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Rigging a Z-Drag: How to use a "Rope" to lift

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by GrandpaDave, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    A “Z-Drag” is also known as the “poor man’s come-along.” The Z-Drag is considered an important tool in whitewater rescue and is used primarily for the recovery of pinned boats. The Z-Drag is considered an important tool in mountain rescue because of its simplicity and is used for nearly all lifting systems. It also serves as an excellent method for tightening the rope to be crossed in a Tyrolean traverse, where the other end is also fixed to a stable object.

    Once again I found myself board to tears in yet another doctor’s waiting room, when I picked up an old copy of a sportsmen’s magazine. One of the articles I found there was for an updated version of the relatively simple Z-Drag. Something I had learned about years before when I attended a mountain rescue training course up in the Colorado Rockies. As I read I quickly became annoyed with this author. In his attempt to make himself sound bigger badder and wiser then his readers; He managed to turn a simple technique into a needlessly complex confusing mess…. So I will now attempt in my own way to correct that error and try to teach you the right way to rig a Z-Drag.

    I warn you now… don’t just scan over this lesson and believe yourself to be an expert.

    This technique requires a thorough understanding of its theory use and lots and lots of practice.

    Learning to do this correctly can help you lift anything heavy. Like a game up a tree for skinning and butchering, Un-sticking a mired ATV or rescuing a buddy stranded on a cliff ledge. Learning to rig a Z-Drag properly gives you a 3 to 1 haul ratio, with only a minimal amount of equipment.

    So what does that mean in laymen’s terms…
    This handy dandy trick can transform a tire old fat man, such as myself, into a regular old superman with the strength of three grown men!

    So are you ready for this? ----- Great then lets began.

    The first thing you need is a skill, and that skill is the ability to tie a “Prusik” knot… Oh don’t look like that; this will be one of the easiest knots you’ll ever learn to make.





    Get it now???

    As for the gear list you need
    1. About 100 feet of good haul rope.
    2. 12 feet of smaller 5mm rope cut in half and the two sections tied into loops. You’ll make your Prusik knot out of one of these sections.
    3. 2 count em “Two” carabiners. I mean real ones and not those little cheap ones on your key ring.
    4. Optional are 2 petzl ultra legere pulleys. They cost about $4. And can be found online or at any good mountaineering store. They are really a small wheel that turns your carabiners into pulleys…cuts down the drag on the rope, especially if that rope is wet… nice if you have em… but… they look like this

    now for the how too
    Tie off one end of the haul rope to whatever needs lifting…. from that point go back from the attachment point…Maybe a foot or so… maybe more maybe less… Less is better but might not be feasible… there you attach that Prusik knot. Attach the first of your two carabiners to the loop.

    Now you need a good sturdy anchor point Like a truck bumper, tree trunk or for lack of anything better a stout stake driven at an angle into the ground opposite of the direction you’ll be pulling. Wrap your second piece of 5mm rope around that anchor and attach your second carabiner. Now run the haul line through the biners as shown in the photo


    Before you start pulling… and really, pulling is the next and final step…. there are a couple of things to know…
    The first is there is no break, meaning if you let go the rope… whenever your lifting is going to fall right back down… you need to preplan your lift …position yourself so once the… whatever it is… is lifted free… then you can tie off the haul rope, to a tree or truck bumper… it also helps to have a second person standing by. They might need to slide the Prusik knot back into position or swing you’re…. Whatever… Into the clear.
    Also it makes no difference if you rig a Z-Drag along a horizontal or vertical axis; (meaning up and down or side to side) what is important is you maintain the basic “Z” configuration. Depart from that too much and you quickly lose lifting capacity. Then you’re done.

    Remember too this is not some cheesy parlor trick… you can hurt yourself or others if you rig it wrong or use poor quality gear. If you really want to be the hero then you need to practice, practice, practice…

    On a tech note, you can in a pinch, use the rope in your toss bag, just remember the rope they typically use in a rescue toss pack is not a “static” rope, expect some stretching… to keep that stretch down try to use the shortest haul line you can get away with. By keeping your line short you remove the bounce when pulling, too much bounce and you might find you’re… Whatever… is pulling you, off your feet….

    Remember too this is just a starting point... there are many many ways to rig a Z-Drag I've only covered one of those... the other methods I leave to you to discover and they are well worth the time to learn

    Watching how one is rigged and seeing for yourselves is priceless so if you can... watch this quick vid
    Now get up out of your chairs and go have fun in the great outdoors… if anyone objects you tell em Grandpa said it was okay.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 26, 2014
    Dont, bagpiper, KAS and 7 others like this.
  2. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    BTW if you all want me to write up more threads about other ways to use a rope... now's the time to let me know... otherwise I'll just move on to the next subject... if your shy or something just click where it says "Like"
    I'll get the massage
  3. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Been a few decades since I used a Prussic Knot, but your review, brought back many of the memories, of using them... Thanks for the reminder....
  4. Cephus

    Cephus Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Always good to how to use rope to get us out of a jam .We may even find other uses for it in the near future !!!
    Great info and THANKS !!!!
  5. tuxdad

    tuxdad Monkey++

    Great stuff !! Please feel free to post more on this subject !!

  6. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Yes, I'm fascinated by ropes, lines and rigging.
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Next time you get to a library, see if they have a copy of the Bluejackets Manual. More rope, knot, and line info than you can ever use unless you sail. The z drag rig is a modern version of the Spanish Windlass, IIRC.
  8. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

  9. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I would guess that that early edition will have more on lines and ropes than either mine or my fathers. Pops is early 40s, and it is more extensive ropewise than mine from the 60s.
  10. Waz

    Waz Monkey+

    Really like the post, always handy to know ropes uses, as there are many and varied times a good knowledge may just save a life, maybe your own
  11. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    you can also use prussic knots to climb a rope ...
  12. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    Well know I guess everyone did like my thread...

    a word of warning... a prussic knot, esp if it's wet, can really bite into your main line and be quite stubborn it letting go... fact is I've seen em peal the outer layer off a cheap rope... just so you know...

    when I have time I'll work up so more how-too's... probally the next on how to fashion a rescue harness... maybe throw in a bit on what a toss bag is and how to use one...
  13. CaboWabo5150

    CaboWabo5150 Lost in the woods

    Absolutely love threads like these... Thank you...
  14. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    Glad you likes it...
    and it just so happens I spent quite a few years working with New Mexico Mountain Rescue so ropes is something I happen to know a lot about...

    in fact to those of you who like this kind of stuff... almost every state has some type of civilian volunteer search and rescue team and I'm sure they would be more than glad to take you on and give you hands on training too...

    those of our members who are Ham Radio operators can probably hook you up with a local list... ARRL as always been very active in rescue ops
    Gunny Highway and BTPost like this.
  15. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    The modern equivalent to the Prussic Knot, is the Climbers Mechanical Ascender. Very cute little mechanical devices that make working with over tightened knots a thing of the past, in this usage. ..... YMMV....

    Second, the thought of any Monkey Hams, that want to get involved in Rescue Comms... they never have enough good Comm Guys.....
  16. Gunny Highway

    Gunny Highway Hard Work and Sacrifice blessed by God's Grace Site Supporter

    Please keep em coming....useful info and a well written refresher for those of us that haven't used these techniques in a while
  17. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    very right my friend.... but I wrote this up with the ole... make do with you have in the back of your truck... kind of deal... sometimes the real knack to survival isn't all the fancy gear it's knowing how to make do with what you have...
    BTPost and Cephus like this.
  18. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    I wonder if i should post how to "throw " knots one foot apart in any length rope....
  19. GrandpaDave

    GrandpaDave Monkey++

    Go for it... be surprised how many folks dont know even the simplest of things... Just like I've been pondering a write up on how to make a field-improvised water filter better than anything you can buy in a store...So simple but so few really know how and when you read just how simple it is it makes you go... I should've have figured that out long ago...
  20. Waz

    Waz Monkey+

    On a side note, is it worthwhile learning to abseil, not that I live near mountains or great climbing sites, down south there are a lot of cliffs, and up North some great places and caves.
    GrandpaDave likes this.
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