Go Green: What To Do With Your Old Gear

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Illustration by Jamie Givens

Illustration by Jamie Givens

I still remember my first rope. It was pink and enormous. When it was time to move on, I kept it around—first as an extra top rope, then as a haul line. But in a few years’ time, I didn’t have just one retired rope coiled in the corner, I had half a dozen.

Here’s the deal: You can—and should—make only a limited number of rope rugs. So instead of stockpiling a mountain of worse-for-wear climbing junk in your crowded garage, consider these tips for reusing and recycling your decrepit gear.

ROPES

Make it last: Always use a rope bag. Wash ropes using gentle detergent in warm water, air-dry (never throw it in the dryer), and store in a dry, shaded, chemical-free zone.

Retire it: Sideline your rope when it appears excessively frayed or sun-bleached, and periodically check for flat or soft spots. Always retire a rope if it’s been exposed to chemicals. Sterling suggests chucking your cord no matter what after five years of use.

Upcycle it: Weave a rope rug (beta available on YouTube), make a llama bridle, use it for a towrope, or make a heavy-duty dog leash.

Recycle it: A number of rope companies, including Sterling, PMI, and Millet, recycle climbing ropes, and they’ll accept a rope from any manufacturer.

CARABINERS

Make it last: Wash and lube carabiners if their gates get sticky; don’t use biners as bottle openers.

Retire it: If your biner is gouged, nicked, or appreciably worn by rope friction —especially if the wear has created grooves with sharp edges—or if you’ve dropped it from a signifi cant height, heated it in a campfire, or exposed it to any kind of acid.

Upcycle it: Use your old biner as an enormous key ring or bottle opener, or as the snaplink non-climbers always thought it was (think: water bottles, potted plants, and as the attachment point for hanging food out of paw reach of hungry bears).

Recycle it: Aluminum is widely recyclable, but you can’t always toss aluminum carabiners in the same place as aluminum cans. Most recycling yards will have a scrap-metal bin that can handle carabiners. Or sell your carabiners to a scrap dealer and make a couple of bucks.

SLINGS AND DRAWS

Make it last: Don’t let runners bake in the sun, separate them from corrosive chemicals, don’t store wet, machine wash (gentle cycle, mild soap), and keep away from gnawing rodents.

Retire it: As with ropes, what you see is what you’ve got: Crusty, faded slings are bad news. Toss when they’re frayed, bleached, or ripped. Black Diamond recommends junking any draw when it hits the three-year mark.

Upcycle it: Duct-tape a sling around your water bottle to make a handle, make a belt for your chalk bag, or use a few slings in tandem with some used biners to hang your bikes and other toys from your garage ceiling.

Recycle it: Not all runners are made out of the same material, but some are woven with nylon, the same material used in ropes. Unfortunately, nylon slings aren’t easy to recycle as ropes are, because they’re rarely made entirely of nylon.

CLOTHES

Make it last: Zippers are replaceable, small holes are patchable, and waterproof jackets are re-waterproofable. Meanwhile, don’t stand so close to the campfire, wash your long underwear more frequently, and resist seductive new colors and designs for clothes you already have.

Retire it: When it’s too holey, too threadbare, too funky. Use your own (or roommate’s, or girlfriend’s, or boss’) judgment.

Upcycle it: Some worn-out clothes make ideal patches for less wornout clothes. Clothes that are still functional can go to thrift stores or consignment shops— you may be able to take a tax deduction for the donation.

Recycle it: Patagonia accepts old Capilene; Patagonia fleece, wool and cotton T-shirts; and Polartec fleece from any manufacturer for recycling. GoLite will take back any clothes and gear the company has ever made, promising to “repair, donate, repurpose, and/or recycle everything” it receives.

FUEL CANISTERS

Make it last: Boil water with a lid on your pot, prepare meals that cook quickly, and make sure your stove is turned off when finished.

Retire it: When it’s empty.

Upcycle it: Most small fuel canisters aren’t refillable—and probably have limited uses beyond fueling your stove—but for car camping with a propane stove, you can get a mini-version of your home grill’s tank that is refillable.

Recycle it: Fuel canisters are often made of steel or aluminum, both of which are commonly recyclable, but before you can recycle a canister, you have to vent it. Jetboil and Snow Peak make tools specifically designed to puncture canisters, allowing gases to escape. In many instances, the empty, vented cylinders are accepted at recycling centers, but check with your local provider.