IMPORTANT: this is only an overview, NOT a manual nor a tree climbing course. In order to learn about gear, knots and techniques please attend in a real tree climbing course. Please also note that the gear you use has to be certified for tree climbing. Never purchase used equipment if you do not know its use, storage and accident history.
Tree climbing equipment today is quite sophisticated and there are many manufacturers offering a wide spectrum of different ropes and hardware. Here you get a brief overview about tree climbing equipment and the relevance for nature photographers, biologists and film makers who want safely work in the canopies of forests.
One of the main differences between tree climbing and the better-known sport climbing is the type of rope. Rope is not equal rope. Sport climbers use dynamic ropes with elasticity of up to 40% if the climber falls into the rope. Tree climbers, or arborists, do not fall into the rope (usually) because they are working with the rope under slight tension. Therefore, ropes used for tree-climbing are semi-static with elasticity of around 3-5%. Static ropes with even less elasticity would be even more convenient for tree climbing but in case of falling into the rope the impact on the body would be too severe. Thus, a little bit of elasticity is necessary.
There are several ropes for several purposes in tree climbing:
1. For access into the tree crown arborists use the single rope or access rope (SRT = single rope technique). If you attach one end to the base of a tree then the rope should be a little bit longer than twice the climbing height (load + tension leg). If you prefer to attach the rope to the branch then your rope should be a little bit longer than the height that you will climb. In the tropical rainforest of Latin America emergent trees can be up to 50 m high but at heights above 40 m the branches are too weak. I prefer to attach my rope to the base of the tree and use ropes between 80 and 90 m long. In tropical forest of South-East Asia, Eucalyptus trees in Australia, or several species of giant trees in western USA can reach heights between 70 and 120 m, so the ropes have to be even longer.
2. As soon as arborists reach the tree crown they change the rope: the main working or climbing rope (in reality it is also a single rope but doubled, so the term DdRT = doubled (single) rope technique is frequently used) in combination with a friction saver or cambium saver. The system works basically like a pulley system: the working end is attached firmly via carabiner to the harness. The running strand is attached to the harness (harnesses see below) by a belay device through which the rope runs (or stops by friction forces).
3. Additionally, each tree climber has a safety lanyard. This is basically the same rope type as the climbing rope but much shorter, ca. 3 to 6 m. It is used for additional safety during the working process. It stabilizes the climbers’ position. Imagine you want take a macro photo of an orchid that is 5 m from the main tree trunk on a branch. You have to swing there on the climbing rope. In order to stay in that position, you use your hands but are not able to take any photo. If you now use your safety lanyard to maintain your position your hands are free to take that photo.
In the picture below I want to shoot an arrow with a compound bow from one tree to another in order to set a traverse line between those trees. You see the climbing rope coming from the top of the picture and the safety lanyard attached to the branch in front of me. For more info please go to the post “Rope setting”.
The harnesses used for tree climbing are heavier and better suited for sitting long in them due to their huge and soft pads. Harnesses for sport climbing are small and light. Hence, they have minimal negative impact on mobility of the climber but they are not comfortable when sitting longer than 5 minutes. In the image on the right you can see the difference in size between a tree climbing (left) and sport climbing (right) harness.
Ascending and descending devices
Depending on the technique used one needs different devices.
– On the one hand one uses separate devices: one for ascending (e.g. hand ascenders) into the crown and one for descending to the ground (or one descends with DdRT). This has the disadvantage that in case of emergency one has to change from the ascending to the descending device. Under stress one may let the descending device fall down and impede the descent. In the rainforest of Costa Rica I often was attacked by Meliponini bees (stingless bees). I had to change the devices in 25 m height with almost closed eyes and descend quickly. Learn more in the article “Dangers Animals” (post is under construction). As a photographer or biologist working in the tree tops sometimes it is necessary to descend only a little bit in order to photograph or catch a specimen that one has overlooked while ascending. Changing the devices only for that purpose is annoying.
– On the other hand, there are devices that can be used both for ascending and descending, and consequently for movement in the tree crown with only small changes in the system. There are several devices developed for the single rope technique: Rope Wrench System (hardware by ISC), ZigZag/ZigZagPlus-Chicane System (by PETZL), Rope Runner (by Notch), Akimbo (by Rock Exotica). For more information on tree climbing equipment and current prices please visit the online shop of Freeworker.
For the DdRT some arborists prefer friction hitches, other prefer mechanic devices like SpiderJack or LockJack (by ART) or ZigZag (by PETZL).
Basically, a helmet for tree climbing is needed, especially when you want to make more difficult movements within the tree crown with the potential risk of losing control and swing against a branch or the tree trunk. The helmet must have a chinstrap. I prefer helmets that have external hooks or clips to attach a head lamp. A good head lamp is very important when you work at night in the tree canopies. I personally do not use any helmet at day when I know that I only will go up and down without any difficult branch walking.
LED Lenser H7.2: high power LED all-round headlamp, patented advanced focus system.
Preferably with automatic locking system (usually 3 way), but screwing locking systems are also ok. The automatic locking ensures the carabiner locks automatically as soon as you let the opening part loose. In screwers you have always to remind yourself to actively screw the opening so it cannot open by chance.
Some accessories are needed as well depending on your preferences and on the climbing system you use: carabiners, paracords, slings, bags, foot ascenders, shoulder harness, first aid kit etc.
Here it depends also on which technique of rope setting you prefer. Learn more about the different techniques in the article “Rope setting”.
Construction work in the tree crown:
As a photographer, filmmaker or biologist you may want to construct a temporary or a more permanent observation platform. Hence you will need rigging equipment, too.
If you have a car and can drive directly or close to the site an aluminum box or the equipment rucksacks sold by tree climbing retailers will do fine. Also for short walks. For expeditions I prefer a 60+20 L or 70+10 L rucksack sold by trekking gear companies. You can put all the gear into it and due to its well padded carrying system you can comfortably hike from the camp to any tree in the forest through almost any terrain. Keep in mind that the weight of the climbing equipment may be up to 20 kg or more, primarily depending on the length of you climbing rope. Additionally, as a photographer, filmmaker or scientist you have some other gear, too, that should also fit into the rucksack. See also my YouTube video on DIY rucksack trolleys:
Unsere Webseite verwendet Cookies. Bei Cookies handelt es sich um Textdateien, die im Internetbrowser bzw. vom Internetbrowser auf dem Computersystem des Nutzers gespeichert werden. Ruft ein Nutzer eine Website auf, so kann ein Cookie auf dem Betriebssystem des Nutzers gespeichert werden. Dieser Cookie enthält eine charakteristische Zeichenfolge, die eine eindeutige Identifizierung des Browsers beim erneuten Aufrufen der Website ermöglicht.
Notwendige Website Cookies
Die Details unserer Cookie und Datenschutz Einstellungen können Sie hier nachlesen.