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Buying used climbing gear? Here's what you need to know.

Buying used climbing gear from expatriates leaving Kenya is the most common and cost effective way through which local climbers acquire rock climbing gear in Kenya. Many new climbers are however unaware of the risks involved in purchasing used gear.

One should not buy used climbing gear whose history they do not know and given that it is almost impossible to find a climber with detailed records of the use of their gear, one may have to trust the climber’s word on the use of the gear.

It is therefore imperative that climbers understand the risks involved when they seek to purchase used climbing gear and know how to thoroughly inspect the gear before making a decision.

Here are some tips to guide you when purchasing used climbing gear.

1. Rope and slings:

As climbing rope is a non-redundant component in the climber’s system, it is recommended that rope should be purchased new. Should you consider purchasing used rope, knowing the history of the rope such as how it was stored, the number of falls, the extent of UV damage, the lifespan of the rope, fraying in the rope etc. is critical.

2. Helmet:

Helmets are a crucial piece of climbing equipment that is supposed to perform optimally. Helmets that have taken a fall should be retired and not resold to be used for climbing, as falls interfere with the integrity of the helmet, thus compromising your safety on the rock.

3. Harness:

Harnesses are another key component in the climbing system as they essentially hold the climber life. It is highly recommended that one purchases a harness new, as with old harnesses visual inspection may not be sufficient.

4. Shoes:

Slightly used climbing shoes can be a great find. Be sure to check the wear of the rubber in the frequently used areas that is, the big toe area to assess the life of the shoe.

5. ATCs, Carabiners and other belay devices:

Metallic components of climbing gear have a much longer lifespan than the soft climbing gear. They are also much easier to visually inspect for any wear or cracks in them. It is for the same reason that the difference in price between purchasing a used set of quickdraws vs a new set of quickdraws is close to negligible, depending on how long they’ve been used.

Similarly, carabiners could be bought second hand, though with caution. It is important to inspect the moving parts of the carabiners are moving smoothly as you look out for wear from belaying and thin cracks.

6. Trad protection:

Traditional protection can be a real hit and miss. Falling on traditional pros could cause considerable damage to the gear, some of which can be easy to miss. If you are considering purchasing pros used, it is imperative that you find out more about the use of the gear, falls taken, how it was stored and take it another step further to visually inspect the gear for wear in the form of frayed wires, poor gear performance and any other flaws in the equipment.


Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity, and the decision to buy used climbing gear falls squarely on you. Exercise your best judgment before making a purchase. You can choose to err on the side of caution and spend a little extra to get new equipment. If you however decide to buy used climbing gear, don't rush; ask lots of questions and physically inspect the gear. Your life depends on it.

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