Via ferrata – Equipment and safety for children
Many families are drawn to the mountains again and again. The charms and beauty of nature as well as the joy of movement should be conveyed to the offspring. In addition to conventional hiking, via ferrata climbing is also very much in vogue. Simple climbs can already be mastered by children of primary school age and often inspire even the most ingrained wanderer.
However, children are not small adults, neither physically nor mentally. For this reason, children need special equipment that does justice to the child’s anatomy and prevents mistakes even in mentally demanding situations.
Why do children need different equipment than adults?
Children have different body proportions than adults and are also much lighter. In addition, the body’s centre of gravity for children is not at the level of the navel, as it is for adults, but in the chest area. This can lead to a child hanging upside down without a suitable harness after falling into a rope or via ferrata set. Slender children in particular have only a very sparsely developed hip, which in extreme cases can lead to the body slipping out of the harness.
Even conventional via ferrata sets usually do not work for children. The reason for this is simple. Children are simply too light, so that via ferrata sets for adults either do not trigger or only trigger very slowly and the impact force is therefore much stronger than it should actually be. This results in a high risk of injury.
Equipment for children – What does the market offer?
Via ferrata sets
A lot has happened in the last few years, especially in the area of via ferrata sets. Numerous manufacturers such as Skylotec and Edelrid now also offer via ferrata sets that are optimally adapted to the needs of children. These safety units are equipped with a modern belt fall absorber, which usually works optimally from a body weight of 30 kilograms.
In addition, the arms of the via ferrata set are somewhat shorter and the carabiners somewhat smaller than on the models for adults. The set is therefore easy to use even for children with small hands and does not carry too much weight. Since also the optics for children plays a decisive role again and again, these sets are often provided with child-fair motives and patterns.
Due to the comparatively high centre of gravity, children need specially adapted belts. A seat and chest belt combination or a complete belt ensure that the child cannot become overweight at the back and in extreme cases hangs upside down.
In addition, a belt that fixes the child to the shoulders makes slipping out almost impossible. Smaller and slimmer children in particular, but also those who carry a backpack on the tour, should be equipped with an appropriate harness for safety reasons.
From a technical point of view, too, much has happened in this sector in recent years. In the past, combination belts were often regarded as uncomfortable and only conditionally user-friendly. However, manufacturers such as Mammut and Edelrid have also developed systems that are easy to handle, safe and comfortable for children.
Children, just like adults, are permanently at risk on the rock to hit their heads or to be injured by falling rocks. Therefore a good climbing helmet should always be with you. The most important thing with a helmet is that it fits. If it is too big or too small, climbing is simply no fun.
Children’s climbing helmets are in no way inferior to ‘normal’ climbing helmets, but their size, shape and design are adapted to the needs of children and can be found in the product catalog of well-known companies from Black Diamond to Petzl.
Post protection sets
You shouldn’t fall when climbing via ferrata! This statement applies to adults and children alike. Although modern via ferrata sets and harnesses usually prevent the worst from happening, it is still a bit like having an airbag in your car: it is good and necessary to have it with you, but you should not necessarily try it out.
Therefore, it makes sense to additionally secure younger or unsafe children with a rope in difficult places on the via ferrata. Special safety sets make it easier to set up an additional safety device.
The Edelrid – Via Ferrata Belay Kit II – has a unique selling point. It is an easy-to-handle set that makes it possible to take children and untrained persons on the climb additionally to the rope. The safety set can be easily attached to the belt of the person in front by means of the corresponding bag and is ready for use within a very short time thanks to the sophisticated technology.
The Via Ferrata Belay Kit consists essentially of a rope with a safety plate with automatic backstop. No additional material is required for use on the climb in addition to the usual via ferrata equipment.
Climbing is a great sport, also for children. However, you should make sure that the tour destination is also suitable for children. Under no circumstances should children be overtaxed. Therefore, you should take it easy and slowly familiarize your offspring with the material. Only with the right equipment and the necessary knowledge it can be guaranteed that also children are optimally secured. Who saves here, saves definitely in the wrong place!
Beginners and inexperienced persons should seek advice from a specialist dealer and / or take an appropriate course. Children absolutely need a good instruction, constant control and a helping hand. Once these conditions have been created, nothing stands in the way of a wonderful and safe via ferrata experience.