Friday, December 24, 2010

Marking Your Gear

The Facebook post was incredibly embarrassing.  "It looked like a crime scene," my wife wrote.  "An entire bottle of blood red nail polish spilled from the kitchen counter top, all down the cabinet door, and ending in a 3-foot spray across the tile floor.  Who could have created such a mess?  My 2-year old?  My 3-year old?"

I could imagine her smile as she typed the next line for all of her friends to see.  "No...it was my husband!  And it was HIS nail polish."

Yes, I admit it.

It was MY nail polish.  And yes, I did spill it everywhere.  But in my defense, I was using it to mark my climbing gear...which is exactly what I wrote in response to her post.  But that didn't stop the good-natured ribbing.

When the accident took place, I was trying to update all of my gear with the latest in gear marking technology, nail polish.  Most of my climbing friends and nearly all of the guides at the American Alpine Institute long ago moved away from multi-colored tape on hardware and toward the use of nail polish.

Both of the carabiners in this photo have been marked for about the same amount of time.  
The carabiner on the left has nail polish painted in strategic location.  Whereas the carabiner 
on the right has electrical tape on the spine.  Clearly the tape did not hold up as well as the polish.

In the past, each of my carabiners had two strips of electrical tape around the spine.  One strip was black and one was red.  The dual colors helped to keep them from getting mixed up with other people's gear.  The problem with the tape though is that it wears off.  It starts to fall off in a sticky mess, creating micro-trash in the mountains.

To keep the nail polish from rubbing off, I try to paint it on near the hinge at the base of the gate and next to the nose.  Because these areas are mildly inset, ropes and rocks don't tend to rub as much and the paint markings stays on for a long time.

It is also possible to mark cams and stoppers with nail polish dots in strategic locations.  Look for a spot where your dots will not be easily scraped off, but where you can see them without too much trouble.

I put two dots on each of my cams.  My colors are red and black.  It's always 
good to mark your gear with more than one color.

It is important to note that I still have multi-colored electrical tape on my slings, over the stitching.  You definitely would NOT want to put nail polish onto a soft good like a sling.  While I don't know exactly what's inside nail polish, I can only assume that the chemicals would have a negative and perhaps even dangerous impact on the material.

Those who swap partners a lot should really play it safe. Protect yourself. Mark it carefully and you'll lose less of it.  Mark it poorly and your gear will slowly migrate away to your partners racks...

Jason D. Martin

2 comments:

Kai said...

good post for this time of the year - it is like the first act of taking possession of a new piece of gear, marking it.

Another good place to mark hardware is where it is stamped, e.g. with a load rating or a logo or such, the nail polish will stay in the creases for a long time.

Slings are easily marked on their tags, and cord or rope on the final half inch which will end up sticking out of a knot and not bear load.

Evan Johnson said...

Great idea, I'll have to go out and get some nail polish ...should probably have the gf go with