Tree climbing is a rapidly growing sport that many climbers and non-climbers do not know can provide a professional occupation. There are various types and applications of tree climbing, whether it is just recreational, done for speed and competition, tree maintenance, or for simply exploration. However, for whichever form of tree climbing, there is a great deal of equipment that can be used to create a better and safer experience.
There are several different pieces of equipment involved in tree climbing, the majority of which are used to help create a safer experience for the climber. Some of the most important things for serious climbing include a harness, carabiners, rope, flipline, and spikes. The necessary equipment may depend on the type of tree climbing, but this equipment is just about always needed for big climbs. Listed below are some of the most common equipment that is used in tree climbing.
While the safety of the climber is the most important aspect of tree climbing, the safety of the tree is likely next. Branch savers, also known as rope sleeves, are coverings made of leather, or other strong materials, that are placed around the rope itself so as to protect the tree from rope friction and abrasion as well as to cover the rope and extend its lifetime. There are two main types of branch savers: house sleeves and leather branch savers. House sleeves are actually placed over the branch themselves and can fall to the rope if slipped. The leather branch savers simply go around the rope and provide less abrasion to both the tree and the rope.
In any type of equipment-assisted climbing, carabiners are an absolute must. Carabiners serve the purpose of supporting the weight of the climber and other pieces of equipment (if desired). There are multiple kinds of carabiners including, but not limited to. auto-lock, screw link, bent gate, and triple action carabiners. The carabiner that should be used for your main support, holding your weight while climbing. Any body support-based carabiner should be at least a double action carabiner that automatically locks. This means that it takes at least 2 movements to open the gate and release and locks itself if untouched.
Also called a lanyard or a polestrap, a tree climbing flipline is used to give climbers security and better mobility opportunities when climbing. Fliplines can be made of arborist rope (tree climbing rope) or more durable and strong material like a steel core lanyard. Tree climbing fliplines are held by the climber and flipped around the tree and are most often used with spiked shoes to climb upwards. It is recommended to have a flipline that is a different color than your other ropes so as to not mix them up when climbing.
Tree climbing harnesses are similar to standard rock climbing harnesses, but they do have some important and distinct differences. First, a tree climbing harness will often have side "D-ring loops" on the sides so that the flipline can be clipped in. Another difference in tree climbing harnesses is their design for seated or working position; this features a lower point of central attachment and provides more support and comfort for stagnant positions. If you are using any ropes to support yourself on a tree, then you most certainly want to have a harness to help.
One of the less complicated pieces of tree climbing equipment in terms of practicality and use, a helmet is used for safety and protection. Tree climbing can be extremely dangerous, as the slightest error could result in a fall from high up or a bad slip. So, especially for beginners, wearing a helmet is recommended when climbing at any height, as you never know what may happen. One should be extra careful when in poor weather conditions.
The line launcher is a complementary piece of equipment to the throwing line and weights. As it sounds in the name, a line launcher does exactly that: launches the throwing line wherever you aim the launcher. Some trees can be hundreds of feet tall, so just an arm-powered throw may not be enough to get the throwing weight high enough. In that scenario, a line launcher provides climbers with power and adds precision to the placement of the throwing line. Line launchers usually take the form of slingshots or air-powered launchers.
A prusik is a useful device one uses to feed the rope through and apply friction to either ascend or descend a tree. A prusik may be referred to as a friction hitch or even a flipline adjuster if used in that way. Prusiks are very useful as they allow the flipline to be adjusted even while under tension, which is a common need for arborists. They can also be adjusted with just one hand while climbing, making them even more convenient to use.
Tree climbing pulleys serve several different purposes, from lowering loads from high above to pulling up a person with a life supportive pulley. It is very important to use a pulley that is rated for life support if ever supporting the weight of a human. Life supportive pulleys usually provide around 5000 pounds of support, so they will be suitable for a human of any size. However, smaller pulleys can be used in bringing up or lowering different loads such as branches or supplies. Pulleys are all-around, multi-use pieces of equipment that every tree climber should learn to use.
Tree climbing requires climbing rope, and should be done with rope specifically tailored for tree climbing for the safest experience possible. Tree climbing rope should not be very elastic, as climbers want to have to use the least energy necessary to ascend or descend. It is often said that tree climbing rope should be about double the length of the height of the tree being climbed. Tree climbing ropes often come in lengths of 35, 45, 50, and 60 meters.
Tree climbing slings, often called loopies or rigging slings, are used to create a rigging point anywhere in the tree. There are multiple kinds of slings, but the general main purpose for these devices is providing an anchor point for whatever you need to get done while in a tree. Once you attach the sling to the desired area, you can then run climbing rope through a block or set up a pulley system to meet your needs. Tree climbing slings are typically made of very strong rope that is reliable and durable for a great length of time.
Climbing spurs, also called spikes, are a sort of shoe or foot accessory that provide climbers with the ability to ascend and descend trees while having strong foot supports throughout the climb. The spurs or spikes involved in tree climbing are very sharp and firm, and can thus be damaging to trees. For this reason it is often recommended to only use spurs when completing tree removals. However, without spikes, it may be very difficult to plant your feet when climbing a tree.
Throwing line, along with the throwing weight, is used in one of the first steps of tree climbing. To use these pieces of equipment, one should attach a weight to either side of the throwing line. Next, they should throw the throwing weight into the desired area of the tree, particularly one that will be supportive of the additional ropes, pulleys, and weights that are to come. Once the throwing line is over the right opening in the tree, begin setting up the additional equipment and get to climbing!