Did you know that you can do a lot of things with a sling? Need to build a belay or improvise a chest harness? With a bit of know-how you can do it with a sling. Read on to discover more about slings, and what you can do with them to help you climb more safely.
Slings are definitely the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to climbing equipment. In the past, climbers made up their own slings from webbing tied into a loop using a tape or water knot. These days, the safer and more convenient method is to buy a sewn sling made to the EN 566:2006 standard.
Most often made from either nylon or Dyneema webbing and sewn into a strong circular loop, slings are exceptionally versatile items of equipment. Available in a variety of sizes, 120cm is by far the most useful length, although longer and shorter sizes also have their uses.
Protecting the leader
Most often, slings will be employed to make use of rock features or trees to protect the lead climber. Slings can be placed over rock spikes, used to thread holes or go around chockstones or trees. On most trad routes you may want to carry at least a couple of slings, often more, to make use of these features.
Slings become even more useful for winter mountaineering, when rock features can often be the most reliable protection on offer - longer slings to go around blocks or small pinnacles can be very handy.
Another job for slings is attaching other pieces of protection to the rope. Usually the climber does this with shorter ready-made links called quickdraws, which are a short sling connecting two karabiners. If a longer link or extension is needed, a longer sling can be used instead. A sling can also be used to link several protection pieces together, either when making a belay, or equalising multiple pieces together.
Most of the time, the climber will use the rope to connect themselves to belays. Sometimes though, you'll want to have the rope free and use something else as a lanyard to connect you. A good example is when abseiling down multiple pitches - you'll need to clip into a belay as you pull the ropes down. A sling can be used, with suitable care, to do this.
If all that doesn't seem enough, slings can also be used for many rescue and self-rescue purposes. A sling with a Klemheist knot can be used to help escape the belay system or ascend the rope. An injured climber can be kept upright with an emergency chest harness made with a sling.
Ok, so you get the picture, slings are amazing. They have their limitations though - they wear out and become damaged more easily than a rope because the load bearing material is always exposed. They won't dissipate the energy of a fall, so when used as a lanyard you must take great care to try and keep them weighted and avoid falling onto them. Still, these multi-purpose bits of kit take some beating when it comes to usefulness to the climber.
WATCH: Checking a sling for damage BMC TV
WATCH: Multiple abseils part 1 BMC TV
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