The Lifespan of Climbing Gear

The Lifespan of Climbing Gear

All of your climbing gear will need to be replaced eventually, even if you’re not using it regularly. “Soft” equipment, such as ropes, slings, and harnesses will break down much faster than “hard” equipment like your metal carabiners.

It’s important to always play it safe with any piece of climbing equipment. The moment you think that the integrity of your climbing equipment is compromised, it’s time to replace that gear immediately. Never forget that your life depends on your equipment and if a sling, rope, or carabineer fails the results can be catastrophic.

We’re not trying to scare you, climbing equipment produced by reputable manufacturers is generally very high quality and reliable. That being said, climbers tend to use equipment for much longer than the manufacturers actually intended.

Below, we’ve listed a few pointers for assessing the quality of your climbing equipment and have provided some general guidelines for when equipment needs to be replaced. When it comes time to replace equipment, accept the loss and throw that piece of equipment away. Climbing gear can feel expensive to replace, especially if you’re climbing on a budget, but spending a few bucks is always worth saving yourself from injury or death.


Tips for Assessing Climbing


Gear Look for Cracks, Tears, or Smooth Spots

If you’re evaluating metal gear, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for any cracks. Small cracks can occur after big falls or from use over time, anything with a small crack needs to be immediately tossed. Similarly, if you notice any unnaturally flat spots on the surface of belaying devices, it’s probably time to retire that piece of equipment.

If you’re looking at gear that’s made from nylon or fabric, such as runners or harnesses, any signs of tearing or apparent stress means that piece of equipment needs to be tossed out. Similarly, if you feel a mushy “dead spot” in a rope, it’s time for a new one.

Consider the Gear’s Climbing History

You can’t always tell how old a piece of equipment is from looking at it. You have to consider the type of use/care an item has received. If the gear has withstood huge falls or been regularly used for several years, it might need to be retired even if it looks brand new.

If you don’t know the history of a particular piece of equipment, maybe because it was a gift from a friend, be highly skeptical of using that gear. When you don’t know what kind of abuse gear has received over the years, don’t use it.

Contemplate Storage

Environment It’s important to think about where/how gear has been stored. Apparatus that has been stored in subpar conditions is going to have a reduced lifespan. For example, if you left some ropes in a hot garage for several years, they might be predisposed to dry-rot; conversely, if you leave your ropes in an indoor closet, they will age less rapidly.


Life-Spans of Most Gear



If your harness is used regularly, regardless of how well you store it between climbs, it needs to be retired after three years. If it is receiving near-daily use at the gym or outdoors, you should toss it within a year. When you wait for your harness to start showing severe signs of wear and tear, then you’ve waited too long.

Slings & Runners

Like all climbing equipment, the retirement age will significantly depend on how frequently you use your slings. However, even unused slings have a life expectancy of roughly ten years (depending on manufacturer recommendation). If you regularly use your slings, they will probably need to be retired after 3-5 years due to damage naturally caused during outdoor climbing.

Ignore the bloggers that talk about taking big falls on slings that are “20 years old” and stating that they’ve “never had a problem with old slings failing.” Just because some climbers get lucky and survive fall while using their old gear, doesn’t mean you should take that risk. You’ll never hear from climbers that have experienced catastrophic failures from old equipment (they’re dead).


Like all soft equipment, ropes can degrade over time even if they’re not regularly exposed to climbing conditions. Currently, the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) recommends that any rope receiving daily use should be retired in less than a year, a rope used on most weekends should be retired after two years, and a rope that is only occasionally used should be retired after four years. Heed these recommendations, and don’t gamble with your rope.

Carabiners and Belay Devices

Generally speaking, hard metal components are going to live much longer than your soft gear. However, major falls can warrant retiring your metal gear –especially carabiners that have withstood multiple falls. That being said, you should consider replacing your old metal equipment in ten years –regardless of their climbing history.


If helmets take a big hit from any surface (falling rock, falling human, etc.), it’s probably time to retire it. Helmets aren’t designed to withstand multiple hits, and this is especially true for ultra-lightweight helmets. Even if your helmet takes no serious hits, toss it after ten years. You don’t want to doubt the gear that is protecting your brain.


Out With the Old

In conclusion, you need to regularly inspect your gear and not be stingy about replacing it. If you have any reason to doubt a piece of equipment you need to toss that gear.

When you retire any piece of climbing equipment, you need to throw it away. Don’t give old equipment away to a friend or keep it in your closet, throw it away or someone might accidentally use it. Pay no attention to climbers that brag about how old their gear is. Climbing equipment needs to be regularly replaced, and to continue to climb on old gear needlessly is hugely reckless.

What Climbing Gear Should You Get?

rock climbing gear

New to climbing? It can be intimidating when you aren’t sure what gear to buy. Don’t let it keep you from trying out this fantastic sport, or growing in it.

For indoor climbers, these are the things you’ll need:

  • Harness – A good harness is required. One that double-backs (webbing on loops folds back through the buckles for safety) and has some gear loops (you won’t need a lot at first) will do just fine.
  • Shoes – Basic is best here. The footwear will fit tighter than your street shoe but shouldn’t be downturned or too aggressive (unless you’re climbing very technical routes). There should be a right amount of thickness on the base of the shoe. Laces or no laces is your personal preference. With laces, you can adjust the tightness whereas velcro and moccasins are quicker to take on and off.
  • Chalk Bag – It is the bag that hangs around your waist or on the back of your harness with chalk in it. Chalk soaks up the moisture on your hands. You will want to chalk up before making a big move or especially when you are trying to hold on to slopers.


rock climbing gear

Are you climbing outdoors? First of all, yeah buddy! Not everyone wants to take it the next level. There is a wide array of outdoor gear available for many styles of climbing including sport, traditional, bouldering, and ice climbing. So, do your research before buying. Here is what you’ll need on top of the previously listed items:

  • Quickdraws – Two carabiners attached by a strip of webbing. These are the clips you’ll use to connect yourself to the rock when sport climbing.
  • Rope – Make sure you check out the durability, thickness, and length to ensure it is appropriate for the areas where you climb.
  • Helmet – Climbing is a dangerous sport. Listen to your mom, wear a helmet.
  • Belay Device – Feeds the rope through a device attached to the belayer. Some have “teeth” or ridges that add friction. The Gri-Gri has an automatic braking system that is very popular. An ATC is another common device that doubles as a rappel device for descending from routes.

These are the things you’ll need when climbing outdoors. You may need extra carabiners, webbing or daisy chains, depending on the type of climbing you will be doing.

Get to know your gear, it’s the only way to stay safe in climbing. With indoor climbing, you can easily rent gear or ask the gym staff for advice. Outdoor climbing is a different case. Make sure you are with someone who is knowledgeable in the sport. Hire a guide or find a very experienced friend to take you out and teach you proper safety procedures.

A Complete List of Climbing Terms

rock climbing terms

Maybe you found out about climbing after getting involved with the booming trend of indoor climbing.

Or maybe you have been studying the rosters of the IFSC and hoping to join the ranks of elite sports climbers.

Either way, you definitely came across more than a few technical terms and jargon related to climbing. Though understanding rock climbing terms may seem daunting at first, they get picked up soon enough through practice or reference.

We can’t do the practicing for you, but we can provide a reference. So read along and keep this one bookmarked to sling the ling like a pro.

Useful Rock Climbing Terms

We’ve broken down the terms into some general categories to help you out. We’re listing them alphabetically for quick reference. This list contains things needed to know but isn’t an exhaustive list of all rock climbing terms, that kind of list can be book-length.

Gear Terms

Rock climbing takes a lot of specialized gear to keep you safe and help you be your best. Looking for gear? Check out our fine list of retailers.


Devices, like carabiners, that have a spring-loaded gate that locks automatically without needing manual locking.

Belay Device

A device that catches a climber when falling. Locks to a rope in place and prevents falling further than a set belaying point.


Strong metal closed rings drilled into a rock. They expand to be secure. Often used for sport climbing routes.

Bouldering Pad

Durable pads of dense foam placed in problem areas to provide a landing zone when bouldering. They often fold and have straps to carry in backpack form.

Camming Device

A device that rotates to wedge into pockets or cracks. Trad Climbing routes use these to protect climbers from falls.


A spring-loaded gate on one side assists this loop of metal in connecting climbing gear. Used in a variety of situations with ropes and other anchor types.

Chalk Bag

A bag containing chalk sued to dry hands while climbing. Often these attach to the back of a harness or a waist belt.

Dynamic Rope

A rope which stretches under tension. Used to absorb some impact when a climber falls.


A brand named auto-locking belay device.


Webbing and/or belts attached to legs and buckled securely. Worn by climbers with a rope tied through the harness. Belay devices and gear can be attached to a harness at various points.


A six-sided chock that is hollow, wired, or slung. Used for wide cracks in bigger sizes.


Small, wedge-shaped metal piece attached to a wire. Jammed in cracks to provide protection on trad routes.


Any of the range of equipment and devices attached to a rock. The intent of each is to reduce the distance a climber falls when they come off the rock.


Non-locking carabiners joined by webbing. These attach ropes to protection.


A term for the collection of climbing gear needed for a specific route.


A runner clipped into protection. Often sewn shoulder-length nylon.

Static Rope

Used for climbing without the absorbing property of dynamic rope. Used commonly for abseiling, rescues, and caving.

Climbing Moves

Working with others makes climbing better (and safer). Knowing how to communicate quickly is essential. These are the rock climbing terms to yell at a partner when you don’t want to take a tumble.

Abseil (Rappel)

Descending from a rock on a fixed rope. Belay devices commonly are employed for better control.


Points throughout a climb where rope is attached to the rock.


The arm is inserted into a crack and the wrist or forearm placed flat against one wall and the elbow cammed against the other.


Pressing of a shoe’s external edge onto a foothold with the knee dropped lightly. The purpose is to push from the position.


As a result of unbalanced positioning, the climber swings off the rock.


The method of rope control through anchor, belayer, and belay device.


Turning a body part or device to make a hold more secure.


A placing of a creased elbow into a dihedral corner or an off-width.


Short for a dynamic movement used to swap from one hold to another. This often involves a dead point where the rock is not being touched.


Using the edge of the foot instead of the sole to place weight on a small foothold.


A hold that utilizes the fingers in a small crack and then twisting the weight across the lowest knuckle.

Fist Jam

Placing the whole fist in a crack to add stability or prepare for upwards movement.


Draping one leg across the other can be in front of our outside of, and the flagged leg’s toe gets pointed into the rock.


A layback maneuver with the fingers faced inward, as if ready to pry open a door.

Hand Jam

A smaller fist jam where only the flat hand can fit.

Heel Hook

The heel hooks onto a foothold or edge to aid in securing a rock position.


One foot is placed high and the climber pushes to reach up.


A leg-hold used against blocky or roofy features which cams the knee/thigh. Used to de-pump in some situations.


Weight gets shifted to one side to create tension between the back and feet. The climber then walks up the wall.


Used to get onto a ledge, climbers press down with their hands and lift the body until the legs and feet can be placed on the ledge.


A swollen sensation in the forearms from climbing. A result of lactic acid and blood flow restriction.


Use of the foot sole to create friction on a rock and move upward.


Forcing the legs into an opposed leg splits position.

Step Through

Used to move sideways, this technique uses both feet one inside and one outside to move.


Pulling on a downward facing handhold to create tension for an upward facing foothold.

Climbing Methods

These rock climbing terms define climbing concepts and climb types.


A route planned to get to the base of a climb.


Climb or route information that comes from a secondary source like word of mouth or a book.

Bolted Route

A route for sport climbing along pre-placed bolts and anchors. Quickdraws and rope usually preset to protect climbers.


An anchor that is known to be secure and beyond reproach.


Low to the ground climbing done without ropes. Bouldering features ‘problems’ instead of routes. Spotters and pads are used for protection.


Removal of all protection placed during a climb. Cleaning can be done as the ascension procedes, or during the rappel after.


The highest point achieved by a lunge right before weightlessness stops. Does not always include the body being separate from the rock.

Figure of 8 Knot

A knot that tightens under load. Used to secure climbers to ropes via a harness, resembles a figure 8.


The use of prior knowledge through beta to make a clean route from beginning to end on one attempt without falls.

Free Solo Climbing

A risky climb with no ropes or belay system. Normally done on routes that use ropes and protection for safety.

Lead Climbing

A lead climber attaches rope to bolts as they climb past. The goal is to attach rope before climbing beyond a piece of protection.


A route that requires more than one length of rope. This can be done with multiple ropes or moving the second climber to belay from the top position of the first pitch.


A clean ascent from begging to end with no falls and no prior knowledge of the climb.


A route which requires less than one full length of rope to climb.


A clean climb without falls after any amount of practice or attempts.


A place where the distance between protection creates an opportunity for big falls.


A clean ascent from beginning to end without a fall or any rest from placed gear and ropes.

Sport Climbing

Climbing done using pre-placed bolts and protection where the climber anchors as they ascend.

Top Out

A climb where a climber walks back to the base via a trail without a need to rappel from the top.

Top Roping

Climb in which the rope gets anchored to the top of the route. One end of the rope is attached to the belayer and the other the top so that any fall from any point in the climb is covered.

Trad Climbing

Short for traditional climbing, this involves lead and second climbers that place protection along the route and clean once a top rope is anchored.


Terrain Features

The following rock climbing terms deal with the physical features of rock. Many of these terms get used in guidebooks.


A wall edge that stands at an acute angle.


A verticle crack in rock into which you can fit your whole body. Often climbed with a layback.


An outdoor climbing area that can be climbed with one or more techniques or routes.


A small or thin climbing hold.


A term representing the most difficult section of a climb.


A clean corner opened at 90 degrees.


A hole or crack where the mouth is wider than the back.


A secure and deep large handhold which is easy to use.


Smaller than a chimney but larger than a fist. A crack which offers challenges in which technique to best use.


A steep protrusion that goes from verticle to hanging over the rock face.


Small holes divets or hollows. These isolate finger tendons and can be difficult to manage.


A shallow climbing hold. Friction and tension are used to make use of the hold.


Much like traditional use, a steep indicates an overhung route.


Climbing Roles


First climber on an ascent that places gear.


Second climber that cleans on an ascent or follows the lead.


A person working to break the fall of a boulderer or indicate the location of problems. They try to direct boulders to prevent sudden falls or to offer protection when one occurs.

Keep Reaching

Now that you have the rock climbing terms down, engage with other climbers as they share their tips and tricks on our blog.

Hangboard Training Will Make You a Better Climber

Hangboard Training

You rely on your upper body strength, power, and endurance to complete ascents. This is true whether you have just started climbing in a gym or you have led routes up sheer granite walls. It is the same no matter the skill level.

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