Lifetime Canyoning and Caving Equipment!
Modern outdoor sports equipment is safe and reliable. At a certain point, however, you as a user will be faced with the question whether a certain piece of equipment is still safe to continue to use. It is not easy to give a simple answer. Wear and aging largely depend on how and how often you use material. Only one thing is certain, everything wears out and nothing lasts forever. CanyonZone indicates here are indicators that you as an outdoor athlete should pay attention to carabiners, belay devices, etc and belts, ropes, strap loops, etc.
Standards for outdoor sports articles
Outdoor sports equipment intended to protect your life (ropes, helmets, kits, etc.) may only be sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) if it complies with European regulations for personal protective equipment (abbreviated PPE, PSA in German) is sufficient.
There are three categories of PPE.
Category 1 is for products that protect our body, but not against life-threatening things e.g. sunglasses, disposable gloves and rain suits
Category 2 products are cut resistant safety gloves, safety glasses and safety helmets.
Category 3, the strictest category in terms of safety, intended to protect against falls. This includes climbing and mountaineering equipment.
Standards of category 3 PPE prescribe, among other things, what a product must meet in terms of strength and safety in use. For example, by describing that the manufacturer provides instructions for use with the product, which points out the correct use and which contains an indication of the maximum lifespan. Also, each product must have a label with code/identification so that the product is traceable and the user can see how old it is.
There are also UIAA standards. These basically date from the time before the EN standards. UIAA standards are not mandatory and are sometimes slightly stricter than EN standards.
The CE mark on a product is a declaration of conformity (Conformité Européenne), which indicates that the manufacturer complies with the European Standards (EN) that apply to the specific piece of equipment. The manufacturer of PPE that falls under category 3 must have this declaration of conformity carried out by an independent inspection institute.
However, if you want to assess whether a specific piece of equipment is still safe at a time X after purchase, it is not enough to check the label. The maximum service life specified by the manufacturer logically says nothing about wear and tear due to use. It is only a statement that the material properties at least meet the requirements of the standard for a certain period of time. During that time, the manufacturer shall be liable for any failure of the attachment resulting from normatively proper use. The manufacturer must also initiate recall actions within the minimum service life prescribed by the standard if there is reason to do so.
The rate at which wear occurs depends on so many factors that it cannot be predicted by the manufacturer. One user will only use his or her material a few times a year, while the other may use it daily under harsh conditions. When the minimum safety margin due to use and wear has been exceeded, it will have to be determined by the user. In exceptional cases, this can already be the case after a single use!
Personal vs Professional
The outdoor athlete must assess for himself how long the material can last. The maximum service life specified by the manufacturer is an important guideline. Periodically check critical wear points (often specified by the manufacturer). Using common sense, you can then assess whether a specific piece of equipment can still be used or not.
However, anyone who manages and lends/rents climbing and mountaineering equipment on a commercial basis as a company or in an association, logically has a greater duty of care. You must then strictly adhere to the maximum lifespan specified by the manufacturer. As a (semi) professional engaged in material management in outdoor sports, you should be aware of the requirements of a PPE check and should be able to perform it or know where this check can be performed. Inextricably linked to this are visual and haptic checks of wear-sensitive parts in the lending process, as well as checks according to a predetermined time schedule. Which points must be checked and when during such checks depends on the specific product. Many manufacturers have drawn up guidelines for this and/or offer training courses.
What do you do with your own material if it has been in the closet for a long time and has not been used? The advice to blindly rely on the lifespan as stated by the manufacturer is too simple. Unused material lasts quite a long time, after all, it is the use that leads to wear. It is therefore better to have nuanced advice to think carefully about whether your material can still be used or not. That is better in terms of durability and better for your wallet. You may keep a larger margin for personal use than for (semi-)commercial use. Don't overdo it, because your own safety and that of your fellow travelers depends on the quality of your material.
Lifespan Outdoor Sports Dry and Wet Suits
The wear and tear of a Canyoning Wetsuit / Wetsuit, Canyoning Drysuit / Undersuit, Speleology Suits / Overall, Speleology Undersuits often consists of the thinning of the fabrics and
- Ripped sleeves/legs
- Hole/tear in a wetsuit
- Broken zipper
- Velcro no longer works
causing the functions to be lost.
This does not mean that immediate replacement is necessary. You may be able to carry out minor repairs yourself
For the repair options see: Repair, adjustment and tailoring of material
Lifespan Carabiners and Belay Devices
In the past, metal hardware was not marked with a maximum lifespan. Nowadays, this is increasingly the case, especially when it comes to plastic parts or parts prone to wear such as springs or rotating parts.
- Generally applies:
Store your metal outdoor sports equipment in a dry and clean place. After use at / in the sea, it is wise to rinse your materials with clean water and then dry them; this will rinse the salt from the metal and prevent excessive corrosion. Dirty carabiners can be cleaned with clean water and a brush.
Rust and encrusted mud can be removed from a screw thread by screwing open and closed several times under water. Clicking underwater is a good method of getting mud out of the spring mechanism.
- Carabiners generally have a long life. Except when a (dirty) rope runs through it under tension, for example in a circulation point or when abseiling. In that case, the dirt in the rope can 'eat' a groove in the carabiner in no time. However, a carabiner worn in such a way is still surprisingly strong. You only need to replace a carabiner when the radius of the rope turning point has become smaller than the radius of a new carabiner.
- With carabiners, the spring of the snapper can break after prolonged use. As soon as a carabiner no longer closes properly, you have to dispose of it. When a carabiner does not close properly, the breaking strength is only 25 to 40% of the normal value.
- Slightly rusted steel carabiners can improve enormously from a bath of petroleum. Carefully rinse off the petroleum. When drying, do not hang steel and aluminum carabiners together to avoid unnecessary corrosion.
- Non-slip snappers can be lubricated with a little liquid wax or graphite. Oil attracts dirt and can potentially damage the rope running through the carabiner.
- Write off carabiners as:
- If carabiners do not open and close properly after cleaning or are bent, they must be written off.
- Do not use fallen or damaged carabiners again. Never use depreciated carabiners as a material suspension point. When mixed up, this can lead to life-threatening situations.
- The strap loops of sets generally wear out faster than the carabiners. Change the strap loop after a maximum of 10 years and earlier with intensive use, and in any case if they have become fluffy or discolored.
- Belay devices
- Belay devices hardly wear out with normal use. An exception is when belaying or abseiling is done with a very dirty rope. This can cause wear on the rope loop points. In the case of tubers, the sides of the slots through which the rope passes can become very thin and sharp. Then replace the device with a new one.
Lifetime Cams and Nuts / Stoppers
Cams and nuts wear out slowly but steadily with normal use. A fall into an incorrectly or unhappily placed cam or nut can damage or destroy it. Replace nuts or cams if one of the wire rope filaments is broken. Stop using cams if the moving parts can no longer do their job properly. Cam slings should be replaced when they become fluffy. The trigger wires of cams break quite easily. However, they do not have a load-bearing function and luckily you can easily repair trigger wires yourself.
Kinked or damaged steel wires are a sign to write off nuts
Lifespan Pickels, Crampons and Ice Screws
- Pickels have a long life with normal use. Ice axes have a harder time, especially the thorns when dry-tooled. Do not use a drytool thorn for ice climbing. The mandrel can suddenly break unexpectedly due to the high load during dry tooling. Dangerous when ice climbing! If the thorn of a pickel or ice ax has become blunt, you can sharpen it. Do this by hand so that the material does not become too hot and the material properties are not affected. A little grease on the iron after the winter season prevents rust. Incidentally, a little superficial rust after a year in the closet can do no harm.
- Crampons have a hard time with the many movements during walking and climbing. Points or the frame can break and bend the brackets that connect to the shoe. Therefore, check after every trip whether there are cracks in the material and whether the crampons still fit well on your shoes. Crampons should always be stored clean and dry after use. Holes in a crampon bag are not sufficient guarantee that the crampons will dry properly. Blunt points can be filed (by hand) until they are sharp again. Never use an electrically powered sharpening stone to avoid burning the steel. Retains the original point shape when filing. As soon as there are cracks in the frame or the tips, you have to replace the crampons.
How to sharpen crampon tips or thorns on ice axes and what responsible wear is before you have to replace the material, you can read in the manufacturer's instructions for use.
- Ice srews that have become dull can be sharpened on specialized machines or with a special hand sharpener.
Helmets don't last forever. Certainly not modern lightweight helmets. The plastic of helmets is sensitive to aging due to solar radiation and heat. Do not store helmets in full sun, or leave them behind a car window in full sun. Modern ultra-lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS/Styrofoam) helmets are also vulnerable to mechanical damage during use and transport. Even with relatively little lateral pressure, the material of the helmet can break. Check your helmet regularly for damage.
A break in the EPS is a reason for replacement, just like damage to the attachment of the carrier system. Small dents in the material can do no harm. Manufacturers are now making helmets from expanded polypropylene (EPP). This material is elastic and less sensitive to small dents and scratches.
Always replace your helmet after absorbing a major blow or fall. Helmets that show strong discoloration or strange sticking with a different structure or bumps due to overheating should be replaced.
Note: Do not put stickers on a helmet to avoid damage by the glue.
Lifespan Belts, ropes and belt material
The lifespan of ropes and other products made of belt material depends on the intensity of use, the aging of the plastic and the influence of solar radiation/temperature on it. There is a big difference in vulnerability between 'round' material such as kernmantel ropes and 'flat' material such as belt material (including slings, sets, belts). The sheath protects the core against aging influences (sunlight, dirt, sharp objects). With belt material, almost the entire material is exposed to harmful influences (light, heat, abrasion). Belt loops are therefore considerably more susceptible to wear than ropes.
Fortunately, new belts and ropes are dimensioned in such a way that it takes a very long time before the aging of the material becomes critical. A service life of 10 years is therefore no problem for a belt and rope that is rarely used. In normal use, it is sufficient to observe the critical wear points of belts specified by the manufacturer. With belts, pay particular attention to the point where the belay loop is attached to the leg loops. This point is the first to wear out due to the twisting and abrasive movements of the loops against each other. With ropes, keep an eye on the general condition of the rope. If it is thick and fluffy, the rope runs less smoothly through your belay device and the stretch is also gone for a large part. This stretch is important because it ensures a soft fall and low load on intermediate fuses. Sports climbing ropes wear out fastest at the ends. Do not always climb with the same end, but turn your rope regularly. If you start with an 80m long rope, you can cut a piece of the rope when worn and use the resulting rope for a long time in increasingly shorter routes. Always tie a knot in the end to avoid mistakes due to confusion about the length!
Although made of an extremely strong fiber, ultra-lightweight Dyneema strap loops wear out relatively quickly. Dyneema belt loops are therefore not dangerous, but their range of use is limited and you have to check them regularly and replace them if necessary. If a strap loop is very fluffy, it should be replaced.
When to replace seat belts?
- If the protection around the binding point is worn.
- If stitching is damaged.
- In case of strong discolouration/fading.
- If band loops are very fluffy.
When to replace ropes?
- With ropes, you have to pay attention to sheath damage (core visible) and kink points where the tension has been removed from the rope.
- If the rope is so fluffy that it no longer passes properly through the belay device.
When to replace strap loops?
- If band loops are very fluffy.
- When they have a damage on the side.
- In melt burns.
- In case of strong discolouration/fading.
- If stitching is damaged.
- At Dyneema after a maximum of 3 to 5 years.
Contact with battery acid/sulphuric acid (and comparable acids) is life-threatening for all rope and belt material - also contact with the vapors of these acids! The acid-affected polyamide becomes brittle and can be broken by hand. Such damage is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Therefore, always store your climbing gear in a bag and separately from battery tools and batteries. Be careful with transport in cars and storage in garages.
How long does fall protection equipment last?
Fall protection equipment lasts for a maximum of 10 years from the date of manufacture. Intensive use or delicate environmental factors can shorten that lifespan. If you experience a fall with your fall protection, it is mandatory to replace all parts that have cushioned the fall, even if they do not appear to have suffered damage at first glance. You can extend the life of the material by properly maintaining it and cleaning it regularly with cold, clear water and a mild detergent. Simply scrub with a brush and let it dry in a sufficiently ventilated room or in the open air. Never use a heat source to make your equipment dry faster.
Lifespan of outdoor equipment means regular checking
Check your own equipment regularly and do not hesitate to replace a piece of equipment in a timely manner. It is important for both you and your fellow athlete that you can rely on each other's equipment.
What Canyonzone can mean see: Services / Inspection of canyoning caving equipment
If, after consulting the (manufacturer) manual, you are in doubt about the readiness for use of your equipment, do not hesitate to contact CanyonZone.
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