By Ben Humphris MIA, RSA National Trainer & IRATA Level 2 Technician
I have had the chance to use the New RIG for a few months now, enough time to give it a proper test. During routine route setting days on new ropes, old ropes, long drops, short drops I have made the effort to use the device as much as possible!
As one of the Route Setting Associations National trainers, I have had chance to trial the RIG during training in many different centres across the UK and Ireland. Watching new route setters’ use the new device and previous users of the ‘Original’ pre-2018 RIG in as many different scenarios as possible has been really great and a thorough test of the device.
The New RIG as Petzl describes it is designed for experienced rope access workers, what this means is it does not have an anti-panic function like the ID nor the anti-error catch to stop the device being incorrectly threaded. The anti-panic function can be very annoying for an experienced user or route setter and I think it is great Petzl give their users the choice through their range of devices.
As a trainer, when working with novices completing rescues for the very first time I still think the ID is the better device for the job. Making my days training, that little bit more stress free.
Ease of use
The device is very familiar to users who have climbed for years with a GRI GRI whilst sport climbing or users of the Original RIG of course. The easy rope installation, thanks to the ever-familiar rope guide and markings is as ever intuitive.
The only thing that differs is the need to manipulate the cam in the centre of the device to install the device. After a few uses this becomes second nature, but at first does feel a little fiddly.
The device now has two possible descent modes: on the side plate as usual or in the V-shaped friction channel at the front of the device. Using the friction channel is very useful when completing a rescue as this lines up nicely with the side attachment points on a work harness making it super easy to control the device when extra friction is needed with a casualty in tow.
The new AUTO-LOCK system is a game changer! Not to exaggerate, but it’s almost as big a step as from the STOP to the Original RIG! This certainly has set the standard for rope access descenders.
Climbing wall Duty Managers and Head Setters will rejoice as they will never have to tell rookie setters to lock off their RIG whilst going hands free again. As soon as the user releases the handle, the rope is automatically locked in the device. The automatic return system on the handle also limits the risk of the device getting accidentally snagged.
Every route setter will have experienced the horror of trying to ascend only to find you aren’t going anywhere because you have forgotten to unlock the device. Wasted effort and many obscenities later, you go again.
The New RIG even when locked, which it does automatically (did we mention that?) the rope can be taken up without having to manipulate the handle, meaning more energy saved for the all-important test at the end of the day.
The safety gate on the moving side plate that allows the rope to be installed while the device remains connected to the harness. Was known to stick open, on straight out the packet Original RIGs. This has been beefed up with a noticeably improved spring mechanism.
The device may have become smaller and lighter however the new stainless-steel wear plate will improve durability by reinforcing the rope friction zone. This is certainly a nice touch as every setter wants their kit to last longer.
The Original RIG was Petzl approved as a belay device, but when ever it came to testing on a lead wall I would reach for the GRI GRI. The New RIG has been rated to EN 15151-1 down to a 9mm rope. And it actually works as a belay device ! paying out slack to a leader is a doddle.
The devices ability accommodate skinny 9mm ropes will be a benefit to many different applications the RIG will be used in across the climbing and mountaineering world as well as rope access and Route Setting.
In summary, the New RIG may have lost a little weight (down to 400g) and got smaller, however the device remains rescue ready and capable of lowering of heavy loads up to 200 kg when used with extra friction.
In every application the RIG is designed for it has outperformed my expectations and is now well and truly my go to descender. Manually locking off a descend is now a thing of the past, making my day at work safer and more efficient.
For more detailed information check out the updated Tech Tips on the Petzl RIG