abrasion (fibres have been cut) and fluffing (fibre loops have just been pulled).

Fluffing has little impact on the breaking strain, but the effects of abrasion were visibly demonstrated at the recent BMC “Know Your Stuff!” Conference. Two identical new tape slings were taken; one was nicked with a knife part way through, the other abraded quickly against a brick wall. The sling with the knife cut looked the most damaged, but in fact failed at over its stated load. However, the abraded sling had lost up to 30% of its strength almost immediately.

Most people left the demonstration vowing to retire their ten-year-old quickdraws.

Make your mind up if your kit needs replacing, but please don’t be offended if you come into the wall and we ask you not to climb in your Don Whillans Harness!

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