Gear Preparation for Ziplining

by | Jul 10, 2022 | Zipline

Ziplining has been increasing in popularity around the world for the past four decades with a boom in recent years. It’s become a large enough industry that there are now companies that have developed (and continue to develop) a range of safety specific equipment tailored specifically to zip lining. In the early years, most of the equipment was taken from activities like rock climbing and industries like rope access and modified to fit the emerging activity.

At Canopy tours we source our equipment from several companies. Most of our equipment can be separated into either being designed for customers or being used for staff. We have designed our facility to allow the customers to be fully immersed in the experience and location. To achieve this we have limited what the customers need to do to keep themselves safe, transferring that responsibility to our staff. This means that the equipment our customers require is quite minimal.

Our Gear

The majority of our customer’s equipment has been designed and built in New Zealand by Aspiring Safety Products (Aspiring – Outdoor and Industrial Height Safety) at their base in Christchurch. 

With our systems all our customers need is:

  • Harness
  • Helmet
  • Main attachment lanyard
  • Back up attachment / bridge attachment lanyard
  • Trolley
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Selecting the right equipment

Selecting the correct equipment for each individual is incredibly important. This actually starts before the customers even arrive onsite. During our booking process all our customers are advised that we have weight restriction on our zipline courses, that there will be walking involved and that they will need to bring some closed toe shoes and some warm layers as it often gets cold in our forest, even in the typically warmer months of the year.

On arrival each customer is weighed and given a colour. This is to assist our guides with selecting the correct equipment for each individual. The 2 biggest choices our guides need to make the size of harness and the length of the main attachment lanyard. 

Harnesses

Customer harnesses come in 3 sizes (small, medium & large) with a couple of variants of each size depending on which brand the guide selects. Knowing the weight range of the customer can really help with this selection. All of our customer harnesses are full body, meaning that they include both a seat harness, being secured around the waist and legs and a top which goes over both shoulders and includes a chest buckle to secure. Once the correct size harness has been selected the guide holds it by the base of the shoulder straps, making it easy for the customer to simply step into the harness. Each harness has 6 independent buckles that need to be adjusted & secured to fit each customer. 

Lanyard

The next step is to select the correct length of lanyard for the customer. We have 3 sizes of lanyard, which are 450mm, 500mm & 650mm. They are colour coded to typically coincide with the colour stamp the customer was given when they were weighted in. It’s a good rule of thumb, but there are lots of factors to consider to ensure you get the correct lanyard. Things like the person’s height, build, ability to raise their knees and even the weather conditions can all play a part in gear selection. As a basic rule, smaller people need a longer lanyard so that they sit lower on the zip line and are able to stand up at each end, while taller / larger people need a shorter lanyard to help ensure they depart & arrive at each platform at the correct height. 

The majority of our guides have at least several hundred tours of experience with a few having over 1000 tours. With an average tour loading of around 7 pax this often means that our guides have geared up several thousand people.

Helmet

Lastly we have the trolley and helmet.

We have 3 speeds of trolley (Fast, Medium & Slow). Typically smaller people just don’t have the mass to make them go fast on the zip lines, so we can help them out by putting them on a faster trolley. Similarly, larger / taller people can be slowed down by using a slower trolley making the braking process easier and even allowing a little bit more time on each line.

People think that helmets are for zipping, but in reality the greater risk is being struck by a falling branch, which makes the walking during the tour often the most high risk part of the tour. We help address this by ensuring that everyone (guides included) are wearing their helmets throughout the entire tour.

Checking that everything is correct is essential. In fact, there are several checks that will be done before anyone gets connected to a zip line. The first is typically done by the lead guide of the tour, before they leave the deck at base. This is to make sure that everyone has all the gear they need and that it’s appropriate for their size. The next check is done before they leave the car park in the forest. This is to ensure that nothing has been removed or left in the van.

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Safety

At the first platform of each course there is a specially designed area for the guides to deliver all the safety information that the customer needs. Once this is done both guides will adjust & check every harness before any zipping is done. This ensures that every customer has been checked and double checked. Lastly, our tails guides that are responsible for connecting customers to each bridge & zip line will do a visual check of each customer before they are transferred to the next stage of the tour. Sometimes this means that harnesses can be adjusted to keep them comfortable and safe.

There is an additional element to ensuring that all equipment is safe and fit for purpose, which is completing routine equipment inspections of EVERY safety critical piece of equipment. This is done every 6 months and is lead and overseen by our operations team. We will typically get several of our team to assist with this as it involves carefully inspecting every part of each piece of equipment looking for any potential defect. If than are found the piece of equipment is removed from circulation and a thorough inspection by our maintenance manager is completed and the defect is either repaired, or the piece of equipment is retired and destroyed.

In some cases, we will send retired equipment and equipment that is still in use to be tested. This is done by Aspiring Safety and typically involves applying force to it using a hydraulic press until it fails and recording the stress on it when it fails. This helps to ensure that all our equipment meets or exceeds all national standards, even when nearing the end of its life.

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