How to mark your gear

It’s the end of a long gritstone session and you’ve climbed so much its getting dark.  You’re desperate for a pint to celebrate a brilliant day but first you need to sort out the gear you’ve mixed up with your climbing partners.  Is that your rock 6 or hers?  You’ve both got one of those lovely 10mm super dupey slings but whose is whose?  Before you know it you’ve missed last orders and the day didn’t have the perfect ending you’d planned.  Lesson learnt – MARK YOUR GEAR!

We are frequently asked for tips on how to mark climbing hardware so here’s a few ideas you might find useful.

The first thing you need to think about is safety.  Climbing equipment is built to exacting standards but it is very important that you don’t mark it is any way that could cause damage.  Manufacturers are understandably reluctant to say whether particular chemicals will weaken fibres in tape or rope products because there is no way they could test everything on the market.  So the only totally reliable option is to not let anything with solvents or adhesives in contact with those hi-tech fibres.  Fortunately, metal is more reliable so you can use a slightly wider selection of products on your shiny items.

The age old method is electrician’s insulation tape.  Simply choose a different colour to your climbing partners and you’re sorted.  Trouble is, with single colour tape there are only a limited number of options, so using 2 colours is a safer way to stand out from the crowd.  Tape does wear off but keep a supply handy and you can redo it easily.  Tape does have its drawbacks such as the story of a piece that slid down a carabiner’s spine and dangerously wedged open the gate.  Also remember that all adhesive tapes are not created equally and it’s worth spending slightly more for better quality.

On slings the adhesive doesn’t stick quite so permanently and it can get messy if it slides around.  There is also the unknown risk that the adhesive might affect the fibres.  One trick to avoid this is to use a small blob of nail varnish to carefully mark the label that swings free from the tape.  This is only possible because this is not load bearing and you must take special care to ensure no varnish gets on the sling fibres by masking it off carefully.  Varnish is quite hard wearing and because it’s available in loads of colours you can accessorize with the tape on your crabs – or your lycra bodysuit!  Don’t cover the manufacturer’s information on the label as you may need to refer to this at some time in the future.

An alternative innovative method is to buy some of the little tags available from Tough Tags (full details at http://www.toughtags.co.uk) .  The tags can be personalised with your details such as a phone number or email address.  That means if you leave something behind another kind hearted climber will hopefully contact you to organise its return.  Of course, it also means that in the event of an accident every bit of equipment has your contact details on!  Tough Tags also offer the option to have individual numbers on each tag which is useful for anyone that needs to be able to track individual items of gear.  The tags are very durable and in use we have found they last a reasonable length of time before you need to replace them.  Toughtags cost £12.95 for the first 2 sheets then £4.00 for additional sheets (postage is £1.10). With 44 tags per sheet they are well worth considering - that's certainly cheaper than replacing lost gear!

On our wires we add an extra marker with coloured insulation tape.  This is to help us sort our gear rather than identify it so we still mark it with our usual colour too.  We use different colours of tape to mark our small size and larger wires and mark the racking crab in each corresponding colour.  This makes it super quick to re-sort our gear at each belay and is particularly useful on multi-pitch climbs.