How Long do Climbing Carabiners Last? (and when to retire them)

When I started Rock Climbing about 5 years ago I was given some carabiners… I was not sure if they were safe to use and worried about my safety. Now I know I thought I would write this article for you!

How long do climbing carabiners last? Forever. All Metal climbing gear, including carabiners, can be used as long as they remain in good condition.

Manufacturers say metal gear lasts forever… There are obviously some exceptions, which we shall cover now!

Ive been using the Petzl AttacheOpens in a new tab. for a good while… definetly a solid carabiner if you need a new one 🙂

Carabiners last a lifetime

Yeah you hear me right, carabiners, and all metal climbing equipment can be used forever if they remain in good condition.

Since its all metal there is nothing to go ‘off’ or deteriorate like there is with textile climbing equipment.

This means that crazy old carabiner you were given is probably safe to climb on!

However the equipment MUST be in good condition.

This is super important as you can probably tell but as soon as theres some damage to the carabiner , or other metal gear…

Its time to retire it.

get it…

Textile climbing equipment like slings and harnesses have a ‘Shelf life’ of 10 years.

What this means is the manufacturer recommend destroying textile climbing equipment 10 years after the production of that piece of equipment.

Even if it remained in its packaging!

Its because the stitches and thread and whatever is slowly degrading under the pressure of that peice of textile exsisting.

Theres plenty of great resourses for checking your textile equipment like harnesses online, heres a handy YouTube videoOpens in a new tab. if you need… its from the BMC so its legit 🙂

That’s where Metal climbing gear differs, because there is no breaking down of a carabiner!

So as long as you dont damage it or wear through it you can use it a lifetime!

A Carabiner that looks old is no problem at all.

You just really need to make sure its not been damaged at all.

The rest of this article is deadicated to checking for carabiner damage so you can make an informed decision about when to use it or retire it!

Checking for Carabiner damage

Damage on your metal climbing gear can be anything from corrosion and small dinks in the metal to having sections simply worn out from years of use.

You might notice on old metal carabiners or anchors theres a groove where the rope naturally sits.

This is from the rope slowly wearing through the carabiner.

Once the groove reaches around 10% of the entire spine its time to retire it.

This is just a rough metric, just retire it when the groove becomes significant.

Like this:

This carabiner is in a terrible state, it should have stopped being used waaaaaaay before it got this bad.

But you can clearly see how this is a damaged carabiner and needs to be retired.

Checking for Carabiner Damage

You should inspect all your climbing gear periodically.

A few more things to look for when inspecting your carabiners:

  • Corrosion
  • Damage to the gate
  • ‘Nicks’ and ‘burs’
  • Big impacts

Corrosion of Carabiners

I Climb a lot on portland, this lovely little island surrounded by sea.

The salt will corrode your metal gear (and destroy all your textile gear too) so you need to wash your climbing grar if you have been near the sea.

But if you have been given a carabiner for example, it will be quite clear if its corroded.

Heres an example:

If your carabiner looks anything like this, or just some slight corrosion…

Retire it!

The Theme of this whole post is pretty much: Retire the gear if it has pretty much any wear.

But lets carry on and ill show you some more specifics to check for!

Carabiner Gate Damage

This is probably the most common and immediately serious of all the damage were looking at.

A Damaged gate does not necesserily have to be this bad:

Thats obviously a carabiner we would’nt use.

But it the gate of the carabiner is ‘sticky’ or it doesnt close properly somehow…

Retire it!

You know how much weaker carabiners get with the gates open.

The risk is you could fall and the carabiner never finished closing…

If you were leading and clipped a quickdraw just before a huge fall for example:

If the carabiner broke because the gate was open, you might hit the floor!

Nicks and burs

Another time you need to replace carabiners is when they get ‘chips’ in them.

Like this for example:

Firstly big chunks of the carabiner missing like this can jeoparadize the structural ingtegrity of the carabiner.

And theres honesty no point in risking it!

Your most damaged carabiner is going to likely be your belay carabiner, and its someone elses life your responsible for.

Secondly, if the chunks are near the ends where rope passes through, the sharp edges can cut through the rope!

Or even just destroy your rope faster than usual.

Itether way… Retire it! Theres no point risking or ruining anything for a tenner!

Big Impacts

High force impacts on a carabiner like dropping it off a climb can seriously weaken the carabiner…

But you might not be able to tell.

The carabiner mostly absorbs the force but the stress can produce ‘micro-fractures’ all through the carabiner.

This is definetly a reason to retire a carabiner or any bit of metal gear!

Do not rely on being able to see the cracks, they might not be visible but definetly there.

Because you can’t tell how the carabiner was comprimised, there is no point risking it.

Retire that biner!

Conclusion

So I hope your more informed about carabiners now!

Theres some brilliant videos that walk you through checking gear if thats what you need.

Lets summarise:

Carabiners last a lifetime as long as there not damaged.

corrosion, high impacts, nicks and burs and excess wear are all reasons to retire a carabiner.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it brought you some value!

See you in the next one 🙂

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