July 18, 2023
Jasmine Kalta

ZIGZAG Handling: Moving in a Tree Using a Single Work Rope

For an arborist pruning and trimming a tree, having the right equipment makes their job both safer and more efficient. The Petzl ZIGZAG and ZIGZAG PLUS mechanical Prusik enable arborists to move around a tree using the classic Prusik pulley system technique on either a single rope or doubled ropes, providing versatility to meet the demands of each job. The features of the device make it intuitive to use and its steel construction and separated and curved side plates give it increased durability and wear resistance.

To use the ZIGZAG optimally, it’s essential to understand how its safety features work to avoid unintentionally setting up a situation that could create a fall hazard. It is recommended that before attempting ZIGZAG handling techniques independently, arborists should work with a professional to train and verify their mastery, as well as familiarizing themselves with the instructions for use accompanying the equipment.


When using the ZIGZAG, braking on the rope is created by the zigzag chain of friction links that the rope is fed through. The long chain of links provides progressive braking. The user controls the speed of movement by adjusting the pressure on the spring-mounted release lever to allow the rope to slide through quickly or more slowly as needed. The ZIGZAG is also designed to facilitate taking up slack, due to the pulley mounted on sealed ball bearings. The lower attachment hole is fixed to optimize grip and ensure that the device remains properly aligned with the axis of the worker.

In normal handling when moving away from the trunk of the tree, whether using a double or single rope, the arborist should keep their hand on the spring release of the friction links, rather than attempting to grip the rope above the links. While it may seem safer to hold onto the rope, in the event of a fall, there is the risk that the hand will instinctually clench on the rope, preventing the links from extending and stopping the fall. The CHICANE auxiliary brake is recommended for use with the mechanical Prusik on single ropes to provide greater friction on descent.

Using the ZIGZAG in double mode when returning to the trunk enables self-hauling, which reduces the effort needed to climb in the tree. While using a doubled rope, it is recommended to pull the rope through the ZIGZAG from below the friction links, which eliminates the risk of creating slack between the arborist’s hands and the device and increasing a potential fall distance. While certain weights of rope can be self-fed through the ZIGZAG, it’s important to be careful if attempting this to ensure that movement is not so quick that a loop of slack develops.

Single mode, which is also possible with the ZIGZAG or ZIGZAG PLUS, requires the arborist to pull their full weight when moving in a tree. When using a single rope, the user must take up slack as they move by pulling the rope below the friction links. Otherwise, slack will be created between the anchor and the device, increasing the potential fall distance should the arborist lose their footing in the tree.

Quality Equipment for Professional Needs

For arborists and landscape professionals, the right equipment is a necessity for performing high-quality work as efficiently and safely as possible. The Lawn & Arborist Depot is dedicated to stocking the best selection of products designed to meet the needs of specialists throughout the lower 48 states, Alaska, and Hawaii. Professionals located in Southern California are welcome to visit our City of Industry warehouse Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., or order online for convenient pickup at the warehouse.

Our customer service team is on call to answer your questions and help you find the right equipment without the hassle of dealing with multiple stops and suppliers. Whether you’re looking for a mechanical Prusik or other specialized equipment, the Lawn & Arborist Depot can help. To learn more, check out our website at today.


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