How Long Do Climbing Karabiners Last?

May 15, 2023

One of the most widely used pieces of kit for any arborist is the humble karabiner, otherwise known simply as a ‘biner.’ The best products are often the simplest, and the karabiner is a great example of that. These straightforward devices can be used to effortlessly connect different pieces of equipment together, or to connect ropes or hardware to the user’s harness.

Climbing karabiners are manufactured from aluminium alloy, a lightweight, strong material that also happens to be corrosion resistant. But just how long are they expected to last – and how do you know when it’s time to replace them? Read on to find out.

How long should they last?

Like most pieces of tree climbing equipment, the lifespan of a karabiner really comes down to the frequency and nature of its use. Unlike many plastic or textile products that degrade from exposure to UV, a karabiner isn’t usually given a maximum lifespan by the manufacturer, so the lifespan will be governed by the wear and tear or any shock loading. If it’s been used daily in intense conditions, its lifespan will naturally be reduced.

With that being said, a quality karabiner will often last for years, if well maintained. In fact, if you take good care of your karabiners, they may never fail: that’s the beauty of such a straightforward design.

How to identify a worn-out karabiner?

So, how can you tell when your karabiner’s days are numbered? Here are a few pointers…

  • The karabiner has sustained a shock loading; if this happens, you should retire it, as its strength may have been reduced (even though you may not see any visual damage).
  • The aluminium itself is bent, dented, heavily grooved or deformed in any way. At this point, its structural integrity is compromised, and it’s simply not worth the risk of it failing.
  • You notice cracks in the aluminium. Sometimes, be it due to extremes of temperature or continued heavy use, the material can develop hairline cracks. Over time, these are likely to spread.
  • It’s been exposed to harsh chemicals. Although aluminium doesn’t rust like steel and many other metals do, it can corrode if it’s exposed to harsh chemicals (or even salt water). If you can see signs of corrosion on the aluminium, we’d advise retiring the karabiner.
  • The gate or locking mechanism is defective. This is a crucial safety feature of any climbing karabiner, so if it’s not working properly, it’s time to purchase a replacement. You can try to clean and lubricate the mechanism first to see if that helps, but if it is unreliable, the mechanism itself is likely worn out.
  • The rivets are loosening. Although this isn’t common (other parts of the karabiner are likely to fail long before the rivets do), it’s still important to keep an eye on them. If they’re coming loose, the karabiner should be discarded.

Time to replace your trusty karabiner? We have a range of durable HMS and oval karabiners in stock here at Harkie, all of which have been designed and built specifically for arborists. Get yours online today.