What's in Your Kit?

Cliff Freer

February 18, 2015

There are a lot of great products out there. There are a lot of inspired, very smart people out there that have this knack for design and function that, well to put it simply, can make our jobs easier and safer.  That being said, we need to cautious about buying in to every new piece of equipment on the market.  This can be not only costly but can lead to a daunting training schedule to keep current on the new equipment and spend enough time to remain proficient.  The latter part of that last sentence is by far the most important component, we’ll come back to that later.
Keep It Simple
We can’t schedule when a rescue occurs.  Our equipment needs to be setup and maintained in a manner that ensures that every person that may use it will be able to use it properly.  If the equipment is setup for an intended use that only a portion or worse a select few can understand and operate, then it should be rethought.
Keep It Realistic
I really enjoy rigging. I like both problem solving and technical aspects of it. That doesn’t mean I have to rig it in a complicated manner just because I can. I have, but these should only be done during drill sessions and take it from me, make sure everyone else is ok with you burning up their time.
Keep It Relevant
For those that prescribe to the “What If” theory of equipment management, stop reading. Seriously, none of the following words will register in your minds and will just be time you can’t get back.  All kidding aside, if you do a reasonable assessment of what type of incidents that you will likely encounter (and this includes your mutual aid agreements), don’t load up on equipment that doesn’t support your missions. If you need to be able to hike in to a remote location than loading the bags to the zippers fail is not supportive of the health of your team. Access in many cases is just the appetizer, we still have to be able work when we get to where the incident is.
Old School vs. Modern Rope Gear
At the very base mission purpose, there is no difference between these two approaches.  We train to proficiency, 2 points of contact (when appropriate), good anchors, clean rigging, controlled descent and mechanical advantage systems, keep the friction to a minimum. All of these objectives can be accomplished safely with either.


With the modern gear I am speaking specifically of the multi purpose devices (Petzl ID/Rig,  CMC MPD, ISC D4/D5). The newer pulleys, sewn prussiks, sewn rope terminations, etc. are part of the evolution, but function identical to their previous version, very little to discuss. These other multipurpose devices do eliminate the changeover from a lowering system to a raising system. This one feature reduces the overall weight of your gear because there are pieces we will not need to carry, eliminates the need for load releasing hitches and prevents the possibility of a hot changeover. The benefits of one device over another are not subtle and research on which device will suit your needs is a must.
Training For Readiness
If we replace a piece of gear, will the team be able to incorporate that gear into their routine? More than likely. If we replace multiple pieces of gear or even a single piece of gear at frequent intervals, will the team remain proficient? Less likely. We, as operators in a gear heavy industry, are attracted to CNC machined aluminum like a Striped Bass is to a fishing lure. We have to be cautious with the amount of change we introduce into our teams, even more critical when many teams are multi disciplined or part time responders.
Mission readiness should always be our baseline starting point and innovations in techniques and equipment should be our roadmap and guidelines for our future goals and training.

Class is in session!

Most of the courses are held at our indoor training center in Albany, NY and may have some nearby off-site industrial locations.

The wilderness class with Ropegeeks will be held in Trumansburg, NY.