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Gear Guy

Is Old, Unsexy Hardware Still OK to Use?

I grew up climbing in the 1980s, but got sidetracked and quit. Now I am re-entering the sport. I have replaced all of my old ropes, slings and my harness, but I still use my original carabiners, nuts and rigid Friends.

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I grew up climbing in the 1980s, but got sidetracked and quit. Now I am re-entering the sport. I have replaced all of my old ropes, slings and my harness, but I still use my original carabiners, nuts and rigid Friends. My unsexy hardware has been well cared for, but is it safe to use?

—Randy Garrett, Charlottesville, Virginia

Metal climbing gear won’t be weakened by age. It will, however, be weakened by wear and corrosion, but since you noted that your hardware hasn’t been used
in the interim and is in good shape, it is most likely safe. Or as safe as old gear can be. Some equipment from the 1980s won’t be CE certified, and
manufacturing back then sometimes consisted of a dude in a garage sawing junk from sheets of aluminum. Or worse. I have a box of “mystery meat” gear
from that era that was scary when it was new. Whether your relics are safe to use depends on what they are. Those rigid-stemmed Friends are fine, if
heavy, difficult to trigger and limited in utility (see review of the new Helimu Friends in this issue). But no less safe today than they were in 1980.

My advice is to replace everything, not because it is unsafe, but because modern gear is lighter and usually easier to operate. It’ll help you overcome
the weakness that results from the accumulation of years. Not your gear’s weakness. Yours. Next!

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 224 (February 2015).