ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Sports and Recreation»
  • Individual Sports

Technical Rescue Equipment: The Gear I'm Using

Updated on November 4, 2014
Me, on rappel
Me, on rappel

Rock Rescue Academy Was Almost Over -- Time To Gear Up

Four years ago, I began training for our Search & Rescue team's technical rescue group in a series of class and field sessions collectively known as the Rock Rescue Academy. Between training sessions, I spent many additional hours practicing those new skills (that's me in the photo, rappelling), trying to commit them to memory both mentally and physically. And in September, all new and existing tech team members took the annual proficiency test.

For that test, all of us were required to have purchased certain pieces of equipment for ourselves, rather than use team gear. During an actual mission, there may not be enough team gear to go around, and we always need to have proper equipment for our own personal safety.

So, knowing that, yes, this is something I really wanted to do, it was time to spend some money on tech gear. And this is what I got.....

Technical Rescue Gear
Technical Rescue Gear

Seat Harness

I chose the Metolius Safe Tech Waldo

Now I know there's a significant difference between a recreational climbing harness and a rescue harness. But I wish I'd known that before I took the advice of an employee at a local climbing gym and spent just under $100 for a harness from their store. Not knowing a thing about climbing, tech rescue or the associated gear at the time, I'd just walked in and said, "I need a harness for Search & Rescue" and went with what the girl sold me.

That was a mistake. I mean, I suppose it doesn't hurt to have an extra harness around, especially if I decide to take up rock climbing. But my Black Diamond Aura harness, while probably great for sport climbing, just doesn't cut it for rescue work. For one, it gets rather uncomfortable if I have to be on the rope for a long period of time, hanging around so to speak. And it's got too much length between the leg loops and the belay loop. When I hang on the harness, that extra length means that it stretches, and my gear ends up too high on my waist.

At any rate, after checking out some recommendations from teammates, I bought myself a Metolius Safe Tech Waldo Harness from a company called Rescue Response. The Waldo has thick, 1/2" foam padding around the waist and legs, so it's very comfortable. This harness also has "Safe Tech" features, including four 10kN gear loops, a 16kN haul loop and 6.6kN rear leg loop straps, with no low-strength components. And you can adjust the rise length and leg size to obtain proper fit. The small rear loops can double as hammer holsters, and a second belay loop was added to minimize the problem of "gear cluster."

I started off with the Black Diamond climbing harness shown here (yellow), but it just wasn't cut out for rescue work.

I started off with the Black Diamond climbing harness shown here (yellow), but it just wasn't cut out for rescue work.
I started off with the Black Diamond climbing harness shown here (yellow), but it just wasn't cut out for rescue work.

Then I switched to a Metolius rescue seat harness, which I'm using here as I ascend....

Then I switched to a Metolius rescue seat harness, which I'm using here as I ascend.
Then I switched to a Metolius rescue seat harness, which I'm using here as I ascend.

Chest Harness

I decided on the Petzl Voltige

Sure, you can fashion a chest harness from a piece of webbing like you'll see in the photos above and below (the orange webbing), but not only is it rather uncomfortable (and it doesn't look too good) but also difficult to adjust to the proper fit. It was okay for the initial training, but our Coordinator required us to have a commercially sewn chest harness with a seat/chest connector for ongoing participation with the technical rescue team. And, having used the improvised harness for a few months, I definitely see why.

So I bought myself a Petzl Voltige Chest Harness from AHS Rescue, a company serving "the serious recreational outdoorsman and ... emergency services and those who make their living working at height."

I'm planning to use two D-rings (or Deltas links) with the chest harness, one 12mm to connect the two sides of the harness in the front, then a piece of Omni strap, cut with a hot knife to the right length, along with a 10mm Delta to attach the chest harness to my seat harness.

At the moment, though, I haven't yet had time to cut the Omni strap and haven't purchased the Deltas, so I've been connecting the seat and chest harness with one carabiner. It's a little uncomfortable when I'm standing around for a while with the two connected like that, because I can't quite stand up straight, but the tight connection does feel good when I'm on the rope, helping to keep me upright.

Here's The Voltige - Also available on Amazon

Petzl Voltige Chest Harness One Size
Petzl Voltige Chest Harness One Size

I found this harness SO much more comfortable than the improved chest harness I'd been using. Especially being a girl, if you know what I mean. Didn't squish as much. And it was easily adjusted to the perfect fit.

 

The Delta Link aka D-Ring - For attaching chest to seat

Petzl DELTA SCREWLINK w BAR P118B
Petzl DELTA SCREWLINK w BAR P118B

I'm going to use Delta links to attach my Voltige Chest Harness to my Safe Tech Waldo seat harness, with a short piece of Omni strap between. At times, I'll leave out the Omni strap and just use one Delta to attach the two harnesses for even more support on the rope, like if attending to a litter over the edge.

 

At first, I improvised a chest harness with orange webbing. But it was uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to the correct fit.

At first, I improvised a chest harness with orange webbing. But it was uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to the correct fit.
At first, I improvised a chest harness with orange webbing. But it was uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to the correct fit.

Then I got a much more comfortable Petzl Voltige, which I'm wearing here as I get ready to rappel.

Then I got a much more comfortable Petzl Voltige, which I'm wearing here as I get ready to rappel.
Then I got a much more comfortable Petzl Voltige, which I'm wearing here as I get ready to rappel.

Helmet - A good price for a quality helmet

We're required to wear a helmet that's CE and UIAA-certified, and the Black Diamond Half Dome fits the bill. It's also comfortable and accommodates a headlamp, with clips on either side to hold it in place. In addition to the adjustable chin strap, there's a dial at the back to crank the helmet tighter around your head.

A few of my teammates and I ordered this helmet, finding it to be a good value. And with all of the money we were spending on gear, we didn't want to spend $100 for a helmet if we could get a quality one for about half the price. (We got a discount off the usual retail price as shown below.)

Black Diamond Half Dome Climbing Helmet - White - One Size
Black Diamond Half Dome Climbing Helmet - White - One Size

Sale Price: $49.97

This lightweight, 12.3oz helmet is lined with foam for additional comfort and has a wide brim to keep the rain off your face. There's a dial in the back you can turn to tighten the helmet on your head, and there are clips on the sides and back to hold a headlamp strap in place.

I often use my helmet while on regular SAR missions, especially when in dense forest and/or at night, to protect my head from branches and also to hold my headlamp. It's more comfortable that way as opposed to being right on my head.

 

I used a team helmet (shown here) until I got my own.

I used a team helmet (shown here) until I got my own.
I used a team helmet (shown here) until I got my own.

Then I got my own Black Diamond helmet, seen here while I'm rappeling.

Then I got my own Black Diamond helmet, seen here while I'm rappeling.
Then I got my own Black Diamond helmet, seen here while I'm rappeling.

Personal Descent (Rappel) Device - The Hyper Extreme Mini Rack

During training, we learned to use a personal rappel (or brake) rack, the Rescue 8, and a rescue rack. The rescue rack is similar to the personal one, but larger and stronger with additional bars for increased friction for heavy rescue loads.

I much preferred the racks to the 8, because it's very difficult--if not nearly impossible--to adjust the amount of friction with the latter. I also found it harder to stop my downward motion and tie off with the 8 while mid-face. So when it came to buying a personal descending device, I went with a Hyper Extreme Mini Rack, as shown below. The Hyper Extreme has two small, vertical hyper bars, which help with both tying off and changing the breaking action from pulling up on the rope to pulling down. Pulling up to brake is more difficult and awkward, not to mention tiring on the arm.

CMI Hyper Rack Extreme NFPA
CMI Hyper Rack Extreme NFPA

I prefer to have the two (vertical) hyper-bars on the rack as opposed to racks without them, because it's not only easier for me to lock off, but the bars also allow me to reverse the direction of pull for braking--down instead of up.

 

Gloves - By Metolius

One thing I did buy at that climbing gym that I still like and will continue to use are the Metolius Iron Hand 3/4 Finger Gloves. I'll need a different pair for winter use, but I like having my fingers free to manipulate equipment. They got dirty pretty darn fast but seem to be holding up very well to extensive use and abuse. I'm sure, though, I'll be going through numerous pairs as time goes on, so I'm going to pick up at least another one to have as a backup.

Metolius Climbing Glove
Metolius Climbing Glove

Price: $29.50 - $39.95 depending on size (from x-small to x-large)

This is a summer-weight glove with a polyester/spandex blend for breathable stretch and a leather palm for tough durability. If you're using these for free-climbing, there's a clip-in loop to stash the cloves on your harness when they're not needed.

 

These 3/4 finger gloves allow me to easily manipulate my gear while protecting me from rope burns.

These 3/4 finger gloves allow me to easily manipulate my gear while protecting me from rope burns.
These 3/4 finger gloves allow me to easily manipulate my gear while protecting me from rope burns.

And Maybe A Pair Like This For The Winter

Metolius Belay Glove - L - Natural
Metolius Belay Glove - L - Natural

This is a full-fingered Metolius glove, with comfortable cowhide outer molds, and split-cowhide reinforcements and triple stitching on the palm. The glove has a webbing clip-in loop and a hook and loop wrist closure.

 

Locking Carabiners - There are so many to choose from.

Here's a good excerpt about carabiners, including the pros and cons of steel versus aluminum 'biners, and how to properly load and care for them, from Fundamentals of Search and Rescue, written by Donald C. Cooper: Carabiners.

These are two of the locking 'biners that I currently have....

Technical Rescue Gear
Technical Rescue Gear

Prusiks

Or "soft safeties"

We use Prusiks in a variety of ways, including for self-belays on a single rope, for tandem Prusik belays on a separate belay line, occasionally for ascending and so forth.

The rope used for a Prusik should always be of a smaller diameter than that which it's attached to. We often use 11mil. rope for main and belay lines, so our Prusiks are 8mil for rescue loads and 6 or 8mil for a single person (or personal) load. The difference in diameter between the main line and the Prusik should follow the general rule of a 60-80% ratio.

Prusiks can be made by buying the rope and tying them yourself, or you can buy them pre-sewn, which is what I did so as to avoid having the double fisherman's knots on the Prusiks.

We're required to have at least two sets of 8mil Prusiks, a set being one long (22") and one short (16"). I purchased my Sterling 8 mm Sewn Prusik Sets from Rescue Direct

They ship any order in the contiguous United States for a flat rate of $4.95, so several of my teammates and I placed our orders together. We also took advantage of their 10% discount for rescue personnel.

Rescue or Trauma Shears

Though we have the option of carrying a knife instead, our SAR coordinator said he recommends shears. Reason being, it's so easy to cut rope under tension, and if, say, we're suspended while doing a pick-off (rescuing someone stranded mid-face) and pull out our knife, we could end up accidentally hitting our line or belay line with the blade. Not to mention the person we're rescuing.

Other gear on my list includes ascenders like those shown here. The team has Petzl ascenders we can use if we don't have our own

Other gear on my list includes ascenders like those shown here. The team has Petzl ascenders we can use if we don't have our own
Other gear on my list includes ascenders like those shown here. The team has Petzl ascenders we can use if we don't have our own

A Technical Rescue Rigging Guide Our Team Uses - We keep one of these around for the team for quick references, and many of us own our own.

Technical Rescue Riggers Guide
Technical Rescue Riggers Guide

This book has lots of clear illustrations and photos, covering basic knots and anchors, to high lines, helicopter rescues and much more. A portion of the sale of this guide goes to support volunteer mountain rescue.

 

© 2009 Deb Kingsbury

Comments Or Questions About Technical Rescue Or The Gear? - Share them here.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 7 years ago

      Great Info, very interesting!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      A very complete resource -- but the closest you will ever get me to this is perhaps the gear for the canopy tours! I did that in Costa Rica -- let me tell you!!!! That was one serious stepping outside MY comfort zone as I yodeled through the tree tops. And once back on ground, adjusted that wedgie.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great job with this lens. I'm not sure I could swing rock climbing. I've seen a lot of people do it, but I think I need both feet firmly planted in the ground. You look like you've done this quite a few times, so I trust your recommendations! Squid Angel blessed.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Great detailed lens. I can't imagine any climber wants to cut their rope by accident! Shears are a good thing.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image
      Author

      Deb Kingsbury 6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      @TonyPayne: That's a good point. I didn't think about non-techie people wondering about that. Actually, the shears are for cutting a victim's rope once we get them off of it and onto a rescue line or into a rescue litter. Many fall victims are hanging on their own ropes when we get to them. But we don't cut their rope until we have them secured, of course! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      www.cmcrescue.com is an excellent source for all of your rescue equipment needs. They can also make custom equipment to meet any special needs you may have.

    • profile image

      adityashinde 6 years ago

      great lens...thanks for sharing :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Anyone can say something is great. Thanks for showing us.

    • profile image

      jayjay262 4 years ago

      Love the info on this site, as an old abseiler still learning new tricks thereâs a lot to learn from this page. If anyone gets time check out myrope access london site to see how we do it in the UK.

    Click to Rate This Article