Climbing harnesses are an essential safety device for sport and trad climbing. As such, you want to be sure at all times that your harness is up to the task of saving your life in the event of a fall.
Climbing harnesses do eventually need to be retired, but their lifespans vary based on where and how often you climb, and the type of harness that you purchase. Generally speaking, a climbing harness will last 1-3 years with regular use and around 10 years if it’s not actively being used.
In this article, we’ll look more in depth at the factors that impact the lifespan of a climbing harness, and answer some FAQs.
Factors That Impact Harness Lifespan
There are three main factors that dictate how long a climbing will last: where you climb, how often you climb, and what type of harness you purchase.
Where You Climb
Where you climb plays a big part in how much wear and tear will happen to your harness. In a climbing gym, you won’t be taking huge whippers, and there won’t be sun/wind/rain exposure, or exceedingly rough or sharp rock rubbing against your harness.
However, if you are climbing outdoors, you’ll need to take into account how much the UV rays affect the integrity of your harness, how often you are taking big falls, whether you are scraping your harness against abrasive rocks, and so forth. These conditions can cause a harness to wear out much more quickly.
How Often You Climb
Of course, how often you climb will also impact how quickly your harness wears out. If you climb daily or every other day, you may need to replace your harness as often as once every year or two. However, if you casually climb a couple times per week or several times per month, you might get 3-5 years out of a harness. Or, if you take a long break from climbing but store your harness properly during that time, you can often get 10 years out of a harness.
Note that a harness does need to be stored properly, though – avoid extreme temperatures, ensure that your harness is dry when you put it away, and don’t store it near any potentially corrosive materials or in a damp place. And, harnesses do have a shelf life, so even if you use your harness for a few years and then store it for 10 years, you will likely want to purchase a new harness before getting back into climbing.
What Type of Harness You Buy
Each harness manufacturer has their own guidelines as far as when a harness should be retired. So, be sure to check the tag or instructions that came with your harness, or refer to the manufacturer’s website if you aren’t sure.
Be Sure To Inspect Your Harness Regularly
No matter what, inspect your climbing harness on a regular basis. If you notice fraying, corrosion, discoloration, rips/tears, or any other obvious signs of wear, replace your harness right away. A new harness is roughly $60, but the medical bills that you could incur from a ripped harness and a big fall will be far more expensive. The consequences can be devastating both physically and financially – or potentially even fatal.
On a similar note, be sure to inspect all of your other climbing gear regularly as well, including your rope, carabiners, quickdraws, belay device, and so forth.
Frequently Asked Question
How many years is a climbing harness good for?
Climbing harnesses can be good for anywhere between roughly one year and 10 years. It depends on where you climb, how frequently you climb, and what type of harness you started with. With casual use (i.e. climbing a couple of times per week) you can expect to get 2-3 years out of a climbing harness before it needs to be replaced.
Can you wash a climbing harness?
You can wash a climbing harness! This won’t necessarily extend its lifespan, but it’s always nice to have a clean, fresh harness. Use cool or lukewarm water and a small amount of mild soap – NO hot water or harsh detergent-type soaps. You can use a tub or fill your sink with water and a squirt of soap, then soak your harness briefly, agitate it in the water to wash out stubborn dirt, rinse it clean, and hang it to dry completely, out of direct sunlight and away from extreme heat.
Some manufacturers say that you can machine wash climbing harnesses, but be very careful as this can be a quick way to ruin your favorite harness. Research exactly what washer settings your harness manufacturer recommends if you decide to go this route.
Can climbing harnesses break?
If you keep a close eye on your harness by inspecting it regularly, it’s highly unlikely that it will break while you are climbing. However, harnesses do eventually wear out, and it’s possible that one can break if you take a big fall on an old, ragged harness. As the adage goes, if in doubt, replace it.
How often should you replace quickdraws?
The same thing applies for quickdraws – they can last a lifetime but they can get worn much more quickly with heavy use. Always inspect your gear and replace any pieces that look worn out. With a quickdraw, be sure to also inspect the dogbone and look for fraying or other signs of wear.