Petzl ZigZag vs Rock Exotica Akimbo
I began my climbing career 10 years ago on a traditional Blake’s hitch like most do in this incredible tree care industry. Then, I slowly made progress into working with eye-to-eye prussiks, eventually leading into climbing with mechanical devices. Mechanicals can make your climbs feel frictionless when set up with a friction saver, and talk about silky smooth rope tending that saves the shoulders! Finding the right mechanical device to work for you can be a process on its own, especially with there being multiple devices and the recent advancements that just seem to be continuing on an upward trend! I remember when I began researching each mechanical device prior to purchasing and now it seems that I have pretty much one of each, but that’s just due to my tree climbing gear addiction! Researching can be time consuming without a doubt. If you happen to know people that run mechanical devices, ask them for their honest opinion. Or, starting a feed on social media to get other people’s input on said device can really help narrow down the search. In today’s gear blog we’ll be comparing two of the most sought out devices that we get questioned on regularly- Rock Exotica’s Akimbo and Petzl’s ZigZag. Both items are regarded as top of the line climbing systems, and for good reason too!
Climbing on the Petzl ZigZag is an experience like no other; simple, yet very effective! I tend to pair my ZigZag with Teufelberger’s Pulleysaver which makes for a stellar combination that feels as if all the friction has been removed throughout the climb. Petzl redesigned their ZigZag a few years ago now, coming out with a swivel version and one with a non-swivel. Personally, I always liked rocking the swivel version because it did help prevent rope twist in my M.R.S. system. I have talked with a few people that like the fixed connection to help keep peace of mind while they climb. The ZigZag is, in my opinion, the most user-friendly mechanical that really doesn’t have a learning curve to it, just put it on the rope and go! Descending is actually quite simple. Depressing the top release lever with my thumb while my hand is on the links has helped me control my descent speed. I quickly learned that the ZigZag release is fast and I ended up landing a little too rough on my descent, so practice makes perfect! I guess one of the only downsides to it would be that it is not mid-line attachable; that right there can be the ultimate deciding factor when choosing a device. The ZigZag allows ropes from 11.5mm-12.7mm diameter. Staying within the allotted rope diameter is critical, going with too small of a rope diameter can lead to a serious injury or death. Along with a beefier redesign to the product, Petzl made it so that you can also apply S.R.S climbing methods while on the ZigZag but does require the use of the Petzl Chicane. The Petzl Chicane is used only when you are going to be climbing S.R.S., it takes away excess friction and stress from the ZigZag links allowing you to move effortlessly through the canopy.
Now you might be asking yourself, why the Chicane and not just a rope wrench? There actually happens to be a safety concern if you do use the rope wrench with a soft tether on the ZigZag, believe it or not. I have heard other people’s thoughts on why they think Petzl had made it so that the ZigZag had to be paired with the Chicane- all leading back to cornering the market. A while back I was at an expo and heard the reasoning as to why and it made total sense once it sank in. A rope wrench with a soft tether over time gets soft and becomes very pliable; if the climber was unaware of his surroundings and hits a limb while climbing, that soft tether will fold down causing the wrench to contact the links of the ZigZag potentially collapsing the device. The Chicane is a hard body design which will not come into contact with the links of the ZigZag even if a limb was to hit the top of the Chicane. With the Chicane body being a stiff tether, it can be used as a handle if you plan on traveling short distances which eliminate the process of reattaching your chest harness.
Now onto the delightful joy that is the AKIMBO! Rock Exotica’s Akimbo is designed primarily for S.R.S climbing but can also be applied as an M.R.S. system too! In order to climb M.R.S., Rock Exotica recommends using the ROCK EXOTICA HYDRA bridge attachment to keep the returned eye splice separated from the Akimbo so that the system doesn’t collapse. Definitely, the biggest advantages of the Akimbo would have to be the capability of adjusting your own friction, and of course the big decision maker…MID-LINE ATTACHABLE! I don’t always climb on the Akimbo, but I love busting this thing out whenever I know the climb is going to have multiple redirects. Whenever I apply the Ponytail Redirect while on this device, all I do is secure myself with my work positioning lanyard, disconnect the Akimbo from the rope and pull on the falling end to clean my route without the worry of having the device smash into the limbs. Another way I enjoy using the Akimbo would be on Dragging Tail Redirects, which allows me to return from a long awkward limb walk or when I’m passing through a natural union redirect and I want to avoid an uncontrolled swing that could potentially injure me. The only downside that I have encountered was with how it worked on a rope that has sap on it; but if I’m being honest, what system actually likes to have sap run through it?
Getting to know a new system does require doing things at a low and slow pace to familiarize oneself with the moving parts of the device. Mechanicals in general do require a more in-depth inspection, but that doesn’t mean that they are faulty. It’s good practice to do a regular maintenance check before and after a climb, only to ensure the device is in good condition. I hope that by reading this it’ll help narrow your decision, if you were looking into one of these awesome tools! Drop some comments below and let us know your thoughts.