By Anna Woodall
For any sport, trad or alpine climber, your harness is an essential bit of kit. Often overlooked, it’s important to evaluate any wear and tear on a regular basis. With this in mind, why not dig out your harness and follow this easy-to-follow guide to care, storage and cleaning.
First off - have a good look at all the stitching that holds your harness together. Something that looks well worn isn’t necessarily unsafe, but excessive wear and signs of deterioration are a pretty good indicator that your harness is at/or coming to the end of its lifetime. Most modern harnesses will have 'wear indicators' (patches of red or orange built into key points like the belay loops and waist belt) to help you determine whether your harness should be retired.
Of course, all kinds of webbing and material based equipment (software) will degrade over time. If optimally stored and cared for, software should ideally only need to be replaced every 7 years. For those using their harness as part of their profession, it's recommended you replace the harness each year of use. That said, if your harnesses sustains any significant damage or abrasion (even inside the aforementioned timescales) it's time to say goodbye and purchase a new one.
Whilst your harness is unlikely to ever get supper dirty, it’s an idea to give it a sponge down ever now and again, removing surface grime and preventing dirt and grit working into the fabrics or webbing. If your harness does get embed with filth or contaminated some how - e.g. you spill sun tan lotion on it - a proper wash is recommended. This can be done in the sink or on a quick, low temperature (20-30ºC) machine wash, using pure soap (no detergents), such as Nikwax Tech Wash, Storm Wash or good old fashioned soap flakes.
Any metal parts can be cleaned with Isopropyl Alcohol, endeavouring to keep this away from the textile components of the harness.
Storage & Care
These days, most harnesses come with a storage bag and although it can be a bit of a task returning harness to storage bag, it's worth it as this will help protect your harness from dirt, UV degradation and/or rucksack packing fails - think liquid chalk explosion or an errant banana!
Temperature wise, you may not think that the amazing UK weather would subject your harness to any extremes - but those who keep their harnesses in the car may pause for thought, as a constant exposure to any sort of heat (or cold, when below 0°C) will, over time, degrade textiles. In fact, Wild Country have the following statement on their product page:
"Always keep products made wholly or partially from textile elements below 50°C/122°F as the performance of the nylon/ Dyneema from which they are made may be affected at temperatures above this. Tests down to -40°C/-104°F show no permanent change in the performance of this material although nylon/Dyneema may stiffen while at temperatures below 0°C/32°F".
Equally, keep your harness (all climbing software) out of direct sunlight whenever possible. Over exposure to UV radiation will massively reduce the working lifespan of your harness.
In short - the old adage ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ rings true when it comes to any sort of equipment maintenance, a quick look over after every session and sensible storage will extend the life of your equipment and allow you to identify any problems before they become a safety concern.