When it comes to being a tree climber, one of the best things you can ask for is a good groundie who is capable of keeping up with the brush, making sure that most everything is done when you get out of the tree, and, most importantly, great at running ropes! There is nothing better than taking the top of a tree and watching and – more importantly – feeling the top come slowly and steadily to a stop before touching the ground. That is what a good groundie is capable of. It makes your day way less stressful and go more smoothly. It also makes it possible to talk to your significant other when you get home at night instead of losing your voice halfway through the day from screaming at someone on the ground or from screaming in pain from busting your ribs on the spar as you get jerked around 50’ off the ground!
That Was Then
For years, groundies have been using the base of the tree to create friction on the rigging line, which in turn makes it easier to control larger limbs and logs being lowered out of the tree. While this technique has worked quite well traditionally, there are some drawbacks to it that might make you look for an alternative. The biggest thing that I see as a problem when it comes to taking natural wraps around the trunk of the tree is the inconsistent friction that this creates.
For example, consider taking wraps on a 42” DBH Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata). Shagbarks are notorious for rough bark that will grab a rope and tear it up. You also have to think about the girth of the tree. One wrap around a trunk of this type of tree would damn near hold a family sedan! Now let’s think about taking a wrap on something like a 12” DBH American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) that has super smooth bark. Expecting this tree to guarantee the same amount of friction as the Shagbark is a bad bet. The same amount of weight is going to make the rope scream around the Beech and, more than likely, end in property damage, some burned hands, and possibly serious injury or death!
This Is Now
Many years ago, a really cool device was invented called a Port a Wrap. It was invented out of necessity for the exact reasons we just talked about. The Port a Wrap is exactly what the name sounds like, a portable wrap on a tree. This device can be installed on pretty much any substantial tree, as long as your sling is long enough, and then be used to take wraps with the rigging line to help lower limbs.
The Port a Wrap consist of a long steel tube, with a pin through one end and a steel “hoop” or oval on the other. One side of the hoop is bent and the other end is longer; this helps when attaching the sling and while taking wraps. Whenever you are going to attach a sling to the Port a Wrap it needs to be attached to the longer side of the hoop. If you are using a dead eye sling, it can be girth hitched around the long side of the hoop and then attached to the tree with a cow hitch or a timber hitch. If you are using a Whoopie Sling, it can be girth hitched to the long end of the hoop, wrapped around the tree, and then adjusted as needed. When taking wraps on the Port a Wrap with the rigging line, a bight is pushed through the bent side of the hoop and then placed over the pin; this is to make sure the rope doesn’t come off the Port a Wrap when slack is introduced into the system, such as when you are butt checking or negative rigging. You can take more wraps by wrapping the rigging line around the tube until you have a sufficient amount of friction. Just be sure that the wraps are all in the same direction and don’t create any sharp bends around the hoop.
Why We Love It!
The best thing about using a Port a Wrap is how quick it can be loaded and unloaded. Instead of taking the rope all the way around the tree for each consecutive wrap, all you need to do is load the Port a Wrap and then flip the rope around it to add wraps. It’s really fast! The other thing that is great is the ability to have the same amount of friction every time you use the Port a Wrap instead of the scenario we talked about before with the American Beech and the Shagbark Hickory! Consistent friction makes for no surprises… like getting slammed around and busting up your sternum or having the piece sail out of the tree and smash the overhang off the house!
If you’ve never used a Port a Wrap before, visit our shop and we will show you what one is all about! This is guaranteed to make your day smoother and faster instead of trying to walk that rope around the tree every time a limb needs to be lowered.