First things first - Read the technical notices and documentation for your specific ropes, webbing and/or harness. If you no longer have the papers that came with your equipment, you can typically download them from the manufacturers websites. Different equipment has different ratings that can affect its lifetime.
The information below is meant to be complimentary to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer and not to replace their advice. Our recommendation would be to take the most conservative recommendation. After all, it could make the difference between living or not.
Rope and Webbing Lifetime
All that being said, there's a couple points that you should consider when it comes to replacing your ropes and webbing.
- If your rope or webbing is over 10 years old, do NOT climb on it no matter how much or little use it has. It is time to replace it. The materials used to make climbing ropes and webbing break down over time and I have NOT seen any climbing equipment manufacturers that recommend using a rope or webbing that is over 10 years old. If you're not sure how old your rope is, there is typically a plastic label wrapped around the ends of the rope which should have the date it was manufactured.
- The more you use a rope, the quicker it will wear out too. The British Mountaineering Council's recommendation is that if a rope is used regularly a (around twice a week) and has no major falls, it should be replaced within three years . A heavily used rope (used most days) may need to be replaced in as little as six months.
- If you don't know the history of a rope or webbing, you can't really consider it safe.
Beyond those, there are several things that can shorten these lifetimes even more, including:
- UV Exposure
- Grit, sand and dirt
- Rock falls
- Exposure to corrosive chemicals
Download this guide, in addition to the manufactures documentation for your equipment for more information.
How about your harness? How long should you use that for? Black Diamond says:
- The nylon in your harness will weaken with age if not stored free from mildew, UV light, temperature extremes or other harmful agents. If a harness HAS been properly stored for ten years or more, retire it.
- With normal use and proper care, the life expectancy of your harness is approximately three years, and can be longer or shorter depending on how frequently you use it and on the conditions of its use.
Of course, other things shorten this lifespan even more, like:
- Abrasion, cuts, wear
When it comes to any of your gear, inspect it often. If there's an issue, replace it. Don't push your luck. Stay safe.