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Gear Guy

Rap Ring Strength

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I have seen many rap rings while climbing and doubted their strength and safety. The SMC rings have no mark with an EU number, strength or anything. They
may not even be SMC, who knows? I did a crude test on a new one and it was easy to bend and more difficult to break. The rings I see climbing are often
scratched and worn. How can a climber know if they are really any good? Aren’t the forged rings better? Why use something unrated and unmarked?

—Bill Barnett via

When are we going to stop believing that the European Union is reliable? Do you really trust a ring made by a Chianti-drunk Spaniard over one punched out
by an honest American simply because the Euro ring has an EU (CE, actually) stamp on it? Have you heard about what is happening over there? Everyone
has been on lunch break for the past 10 years and the Germans are tired of carrying the water. Big things are about to happen, and I doubt they are
good. If I were you I would start putting faith back in the ole USA, where if you make junk climbing gear and it breaks, you get sued into extinction.

The two common climbing-specific rappel rings are the SMC one you mention, and the Omega Pacific, both made in Washington State. The Omega ring is the
beefier of the two and is rated to 20 kN, while the SMC ring is rated to 14 kN.

Problem is, hardware-variety tack rings look similar to the SMC tackle and, like you, I have seen plenty of the bunk rings at rappel stations. Usually,
the cheaper rings are steel and welded. If you pay attention you can spot them, but not always.

The other problem is that rappel rings are sometimes used incorrectly as lowering rings. Rappel rings are not meant to have a weighted rope pulled through
them, nor are they meant for falling on, even on toprope. They are only for threading the rope through and rappelling on.

Frankly, while the SMC rings are rated strong enough, they scare me. They are small diameter and wear quickly, especially if they are used at a sandy area
such as any place in the Empty Quarter of the desert Southwest. The Omega Pacific ring is burly, so it will last longer and it makes pulling the rap
rope through it easier. If I were rigging a rappel station, I’d only use the Omega Pacific ring, easy to ID by the branding and rating on it, and I
would not rappel on a ring that was worn or damaged or looked as if it was meant to go in a hog’s nose. Leave a biner. 

Gear Guy has spoken!

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 200 (February 2012). 

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Feature image by Evan Kirby