Aerial Equipment Part 6: Portable Aerial Rig *1 Year Outdoor Review

**I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas on safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to a professional if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group is a great resource.**

It has been over a year since I purchased my Ludwig Aerial Rig. I still love it and I’m glad I have it. It has been kept up outdoors the entire time. Recently, I took it down and inspected it, then put it back up. I took photos of how it has weathered over the past year.

Ludwig Rig

Purchased and first installed February 2016.

Complete inspection March 2017.
(I do regular inspections of the legs, tie downs, rope, and climb to the top to visually and physically inspect pulleys and connections on every use.)

My biggest concern was to look for rusting on any of the welds on the rig and to make sure all the screws were tight on all connections on rig.

  • There was NO rust on any of the welds.
  • All screws on the legs pieces were still screwed down. There was one screw on the header leg that was not super tight but it was still secure. All quick connects (the buttons) were in place and secure. The header eye bolts were tight (unmovable) and free of rust.
  • There was some surface rust on the inside of the tube of the header and on parts of the legs that were inside the other pieces of leg. There was not not a huge amount of rust. I will continue to monitor it.
    Note: My Fiancรฉ used some grease on the connection legs to reduce friction and be another barrier to prevent rusting (likely not needed but he wanted to do it).
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One year: Surface rust on the leg beam where it was inside of other beam.

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One year: Surface rust on inside of header beam.

  • The area with the most rust were the tie down cleats. These are untreated steel and get wet almost daily from our sprinkler system. I cleaned them with Navel Jelly (soaked them for 15 minutes then scrubbed them off with a green scrubber, did this 4 more times-soaking for 15-25 minute intervals & then scrubbed them before they were clear of the rust.) Then I sprayed them with Rustoleom Clear Primer to slow down future rust.
    Note: I also ordered a brand new set just to have available, if needed.ย 

Before and after: Tie off cleats.

Soaking cleats in Navel Jelly.

One year: Rust on leg from cleat.

Pulley System

I decided I was going to change out all the hardware on the pulley system when I took down the rig for inspection. I did this for 2 reasons:

  • I was concerned about weathering of the pulleys, carabiner, quicklinks, and rope. The labeling on the carabiner & pulleys say: “For intense use the pulley should be replaced every 12 months, for normal use the pulley should be replaced every 24 months.” I was not intensely using it.ย (I consider something like zip line use all day long to be intense use. I was only using it to pull aerial equipment up one or twice a week and on the equipment for a few hours at a time.)
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    Pulley labeling.

    But I wasn’t completely comfortable with leaving them out in the elements (sun, wind, and rain) all year and not taken them down for cleaning/thorough inspection.
    AND on my regular inspections, I’d noticed that the top carabiner had some rust on it that concerned me…

  • Aesthetic purposes: I found that Fusion Climbing had come out with all black pulleys. I like that look so much more than the Blue/purple/orange pulleys and the price wasn’t much different on Amazon.
    Note: I confirmed with Fusion Climbing that the Amazon “Shop For Lifestyle” fulfillment company was a licensed distributor. Fusion Climbing also sent me additional information about the pulleys so I was able to confirm the packaging & product was legit.)
    Fusion Matte Black Pulley Flier

    I purchased a new all black rope. The old rope had a yellow stripe in it that I didn’t really care for.

I adore having the pulley system because it is so easy to switch out apparatuses and to take down and store equipment. But it is definitely a piece that requires more inspection and maintenance than if I didn’t have it. That is something to consider when putting together a portable aerial rig system.

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One year: Eyebolts, side pulley and quick links.

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One year: Middle eyebolt, carabiner, and double pulley. Note the rust on the carabiner.

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One year: Side eyebolt, quick links, and pulley. Note how the top quick link doesn’t look like its all the way tightened.

During my big inspection I was curious to how they weathered. This is what I found:

  • The quick links weathered phenomenally. No rust. No damage. I noticed that one wasn’t fully screwed tight. It was closed and the threads engaged but just not fully tight. See above photo.
  • Pulleys
    • The pulley’s color (blue, purple, orange) had faded from the sun.

      One year: Paint color faded.

      One year: Paint color faded.

    • The spinning mechanism did not stick at all. All of the pulleys moved freely. Only slightly less freely than the brand new pulleys.
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      New and one year old pulley: side by side.

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      New and one year old pulley: side by side.

    •  

      The only rust on the pulleys was a small amount on part you clip into where it was being rubbed metal on metal. Other than that the pulleys were very clean after being left up outside all year.

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      One year: Small amount of rust and wear.

    • I cleaned, dried, then lubed/oiled the old pulleys with silicone oil. They now run smooth as ever. I bagged them and will store them for later use.
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Silicone oil. Bought off of Amazon.

  • Top carabiner = Rusted.
    • This was the piece I was most worried about. It was the most ugly. I had noticed it getting rusty about 2 months prior to taking down the rig but did not realize it was as bad as it was until it was off and in my hands. The shine had disappeared. There was visible rust. However, the triple locking mechanism worked fine and was not fused shut and it opened and closed fine.
    • I cleaned it up and lubricated it with graphite. Then I did some research. I found that this rusting is called “Surface Oxidation.”ย  It is a steel carabiner and they are plated finish to prevent this. After time that coating wears off and they do begin to rust. See last paragraph of this link to Fusion’s Carabiner Information.
    • I’m keeping it for minimal use (I.e. I used it when rigging for an underwater photoshoot.). I think it is fine to use but it is kind of ugly so it won’t be used every day.
      Note: I was also informed that I could use clear nail polish to protect it.
    • I initially replaced it in the pulley system with the same type of steel carabiner because that’s what I had on hand. I have now changed my pulley configuration and have a Maillon Rapide Quick Link 10mm to take its place.
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      New and one year old carabiner.

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      One year: Wear on carabiner.

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      One year: Rust on carabiner.

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      One year: Wear & rust on carabiner.

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      One year: Carabiner after cleaning and oil.

  • Rope.
    • The old rope is still in excellent shape. There is no deformities, breaks, bends, kinks, or abrasions to the outside sheath.
    • It does feel slightly stiffer than the new rope but I think with a wash it will be back to normal.
    • I did research on climbing ropes. Here is an “How to inspect a climbing rope” guide.
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One year: Rope.

Final Thoughts

First question:

I have heard people ask if they can keep their rig up year-round.

My opinion:

For the Ludwig rig in Florida is YES

  • BUT make sure you are constantly inspecting it for wear, rust, screws that are loosening, etc.
  • Ludwig has also commented that he has kept a rig up year round in Colorado and it has not had issues. If you have more questions, I refer you back to the makers of the rigs. Please read all the info on his website about his rig. Ludwig Rig
  • There is also a lot of information on the Safety in Aerial Group on Facebook. Please join and use the search function to look up questions. (Outdoor, aerial rig, portable, pulley, free standing = these are good places to start.)

Second question:

Can the pulley system be kept up year round?

My opinion:

For my pulley system in Florida is also YES with a few considerations.

  • Think about how much use and weathering the pulleys and the rope are taking. My rig was used only by myself for a few hours once or twice a week (so not that much use). You may want to change out parts or the entire system once a year or do a complete inspection/cleaning of the system and evaluate replacing the system (at least once a year).
  • I feel like with cleaning and lubrication of the pulleys and cleaning of the rope I could continue to use the old system. I have changed out my system for aesthetic reasons not purely because I needed to retire the other system.

Note my shed that holds all my mats and other aerial and circus equipment.

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Aerial Equipment part 4: Buying Fabric/Silks

My Fiance asked what I wanted for Christmas last year and I didn’t have an answer. I’ve wanted my own fabric for a long time. I had just bought my own lyra/aerial hoop (which I loved and really enjoyed working on my own equipment). I hadn’t known if I was ready for my own fabric but I had been going to different aerial studios and had been on many different types of aerial silks. I was learning what I liked and what I did not about them. I often asked questions why they acted differently.

I knew I didn’t like very skinny, thin, super stretchy fabric (everyone has their own likes and dislikes…I suggest trying out as many as you can before purchasing anything). There are tons of different options: width, weave (example: tricot), denier (thread size), type of polyester (nylon), length, etc.

At one of the studio’s I where I take aerial classes …

NOTES:

  • Do not try to learn aerial fabric/silks on your own. It is extremely dangerous and you could be seriously injured. Get a coach or instructor and discuss it with them when its a good time to buy your own fabric and what type to purchase.

  • Please check out this blog post by Laura Witwer, Sassy Pants,
    DIY Fail: How NOT to Learn Circus From YouTube.
    In fact, if you are taking aerial/circus classes you should go back and read all of her blog posts. She’s pretty awesome! ๐Ÿฆ„

Cirque City, they have new fabric from several different suppliers. There was one that I always gravitated towards. It was the most comfortable for me to climb, to drop on, and felt good in my grip. I asked about it and Sierra, Cirque City’s owner, was able to give me the information about where it was purchased and the type/width/etc…which I passed on to my Fiance…and suddenly it was Christmas morning and I was wrapping myself up in my own silks! ๐Ÿ’–

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Best Christmas ever!!

Here are some things that I’ve learned since receiving my fabric/tissue/silks. I suggest knowing these important items before you buy your own fabric (or soon after if you already have):

  • Where and how to safely rig aerial fabric (please don’t throw a piece of fabric over a tree branch or a basement rafter…you could seriously injure yourself by not knowing aerial safety) THIS IS #1!! SUPER IMPORTANT!!
  • How to safely tie the fabric onto a Rescue 8
  • How to inspect the fabric (your fabric is likely the weakest part of your aerial hardware)
  • How to wash aerial fabric (only use detergent, no bleach or fabric softeners, hang to dry)

I’ve learned a lot of these by asking my aerial instructors and doing my own research. I also was able to do “hands on” learning by physically rigging a fabric onto a Rescue 8 with an instructor before attempting it on my own. (I suggest bringing your fabric and hardware to the studio and do it with someone you trust. This way you can be corrected before you make a life threatening mistake.)

Websites & Blogs

I’ve included a few links below that have a TON of information and are EXTREMELY helpful! Please take some time to read through them if you want to safely own your own fabric (or even if you already have your own fabric…you can still learn more about how to safely care for it).

These blogs are also very helpful and AWESOME! Please check them out!

  • Aerial Reflections – I LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog post about buying aerial fabric. She states a TON of things that I have glossed over. Read it! I promise you’ll come away knowing a lot more than if you don’t.
  • XO Sarah – Info about where to buy aerial equipment but if you continue to read the comments there is a lot more info.

Websites to buy aerial fabric

There are many more. Where do you buy your fabric? Please leave a comment.

ย MY FABRIC

rigsilks

Aerial Fabric from Circusbyus – 17 yards

Circusbyus $136 (Gift from Fiance, Xmas ’15)

  • Fabric 17 yards (25 ft)
  • Low stretch
  • Nylon tricot 40-denier
  • UV pink (glows in ultraviolet/black light ๐Ÿ’–)
  • 108″ wide
  • Destructive tested & rated (according to the website)

Review: I love it! It has a very slight stretch and it is very easy to climb. The color is amazing. It is a very bright pink and it almost glows in the sunlight. I haven’t tried it in black light but I’m excited to try it. The fabric seems very thin and you can see shadows through it but even at 108″ wide it fits my hands great. So far its perfect. (Happy Aerial Princess ๐Ÿ‘ธ!)

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My instructor, Sierra, had bought the Neon Green fabric. It is also an amazing bright, glowing color but after a few months of daily & heavy use it soon had to be taken out of service due to holes near the Rescue 8. I wish I had spoken to her prior to getting my fabric because she said the UV fabric has a coating on that helps it glow in UV but it also can make it a bit more delicate. My fabric should be OK and will likely last longer because I’m the only one using it. It won’t be hung or used every day. And I will be checking it regularly and know what to keep an eye out for.

(BTWย  when my Fiance bought this fabric. I only gave him the general information…website/type/length…but gave him the option of the color. He knew I would love the UV Pink the best and I do!!)

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MY RESCUE 8

Saftey8

Fusion Safety 8

Rescue 8 – Fusion: Amazon $20.79

  • Aluminum
  • 45kN
  • Black

Review: I have a fairly average review for this Rescue 8. Nothing good or bad to say about it.

NOTES:

  • One of my instructors recently inspected some of their Aluminum Rescue 8’s and decided to take a few out of service after about a year’s use. I asked to see why they made that decision. My instructor pointed out the visible wear and small cracks beginning to show.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions as a student. If your instructors can’t answer your safety questions then I would question your safety…

My Rescue 8 will be used only by me so hopefully it will last longer than a year. Next time, I will consider purchasing a more expensive steel one.

In the future:

This, Angel Rigging Plate, is what I truly want to rig my silks from…maybe for my birthday. It is so unique and beautiful!!

https://verticalartdance.com/shop-all-products/aerial-angel-rigging-plate/

THE REST OF MY HARDWARE

Finally, I’m using the carabiners and swivel that I use with my lyra. See Aerial Equipment part 1: Buying a Lyra.

๐ŸŽช๐ŸŽช๐ŸŽช**I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to a professional if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group is a great resource.**๐ŸŽช๐ŸŽช๐ŸŽช

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