An Updated Review of the Akimbo
It’s been a few years since the Rock Exotica Akimbo took the tree care industry by storm, and it’s about time I shared my honest thoughts on this behemoth.
Before the Akimbo, the Rope Runner and the Unicender were the dominant mechanical devices in the SRT/SRS world. The Unicender never caught my attention due to my climbing style and the prune climbs that I was tasked with. Of course I know climbers in the industry who absolutely love the Unicender, and that's great for them. To each their own.
The Rope Runner was my original go-to. It had the pulley to tend slack, replaceable bollards, and an “adjust your own friction” feature which requires additional tools. The device is exceptionally smooth when it's finally broken in.
I loved the Rope Runner, but then came the Akimbo...
I was immediately enamored by the Akimbo when I got my hands on one. It did begin with a bit of trial and error for me though, since I did toss the instructions aside. Don't do that.
The Akimbo is so compact that it allows me to easily collapse it on long limb walks, versus other systems where it feels as if I’m doing some sort of yoga stretch to reach it. It's very easy to open the Akimbo, but only when you need it to! When the Akimbo is loaded, the side plates will not be able to spread open.
Applying a PonyTail Redirect WITHOUT sending gear up through the union is undoubtedly one of my favorite things to do with this device. With a standard PonyTail, the entire climbing system is disconnected from the harness, locked with a Slip Knot, and then sent back through the union to obtain the original route. This can potentially damage the hardware due to contacting the tree, unless a Ghost technique is applied. However, when you add in the Akimbo: once the lanyard is in play, slack the Akimbo and disconnect it from the climbing rope. \Next, pull the leg of rope where the intended clean route is and presto! No damaged hardware!
The Akimbo is always on my harness! Even if the Akimbo isn't being used as my primary climbing system and I’ve pre-directed my route; I can choose to use it for in a Dragging Tail configuration!
I'll break it down. The primary device gets passed over the redirect (after you’ve installed a lanyard), followed by attaching the Akimbo to the falling end of rope that is still through the redirect. Now, you can directly control the speed coming out of the redirect. Control is always safer.
Some might say, "Just go for the swing and quit being a sissy!"
As I've matured I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to mangle my body in a tree accident, but to each their own.
The final thing that I like about the Akimbo is the adjustable friction bollards! I'm always trying out different ropes and having the ability to switch out the Akimbo onto different sized ropes is a huge advantage for me. The entire device can be adjusted on the fly with no need for additional tools. In case you missed it: NO TOOLS REQUIRED!
I covered the features that I like most about the Akimbo, and now it's time for the aspects I don’t find too enjoyable.
First is the adjustable friction. I did mention it as a pro but it’s also something that I found to be slightly annoying until I familiarized myself with it. If you don't know what you're doing with it, it can cause issues. When descending you don’t want the top arm of the device to come into contact with the bottom arm. That would mean the friction setting is too high, and breaking the system loose up in the canopy will be difficult. Not to mention it could cause an uncontrolled descent!
The chest harness connection point is another design feature that bugs me. It was designed with the intention of releasing the mini carabiner and allowing the climber to catch a breath. The problem is trying to reconnect to it that makes me feel super unbalanced. To solve this dilemma, I tied a small piece of throwline with a mini carabiner to the main harness attachment point. This proved to work just fine but I ultimately ended up using my lanyard over the shoulder and attaching my carabiner directly to the spine of the Akimbo.
Another issue is the Akimbo does not hold up to tree sap. Sap isn’t great on any tool, but the Akimbo seems to handle it just as bad as a prussic. Moving parts don't like getting sticky!
Is the Akimbo the BEST?
So is the Akimbo the best adjustable friction device on the market? It's possible. However, it is best suited for SRT/SRS climbers but it can be used in MRS configurations. The only other device that still holds out against the Akimbo is the Rope Runner Pro.
When you first start using your Akimbo, it’s always best to start low to the ground until you find the setting best suited for you and the rope you decide to pair it with. Which rope should you use? Rock Exotica does provide a list of ropes that the Akimbo is compatible with, so try to follow their standards!