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I have been writing my initials onto the dogbones (webbing connecting biners) of my quickdraws with a sharpie (permanent marker) so I can tell them apart from everyone else's. Recently, one of my climbing partners suggested that I should switch to marking the carabiners with tape or nail-polish instead, since (he claims) sharpie damages "soft" gear. What evidence is there to suggest sharpie or other markers can damage soft gear such as dogbones?


My quickdraws are Black Diamond FreeWires. The manual can be found online here. As far as I have seen, black diamond does not recommend against marking soft gear with markers. The closest statement I can find in the manual is

Care and Maintenance

Climbing gear must not come into contact with corrosive materials such as battery acid, battery fumes, solvents, chlorine bleach, antifreeze, isopropyl alcohol or gasoline.

After contact with saltwater or salt air, always rinse and dry textile products, and rinse, dry and lubricate metal products.


On the other hand, Petzl's manual suggests against marking slings in this infographic taken from the technical notice for one of their quickdraws.

Petzl Supplementary Information

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    You (and your partner) should know that nail polish is definitely in a solvent - I would steer clear of this completely, as it is likely to be worse than sharpie. – bob1 Aug 27 at 3:22
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    @bob1 Nail polish/tape goes on the carabiners and other hard gear, not the soft gear. – Reinstate Monica Aug 27 at 3:56
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    I was tempted to mark this as a duplicate since I remembered this: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/6580/… But that question was about specifically about ropes; I suspect that the answer is the same, but I am erring on the side of caution since I am not sure. – anderas Aug 27 at 7:15
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh - I missed that in the post... – bob1 Aug 27 at 10:13
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    Just sharpie the tag instead of the dogbone itself – endolith Aug 28 at 0:41
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It's possible that it could damage the soft gear,

Tests done by the UIAA Safety Commission and some rope manufacturers have shown that marking ropes with liquids such as those provided by felt-tipped pens can damage them; even with those markers, sold specifically for marking ropes. The test results have shown a decrease of up to 50% of the rope strength, more correctly: of the energy absorption capacity of the rope (expressed by the number of falls in the standard test method in accordance with the UIAA Standard101).

Therefore the UIAA Safety Commission warns against marking a rope with any substance that has not been specifically approved by the rope manufacturer of that rope.

Notification about the marking of ropes by end-users (2002)

and besides a colored pack of electical tape costs less than $10 so why chance it?

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    The warning includes solvents, any marker you can smell is solvent based, so this doesn't surprise me in the least. – Separatrix Aug 27 at 7:03
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    Is it certain that the glue in electrical tape (or other tape) doesn’t contain solvents? – Michael Aug 27 at 8:43
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    Electrical tape is often PVC, which does give off gas that damages some plastics. – jpa Aug 27 at 12:43
  • @jpa I'd probably be more wary of the actual sticky compound and how that reacts, though that's another good point against electrical tape. – JMac Aug 27 at 16:41
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    @Michael The electrical tape goes around the carabiners, not the dogbones and so the glue shouldn't touch the soft gear at all. – Reinstate Monica Aug 27 at 16:46
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Some manufacturers state that soft goods such as ropes and dogbones can be damaged by markers so it is best practice not to mark them with sharpies or other generic markers. If you do wish to mark them, there are special markers designed for the purpose. For example, see this one by Beal.

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