Will Sweat Harm My Harness?

We all know that UV harms nylon, but if I sweat in my harness and I weakening it?

By Rock and Ice | January 15th, 2013

Since we are all such avid readers of your column we know that even unused nylon deteriorates over time so we should replace slings, ropes, cords, etc. regularly even if they appear OK. But what about my harness? How often should I replace it even if inspection doesn’t yield any frays or wear spots? Also, will sweat cause a harness to wear out quicker?—Jhgbudd via ri.com

Did I write that about nylon? If so, the gear companies must love me (hey, where is my bag of cash?!) If not, I should say something to that effect even if the data on properly stored, unused nylon climbing gear is as skimpy as the coffee-shop girl’s tube top. But the fact is, we don’t precisely know nylon’s shelf life. Rather, we go off our feelings, retiring nylon when it seems like it is time, a tactic that so far seems to have kept everyone reasonably safe, although one of the all-time greats, Todd Skinner, did die when his worn-out harness broke.

But unless you’ve gotten trapped in a drop of amber, replacing dated gear that is still in seemingly good condition is a moot point since anyone who calls himself a climber actually uses his junk and wears it out long before it gets old  and dangerous and needs its license taken away. Knowing when to toss a harness is simple. Retire a harness when either the abrasion patch on the strap connecting the leg loops, or the belay/rappel loop is frayed. You should also replace a harness that has been exposed to battery acid (car trunks, garage floors!) or solvents, which means unless you’ve been drinking Drano, your sweaty crotch juice shouldn’t harm your harness. Gear Guy has spoken! 

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