By Neil and the Barksole Canal Walk team
It’s pretty much universally true that, when it comes to adventure and adventurists, we sure do love our gear. As climbers, we are critically reliant on the bits of nylon, rubber and steel that keep us safe and smiling. We stretch and save to buy increasingly expensive and much-needed equipment to add to our quiver, but how do we deal with wear and tear, as well as the care and repair, of our beloved equipment?
In a world of single-use plastics and throw-away fast fashion, it’s easy to replace the old with the new. However, let’s consider that repairing rather than replacing can not only save a buck, but also play a small part in saving the planet.
Remember your granny’s adage, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’? Well, it couldn’t be truer when it comes to your gear. The first step in good gear care is awareness, and that starts with a good inspection.
That trusty harness of yours that’s bundled up at the bottom of your gear bag? Remember that it’s the key to your safety. When is the last time you inspected, I mean really inspected, the stitching around the stress points?
This can easily be done, and even repaired if wear starts to become apparent. A well-worn harness is not necessarily unsafe, but discoloration of the webbing may be pointing towards replacement. Look out for a wear-mark indicator stitched near your tie-in point on the belay loop to help you identify any dangerous wear (this is usually brightly coloured thread that will pop through when the webbing has become worn to a dangerous extent). Gear loops, buckles and fraying straps can easily be repaired or tidied up either by hand or by using a repair service. Harness manufacturers advise that harnesses should be replaced every one to three years when used often, and should definitely not be used for more than ten years.
If your harness is looking a bit dusty, sweaty or stained, you may want to do a simple warm-water bath with a mild detergent. Be sure not to expose it to any corrosive substances like oil, bleach, solvents or petrol. Always air dry, preferably out of direct sunlight. When not in use, keep your harness stored in a dry place, ideally in the supplied bag, away from sharp objects and direct sunlight. Following a big whipper or notable epic, be sure to give your harness a good inspection; pay particular attention to the tie-in points, leg straps and buckles.
One of our most precious items of gear, and unfortunately the one which gets worn out the fastest (for good reason) is the beloved climbing shoe. Believe it or not, climbing shoes are designed to wear out. Every time you climb, some rubber gets left behind on the rock or wall. When the rubber on a shoe has worn out, the rest of the shoe is still good to use; it’s just the rubber which may need to be replaced. The conscientious climber cares strategically for their shoes; this includes:
Good storage is an easy way to prolong the life of your shoes. Climbing shoes are designed to be tight, particularly aggressive shoes are shaped and stitched in such a way that walking around in them, or keeping them squished up, is bound to accelerate wear and tear. Thus, it’s important that you don’t leave your shoes in direct sunlight or a hot environment, such as the boot of your car. The heat may melt the rubber and/or glue, causing damage and altering the shoes’ structure.
Keep It Clean:
Be sure to let your shoes dry out properly after a climb. Cleaning your shoes will help them to smell fresh, remain free from bacteria and prolong their life. There are various opinions about how to clean shoes; whichever you pick, just be sure to keep your shoes dry.
Practice Good Footwork:
Dragging your foot up the wall is a sure-fire way to ruin a pair of shoes. Work on precision foot placement, minimising movement once your foot is in place, and thus reducing wear on your shoes.
Give Some TLC:
When your shoes start to show signs of wear with holes forming, it may be time for a resole. Climbing shoes, like most shoes, can be resoled. This involves the replacing of the whole or part of the bottom sole and possibly the rand. Climbers who use their toe a lot or drag their feet will notice the rand is first to go. A key thing to remember here is that, for best results, you should get your shoes repaired before the rand is exposed. Resoling and repairing your shoes is a great way to revitalise them and prolong their life.
Other parts of climbing shoes which commonly break down and are easily repairable are closures, buckles and velcro, which are easily fixed. by a shoe repairer.
Check out the Beta Buddies section to find a craftsman near you!
Some other reparations you may consider to keep your gear in tiptop shape are:
● Patching sleeping bag or down jacket holes
● Sealing the seam on a bag
● Replacing a zipper
● Repairing a zipper slider
● Fixing tears in your apparel
● Repairing tent mesh
● Repairing or replacing a boot/shoe sole
● Repairing a broken pack buckle
Repairing your gear offers you the opportunity to extend the life of equipment just that little bit longer, and that can make a big difference to your wallet. However, you have to remember that the responsibility lies with you to take good care of your gear by inspecting it regularly, and being proactive when reparations are needed. If you have any doubts, chat to the experts at your local gear store – safety first, always.
Check out Barksole Canal Walk for all your climbing shoe revival needs.