|Jared On Rappel in the Glen |
Canyon Recreational Area.
Photo by: Ram
With all this talk there is also talk of gear and equipment. I have recently heard groups looking for gear they wanted to start to plan for this year. While some of us are still anxiously awaiting the return of Imlay Canyon Gear goods to gawk at, I thought this would be a good time to go over my thoughts and ideas on Canyoneering gear and some do’s and don’ts when buying. These thoughts are geared mostly towards the new Canyoneer.
To participate in any hobby you need to have gear. Fishing needs a boat and poles, Mountain Biking needs a bike and helmet, jeeping needs a jeep and so on. With hobbies comes money to be spent or really good friends that have it all and you get to tag-a-long. With Rock Climbing and Canyoneering there is no difference, you need gear from one source or another and to say the least, some of this gear can mean the difference between life and death.
When I started into Canyoneering I gave up several hobbies to be able to afford more of the gear I would need for this endeavor. I tagged along with a friend for a little bit until I started procuring my own gear. I made some mistakes in the beginning with some of my purchases and have gear sitting that is no longer used. So what does all this banter mean? Learn from others, and pay attention. Try out different items before settling. Take some courses where you can practice different techniques and use different items comparing them side by side.
One of the questions I hear quite often that scares me to death is “Where can I buy some used equipment from?” Remember, some of this gear is designed to SAVE YOUR LIFE! Do you really want to trust used equipment? Per manufactures recommendations, some of it does have expiration dates. Used ropes should never be trusted for a purchase. You never know what kind of conditions that previous owner(s) kept them in or used them in etc. NEVER EVER BUY A USED ROPE!
Other gear is not as hard to question. You can look at webbing on harnesses and wear on hardware, but still do you really believe you know what kind of condition it is in. THIS WILL BE YOUR LIFE HANGING ON IT!
So as a help for those looking to get into the Canyoneering Gear buying spirit, here is my personal list on equipment. In order to help in the selection process I break it up into two categories to give you a priority list to start shopping for. This list is based on travel through a Technical (class 3 rated) Canyon. To get through a Technical canyon you have gear that you NEED and gear that is OPTIONAL or as I like to call it – COMFORT GEAR. Some people are going to disagree with me, by all means, please leave me some comments below and let’s discuss it. So here we go –
Rope: Canyoneering uses a static or low stretch/elongation rope to rappel on. Any load rated rappelling rope will work, however the Canyoneering ropes do perform better in their respective environment. Canyoneering ropes are made to better withstand the rigors of being drug through sand and water and constant abrasion over rock and edges. The most common sizes are 8-9mm diameter and lengths are gonna be double the length of the longest rappel in the canyon. Most generally a 200 ft. rope is a good starter rope that will get you through a lot of really good canyons. Popular brands include: Imlay Canyon Gear, BlueWater, Sterling and Petzl.
Harness: You will need a seat harness. Harnesses must be rated to hold your weight under load and not tear or come apart. Canyoneering has some specific harnesses made for the sport that have some PVC plastic seat protectors built into it or these are also available as an add on. You are constantly sliding and scraping your dairy air in the canyon and you will eventually wear out the seat of your harness and pants and everything else back there. Plan on replacing your harness every so often due to the abuse it gets. For this reason people often go really cheap to replace often, or really expensive to have them last a little longer. Popular brands are: Black Diamond, Singing Rock and Petzl.
Locking Carabiner: Locking carabiners are needed to attach the rope to your harness. While any brand of climbing rated carabiner will work, I prefer a locking carabiner that is of the twist or screw lock variety. This requires you to manually lock the carabiner each time you use it. I recommend staying away from the auto locking carabiners. In Canyoneering with the sand and grit that we are swimming through, this blocks up your auto lock, and could render it unsafe. Screw locks are generally easier to keep cleaned out and with the manual function you are forced to check them each time you use it to confirm it is locked. Popular styles and brands are HMS sized pear shaped carabiners: Petzl, Black Diamond, Rock Exotica, Cypher.
Rappel Device/Descender: A device to attach to the rope to control your descent speed will be needed. Generally a rappel/belay device is used for this. While any device designed for this purpose can be used, there are a couple that are designed specifically for Canyoneering so as to be rigged and de-rigged in a multitude of conditions such as hydraulic water flows. Popular devices include: Sterling ATS, Rock Exotica Totem, Petzl Pirana.
Tubular Webbing: 1" Tubular Webbing is used to rig your anchors to attach your rope to. When purchasing your webbing from a climbing shop, consider purchasing subdued colors so as to keep the aesthetics of the canyon appealing.
Quick Links/Rappel Rings: Rappel Rings and Quick Links (also called Rapides), are attached to the webbing on the anchor to attach your rope. We never attach our rope directly to the webbing as the nylon on nylon/polyester combination can create a lot of heat if movement is created and this can melt through the webbing causing anchor failure. Sizes used for the links are big enough to put your rope through with some room for movement. Sizes are generally 8mm or 5/16" sizes. The links should be of a quality make and rating to hold your weight and then some. Brands include: Maillon, Cypher and Kong
Optional/Comfort Items: Items that make the canyon a lot more fun, enjoyable, and safe.
Helmet: The helmet really isn't necessary to get through a technical slot canyon. It does make it safer and for this reason I don't ever recommend going into a technical canyon without one. Helmets protect not only from dropped rocks and debris, but from hitting your head on slips, trips, falls and fumbles. On many occasions I have stood up in a canyon only to find a rock ledge protruding out just enough for my helmet to smack it. Helmets are any climbing rated helmet. Popular brands include: Black Diamond and Petzl.
Shoes: Hiking shoes are decent to carry you many places. Canyoneering shoes are however phenomenal. The most popular shoe is the Canyoneer made by 5.10 (Five Ten). Their sticky rubber soles grip wet rock and canyon walls like no other shoe out there. They are however known by some to be one of the most uncomfortable shoes to wear and they are a bit pricy for a pair of shoes. Other brands include: LaSportiva
Packs: Backpacks are necessary to carry your equipment in and out of the canyons. They will get beat up and trashed if they aren't of quality make and let's face it, after so long the good ones will eventually get worn out as well. Popular brands: Imlay Canyon Gear, Metolius.
Dry Bags and Wetsuits: If you are going to be in canyons with lots of water and swimming you will need some thermal protection and a way to keep your spare clothes and lunches dry. I recommend staying away from dry suits. They are pricy and once they get a whole in them your thermal protection is gone. A wetsuit continues to provide thermal protection throughout, even after a hole is scraped into it. Popular Wetsuit brands include: Henderson, NeoSport, Body Glove, NRS and Camaro.
Rope Bags Very useful to organize and carry your ropes. They make packing and stowing the rope simpler and quicker when you are in a canyon. Popular brands include: Imlay Canyon Gear, Metolious, Black Diamond, Canyon Werks.
Cows Tails: These are made up of webbing and/or material with multiple tie-in points. These are used to tether yourself to the anchor on a ledge, hook into ascending equipment, or hang your pack from when stemming. Popular brands include: Black Diamond, CMI, Petzl and Rescue Systems Inc.
Headlamp: Always good for early starts, late exits, deep dark canyons and emergencies.
Ascenders and an Ascending System for Emergencies and Potholes.
GPS, Maps and Compass.
Extra food and water.
In a later edition, maybe we will discuss extra gear above and beyond this list that is needed for more advanced canyon explorations - Class 4 Canyons.