What can we say about the Fisk Descender? It’s a decades-old device. It’s proven and well-liked by many industries. It’s rock-solid, rugged, easy on your rope, and you’re already familiar with it. What’s not to love?
Now, if the last paragraph resonated with you, you might want to take a deep breath. This post might shake you to the core (too dramatic?). The thing is, there are now better devices available. In particular, the Petzl ID is a phenomenal device. Here are 11 reasons why it’s better:
- It is self-braking: Self-braking means that if you let go of the device, it will stop. With the fisk, you have to keep a strong grip on the tail end of the rope, or you will take a quick descent (i.e., fall).
- Easier to load and operate: You may think that the Fisk is a piece of cake to load, but you probably didn’t think that the first time that you saw one. The Petzl ID is much easier to load and operate for experienced techs and green hands alike. It has a picture of proper loading on the front and instructions for using the handle on the back. To go down, pull the handle. To stop, let go. No tying off needed.
- It’s anti-panic: When you panic, a natural reaction is to clench up. This can be disastrous with many devices, depending on what you happen to be holding when you panic. With the ID, if you pull too hard, the device stops. If you are annoyed by the anti-panic, Petzl makes a version called the Petzl Rig, which doesn’t have it (it’s still self-braking though!).
- Will catch if loaded upside down: The ID will catch if you load it upside. Of course, if you managed to load the Petzl ID incorrectly, it has an ingenious lever, which makes the device lock up, preventing descent (note that the Petzl Rig doesn’t have this feature). The Fisk has no safeguards against incorrect loading.
- The ID is lighter: You might enjoy carrying unnecessary weight for the workout, but for the rest of us, the ID is going to be much better. The fisk weighs in at a hefty 2.5 lbs compared to the ID at only 1.2 lbs. That’s less than half the weight!
- Effective hauling device: The ID can be used in a hauling system for progress capture. If you need to switch from lifting to lowering, you can instantly make that change. This is a huge benefit. The Fisk can’t touch this one.
- ID goes up, down, and all around: The Fisk pretty much just goes down. The Petzl ID, on the other hand, can be used in a variety of complex maneuvers. It can be used for ascending, descending, belays, and much more. To get an idea of its many uses, search for SPRAT Level 1 maneuvers on YouTube.
- The ID is easier to inspect: Petzl has specific criteria about how to inspect the ID and when it needs to replaced. This doesn’t exist on the Fisk, and the decision about when to retire it is much more subjective.
- Meets basic ANSI requirements: ANSI says that descent devices should be self-braking and anti-panic (see reasons 1 and 2). The Petzl ID meets these requirements, and the Fisk doesn’t. Don’t care about ANSI? More power to you, but be prepared to justify that to an OSHA inspector should they show up.
- It can be permanently locked: Petzl gave the ID the ability to lock in place by using a pin that can be taken in and out of the device. This means you can set up and use the ID in a rescue kit, without having to adjust it. Also, you can keep your ID just the way you like it, and no one can move or mess with it.
- It has a longer maximum descent length than the Fisk: Icing on the cake of reasons we love the ID, it has a longer descent length than the fisk.
Does the Fisk Descender do anything better?
- Can be used remotely: The Fisk can be used to lower a load or person in a rescue remotely. The Fisk Descender can be anchored up above, and the user can hold onto the tail end on the ground. Since the ID requires you to operate the handle, you have to be within arm’s reach of the device.
- The Fisk can use a wider range of rope sizes: With the ID, you have to choose the small (10 mm – 11.5mm) or the large (11.5mm – 13mm). If you commonly have to work with different size ropes, the Fisk Descender can be more versatile.
- The Fisk makes for a better weapon: The Fisk Descender is heavier and has no moving parts. It is by far the superior device to have in case you need to use it as a weapon.
The Fisk Descender is a great device, but in the last few decades, new types of devices have come to market that is safer, more effective, and more versatile. There are several excellent self-braking descenders out there, but the most common and arguably the best is the Petzl ID. It’s a fantastic device, and you should consider using it.
If you loved this post or found it infuriating, please comment below. Maybe you’ve got some reasons why the Fisk is great that we haven’t thought of.