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Gear needed to START canyoneering?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by ratagonia, May 8, 2020.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    What Gear does someone need to have to START canyoneering.

    We will assume non-climber, non-caver.

    Not recommendations of brands or specific models except where it is necessary to steer people in the right direction. Well, okay. I end up calling out specific items that are available on my store (CanyoneeringUSA), which is a very small store, and I only carry well-vetted canyon equipment. I am among the MOST opinionated of canyoneers, especially in regard to equipment.

    Here is my short list of the gear to show up with:

    A. Helmet. A climbing helmet. Most people wear a basic, inexpensive ($65) climbing helmet. Fit is important, so this you buy at your local climbing shop so you can try a few different models on. (Taking the wrapping off all your new equipment is recommended, although it does make it clear where your technical skillset is at.)

    B. Carabiners: ONLY screw-lock carabiners. Canyoners do not have much use for non-locking biners, or for fancy spring-loaded locking carabiners. Your basic aluminum screw-lock carabiners, especially big fat ones, are fine. Get four. (A tiny but vocal minority likes steel carabiners. Not me.)

    C. Rappel Device: please start with a canyoneering-specific rappel device. There are 8000 devices out there, but only a very few are made for canyoneering. Okay, I will say it: The Critr. Clearly the best.

    D. Drybag: even in "dry" canyons, there can be swims. There are many available on the market. The lightest weight ones are not suitable for swimming. The heaviest weight ones are for when your raft is churning in the hole at Crystal. Inbetween are drybags suitable for canyoning. Generally a 15 liter bag works for summer; and a 25 liter bag works for when it is cooler and you might have a puffy in there.

    E. A tether (aka leash, safety): this is something that attaches to your harness and with which you can clip into anchors so you can fall off without dying. I like a simple tether (Clipster), but a wide variety of complex, big, clumsy, expensive and unnecessary tethers are used by canyoneers. One of your carabiners goes here. Your tether is part of your harness, keep it on there at all times.

    F. Harness: this might be the most difficult item. Personal taste varies a lot, and relates to your body shape and size. I personally dislike Canyon-specific harnesses as being poor-fitting, heavy and extravagently expensive - but what do I know? I prefer a basic, rugged, leg-loop-opening climbing harness ($60) and then add an after-market seat like the ShuffleButt2 ($20). If you want the canyon-specific, of those I like the Singing Rock Canyon XP best.

    G. Harness more comments: the SEAT is important as it protects the harness, your wetsuit and your derriere when playing around on the rock. Which is why if you get a climbing harness be sure to get one with leg loops that are adjustable and open completely so you can install a seat on it.

    H. Gloves - not necessary, but helpful. You should definitely learn to rappel WITHOUT gloves so you learn how to adjust the friction on your device properly, without the gloves hiding your mistakes. I sell a very specific glove for canyoning that balances various attributes well. Very expensive ($7). They look like a lot of other gloves, but they are better. I think gloves are mostly to protect your hands when climbing down and across, but they are also useful rappelling.

    And that's enough to start with... perhaps other people could talk about wetsuits and packs. And other stuff.

    There are lots of things you do not need to buy to start, like ropes and canyon-specific packs (assuming you have a few packs in your closet)... When you have 20 canyons under your belt, you will start to decide which other things you need to get and which varieties you like.

    Tom Jones
    CanyoneeringUSA / ImlayCanyonGear
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  2. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    # 1 item on the list for me would be shoes adequate to complete the adventure. If you really care, shoes that will still be useable after the adventure.

    A. Helmet is great. Rarely used, but when you need it nothing else will do.
    B. I like one steel biner for the rappelling device, but you'll pay for it in dollars and weight.
    C. Agree with the CRITR
    D. Drybag or a keg. Both are good. Kegs leak less and protect your sandwich better, but wear out your pack faster.
    E. I use one of those expensive unnecessary ones, mostly because I use it climbing and already have it.
    F. I prefer a comfortable harness, so I basically use a trad climbing one that actually has some padding. But that means it doesn't last as long AND that I can't put a seat on it.
    G. So instead of a seat, I use neoprene shorts smothered in roofing sealant worn over the harness. A little cheaper than the seats, provides additional padding and warmth.
    H. Gloves. I consider these mandatory. Yes, they're nice for rappelling, but also just for general body armor.
    I. A pack of some kind belongs on this list. The most important attributes are drainability (for a wet canyon) and durability. Tom's are the standard here. Wish there were more competition in the area.
    J. Need for a wetsuit is canyon and season specific. You may need it for your first canyon. Check with your competent canyon leader.
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  3. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    I. Packs indeed; regular hiking packs will get chewed up in a single descent, especially if you're new (not good at sliding etc).

    J. If using a wetsuit, elbow and knee pads more necessary the greener the user; fearing short drops and not being good downclimbers, they grind lots and lots on their knees and elbows, quickly shredding the nice wetsuit you loaned them...
  4. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    C. Also a QL for your CRTR.

    H. I'd also consider gloves mandatory.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Since the Critr is made entirely of metal, why would it need a quadratus lumborum?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadratus_lumborum_muscle

    And yes, that is a trolling. (But I did learn the name of a muscle that I was not aware of, and now cannot be unaware of...)

    A more apt way of stating your concern is:

    Like most Modern Figure-8 Type Devices, it is helpful for the device to be flat when rappelling. If using a belay loop type harness, a second carabiner can be used to change the orientation 90 degrees so the device lies flat. (Some people will find the extension beneficial; others will find it annoying.)

    I personally don't find a Maillon Rapide (aka: QL, Q/RL, R/QL, RL, Rapide, Maillon, Rapid Link, Thingymabobber) to be the best tool for this - I like using a small locking carabiner.

    Tom
  6. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    OK, I'll bite. Why is a carabiner better than a QL, or why do you prefer it? I started out using the biner, but now use a QL.
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The link (either style) should be big enough to not squish the belay loop (3/4") and big enough to allow the locking carabiner on the device to turn around / over - otherwise it is challenging and time consuming to remove the device-and-carabiner from the harness.

    A large enough steel Rapide (10mm? 9mm?) is heavy. A large enough Aluminum rapide (10mm) is expensive ( $16?).

    A small locker like the BD Positron Screwgate is less expensive ($11), lighter and has more useful functions than a large Aluminium rapide. Plus you can buy it at many places.

    Tom
  8. madman_lee

    madman_lee

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    One regret I've always had was taking out beginner groups without providing third hands. I think these are absolutely essential. I also use the thinner ropes. What do you all think?

    Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    There are many ways to assure beginners do not become talus food. Which method do you use?

    Has it been working? Do you feel that you keep them safe, at least, on rappel?

    The "third hand" is a method for this, but it is not a very good method. Unreliable. Hard to get right, and unreliable even when you get it right.

    It is a complication to the rappel practice when people are trying to learn something new. I think it better for them to concentrate on rappelling, rather than rappelling plus this other thing that is finicky and hard to get right.

    (Note: these observations do not necessarily apply to trained and experienced guides, controlling all parameters, when leading clients.)

    Tom
  10. madman_lee

    madman_lee

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    What I've seen is if everyone in my group has the same hollow block and we spend a lot of time practice rappelling off a bumper in the morning or evening prior, it is very easy to use and understand. Of course I guide them on how many wraps is correct at each station.

    This has definetly given me peace of mind especially when most the group is using atc's

    Plus from what I understand this is pretty fool proof? But I might be wrong.

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  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Hollowbloc. Unreliable tool. Breaks unpredictably. Not recommended... at least by me. (Does grab very well though).

    Yeah, we used to count wraps. Unreliable.

    However, let me put my cynical scowling aside. Sounds like you are doing things right, doing the training in advance. In which case, you probably have another competent person you can send down first to provide a bottom belay, which is a more-reliable method. Why don't you just do that?

    Tom
  12. madman_lee

    madman_lee

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    Thanks for the perspective on the hollow block breaking unpredictably. I always have a fire man at the bottom, but thought that can be unreliable on an out of control fall.

    Truthfully I'd be most happy if everyone had a critter or ats, or pirranah or whatever the latest is, but often times I get climbers who already know everything there is to know about rappelling (insert eyeroll here). So I usually resort to enforcing my group using the hollow blocks i provde to give me that content feeling at the bottom of my gut.

    Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
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