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— Tim Vollmer
When it comes to abseiling / rappelling descenders, there’s no shortage of choices available, but for the true canyoning purist nothing beats a carabiner with a couple rusty pitons (despite how dodgy it may look, it is very effective).
The Kong Hydrobot is basically a just a modern, lightweight reinvention of this classic technique. For canyoners this has a number of advantages.
Firstly, you don’t need to remove it to get on and off rope (unlike variations on the figure of 8 or ATC’s). This is particularly handy when you are being pummelled by a waterfall in a deep pool, where cold slippery fingers could end up fumbling your device and sending it down into the void below. Sure, you could finish the canyon using a munter hitch on your caribiner, but that’s hardly ideal!
But better than the old classic, the Hydrobot can be rigged in a range of ways that provide different levels of friction for different rope sizes. It can work with single rope, double rope, or even two ropes of different diameters. I have used it to do a 200m abseil on single 9mm rope, shorter single rope drops, double 9mm rope up to 60m, and even shorter double rope drops on 8mm and even 6mm!
They can also be used as part of an ascending setup (along with a prusik), as well as for belaying or even as part of a hauling system.
There are a couple downsides, like with anything. The device heats up on long, dry drops, given it is smaller than many other options such as a rack. Also, you need to know how to add friction mid-descent, as the default rigging will run quite fast on new, dry ropes. The magnetic bar that flips across the middle — taking the brunt of the ropes force — also seems to wear fairly obviously, especially in the sandy canyon environment. That said, I’m yet to have to retire one of my ‘bots due to excessive wear, and they’ve seen plenty of action.
The final downside is that supply and demand seem to have caught up, with the price taking a jump. You’ll now expect to pay about $55 for one — so not the cheapest option — when I’m sure I picked one up for about $35 only a year back.
Still, if you’re after a relatively light, simple, no-nonsense descender which will primarily be used in canyons, you really can’t go past the Hydrobot.
- Durability / toughness — 4/5
- Usefulness — 4/5
- Value for money — 4/5
- Overall — 4/5
Check out our reviews of some other canyoning gear:
- Edelrid Canyon 9mm static floating rope
- Summit Gear ‘Canyon’ pack
- SealSkinz ‘Submerge’ waterproof socks
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