As a search and rescue team crew leader, Outbound Dan Human delivers his best tips for hiking safely in all seasons.
The Gear Sling
Running out of room on your harness's gear loops while lead climbing? As many climbers know, a full rack of carabiners, chocks, cams, and everything else for placing protection is best carried on an over-the-shoulder gear sling.
I generally wear a lightweight mountaineering harness with an absence of gear loops, so I needed this sling for carrying equipment. Many manufacturers like Black Diamond and Metolius produce well-made padded gear slings.
However, why pay $30 or more when you can make your own gear sling easily at home? This version is based on numerous homemade gear sling designs and modified to suit my needs as a search and rescue rope team member.
I assembled this climbing sling from scrap pieces of outdoor equipment found while rummaging through the gear closet. From start to finish, this sling took about 30 minutes to complete. Your times may differ, given your skill with a needle and the number of carrying loops you add.
- Webbing 1-inch, about 3 1/2- feet
- Accessory cord 2 mm, 14-inches*
- Surgical tubing, 12-inches *
- Heavy-duty thread and needle
* Lengths will vary according to the number and size of gear loops.
The surgical tubing I used was actually an intake hose for an old water filter. Again, I scrounged the "spare parts" bin in the gear closet to have zero cost to this gear rig.
Step 1: Make the Sling
Secure the two ends of your webbing by tying or sewing. Before attaching the two ends, place the loop of webbing over your shoulder to achieve a comfortable position.
If sewing, sew a series of large "x"s, surrounded by a box of small stitches. Many do-it-yourselfers recommend using a blunt needle for sewing webbing, so as not to compromise the webbing's integrity. That said, you shouldn't be using your sling for weight-bearing activities.
I tied my webbing in a water knot, it doesn't look too bad, and it is holding up well. By tying the sling in a knot, you can adjust for heavier layers while mountaineering. I've contemplated modifying my sling by adding adjustable buckles and may do so when I'm feeling craftier.
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Step 2: Measure tubing pieces
Cut tubing into 4-inch pieces. I felt that a 4-inch arched loop would suffice for my needs, you may want to go smaller or larger depending on the rack you are carrying.
However, some homemade gear slings don't use a hard loop; it is difficult to easily clip and unclip hardware from your climbing sling.
It is also a good idea to make sure that the accessory cord you are using fits through the tubing.
Step 3: Attach First Loop
Find where you want to begin the loops on your gear sling. Stitch through the accessory cord and webbing in a zigzag pattern for at least a 1/2-inch. You are climbers, so you shouldn't have any problem with tying finishing knots in the thread.
After the first attachment point is complete, slide the surgical tubing in place over the accessory cord. Arch the tubing to your desired angle and begin stitching down the other side of the first loop.
Though the first and last attachments are secured with at least a 1/2-inch of stitching, the intermediate points have held firmly with only 1/4-inch of zigzag threads.
Step 4: Attach Additional Loops
Sew in additional loops as needed. This gear sling has three loops, though most slings have four or five.
Merely repeat the process from Step 3. Remember when finishing the last attachment point, to use the zigzag stitch pattern for at least 1/2-inch.
Step 5: Test your Sling
You don't want your sling coming undone when you are climbing up a ledge, hence dropping your rack on your belayer. Give a few good tugs on each loop to make sure that your stitching will hold up in the extremes of climbing. As with all climbing gear, inspect your gear sling each time you use it and make repairs if necessary.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on July 15, 2013:
I saw a rig like you made somewhere in my travels. It seemed like a really cool, yet simple idea to make a gear sling. When I pick up some more tubing, I'll try building one like that. It is always at the back of my mind, "what is the stitching rips?"
Thanks for the idea Andrew.
andrew on July 14, 2013:
i made a similar gear sling, except instead of sewing in the loops and risk the threads coming undone and losing potentially thousands in cams on a cliff somewhere, i started by tying a triple fishermans knot, then making the loop, using the exact same tubing, but i picked mine up at home depot, then just continued tying fishermans between loops, it bunched up really nice on the webbing, and hasn't slipped out of place in months, but i used a couple pairs of needle nose pliers to cinch the 4mm cord tight.. glad someone put this on the net, it's a great idea, and you can custom make your own size loops
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on May 09, 2012:
I've played with the SPOT system a bit, maybe I'll get a review on here sometime. Supposedly Garmin is trying to develop a satellite messenger - I'm kind of waiting for that.
TrahnTheMan from Asia, Oceania & between on May 09, 2012:
haha! Firstly I'll look (or wait for) your review of a SPOT before purchasing though!
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on May 07, 2012:
Hopefully you don't have a boulder fall on your arm, but if you plan on it - you want to look at a SPOT satellite messenger. Of course a sewing kit with a sharp needle is a bit cheaper.
TrahnTheMan from Asia, Oceania & between on May 07, 2012:
Good tip about he blunt needle Dan- first time I've heard of that. I'll keep a sharp one in my kit just in case I'm ever unlucky enough to have a 127 Hours incident though ;-)
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on May 02, 2012:
Good point TrahnTheMan, that is why I tied the gear sling in a water knot - so I could use it as an anchor sling in case I had to. I didn't trust that my stitching would hold under massive fall force.
Whenever I sew webbing, I use a blunt needle, which passes through the webbing without creating micro-slices in the web. You just have to push a little harder through the accessory cord.
Then again, my friend had his homemade sling machine sewed and hasn't had any problems with years of use.
Dental floss is great in an emergency, but I like to use the polyester heavy duty thread. I usually can't find it at the local stores, but end up ordering it.
Thanks for stopping by and reading!
TrahnTheMan from Asia, Oceania & between on May 02, 2012:
Dan I understood that putting a needle and thread through a sling would compromise the integrity of the sling-- there's situations where I've run out of gear and had to use my gear sling as an anchor and I'd be concerned that a sling with many hand-made stitches wouldn't be rated? I'm all for saving unnecessary dollars but what do you think?
Also, a tip I learned when I started climbing was to use dental floss as the thread for any running repairs to my pack/gear- it's super strong and won't degrade over time like cotton.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on March 19, 2012:
That would be fantastic, more people need to have the jingle jangle of a climbing rack as they walk. Heck I get strange stares from the other SAR guys when I wear it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Simone. I think you need to start a climbing inspired fashion revolution.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 19, 2012:
That's it. I'm going to have to figure out how to turn this into chic urban wear.