Every climber needs to own a harness that they trust will catch them when they take a fall. Climbing with a harness that is outdated and worn out is incredibly unsafe and can result in serious injuries. That said, you may be wondering just how long these moderately pricey pieces of equipment will last you.
In general, climbing harnesses will typically last between 1 and 3 years with moderate use and proper care. Climbing harnesses more than 10 years old are not safe to climb with according to manufacturer guidelines. The amount of use, fall severity, climbing environment, and care of the harness are all factors that impact its lifespan.
A climbing harness may last one of your climbing friends 3 or more years and yours might only last you 8 months or vice versa. Understanding what directly impacts how long a harness will last you is essential when you own personal climbing gear. A detailed discussion of these factors along with a few tips to extend the lifespan of your harness are provided in this article.
If you are interested in seeing what the current prices are for the most popular rock climbing harnesses, you can find them on Amazon by clicking here. Using the Amazon affiliate link above and/or other links in the article helps support this website.
Expected and Maximum Lifespan of Climbing Harnesses
Whether you have a harness right now or are looking at getting your first one, you should be aware of how long you can expect it to last you.
The expected lifespan of climbing harnesses depends on a multitude of different factors. That said, the main factor affecting their lifespan is their total amount of use. Using a climbing harness more often will decrease its overall lifespan than using it more sparingly.
The table below summarizes the expected lifespan of a climbing harness for a typical climber based on the frequency they are used.
|Frequency Of Climbing Harness Use
|Expected Harness Lifespan
|6 months to 1 year
|3 to 4 times per week
|1 to 2 years
|Once to twice a week
|2 to 3 years
|Once or twice a month
|3 to 5 years
|A couple times each year
|5 to 10 years
It should be noted that the timeframes above are not set in stone and depend on a wide variety of different factors discussed later in this article. For example, if the harness you have is “younger” than the expected timeframe above but is in terrible condition and you do not feel safe climbing with it, DITCH IT.
Above all else, you need to be confident in your harness’ integrity and ability to catch you. If you are not 100% confident with it then throw it out and get a new one. Avoiding the expense of a new climbing harness for a little bit longer is not worth the risk of serious injury or worse.
In addition to this, any climbing harness manufactured over 10 years old even if it is unused needs to be discarded as it will have surpassed its shelf life according to manufacturers. This 10 year mark is assuming that the harness has been stored and cared for properly. Harnesses that have not been properly stored will not last this long. Note: this is not 10 years since purchase but when the harness was actually made.
If you are looking at getting a new (or your first) climbing harness then I highly recommend checking out my article that lists the most comfortable climbing harnesses. If you are a climber on a tight budget, then I recommend looking at the best climbing harnesses under $100.
Factors That Influence How Long Climbing Harnesses Last
While a lot of things can affect how long your harness will last you, there are four factors that play the biggest role in this. These factors are discussed in detail below.
Amount Of Use
How much you plan to use your harness will be the best way to approximate how long it should last you.
If you are someone who is going to be using your harness daily, you likely will need to replace it at least once a year. On the other hand if you only go once or twice a month, you will be able to get by with that same harness for a few years if you are storing it properly.
In addition to this, the duration of your session will play a role as well. If you are only using it for 2 hours sessions, it will last you much longer than if you are using it for 6 hours at a time.
In addition to how much you are using the harness, the severity of the falls also play a big role in its longevity.
Taking long falls lead climbing will put a lot more force on your harness than if you are top roping with an attentive belayer. This increased force will decrease the total amount of falls your harness will be able to withstand which in turn will affect your harness’ lifespan.
A good way to think of this is that your harness can only withstand a certain amount of cumulative force before it needs to be retired. The amount of falls, length of the falls, and how heavy you are will all count to this set amount of force. Once that limit is reached, you will need to replace your harness.
Your weight factors into this due to Newton’s second law: Force = Mass x Acceleration (aka gravity)
The more mass you have (i.e. the heavier you are), the more force you will put on your harness. For example, if a 200 pound climber and a 100 pound climber both take a 3 foot fall lead climbing, the 200 pound climber would have exerted twice the amount of force on their harness.
In addition to the amount of force your harness has had to withstand overtime, large one-time forces factor in as well. Climbing harnesses are only designed to handle so much force at a time. If you take a big enough whipper, your harness will not be able to handle that large force without becoming damaged. This damage will result in your harness no longer being usable.
In general, if your harness sustained a huge fall, it needs to be replaced as it is likely no longer in suitable climbing condition.
In general, climbing outside will shorten a climbing harness’ lifespan more than indoor climbing. Outdoor climbing exposes your harness to the following conditions which negatively impact its longevity:
- UV rays (sunlight)
- Precipitation (rain)
- Abrasive rocks
Indoor climbing gyms eliminate or at the very least greatly decrease the amount climbing harnesses are subject to the conditions above.
Care and Storage
How much you look after your harness will directly affect how long it is going to last you. As mentioned above, exposing your climbing harness to UV light, humidity, and heat will decrease its lifespan. Therefore you should not leave your harness sitting out on a hot day under the sun or in the trunk of your car in summer for long periods of time.
In addition to this, if you notice that your harness has gotten dirty or soiled, you should wash it off to make sure that it is clean and ready to go. Leaving your harness sit when it is dirty is not ideal when trying to maximize its life.
When storing your harness, you will want to make sure that you are not subjecting it to corrosive substances and their fumes. These corrosive substances will drastically decrease your climbing harness’ lifespan.
According to Black Diamond’s technical instructions, common corrosive substances that you should never allow to touch your climbing harness include:
- Battery acid
- Battery fumes
- Chlorine bleach
- Isopropyl alcohol
Avoid storing your harness near these substances (i.e. not in your garage or with cleaning chemicals) as even their fumes can damage your harness. In fact, I recommend finding a place for all of your climbing gear that is away from these substances, not just your harness.
Common Signs A Climbing Harness Needs To Be Replaced
You should inspect your harness before every use to make sure that it is in good condition and safe to use. If you are asking yourself if you need to replace your current harness then the answer is almost certainly yes you do.
According to REI.com, you should replace your harness immediately if you notice any of the following signs of wear and/or damage:
- Rips or fraying in the webbing
- Excessive abrasion to the bar-tacks
- Damaged buckles
- Discolored webbing
- The wear indicator is visible (if present)
As a general rule of thumb, you should replace your climbing harness if you notice any damage at all to it.
If you have never performed a harness inspection before, I recommend watching the brief YouTube video below which shows the process. It also will give you a good idea of what the signs listed above will look and feel like if you have not come across them yet.
3 Tips to Extend The Lifespan Of Climbing Harnesses
There are a few really simple things you can do to make sure you get the most use out of your climbing harness. Three of these things are detailed below.
1. Clean Your Harness When Needed
One of the easiest ways to take care of your harness is to make sure you are keeping it clean and preventing the dirt, sweat, and other nasty things from caking into it.
Whenever you notice that your harness is visibly dirty or looks like it needs a good washing, you should take care of that right away. For a guide detailing how to clean a harness I recommend checking out this article on 5cclimbers.com.
In general, you will want to make sure that you are hand washing your harness with lukewarm water. Always make sure that you allow enough time for your harness to air dry thoroughly before using it in your next session.
2. Store Your Harness Properly
Storing your harness inside your house/apartment far away from any corrosive chemicals, heaters, or windows is ideal to maximize its lifespan.
In addition to this, you can keep it in a bag or sack to further prevent anything from potentially damaging it. While that is not necessary, it is a good way to ensure that it is kept out of any sunlight coming in and keeps anything from spilling on it.
3. Rotate Between Harnesses
Having a second harness will allow you to switch off between which one you use and extend both of their lifespans. In addition to this, if one of your harnesses becomes damaged, you will have a back up waiting and ready to go.
With that said, this is more applicable to frequent climbers who climb at least 3 to 4 times per week or climbers who need different harnesses for the type of climbing they do. For example, a climber would need different harnesses if they wanted to competitively sport climb as well as trad climb. These disciplines are incredibly different and so are the harnesses used for them.