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Tips and a Handy Form for Inspecting Your Climbing Gear

Climbers, when’s the last time you inspected your gear?  My rope, cams, stoppers, slings and carabiners have been tucked away in the gear closet for 5 months now, and it’s been longer since I closely inspected them. It's generally recommended that you take a good look at your gear at least once per year.

Inspecting gear and deciding it’s time to retire it can be tough to do. The stuff isn’t cheap, and it’s hard to say goodbye to your favorite climbing rope or very first harness.

To make the process easier, Petzl, one of the top climbing gear manufacturers, has a downloadable inspection form that allows you to fill out and maintain electronic records. You can program inspection dates, log your findings and add photos of your gear. Petzl also has instructional videos on their website that go in depth on what to look for when inspecting gear.

Here are some things all climbers should be keeping an eye out for when doing gear inspections:

Worn climbing ropeRopes: Check for signs of excessive wear. Look for an extremely fuzzy sheath, or any flat spots, soft spots or hard spots. If the sheath is damaged and the core is visible, the rope should be retired. If the rope is damaged near one of the ends, you can cut off the end and keeps using the rope. Make sure to seal the cut end of rope by melting it with a lighter and mark the ends of the rope with the new length. See the REI Expert Advice article on climbing rope care for more information.

Harnesses: Check the tie-in points and closely inspect the belay loop for wear. Make sure the stitching is not worn or frayed. The buckles should not have any corrosion and there should be no sharp edges from wear. See the REI Expert Advice article on harness care for more information.

Worn carabinerCarabiners: Look for rope wear and corrosion, and make sure the gate snaps closed with a smooth action. See our Expert Advice article on carabiner care for more information.

Belay devices: Look for excessive wear in the aluminum and make sure no sharp edges have formed where the rope runs.

Slings: Look for abrasion and picked stitches. It’s okay for slings to get a little fuzzy, but if you see any signs of significant wear, particularly if there is more wear in one spot, then you should consider retiring the sling.

Cams: Make sure the cam operates as normal. It should have a smooth action and snap back open when you release the trigger. Cam lube can help if the action is sluggish. Inspect the aluminum cam lobes for wear and make sure there is no corrosion. Inspect the sling on the cam for abrasion and picked stitches. If the sling is damaged, check with the cam manufacturer to see about having the sling replaced.

Stoppers: Look for frayed cables and corrosion, and retire the stopper if you find either. Stoppers are cheap, so there’s no reason to take any chances.

Reminder: When in doubt about any gear, it's always best to play it safe and replace it.

How often do you inspect your gear? Have you found it difficult to determine when you need to retire gear?

Posted on at 4:36 PM

Tagged: Climbing, Petzl, Rock Climbing, belay device, cams, harness, ropes and stoppers

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I agree with your tips, for the most part, but I think your remarks should be qualified in the following ways: not all damage or wear can be identified through visual inspection, and the lack of evidence of wear or damage is not conclusive evidence of safety. The lack of corrosion on the buckles of an old harness, for example, or the lack of apparent wear and sharp edges on a carabiner do not necessarily mean that these are A+ safe to continue using. The age of fabrics can weaken them without any outward sign, and a carabiner that has taken an impact should often be retired whether or not it shows rope wear. Furthermore, because your post suggests, or at the very least implies, that safety can be evaluated visually, some might be led to believe that they could acquire and safely use pre-owned equipment from garage sales or Craigslist or the like. Knowing the history of the equipment is a big part of being able to gauge the wisdom of continued use, which is why it is generally not advisable to use borrowed or pre-owned gear, and why REI does not re-sell returned climbing gear.
As I said, I agree with your tips and rules-of-thumb, but I think the article would be more complete with a statement clarifying that wear and damage cannot always be seen, and if you, the climber, know that your equipment has been damaged, for example, by heat, cold, chemicals, impact, or simply age, you should consider retiring it regardless of the absence of any apparent wear.

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Joe P. Staff Member

Hi Jones7979,

You bring up some good points that should definitely be considered when inspecting climbing equipment. I agree with you that not all damage or wear can be identified with a visual inspection and that knowing the history of equipment is very important. Thanks for the comment. Have fun climbing out there.


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