How old is too old for a harness? The harness; a climber's main point of connection to the rope and part of the primary safety system that keeps one off the ground during a fall or controlled descent. But the harness is an often overlooked piece of climbing equipment. How many times have you gotten to the gym or crag, pulled out the ol' harness, shaken the chalk off it, untangled the leg loops and pulled it on without a second thought?

Many climbers at Climb Up have and use their own climbing gear.Climbing in your own harness is your choice and a risk you assume when you climb but we want you to be aware of what gear manufacturers recommend. While most harnesses are in good condition we do see plenty of well-worn harnesses.  We sometimes see harnesses that are 10 years old or older - well outside of the manufacturer's recommendation. It's not unusual for one of our staff to ask, "Hey, can we check your harness?" After a visual inspection if we feel that your harness, because of its age or wear is in need of replacement we will offer you one of our harnesses to use free of charge. We've had some people take offense to this because they feel, "It's my harness, of course it's okay."

Here are some basic guidelines to follow when considering your harness lifespan and wear:

  • You should inspect your harness for wear before each use. It is important that your harness be in good condition. Any damage to a harness means you should retire it immediately.
  • Most manufacturers recommend a 3 year use life of a harness (Black Diamond and Petzl included) and this will vary depending on use. If you climb in your harness frequently then the lifespan of your harness may be much less. If a harness has been stored appropriately for 10 years, you should still retire it. Just because you haven't used it doesn't mean it's "new."
  • If a harness has been involved in a severe fall, but is not obviously damaged, it still may be ready for retirement. If you have any doubts about the dependability of your harness, retire it and get a new one.
  • Buy your harness NEW. We do not recommend buying any life-safety equipment (which climbing gear is) on eBay because you do not know the history of the gear. Is it really worth saving a few bucks on something that your life depends on? You can get a new climbing harness for as little as about $40! Here at Climb Up we offer a Gear Up Package that includes harness, shoes, chalk bag and chalk for a discounted price.
  • Once you retire a piece of gear destroy it so it is not used again.

Climbers have a tendency to get emotionally attached to their gear. But don't lose sight of the fact that gear wears out and has a limited lifespan. Just because it's your special harness doesn't mean it's going to last forever. Give that ancient harness a nice burial ceremony, cut it in half, and buy a new harness. And if you've read through this entire post and pondering the history of your harness and questioning if it's still in good shape, chances are, it's probably time to start looking for a new harness.