Who doesn’t want to have fun while climbing? Marking your gear creatively is one of the easiest ways to remind yourself that climbing is fun. It can also make it easier to identify as yours. So how do you add a bit of flare to your climbing hardgoods?

Here’s a round-up of the easiest ways to mark your carabiners, belay devices and trad protection, while adding that extra bit of personality. It’s ordered via our recommendation.

Note: This post is focused on adding flair, we have an exhaustive post of How To Mark Gear that goes over significantly more nuances of each type of marketing.

1. Nail Polish

marking gear with nail polish

Nail polish is the method we recommend as the best option for marketing gear–for creativity, longevity, and lack of mountain trash. Additionally, It goes on low-profile, is cheap and easy to find, and the colors are endless. Nail polish prices vary dramatically, but have no evidence you should spend more for increased results.
If you paint the polish in the crevices and/or least touched parts of your gear it can last a long time, years longer than tape. You can add any designs such as dots, dashes, swirls, a logo, initials, etc. You can also pick elaborate colors, or just choose your favorite color(s)–brighter is generally better for quicker identification. It can help to stick with the same colors for easier identification later: “Mine are the ones with orange and yellow designs”.
Decorating Tip: Use toothpicks as mini paint brushes.
Warning: If you aren’t yet familiar with using nail polish, it would be wise to use the nail polish outside or over a protective covering. The nail polish bottle can tip easily and it permanently stains.

2. Paint Markers

marking gear with paint markers
photo courtesy of Kris N. in the comments
Fine tip Paint Markers provide a cleaner application and bring plentiful color options. A fine tip marker helps for intricate designs or even just writing clear initials. Look for a marker that is “permanent” and works on “metal”.
Paint pens range dramatically in price depending on amount of colors and brands ($1-$6 per pen), BUT if you already have them at home, this makes for a fabulous option.
Again, try to put the color in any crevasses you find in the metal as this will be the least rubbed area. The length of time this marking will last depends on placement and type of marker used, but often it will last more longer than tape and doesn’t run the risk of leaving mountain trash.
Pro Tip: Your designs will last MUCH longer if they’re done with paint markers specifically meant for metals — Sharpie’s and regular paint marker designs will rub off frustratingly fast.

3. Colorful Taping

duct tape and electrical tape

Electrical tape is popular method because it’s cheap and easy to find.

Closely behind electrical is duct tape, whose largest pro is that it comes in all sorts of neon colors, rainbows, stripes, argyll, and even mustache patterns. The bummer about duct tape is that it’s usually more textured which makes it susceptible to catching dirt/grime.

Electrical and duct tape tend to be thicker tapes so they get caught more often — hitting on the rock/other gear and wearing it out. Tapes also leaves a lot of sticky residue when it inevitably departs from your gear.

Unfortunately, all tape has a high probability of leaving mountain trash : (

Taping Tips: If you use multiple colors, put the colors on different parts of the carabiner spine, not on top of eachother. Side-by-side taping keeps a low profile and decreases the chance of it catching on rocks/other gear. Also, rounding the corners will make the tape last longer and is worth the extra work.

4. Stickers and Packing Tape

carabiner sticker and tape marking method
This image shows page markers + packing tape
This method is simple once you acquire the materials. Grab a sticker (or colored paper, pieces of a magazine, etc) then overlay it with packing tape (rounded edges are a plus). As Happiegrrrl, who sells stickers on ClimbAddict, and whom put smiley face stickers on her gear can attest, “no bully old boy was about to pilfer my gear, I found. Gawd – they sometimes didn’t even want to clip my draws to their harness and preferred to lead a long pitch short instead of having smiley face gear.” Toxic masculinity aside, this method leaves endless options for design.
The packing tape protects the sticker fairly well, but the tape will start to peal and get chips after awhile. The example above is not actually that ideal, because there is so much surface area covered that it’s bound to get scratched and scuffed and will wear out quicker than a smaller coverage area. If you’re ok with replacing your designs (an excuse to try something new!), then it’s not a problem.

5. BeDazzle It

BeDazzler Machine

This might come as a surprise, but you could also BeDazzle your gear. We know a badass lady climber who exclusively uses pink carabiners with pink jewels BeDazzled on them (to avoid copy cats in her area, she’ll remain nameless and no photos). Just make sure the gems never go where a rope might touch them (it could hurt the rope and will quickly make mountain trash of your design). We don’t really recommend this method, as it’s easy to see how the jewels would fall off with abrasion and become left-behind trash, but we wanted to share it as the most unique option we’ve ever heard.

Want More Details?

If you want to super geek out on marking methods (all the possible options and their pros and cons), there’s a lengthy post on How to Mark Your Gear here. But really, in the end, gear marking boils down to: How much customization do you want? Do you want a solution that won’t ever leave trash? Do you care about how messy/clean/intricate the design is?

Overall, we always recommend nail polish as our top pick.

Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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