The last thing you want to think about when you’re off the deck is the viability of your equipment.
The beginning of every season marks an important time to check your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Just as we pump up our push-ups and finger board workouts, preparing for the rock season ahead, so too should we insure our equipment is in good nick.
Rock PPE or climbing protection protects us while climbing.
The life span of some climbing protection is easy to evaluate. With others it’s more challenging.
Climbing gear manufacturer, PETZL, breaks Rock PPE into three categories.
Rock PPE Inspection Guidelines
- Includes climbing protection like eyewear, gloves and rope tarps
Gear in category 1 is easy to inspect. It adds to our safety system, but it isn’t critical.
I include belay glasses here because they help reduce strain in my neck and back particularly when I’m sport climbing.
- Includes helmets
Retire Helmets after 10 years of minimal use and after 3-5 years of frequent use. Sign of UV fatigue, cracks, strap-wear or damage to the foam casing inside the shell means a helmet should be replaced.
- Fall protection
Fall protection is a critical category and gear in this category is the hardest to inspect.
Critical climbing gear includes harnesses, ropes, webbing, slings, PAS, carabiners, belay devices, nuts, cams, ascenders, etc.
Harnesses should be retired immediately if they show any wear, fraying or damage to the belay loops or waist belt. Retire a harness after 7 years; or, retire your harness every year if you’re a regular user.
Slings, cord and webbing should be retired after 10 years even if never used. Anything with excessive wear should be retired immediately. I retire my skinny cords like prusiks and cordelettes every year or two. Their smaller diameter means they wear faster. And, I use them a lot!
For ropes, read my previous article, Rules For Rope Care and Longevity.
Hardware like carabiners, nuts and cams are easier to inspect.
Look for grooves and any signs of hairline cracks.
Look especially closely for hairline cracks at the gate/pin area of your carabiners.
You can replace frayed cam wires yourself.
Frayed nut wires, however, means you need new nuts!
An unattended wire may not be a safety issue initially. But frayed wires will dig into your soft gear, clothing and skin, creating all kinds of problems.
Finally, know your equipment’s history and if in doubt, retire it.