Should I still be climbing on this?

We often get asked whether we can test if a piece of climbing equipment is still safe to use and the answer is that we can get it tested but the product will be destroyed by the test.

So are there any guidelines for lifetime and wear and tear on climbing equipment?

All PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should come with a manufacturers leaflet detailing what the appropriate use for the product is, what international standards the product conforms to, how best to look after the product, it's lifespan and recommendations on when to make it obsolete.

Climbing equipment lifespan guidelines

The general rule of thumb for maximum lifespan of software such as harnesses, slingsand ropes is 5 years from first use or 10 years from date of manufacture whichever comes first. Whilst for metalwear such as karabiners and belay devices10 years from first use is a good estimate to work from. However, a product may often need to retired before this time for a number of reasons detailed in the two examples below.

When is it time to replace my dynamic rope?

Dynamic ropes rely on a combination of strength and elasticity to work, both of which degrade with time and exposure to things such as UV rays, so when should you retire it?

Frequency of use is the starting point here: with intensive use you may get as little as 3-6 months use, average use 2-3 years and occassional use 4-5 years. The maximum period of use should never exceed 5 years and the combined period of storage and use should not be greater than 10 years from the date of manufacture which will be displayed either inside the rope itself on an internal filament or documented on the end tapes or the product header card.

Having said this you should retire your dynamic rope before these recommendations if it has sustained a fall greater than 1.8 Fall Factor, been subject to extreme temperatures (below -50 or above 80 degrees Celsius), or has been in contact with chemicals.

You can help keep your rope lasting longer by uncoiling, storing, cleaning and drying it correctly and using good practices.

Uncoiling your rope for the first time: hanked ropes should have any securings removed by hand to avoid the potential for cutting or damaging the rope, then thread both arms through the hank whilst a second person pulls it off the hank and lays it loosely thus reducing the chance of kinking the rope.

The best way to store your ropes: is out of sunlight (avoiding harmful UV rays) and away from moisture and heat sources. Using a rope bag and or tarp will keep your rope out of the dirt and away from sharp rock and glass at the foot of the crag or from getting full of dust in the climbing wall.

Wash your rope: if your rope becomes noticeably soiled then wash it either by handwash in cold water with a rope cleaning detergent and then brush it, or in a machine by putting it into a pillowcase and washing on a delicates wash at less than 30 degrees. Dry the rope in the shade away from direct heat sources.

Good practices:

Swap ends when working routes - ropes rely on elasticity to catch your fall comfortably, but this elasticity doesn't immediately return to the rope as it needs time to relax and this time will be longer after each fall in the case of rapidly repeated falls. So if you are working a route, swap to the opposite end of the rope after every few falls to help the shock absorbancy to return to the rope and help it last longer.

Carry out regular inspections - check the state of the sheath and core of the rope regularly both visually and by feel. Keep a look out for glazed, burnt, abraided, cut, flat, rumpled, uneven or bulging areas of the sheath or core showing through the sheath. One significant occurence of any of the above could be enough to retire the rope. We are always happy to give our opinions if you have a rope showing anything like this, however, the rule of thumb here should be if you aren't happy that your rope is safe then you probably should retire it.    

When is it time to replace my karabiners?

Metal used in climbing equipment is of very high quality and the controls with which all equipment is manufactured extremely high. So surely it is extremely unlikely for a karabiner to fail for years upon years?

Fractures, chips or worn areas of karabiners can and do occur. Fortunately with modern alloys fractures tend to occur on the exterior of karabiners so that they are visible and the karabiner can be rejected from use. Repeated running of ropes, especially dirty or wet ones will wear grooves into karabiners, effectively thinning and weakening them, making them ripe for rejection from your rack. Less obvious is metal hardening.

Metal Hardening: After 20 years a karabiner may rate as well as it did when it was brand new on a testing rig, however,it is much more brittle than when new. This brittleness can cause a karabiner to fail in situations such as during a fall where the karabiner could impact with the rockface and fail.

As with ropes, high impacts can effect the reliance of karabiners, particularly loading in an inappropriate manner over tight radii producing three way strain. Similarly subjecting karabiners to extreme heat or putting them in contact with chemicals can also cause them to need to be rejected.

Other areas of weakness to watch out for include; sticking, rusting or failing of springs, rivets and the gates of karabiners in particular which could result in the sticking open or failure of the gate. This failure effectively makes the karabiner rate at it's gate open strength and can allow the rope to escape from the karabiner.

As with ropes, regular inspections should be carried out for any of the above and routine lubrictaion of gate hinges and locking mechanisms undertaken.


What should I replace my worn out climbing equipment with?

Up and Under's favourite rope recommendations: for double ropes we think you should seriously consider the Sterling Rope Evolution Duetto 8.4mm, whilst the Sterling Rope Evolution Velocity 9.8mm is a fantastic all-rounder for single rope work at the crag or down the wall.

If it's metal work that you're after then you need look no further than DMM. For belay karabiners we recommend the Sentinel, for rigging the Shadow screwgate and for runners and quickdraws you really should save yourself some weight  with the beautifully crafted Phantom range. 


PPE - Personal Protective Equipment: any device or means designed to be worn or carried by a person to protect them against one or more risks to their health or their security.

Fall Factor: value that determines the severity of a fall. It is the height of the fall divided by the length of rope between the belay device and the climber. The maximum possible fall factor is 2, anything of or above 1.8 means that the rope should be retired.


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