Innovative Leisure supplied some of the first commercially designed and built mobile climbing walls back in 2000 and we’ve supplied climbing walls to so many different market sectors it’s hard to keep track.
The decision making process when buying such a specialist piece of equipment is a tough one. With the number of climbing wall suppliers having grown considerably it is understandably difficult to decide which company’s wall is best for you. That’s why we’ve put together a guide of what you should be thinking about and looking out for when buying a mobile climbing wall.
Do your research.
You can’t do too much research when buying something this specialised. With new manufacturers cropping up there’s more choice than ever and most offer both brand new and used mobile climbing walls. Speak to as many as suppliers as you can, spend time on supplier websites and get all the information they have to send you. Ask how long they’ve been supplying climbing walls, how they conduct training, servicing and support. Ask for details of customers they’d be happy for you to contact to get some first person feedback on what the product is like and how the company is to work with. If they can’t or worse won’t, then ask yourself why that is as any company worth their salt will have people that are happy to sing their praises.
Familiarise yourself with the belaying.
Belaying is the process of controlling the climbers descent so they return to the ground at a safe and regulated speed. Traditionally this is manually done by a qualified climbing instructor where you require one instructor per climber. In order to make mobile climbing walls a commercial business a number of mechanical systems designed to control the belaying process have been developed allowing one instructor to manage a number of climbers at a time. The first of these systems was the Hydraulic Auto Belay designed and built by Spectrum Sports which remains the safest, most durable and economic available on the market and one of the only ones that have achieved the stringent TÜV certification. Other systems have been adapted from ‘fall arrest’ technology used for working at heights much like the ill-fated RedPoint belays, removed from the market in 2009. Familiarise yourself with the different types and their history, safety record and servicing requirements.
It’s just a trailer right?
No. The trailer is just as important as the climbing wall itself and isn’t something you should ignore. Most countries will have strict regulations about what you can legally tow on the roads with a non-commercial vehicle such as a 4×4. All Innovative Leisure climbing wall trailers come complete with an independent inspection by VOSA which is now a legal requirement. A VOSA inspection is included in the cost of a climbing to give you peace of mind that the trailer is completely road legal.
Does the length, width and weight comply with regulations and is your vehicle capable of towing it? Does it have the correct hitch, lighting, tyres, axels and brakes? If you’re importing directly from a manufacturer outside the UK or Europe this won’t always be the case. Lightweight trailers are easier on fuel consumption but a heavier trailer is likely to be better constructed, more robust and better able to cope with the stresses that towing will put on it. Again don’t be afraid to ask questions about the trailer and it’s conformity as it’ll be you out there on the road and it will be your responsibility to ensure it meets towing regulations.
Get out and see the products for yourself.
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive would you? Of course not, so how can you be confident you’re buying the right mobile climbing wall if you haven’t tested them out yourself. It’s a great chance to really look at what it is you might be buying and to ask questions face to face too. Make sure you ask to see it being set up so you get an idea of how long and involved that process is. Climb it for yourself so you get a feel for the belay system and how comfortable and secure your customers will feel. If you can see a wall at a suppliers premises then you can get a good feel for how the company is set up and the people you might be working with in the coming years. If you meet them at an existing customers site then it’s another great chance to talk to an existing operator to get their thoughts and opinions on the product and the company.
You can’t be too safe.
Climbing involves an element of risk, that’s part of the attraction. You can’t have a climbing wall that is ‘too safe’ as it’s the health and wellbeing of yourself, your staff and customers that is imperative. The belay system is just a part of the overall safety element you need to consider. Mobile Climbing Walls should meet the requirements for EN13814 and be certified under the ADIPS scheme in the UK. The ADIPS scheme ensures mobile climbing walls are regularly inspected by independent registered inspectors to ensure best practises are being adhered to. Training of staff is also a key element and should be included as a standard part of the package, not as an optional extra you need to pay for. It should cover every element of set up, operation, day to day maintenance and safety procedures. There should also be a test with a definite pass/fail criteria so only those deemed competent and capable are authorised to operate the climbing wall for your company.
The question of cost
For a lot of people cost is the main factor in the decision making process. In addition to the outlay for the product itself you also have to consider the vehicle you’ll need to tow the climbing wall, the insurance requirements and annual servicing costs. Insurance is likely to be somewhere around £2,000 to £2,500 per year to have up to £5m public liability. Servicing costs will depend on the belay type you’ve chosen but shouldn’t be more than £2,500 – £3,000 per year. If your wall complies with ADIPS, an engineer and inspector will come to your site to complete service work and certify your wall for another year.
If you’ve done your research and decided on a belay type you’re comfortable with, checked the conformity of the trailer, been and tried a couple of walls for yourself and ensured the wall meets EN13814 and will be inspected and your staff trained then is the time to start taking a look at the level of investment involved to purchase the wall. A less expensive price tag may come at the expense of good after sales, continued service support or the quality of the product.
So there you have it, a guide to buying a mobile climbing wall. If you want to test Innovative Leisure with any of the questions detailed then go ahead and give us a call on +44 (0)116 271 3095 and we’ll be happy to answer your every query.
Written by Neil Hannam – Part of the Innovative Leisure Marketing Team