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Old harness..


Original Post
J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15

So I've had a BD harness (primrose) for a while, started climbing with it from the start of this year. I emailed BD to figure out when exactly the harness was manufactured, the guy put it at around 2004 (D: I know). The visual appearance of the harness is perfectly fine, super minor fuzz around belay loop but no other wears at all. Its old school harness with traditional O-ring buckles on both waist and leg belts, which are fine with me.

The question is, if a harness is old but not visually worn, does it still need to be retired? I mean, I honestly doubt that the tie in points or belay loop would just snap one day just because it has aged? (unless there was exposure to chemicals). If I hadn't known the manufacture date, I'd undoubtedly trust it with my life, but just cause I've read in a few places that harness manufacture date matters, Im curious.

I know some of you'll say 'just go get a new harness, theyre pretty cheap!'. I do have a brand new harness that came with other gear as a climbing set (2016 model primrose) but its weirdly so much more uncomfortable around the legs. I think its because of the leg loops being thicker, the leg loops on the old harness are thinner where the legs rub on each other but reinforced so well that it doesnt seem to have a single fuzz even after all these years.

Summary: Is there a possibility that perfectly visually intact tie in points/belay loop could just snap due to time-related degrading of nylon?

If theres an actual risk of that occurring I'll retire it from climbing and use it for other purposes

J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
Belay loop on old harness

The inner side of leg loops reinforced with adjusting straps... Solid

Seems that they dont make them like they used to anymore...
Even with ugly outdated plastic gear loops, this harness is awesome

Leg loops on new harness.. pretty damn bulky
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348
J Nieve K wrote:Summary: Is there a possibility that perfectly visually intact tie in points/belay loop could just snap due to time-related degrading of nylon?
No. A harness will never outright fail just because it's too old. It would require chemical contamination, physical damage or extreme wear for that to occur. If the harness was kept out of the sun and away from chemicals, I would be comfortable using it.
eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

The extent to which nylon deteriorates over time seems to be inconclusive as there are studies with conflicting conclusions. So maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. That being said, if it passes a visual inspection and feels fine then the only way it's gonna break is if it has been damaged by chemicals. My harness that I bought used on here is almost certainly older than yours and it is probably also more worn. I've whipped on it and I'm still here.

These days, harnesses are so over engineered that they would probably still be good enough after UV degradation and wear n tear. BD's belay loops still held an acceptable load after being cut halfway through. "50% cut through—one side —3480 lbf" That's 15.46kn and the harness is rated to 15kn.

blackdiamondequipment.com/e…

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Harnesses tend to be a mixture of nylon (for the belay loop) and polyester (which has better UV resistance) for the main webbing anyway. Even BD dogbones are polyester.

Dharma Bum · · Glen Haven, Co · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 585

I remember reading a study years back where BD collected old harnesses and tested them. A30 year old harness in good condition still passed.

Chris Fedorczak · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

Not trying to be a jerk or anything, but if I have ANY doubts about softgoods like a harness, I retire it.

$50 isn't worth second guessing your safety IMHO.

mcarizona · · Flag · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 180

Seat belts are nylon, don't have to retire them. AND - like you said, they don't make them like they used to. I always back up my rappel (scared of heights), if you want to get used to that, you wont have a doubt in your mind. -Steve

Chris Fedorczak · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

Hi Steve, totally agree - everyone has a different line on acceptable risk and when to retire stuff. Not saying I'm right. Just one random Internet opinion :)

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,075
Chris Fedorczak wrote:Not trying to be a jerk or anything, but if I have ANY doubts about softgoods like a harness, I retire it. $50 isn't worth second guessing your safety IMHO.
The concern isn't cost. OP already states they have a new one. It is comfort and ease of use. I totally agree with you that 50 bucks shouldn't be worth second guessing safety, but I do think that comfort is its own safety factor. If you are constantly fussing with your leg loops because they rub the wrong way or won't sit right, you aren't really focusing on what you should be, or having much fun for that matter.

It's a balancing of interests. FWIW, passes visual inspection to me.
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348
mcarizona wrote:Seat belts are nylon, don't have to retire them. AND - like you said, they don't make them like they used to. I always back up my rappel (scared of heights), if you want to get used to that, you wont have a doubt in your mind. -Steve
Seatbelts are typically made out of polyester, not nylon. But yes, they last a long time.
Chris Fedorczak · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0
Alicia Sokolowski wrote: The concern isn't cost. OP already states they have a new one. It is comfort and ease of use. I totally agree with you that 50 bucks shouldn't be worth second guessing safety, but I do think that comfort is its own safety factor. If you are constantly fussing with your leg loops because they rub the wrong way or won't sit right, you aren't really focusing on what you should be, or having much fun for that matter. It's a balancing of interests. FWIW, passes visual inspection to me.
Hi Alicia,
I hear you, but lots of things in climbing are somewhat uncomfortable (tight shoes, sharp rock, brisk weather, etc.) that don't impact my safety like my rope, harness or anchor.

Yes, I agree, slight discomfort may be somewhat distracting, but personally (and this is just me), I find anything that makes me second guess my safety far more distracting.

Once again, just one poor schlubs opinion :)
J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15

Thanks for the replies everyone! Awesome to hear its not in danger of snapping just from old age :D

eli poss wrote:The extent to which nylon deteriorates over time seems to be inconclusive as there are studies with conflicting conclusions. So maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. That being said, if it passes a visual inspection and feels fine then the only way it's gonna break is if it has been damaged by chemicals. My harness that I bought used on here is almost certainly older than yours and it is probably also more worn. I've whipped on it and I'm still here. These days, harnesses are so over engineered that they would probably still be good enough after UV degradation and wear n tear. BD's belay loops still held an acceptable load after being cut halfway through. "50% cut through—one side —3480 lbf" That's 15.46kn and the harness is rated to 15kn. blackdiamondequipment.com/e…
Fair point, and thanks for the link. Now Im curious to know how old your harness is?
While looking through the pics in the link of the belay loops, I began to wonder what kind of badass machine they use to sew the tacks on those ridiculously burly pieces of fabric..

Chris Fedorczak wrote:Not trying to be a jerk or anything, but if I have ANY doubts about softgoods like a harness, I retire it.
Nah all good, I dont think this is a 'jerk' comment at all, I agree. I'd hate to be feeling like I was consciously risking my safety all the time I was on the rock.
The only reason I started this thread was because I've read in numerous sources that 'harness materials degrade over time even when unused, and should be retired at 4~5 years of age'. I was skeptical about the age factor being a sole reason for harness retirement, which passes the visual inspection with flying colors :) I have no doubts about the safety of this harness, as long as the possibility of belay/tie in points simply failing out of nowhere due to age is zero, which seems to be the case
J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
mcarizona wrote:Seat belts are nylon, don't have to retire them. AND - like you said, they don't make them like they used to. I always back up my rappel (scared of heights), if you want to get used to that, you wont have a doubt in your mind. -Steve
Good point about the seatbelts- and they're exposed to UV and extreme temperatures pretty much everyday too!

The entire consumerism world nowadays seem to be suffering from companies ensuring that their products have a pre-determined lifespan, to ensure continual purchase. Since climbing gear need to be extremely safety oriented, the above probably isnt able to be applied to climbing equipments; however, I do wonder if they purposefully make some of their products to wear out faster on the more cosmetic parts (like the inner side of the leg loops on my new harness, which seem like it would wear at the speed of light compared to the same spot on the old harness) to ensure higher turnover of gear on the consumers' part... In which case, the modern world kind of sucks :( The greed of corporations hugely contributing to the amount of waste generated by the first world countries every day..
Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
mcarizona wrote:Seat belts are nylon, don't have to retire them. AND - like you said, they don't make them like they used to. I always back up my rappel (scared of heights), if you want to get used to that, you wont have a doubt in your mind. -Steve
Passenger car belts are mostly polyester though some can be nylon hybrid, they have to be specially treated and pass a 100hour arc UV test. Race car belts are more often nylon and have to be replaced every two years.
Black Diamond harnesses are polyester anyway as are their quickdraws.
J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
Alicia Sokolowski wrote: The concern isn't cost. OP already states they have a new one. It is comfort and ease of use. I totally agree with you that 50 bucks shouldn't be worth second guessing safety, but I do think that comfort is its own safety factor. If you are constantly fussing with your leg loops because they rub the wrong way or won't sit right, you aren't really focusing on what you should be, or having much fun for that matter. It's a balancing of interests. FWIW, passes visual inspection to me.
Maybe the factor of comfort matters a little more to females? I swear if I had my thighs rubbing uncomfortably in the new harness the whole time I was climbing/belaying I'd just get super grumpy hahah
I love black diamond stuff (bit biased cause I've been doing snow sports for a while..) but these leg loops are annoying! I thought gear like these were given new designs over time to improve things like comfort but the damn 13 yr old one of the same model is so much more comfortable...
John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

I'd say your harness is fine.

That said- life safety is one of those things where I fall into the camp of "if i start thinking about it while i'm climbing, then i replace it." For me, it doesnt have to be rational- I remember years ago being on a pitch and looking down and wondering if the two Alien cams below my feet would hold a fall- and that was the last time i ever used them, even though they had held dozens of falls at that point.

My advice would be- if you tie in and you're not concerned about the safety (and you really shouldnt be- the harness is fine), you're good to go. If you find yourself wondering whether its good, rational or not, you should probably go buy a new harness (one that fits and is comfortable, as obviously your 2016 model is not). Peace of mind, imho, is well worth a few bucks- climbing is heady enough as it is imho.

J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
Jim Titt wrote: Passenger car belts are mostly polyester though some can be nylon hybrid, they have to be specially treated and pass a 100hour arc UV test. Race car belts are more often nylon and have to be replaced every two years. Black Diamond harnesses are polyester anyway as are their quickdraws.
Hmm interesting info, thanks!
Yeah I think Ill have to look up harness materials at this point, starting to get curious whether theres a big difference between companies regards to this
eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
J Nieve K wrote:Thanks for the replies everyone! Awesome to hear its not in danger of snapping just from old age :D Fair point, and thanks for the link. Now Im curious to know how old your harness is?
To be honest, I have no clue. I bought it used a couple of years ago and it's too worn to be able to make out any text so I can really find the manufacture date. It is a very similar design to yours so my guess would be it's close to the same age as yours, just more degraded from abrasion and UV. But it still catches whips!

I've tried on new harnesses from friends and while the "comfort technology" is advertised to be better than old harnesses, I've never found any of the new harnesses to be more comfy than my old one. That's one of the biggest reasons (along with $$$) I haven't gotten a new harness yet.
Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55
J Nieve K wrote:...I do have a brand new harness that came with other gear as a climbing set (2016 model primrose) but its weirdly so much more uncomfortable around the legs. I think its because of the leg loops being thicker, the leg loops on the old harness are thinner where the legs rub on each other...
This may be a dumb question, but have you tried adjusting all the leg loop sliders? On my BD harness, you can adjust the length of the elastics in back, and the diameter of the leg loops, so two adjustments per leg. My harness was uncomfortable, then I fiddled around with those for a while and found a setting that made it much better. Maybe with some work you can get your new harness to feel as nice as the old one.
Andy Nelson · · Fort Collins, Colorado · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 343

Oh man I've waited a while for my chance to say it but with an old harness:

YER GUNNA DIE!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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