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Buying a Used Climbing Harness: A Budget-Friendly Guide (2023)

buying used climbing harness

Published on: 05/31/2023

Entering the world of rock climbing can be an exhilarating experience as you discover new challenges and push your physical and mental boundaries.

Except if you elect to exclusively practice bouldering, a reliable climbing harness is one crucial piece of equipment you’ll need on this journey. Unfortunately, the costs can quickly add up. Indeed, you’ll also need climbing shoes, a belaying device with a locking carabiner, and chalk. As a new climber or someone on a budget, you might consider buying a used harness to save some money. However, unlike second hand climbing shoes, a used harness is critical safety gear and requires much more inspection.

In this article, we’ll discuss the key factors to consider when purchasing a secondhand climbing harness to ensure your safety and comfort when climbing.

climber rappelling

Is Buying a Second-Hand Climbing Harness a Good Idea?

A climbing harness is a strong safety gear with a belt and leg loops

When considering whether to buy a used climbing harness, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Harness


  1. Cost-effective: Buying a used harness can save you money compared to purchasing a brand-new one.
  2. Environmentally friendly: By purchasing a used harness, you also contribute to reducing waste and promoting sustainable consumption.
  3. Availability: used harnesses are fairly easy to find in good condition, whether through online marketplaces, climbing forums and groups, or at your local climbing gym.
  4. Trying before buying: getting a second-hand climbing harness can be a good way to try a model before committing to it, refine your preferences, and understand your needs better, depending on your climbing practice.
rock climbing gear


  1. Safety concerns: The most important aspect to consider is the safety of the harness. Wear and tear, frayed straps, and damaged buckles can compromise the harness’s integrity, putting you at risk.
  2. Limited information: It can be difficult to determine the harness’s history and assess its true condition without firsthand knowledge of its previous use and care. For example, you don’t know how many whippers its previous owner has taken with it.
  3. Lack of warranty: When buying used, the warranty typically does not carry over to the new owner, so any issues or defects with the harness become your sole responsibility.

In conclusion, deciding whether to buy a second-hand climbing harness ultimately depends on your priorities. If cost-saving is a significant factor and you can find a harness in good condition, a used option might be suitable. However, if safety is your top priority, consider investing in a new harness to limit the risk. For many climbers, purchasing their gear brand new provides them with a peace of mind that they wouldn’t trade for any bargain.

climbing equipment in action

Is It Safe to Buy a Used Climbing Harness?

Although buying a new harness will always be the safest option, buying a second-harness can also be safe as long as you inspect it thoroughly, establish the manufacturing date, and confirm its history. In the next sections, we’ll walk you through all the steps for a safe purchase.

Components of a Climbing Harness

Let’s review briefly the main elements of a climbing harness to better understand what to pay attention to when buying such used gear.

There are a few types of harnesses for climbing out there. However, the core components are the same across all of them, whether designed for sport, trad, or alpine climbing.

  • Tie-in Loops: This is where the climber secures the rope using an eight-figure knot in many climbing scenarios like lead climbing.
  • Belay Loop: Along with the tie-in loops, this is the most important part of the harness. This is where the belayer attaches the belay device when securing the ascent of a climber. The belay loop can also be used by the climber for auto-belaying and top-roping at the gym.
  • Waistbelt: The strong webbing that wraps around your waist and supports your body when climbing and belaying. It often comes with a bit of padding, especially trad harnesses designed to support climbers hanging for hours on multi-pitch routes.
  • Leg Loops: As the name implies, these straps go around your legs in a slightly loose manner (about a finger of space between your leg and the loop). Leg loops can be adjustable or not.
  • Gear Loops: These loops allow you to carry gear when climbing, e.g. quickdraws for sport routes.

What to Look for in a Used Climbing Harness

climber with trad climbing gear

Age, History, and Safety Compliance

When considering a used climbing harness, it’s essential to check the age and condition. Manufacturers often suggest a maximum lifespan of ten years, but many climbing guides recommend replacing a harness after a couple of years if you use it every week. Keep in mind:

  • Check the harness’s production date, usually found on a label.
  • Consider the harness’s usage history, including the frequency and types of climbs undertaken. Ask the seller if they have taken large falls with the harness, e.g., fall factor > 0.7 (1).
  • Assess the overall condition for signs of damage or excessive wear.
  • Check if the harness bears the CE marking (European Union) or UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) label. These certifications guarantee that the harness meets the minimum safety standards.

Inspecting Gear for Safety

Safety is a top priority when examining a used climbing harness. Before purchasing, be sure to:

  • Closely examine the belay loop and tie-in points for fraying, significant wear, or soft spots.
  • Check the buckles and hardware on the waist and leg loops, ensuring they function correctly and without damage. Test the buckles by fastening and unfastening them, and check for any signs of corrosion or damage.
  • Inspect the stitching for any signs of deterioration, as well as any damaged or torn fabric.
outdoor rock climber

Visible Signs of Wear or Damage

Your used climbing harness’s condition is vital for your safety. Upon visual inspection of the gear, look out for the following:

  • Abrasions or cuts on the webbing and fabric
  • Excessive fuzziness or wear on the belay loop or gear loops
  • Signs of corrosion, deformation, or excessive wear on metal components
  • Any modifications made by the previous owner
woman climbing with harness

Proper Fit and Comfort

Lastly, ensure that the used climbing harness provides an adequate fit and comfort level. If the harness fits comfortably and securely, it’s more likely to perform correctly and keep you safe. Remember:

  • Measure your waist and leg loop sizes and compare them to the manufacturer’s sizing charts.
  • Assess the adjustability of the harness, including the waist belt and leg loops.
  • Test the harness by hanging in it for a few minutes to ensure it feels secure and comfortable.

Considering these factors when buying a used climbing harness, you can confidently choose a harness that meets your safety requirements and provides proper comfort during use.

By keeping these points in mind, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not to buy a used climbing harness on offer. Remember that your safety should always be the top priority. Use your best judgment; if you have any doubt about the quality or reliability of the harness you’re inspecting, it’s best to walk away and go for another one.

two climbers inspecting used harnesses

Where to Buy Used Climbing Harnesses

When looking to buy a used rock climbing harness, there are several places you can check. In this section, we will discuss Online Marketplaces, Local Gear Exchanges, and Climbing Gym Sales.

Online Marketplaces

There are various online platforms where you can find used climbing harnesses for sale. Some popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay: A well-known auction site where you can find a wide range of used climbing gear, including harnesses.
  • GearTrade: A dedicated platform for buying and selling outdoor gear, including used rock climbing harnesses. They often have a great selection at reasonable prices.
  • Mountain Project: The popular climbing community website has a forum where members can post used gear for sale, including harnesses.
woman with harness and rope

When buying online, always check the seller’s reputation, the item’s description, and photos to ensure you’re getting a good quality harness at a fair price.

Local Gear Exchanges

Another option for finding a used climbing harness is to check your local gear exchanges. These are physical stores that buy, sell, and trade outdoor equipment. Some examples include:

  • Outdoor Gear Exchange
  • REI Garage Sales
  • Play It Again Sports

Visiting a local gear exchange allows you to inspect the harness before buying, as well as ask the staff for advice on choosing the right harness for your needs.

climber wearing a harness

Climbing Gym Sales

Climbing gyms often have sales or swap meets where members can buy, sell, or trade used gear. Keep an eye out for these events; they are an excellent opportunity to find a used climbing harness at a lower price. Additionally, you can ask the gym staff if they know of any members looking to sell their harnesses or if they have any available for sale. You can also ask a certified climbing instructor to give you advice on the condition of the item you’re considering.

Remember to always inspect a used climbing harness for signs of wear, including fraying, tears, and faulty buckles. A good deal sure feels good, but being alive, uninjured, will always feel much better!


Forces at work in a real fall

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