How to Pick the Best Tree Climbing Gear for Arborists

[email protected] BigCommerce Aug 12th 2022

Where do I start? I want everything I need to climb trees. Get knowledgeable recommendations on every product you need head-to-toe (or soup-to-nuts) from our General Manager and former field arborist Nick Bonner. has over 1500 Youtube videos covering everything seen in this video and much, much, more.

0:26 PPE
0:35 Helmets
0:50 Safety Glasses
1:10 Ear Protection
1:30 Boots, Gloves, Things Like That
2:06 Harnesses
2:53 Books and Education
3:40 Throwline
4:47 Throwball
5:45 DRT Climbing
6:45 Classic DRT Ropes
7:05 Modern DRT Climbing and Prusiks
9:40 Switching to SRT Climbing
11:30 SRT Rope
12:02 More DRT Rope Options
12:32 Foot ascenders
13:17 Knee Ascenders
13:40 Hand Ascenders
13:50 Hold-up Thingies
14:37 Spur Climbing
15:50 Lanyards
16:41 Friction Savers
17:33 Handsaws
19:14 Tool Clips and Harness Accessories
19:50 Bags and Storage

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Hi, I'm Nick Bonner for, and today we're going to answer a question that we get from people all the time - and that's, "where do I start? I want everything that I need to climb a tree. And I've been reading and watching videos, but I still don't know what I need. Where do I start?" And this is a conversation I've had with lots of customers and I always recommend that people start with PPE. You need eye protection. You see I'm wearing prescription glasses, I'm not doing any work today. Normally, if I was out on the jobsite, I would have contacts and wearing Z87 safety glasses, a helmet, and ear protection when you're around machinery. See, I've got one of the new Petzl helmets on, I also really like Kask helmets - that would be. I think my personal preference, I really like the Kask Super Plasma all the time that I've spent in helmets, that one's worked really well for me. As far as safety glasses go. I really like cheap safety glasses, the replaceable ones that you can get scratched and throw away. Those work really well. We sell pretty cheap safety glasses with the TreeStuff brand on them, we put them in orders, and honestly those would be my preference over some of the more expensive models. As far as ear protection goes, I'm a big fan of both earplugs and earmuffs. I think everyone should have snap-on ear muffs on their helmet if they're out working around heavy machinery. And then they should probably also have earplugs for times when maybe they have a different helmet or sometimes you even need double protection with a really big chipper.

Boots, gloves, things like that are great. I have some pretty strong feelings about boots. We have an entire video on boots. We also have an entire video on safety glasses and ear protection that you can watch but you can get all my opinions on boots from that video. Gloves, there's also a whole video on arborist glove choices. You can watch that but I generally will tend to prefer cheaper throwaway gloves. You don't absolutely have to have them but a nice pair of like latex textured gloves or the vinyl dipped ones are really nice, especially if it's cold or wet, or you're doing a lot of roping.

Harness I consider basic PPE, the video is about what do I need to get climbing, so here you see I'm wearing the new Petzl Sequoia, this is my saddle of choice, it's very nice, it's at the higher end of the price range. An option like the TreeMotion from Teufelberger is going to be top of the line about, as good as you can get. I think it comes down to preference at the high end between these two models. If you're looking for a more value-oriented option, or something more economical, the Notch Sentinel, I think, is by far the best bang for your buck or pound for pound fighter. It's really comfortable. It's super adjustable. And it's you know, under $400, whereas this and the TreeMotion are in that $500 plus range. So that's what I think about saddles.

The other thing that I think you need beyond PPE is basic education. There's a really great book by an author named Jeff Jepsen called the Tree Climber's Companion. The Tree Climber's Companion is an inexpensive paperback book. It's got a lot of illustrations, and it will teach you soup-to-nuts about all of the basic activities and the equipment types and choices that I'm talking about in this video, and they do a really thorough job. So, I really recommend that book by Jeff Jepsen, which is the Tree Climber's Companion. Beyond that, if you're looking there are great professional certifications from ISA, including Certified Arborist as well as some lower level classes and certifications for groundworker, a bucket operator, and things like that through the TCIA, as well. So, education is really important. At least start with the basics, get the Jeff Jepsen book. So you've got your PPE, you've got some education, the next thing you need to do is get a rope into a tree.

You can see here today I've got a rope already in the tree. But in order to get a rope up into the tree, you're going to need a throw line. We have a whole video on throw line and throw line basics and things like that. There's also a video about the different types of throw line and throw weights. You see here I use, in this cube, this is the Notch throw line. It is essentially the same thing as Samson Zing-It. It comes in 1.8 millimeter and 2.1 millimeter. It's a Dyneema hollow braid. This is a pretty ubiquitous model, like I said, it's the same thing essentially as Zing-It. It's thin. I find this one to be really good. It's probably my second choice. So, if I'm being honest, my top choice - I really like Dynaglide by Teufelberger. It's over two millimeters and it has like a silky smoothness that some of these thinner lines are a little there they hurt your fingers, you know. So I like Dynaglide, it breaks at 1000 pounds which can be an upside or downside. You know, if you get your throw ball stuck, you may not get it back because you can't break the throw line. Once you've picked a throw line, you'll want to go ahead and pick a throw ball. Throw balls are, I think, a pretty commoditized item. It's a lead bag or a nylon bag full lead shot. They're made out of various materials, all of the patterns have kind of gravitated towards, you know, one pattern. Now all the manufacturers are essentially using the same one. The Notch throw balls are as good as any other. They're made out of 1000 denier nylon. They have the best patterns, if you ask me, they're color coded by size, which I think is nice, and they have a lifetime warranty that none of the other bags have. So, I would definitely buy a notch throw weight, I don't see any reason to get anything else. That's kind of the basics of throw lines or getting your line in the tree or tree access, covered the throw line, we covered the throw ball.

The next thing that you need to ask yourself is what kind of rope do you want? And I think that that is going to hinge on a question of what is your ascent style going to be? Are you going to SRT or are you going to DRT, so, we'll talk really briefly about DRT and SRT. When you climb double rope technique, you can do it with a lot of different equipment, or you can do it with relatively little equipment here. You'll see I can tie in with two half hitches to this carabiner and then come over here, make myself a little bridge and just tie a Blake's hitch, with the end of the rope. You don't need really anything else other than this. And this technique and others are covered in the Tree Climbers Companion. Here, I could climb on this Blake's hitch and it's gonna work right. I can hip thrust up and then easily come down. So if that's how you're going to climb and you're going to climb double rope like that, you know, I would recommend not a 24 strand rope like you see here, but probably a 16 strand rope or a 12 strand solid braid, like True Blue or something like that. If you want to stay within the DRT range, but you want to do something that's a little bit nicer or works a little bit better, you can go to a much more modern closed system and we'll actually jump a couple of options here. We'll go ahead and install this prusik on here. I'm just going to use a Valdotain Tresse, there are a ton of different knots that you might tie based on the type of prusik cord that you had, the diameter of it, the length of it. All those things you can choose. I generally will recommend that people start with an eight or ten millimeter prusik cord and about 28 inches with the sewn eyes. The sewn eyes are going to give you a little bit more usable space which is really nice when you're trying to hitch especially, and a 10 millimeter prusik is going to be forgiving and responsive on most ropes. So, here, I've attached the Hitch Climber Pulley, my 10 millimeter prusik. It's been a while since I tied in with an anchor hitch, it would be nice to have a splice line here with another eye on it, but I don't have one. So I'm going to use an anchor bend. And now we've tied in with a much nicer, more modern DRT system. You'll see when I pull down here though, I'm pulling above my hitch. So especially as I build up Slack, right, by pulling a couple thrusts, I'll need to hold and pull that slack out. So, I think that's - if there is a downside to climbing with this type of system versus something more basic, like I illustrated In the beginning - that would be one but this is going to be much smoother especially when you're limb walking out or just shuffling slack versus having to manually advance or even have a pulley tend a Blake's hitch, even on a split tail, which would be another step back, but this is a really great DRT system.

One of the things that I especially like about this is if you decide that you want to use decide - that you want to climb SRT, you can do that with relatively the same set of gear. So, when you try to weight and descend on a prusik with a single line, it will get too hot and get jammed up and it just won't work. But you can take the same equipment and you can throw in a rope wrench. With the same knot, usually, some maybe not, you might need to modify you're knot. Potentially the same knot, the same carabiner that you were using, and now just a little bit of stuff here for an oval carabiner, you get those two legs from the two legged prusik on there, the two legged stiff tether. So, here we go. I've got my stiff tether on there, I've got my two eyes in my prusik. It's all in and I am set up in a Rope Wrench setup, but I would say that this prusik is a little bit too long. So, I either need to tie a different knot or use a shorter prusik and this is a, this is a 32 inch, right, so I would definitely recommend starting with a 28 inch so that if you do decided to make that switch to SRT today, even with the normal length tethers, you won't run into this type of jamb-up. One of the big benefits of climbing SRT over DRT is that when you do climb the rope and you go ahead and put your rope into a foot ascender and you stand up, when you go up, you're gonna go up the full amount that you put in, versus on DRT you're pulling two times the distance through versus one. So if I was going to be climbing, SRT, the type of rope that I would be looking at would probably be - if I was going to use a mechanical - something like this Notch Dragon, or if I was going to be doing with a prusik and a Rope Wrench like this, I would look at something like notch Banshee or Teufelberger Tachyon or the 11.8 millimeter Yale lines. So I think these ropes are pretty good, but Tachyon, if I had to choose one, would probably be my choice for an all-around climbing line, you can use it for both DRT, and for SRT. If you're going to be climbing DRT, and you're not going to be using a friction saver or something like that, I highly recommend checking out a 16 strand rope. There are a ton of different options from Samson, Teufelberger, and Yale. They're all pretty much the same, I would say, the Samson Arbor-Master lines like BRW, and Bluestreak. Those were always the ones that I used when I was out in the field, and I've had great experiences with those. So, I would definitely recommend those firsthand.

If you're going to be climbing SRT, you are going to need a little bit more equipment. At the very basic level, you're going to need a foot ascender - I wear the Notch Jet Step. This is a foot ascender that we helped design. It works great, it's probably my favorite, but I'm a little bit partial. Before the jet step, I had always been a Pantin kind-of-guy and definitely rocked the older school Pantin that you could lock with the carabiner for a really long climb. But, you know, we have a whole video on foot ascenders, as well, you can watch where we talk about the pros and cons of each model. But the CT Quick Step is by far the best seller, and that's the one that has the outbound cam to lock it. That's definitely always been a favorite. Once you have a foot ascender that's all you have to have in terms of the assent for SRT, but a knee ascender, which I don't have shown here today, but like a HAAS is a really great choice. You have to have a foot ascender before you can use a knee ascender though, you cannot use an ascender alone without a foot ascender. So, definitely go for the ascender first and know that you don't have to have a knee ascender, to really do SRT effectively. You also don't need to have a hand ascender, with the right technique, you should be doing most of the work with your feet, which is either one or two depending on if you got the knee ascender. Other things that you'll need for basic SRT or some kind of hold-up method. You need to be able to pull the climbing system up with you. That can be as simple as taking your lanyard over your shoulder and clipping it in, and then tightening it up down here. Or it can be as complicated as a chest harness, and there's there's a ton of different options, right? But all you really need is when you stand up, for something to be pulling the rope up with you, tending it higher than your belay loop would by nature. And you see, I'm able to accomplish that with just taking my lanyard over my shoulder. So, I think that's the basics for basic SRT climbing.

If you're going to be spur climbing, you're going to need all of the stuff that we discussed. You'll need a lanyard, which we haven't talked about yet. We have a whole video for lanyards as well. But if you're going to be spur climbing, you will need spurs. I think that the Gecko spurs are by far and above just the best options available. I don't think there's a better carbon fiber spur available, especially not for the price. And then in the aluminum range with the Euro style, I think those represent, the apex of quality and form. They're really cool, they're super light, they have the best cuffs, you know, really nothing else compares to those. And then the new steel ones, the Notch Gecko Steel's, you know, at the price point better than anything out there for a whole set. And when you compare them to some of the older brands that are out there that are, you know, a single straight piece of steel with a leather T pad or something, it's hard to imagine why anyone would pay more for that. So, I think if you're going to be spur climbing, Notch Gecko Steels are the best bang for the buck, maybe the Gecko Aluminums or something like that would be a good choice. Lanyards - you have to have a lanyard to climb whether you're spur climbing, SRT climbing, or DRT climbing. You're going to need a rope - which we talked about - and you're going to need a lanyard. I have a whole video about lanyards where we talk about the difference between mechanical adjusters, double-ended adjustable, and things like that. You know, for me, I generally do like a shorter lanyard that's less in the way and I will usually go for a simple traditional setup like this with a regular normal prusik and a Hitch Climber Pulley. I like snaps. I think a snap on the end the lanyard is nice and the triple-action snaps are as good as any for me, but a simple sewn lanyard out of Sterling TriTec always with a prusik is a really good choice. Generally, a shorter lanyard I think is better, long lanyards can be more useful but they tend to get stuck.

If you're going to be climbing DRT, or for a lot of SRT applications, a friction saver is going to be super handy. It's hard to beat a rope sewn friction saver with a big ring and a little ring and a prusik on it with another little ring. You can use that as an adjustable friction saver or you can use it without the prusik on it, they're very robust. They're a good bang for the buck. But you can also get really complicated stuff like Usavers and some of the Teufelberger products, I think, like the Pulley Saver and stuff like that are very luxe and really nicely made, the Thimble Saver, really specialized premium tools. But if all you need is a friction saver, the Rope Logic Adjustable Friction Saver is great. There's a whole video on friction savers, there's a ton of different versions, whether you're talking about the tube or the leather or whatever, but you can check out that whole video as well.

Hand saws. I've had a lot of different handsaws in my life. I've kind of settled on these two as my favorite. This is the Sugoi. This is the original handsaw that I was rocking out in the field. And I chose it because it was really big, and it was long, and it had this hook on the end that I could use to pull things to me which I thought was really handy. I'm a pretty tall guy, so a tall saw fits on my leg where I would always wear it. I really like these Notch Talons because they keep it away from me and I when I bend my leg, it doesn't hit me. It doesn't catch me underneath the thigh like that, but I like this handsaw because it's long, and it has really aggressive teeth. I think that silky is by far the best, there is a huge difference in quality between any of the Silky products than anything else. So, really this is what I always use out in the field. Now that I climb a little bit less, I think that this Tsurugi is probably the best choice. It's a little slimmer, it's a lot lighter, at least in the hand, and this aluminum scabbard, besides definitely being the coolest looking, there's no doubt about that. But, this is the coolest looking one, has the most rollers inside of it and is just the highest tech thing that you could ever imagine like slipping a really sharp blade and saw into, so really like these Tsurugis. It just kind of exudes quality, and looks very cool. And it's in a nice slim package, which is great. I think that's that covers like everything you need to climb a tree. It's a long list, but there are a ton of really affordable and really premium options from everyone.

When it comes to tool clips, you can do something as simple as having this carabiner right here, through the tool tunnel on your harness, or you can get really premium options of locking tool carabiners from DMM or from Rock Exotica that are really nice. There's also plastic ones from Petzl, and from other brands that are used primarily for ice tools and have been kind of transitioned into the professional market. The plastic ones do break, you know, they're very affordable, they're really nice, but you won't break the one from DMM or the one from Rock Exotica. So I would definitely recommend checking those out or just using a simple carabiner.

In terms of bags or storage, you're going to need something to carry all this stuff around and we've got a whole video not only on tool carriers, but also on bags, we took the 28 most popular bags. I generally will tend to lean towards like a big, like, kind of bucket style bag. So, I would look at Metolius Haul bags or any of the Notch bags are very popular, where we have the new Notch Access Pro, which you can open up and put all of your stuff into and use as a bucket bag. So that would probably be my favorite bag, the new Access Pro. We also have a ton of Metolius Bags, and those are really great for just like storing big like heaps of rigging gear and stuff like that.

So, I think we covered it all. Neil, how did we do? Neil gave us the good signal. There's a ton of stuff that you need. You can always email us at [email protected] to get customer service or you can email the media team [email protected], or you can reach out directly to me [email protected] with any technical questions, and we're always happy to help you out. So this is a really long video. If you watched this, you were clearly really into it and trying to figure out exactly what you needed. So I really hope this was helpful, and please stay safe out there. Thanks for watching.