Best Friction Savers for Tree Climbing
Whether you call them a friction saver, false crotch, rope sleeve, or cambium saver, they all do the same thing: protect tree bark from potential wounds created by your climbing line. This tool will also greatly extend the life of your climbing rope and make your climb easier and more efficient. There are several different types of friction savers, but there is no question about their increasing necessity in professional tree climbing and tree care. Your arborist tree-climbing gear is incomplete without some sort of friction saver.
In this video, Nick looks at friction savers and discusses the different approaches each type uses. We’ll start off with the tried-and-true Weaver leather style, which also comes in a steel variant from Dan House. The ring-and-ring style of friction saver uses two steel rings or aluminum rings of slightly different sizes and may use a prusik loop. Finally, Nick shows us what he calls the "Mack Daddy" of all friction savers, the pulley and thimble variant. Friction saver retrieval is naturally crucial as well, which is simple by using your arborist throwline or throw bag.
You can find links to several types of friction savers at the end of this guide or browse our full collection at https://www.treestuff.com/climbing/climbing-gear/friction-savers.
Transcript edited for clarity
Hi, I'm Nick Bonner for TreeStuff.com, and in this video, we're going to look at some of the friction savers that are available for the modern arborist and tree climbers, what the differences are between them, and some of the more specialized models.
Types of Friction Savers
First, I'd like to talk about these basic tube-style cambium savers. We have here a Dan House version, this is made out of a metal conduit. This is kind of an evolved version of your original Weaver leather cambium saver. These are used by simply putting the bitter or sharp end of your rope through the end, and around the other side. And then these go over the branch protecting the branch from the friction of a moving rope system.
These are both great—the leather ones tend to wear in a little more. Some people prefer these because they can be a little easier to use and a little longer wearing.
These are easy to retrieve. You can retrieve them with simply a knot in your rope. I've never heard of a knot going through one of these—I don't think that's possible—so these are really easy to retrieve. They use a different remote setting process, which can actually be a little easier than some other types of friction savers. However, they're not as smooth running as ones that use metal or have a pulley.
You can also use a versatile anchor sling (like this one) attached to a carabiner or pulley to create your own cambium saver.
That's cambium savers in a nutshell! There are other videos online to learn how to set this type of friction saver and other ways to do it from the ground.
Rope-Style Ring-in-Ring Friction Saver
Next, we have a basic rope-style ring-and-ring friction saver. This is a version with an adjustable friction saver, this has become pretty much the benchmark, I think, in today's world. So here you have a Prusik you'll make sure that that's tied, dressed, and set, it's kind of new.
And this allows you to set the friction saver to the desired branch size and make sure it fits really well. On ring and ring style savers, you're gonna see a big ring, and a little ring. That's going to be used in the retrieval. So again, a knot can be used. Some knots will slip the big ring and jam on the little ring. However, it has been known especially when they get stuck for a knot to pull through the smaller ring, leaving your friction saver stuck in the tree. To avoid that, a standard retrieval ball or retrieval link is used. These are generally plastic balls, they’re round in shape, and they pass through the big ring. And they’ll get stuck on the little ring, dragging the friction saver out big ring last.
These are either girth hitched on the end of your rope, or, ideally used with a splice. These can be installed remotely from the ground and retrieved. Ring and ring style savers are definitely a little more complicated to set than, say a tube style saver from the ground. But I think they're infinitely better in my opinion. These are great, they're durable, they feature sewn-eye terminations, and they're made out of rope that you know and trust. And they look very, very familiar. These are great tools. They also have an eye on the other end which can be used for other setups—you can put a carabiner in there and do some other types of cool things.
The next setup that we have here is similar. This is a thimble saver and actually has a unique. There's a rope sheath here with a piece of rope basketed it in. So there's actually two pieces of this 10-millimeter, maybe nine-millimeter reception or inside of here. That makes it nice and flat. It's very stiff, and it's kind of techie and cool. This functions very similarly to your ring and ring style, but with these thimbles. This is a nice lightweight version, it does use its own special retrieval ball. Most standard ones will jam against both rank against both of the thimbles. So that's not so great.
And you'll want to use this DMM large retrieval cone which will pass through the bigger thimble and jam on the smaller one. There have been reports of users having trouble installing spliced ropes remotely through these, especially with fatter lines. So if you use a half-inch climbing line with an ice splice, especially on both ends, this might not be the best one for you.
You will notice it does not have a load-bearing eye at the other end like the sewn rope ones. So you may be somewhat limited in some of the things you can do. But there are a ton of great DMM videos that show some of the more advanced stuff you can do with this and some of the other DMM primary suspension point or friction saver tools. So that's the thimble saver a really nice and sleek and tech-forward option.
Here we have the pulley saver. The pulley saver is kinda like the mack daddy of friction savers. Definitely the grandfather of this style. There are other things like the uSAVER and other do-it-yourself projects that achieve some of the things that this does, but this is the one that started it all.
What you'll notice here is that you have a pulley and a thimble, so you could use this like a friction saver if you wanted. You could set it remotely and retrieve it very similar to how you would set the thimble saver or a regular ring and ring friction saver remotely. This retrieves with the smaller of the two DMM retrieval cones, which is an important designation to make, that will pass through the pinto pulley, but catch on the smaller thimble allowing you to retrieve this if you have it set up in that ring and ring.
That's not the primary function of the pully saver. The primary function of the pulley saver is to be set in a choking configuration like this, with the pulley through this reinforced soft eye and you'll see how that's held open by a stiffener inside of it. This allows you to choke your friction saver on a spar and use it when you wouldn't be able to use a traditional friction saver.
Also with the pulley, you get a much lower friction setup, which can be smoother and faster for climbing. In this configuration, the thimble is actually used as the retrieval link so your rope threads up through the thimble through the pulley and then back down with both legs of your climbing system. So when you go to retrieve this, the rope will clear through here. The ball gets caught here and it pulls the pulley out, allowing the whole system to come down off the tree and back to you.
Friction Saver Product Recommendations
The friction savers we’ve looked at here are just some of the options that are available. There are different instances of many of these—bigger, smaller, longer shorter. There are webbing versions of your traditional ring and ring friction savers. And then there are a lot of friction saver accessories that are available as well—slings, tools for SRT climbing and DRT climbing, and more. So please check out our website TreeStuff.com for these and all other friction savers. Thanks!