Slings used for climbing wear out through use and time. If you’re safety conscious, you regularly check your slings and retire, that is throw away, ones that are damaged or old. The slings sewn onto cams, however, are usually the exception. A lot of climbers seem to think that the webbing on cams will last forever, partly because it’s a hassle to resling them with new webbing.
Cam Slings Wear Out
The truth is that the sewn webbing on cams, like that on other climbing slings, wears out. Cams are critical links in the climbing safety system. Climbers use cams to protect routes and create anchors. Climbers regularly fall on cam slings, stretching the fibers and tearing them. Cam slings also become worn simply through regular use by rubbing against cracks and rough rock and by exposure to sunlight.
Cam Slings are a Single Anchor Point
Cam slings need to be regularly inspected and replaced if necessary because they are a single anchor point. If your cam sling breaks, the resulting fall could be catastrophic. Check your cam slings now. Look for nicks and tears in the webbing. Remember your cams' history and all the cracks you’ve placed them in. Check if they’re faded or feel lumpy when you run your fingers over the webbing. If they look good and you trust them, they’re probably still okay. If you wonder about them, then time to get the cams reslung. Remember that it's your responsibility to decide when to replace your gear.
Replace Cam Slings Every 2 to 8Years
How often should you replace the sewn slings on your cams? Like other climbing slings, it depends on the use and abuse you put your cams through and how you store your cams and slings. If you plug cams into cracks on a regular basis or climb long routes, you should probably replace the cam slings every two to five years. If you just occasionally protect routes with cams, then they should be fine for five to eight years.
Don’t Be a Climbing Cheapskate
I do, however, know climbers that seem to think that if it ain’t broke it, then don’t fix it. These guys have used the same cam slings for twenty years—far beyond the useful life of the webbing. These are the same guys who suffer from the Climbing Cheapskate Syndrome (CCS). They won’t leave an extra piece of gear at a rappel station or replace webbing because it costs them money. They would rather risk life and limb by climbing on ratty gear than shell out a few extra bucks for peace of mind.
It’s Inexpensive to Resling Your Cams
The good thing is that it’s relatively inexpensive to have all your cams reslung with brand new webbing. For about $150, the cost of a new rope, you can have 25 or so cams reslung by several climbing gear companies. It's best to first contact the company that made your cams and ask for their recommendation for sling replacement. Most of them will resling your cams to their specifications. If you decide not to have the manufacturer replace the slings, then usually their warranty is voided.
Don't Replace with a Knotted Sling
Some climbers want to save money and simply resling the cams with webbing tied with a water or overhand trace knot. Most manufacturers feel this is unacceptable since the strength of the sling is compromised and considerably weaker than a sewn replacement sling.
Who Can Replace Your Cam Slings
First, contact the manufacturer of your cams and see what their recommendation is. For Camalots, it's best to have Black Diamond replace the slings since Camalots have a special sling configuration for strength and durability. Here's a good article Reslinging Camalots and C3s from Black Diamond. Other good places to get your cams resling are: Yates Gear; Mountain Tools; and Fish Products. They’re all quick and the prices are reasonable. Expect to pay about $6 per sling. Later, when you tear the box open with your new cam slings, you’ll wonder why you didn’t replace them sooner—it’s like buying a completely new rack!