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J-frame Racks
(a.k.a. Open-frame Racks)

"The Rappel Rack is the best rappel device in the world."

Bill Cuddington told me that nearly fifty years ago. It is a strong statement, but it was true at the time, and as far as I know, probably still is. Certainly other devices can be more appropriate when weight is the dominant concern (for example, when rappelling is incidental), or under special circumstances, but the basic, standard length, six bar J-frame rappel rack has versatility that most devices lack. Most of the time, it is an excellent choice.

For years I used the Speleoshoppe rack as my standard caving rappel device (I loved the bars), but when Larry Howell started making racks from certified titanium, I switched. Now I use #376, which Larry custom built to my specifications: nothing fancy, just pure utility, full size yet still exceptionally light. Unfortunately, none of his racks are available any more.

One of Larry's possible innovations was the hyperbar, seen on many of his racks. This was a nice idea that has its place, but I think that people have gone overboard with the idea. On a normal rack, for most uses, the hyperbar is unnecessary. Yes, it helps one tie off, but I can tie off without one. The down side of the hyperbar is size and weight. I use sometimes racks with hyperbars, but when I see three, four, or more hyperbars on a standard-length rack used for standard rappelling (rescue is different), I naturally begin to question the user's competence.

The Burkhead Safety Rack is unusual in that the bottom bar is fixed. Unfortunately, this takes away one of the best features of the rack: the ability to easily control friction by moving bars. SMC, in a misguided attempt to achieve a high strength on their NFPA Rack, took away the other big advantage: the ability to add or remove bars on rappel.

Some of the racks on this list are specialty items for long drops. Look for them by their length and by their larger bars.

The last two columns in the table are the internal width and available length. These are arguably the most important dimensions for determining how well a rack functions, as opposed to how bulky it is for transport. I defined and measured the entries in these columns as follows:

Historical note: I invented the term "J-frame" to describe these racks after seeing the U-frame SupeRack in 1978. I wish I hadn't. Although many people have adopted my nomenclature, I now prefer the term "Open-frame."

Gallery

Image ID Device Description Acquired Weight Height Width Thickness Std. volume  Int. Width  Avail. Length
Bassett Metal Studios Big Drop 529 Bassett Metal Studios Big Drop 9.8 mm. SS frame, 1 hyperbar & 5 standard hollow SS bars, welded eye, lock nut Vertical Supply, 1997 1123 615 93 27 1544 33 319
BlueWater Long, Version B 382
1498
BlueWater Long, Version A 9.8 mm. SS frame, 6 solid Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut
  • L&S Sporting Goods, 1989
  • Bob Thrun Collection, 2017
719 364 73 21 558 35 97
BlueWater Long, Version A 1151 BlueWater Long, Version B 9.4 mm. SS frame, 5 solid Al bars, coiled angled eye, lock nut S. Scott, 2008 684 360 71 45 1154 35 90
BlueWater Short 1002 BlueWater Short 9.8 mm. SS frame, 1 7/8" & 4 3/4" unfinished solid Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut Vern Veer Jr., 2005 607 274 73 23 448  35 13 
British 1267 British 9.5 mm. Steel frame, 6 solid Al bars, coled welded eye, hex nut Julian Turner, 2010 746 369 70 19 491 35 67
1472 Buddy Rogers 11 mm Steel frame, 1 spooled & 5 REI solid Al bars, welded eye, ball NSS Consignment Sales, 2015 866 388 89 37 1287 30 120
1473 Burkhead Safety Rack, Version A 9.5 mm steel assembled frame, 5 bars (top, bottom fixed), spacers, brazed eye, knob keeper Robert Thompson, 2015 483 313 44 25 333 19 0
Burkhead Safety Rack 370 Burkhead Safety Rack, Version B 9.8 mm. steel assembled frame, 5 bars (top, bottom fixed), spacers, welded eye, knob keeper Lowell Burkhead, 1980 531 336 45 26 393 19 0
Caving Supplies, Long 1143 Caving Supplies, Long 9.5 mm. SS frame, 6 solid unfinished Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut Dave Metcalfe, 2008 690 360 66 20 463 29 76
Caving Supplies Short 540 Caving Supplies Short 9.8 mm. SS frame, 5 solid unfinished Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut Alpinist & Globetrotter, 1997 501 277 61 26 439 29 27
CMC Rescue Rack 1028 CMC Rescue Rack 9.6 mm. SS frame, 1 hyperbar and 5 standard hard anodized hollow Al bars, welded eye, lock nut CMC, 2007 666 352 89 34 1064 32 40
1482 CMI SRACK1B 9.5 mm SS frame, 1 hyperbar and 5 standard hard anodized Al bars, welded 90 degree eye, lock nut Barry Duncan, 2016 784 369 103 46 1757 35 109
1483 CMI SRACK3B 9.5 mm SS frame, 1 hyperbar and 4 standard hard anodized Al bars, welded 90 degree eye, lock nut Barry Duncan, 2016 528 272 103 46 1291 35 26
1484 CMI SRACK4B 9.5 mm SS frame, 1 hyperbar and 4 standard hard anodized Al bars, welded, lock nut Barry Duncan, 2016 528 281 103 26 752 35 26
Esso Grotto 547 Esso Grotto 9.8 mm. steel frame, 5 REI bars, coiled & wired 90 degree eye, noncommercial Marshall Faushold, 1999 509 288 64 44 811 34 36
Gilchrest 1127 Gilchrest 9.4 mm. steel frame, 5 hollow steel bars, welded eye, top spring eye, hex nuts Mike Moser, 2007 889 310 76 23 531 36 1
Goldlock 371 Goldlock 9.8 mm. SS frame, 6 solid soft anodized bars, coiled & wrapped painted eye, lock nut Al Fincham, 1981 672 299 70 36 753 36 61
Howell-N-Mann 1294 Howell-N-Mann 9.5 mm. Ti frame only, no bars Sam Howell, 2011 213 300 52 13 201 33 -
Howell-N-Mann 4–bar 375 Howell-N-Mann 4–bar 9.8 mm. Ti frame, 1 Ti/Al dual hyperbar, 2 short & 1 long horned Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Howell-N-Man, 1993 360 257 82 19 400 20 41
Howell-N-Mann Custom 18" 377 Howell-N-Mann Custom 18"
9.8 mm. Ti frame, 325 mm. & 5 19 mm. Ti/Al bars, #2 /w rings, 4 split spacers, machined eye closure, cap nut Howell-N-Man, 1993 730 540 64 36 1244 33 147
Howell-N-Mann Custom Standard 376 Howell-N-Mann Custom Standard
8.8 mm. Ti frame, 6 19 mm. Ti/Al bars (#2 /w rings), machined eye closure, cap nut Howell-N-Man, 1993 459 357 63 25 562 33 99
Howell-N-Mann Rescue, Version A 372 Howell-N-Mann Rescue, Version A 9.8 mm. Ti frame, 1 25 mm. Ti/Al dual hyperbar, 5 19 mm. Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Howell-N-Man, 1993 674 431 108 25 1164 41 126
Howell-N-Mann Rescue, Version B 1289 Howell-N-Mann Rescue, Version B 9.5 mm. Ti frame, 1 19 mm. Ti/Al dual hyperbar, 5 19 mm. Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Sam Howell, 2011 649 429 108 19 879 40 107
Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version A 374
1235
1499
Howell-N-Mann Bruce Smith Special, Version A 9.8 mm. narrow Ti frame, 1 Ti/Al dual hyperbar, 5 short Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut
  • Howell-N-Man, 1993
  • Mike Moser, 2009
  • Bob Thrun Collection, 2017
462 372 80 19 565 21 105
Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version B 1404 Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version B 9.5 mm narrow Ti frame, 6 short Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Sam Gardner, 2013 416 367 53 19 370 20 80
Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version C 1417 Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version C 9.5 mm narrow Ti frame, 1 Ti/Al dual hyperbar, 5 short Ti/Al bars, angled Al eye Mary Luoto, 2014 390 326 85 27 733 19 65
Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version D 1493 Howell-N-Mann Smith Special, Version D 9.5 mm narrow Ti frame, 7 short Ti/Al bars, new style Al eye Alabama Pickers, 2016 412 377 53 22 442 19 77
Howell-N-Mann Speleo, Version A 373 Howell-N-Mann Speleo, Version A 9.8 mm. Ti frame, 1 Ti/Al dual hyperbar,spacers, 5 short Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Howell-N-Man, 1993 552 370 101 19 710 33 74
Howell-N-Mann Speleo, Version B 1288 Howell-N-Mann Speleo, Version B 9.5 mm. Ti frame, 1 Ti/Al dual hyperbar,spacers, 5 short Ti/Al bars, milled Al eye, cap nut Sam Howell, 2011 606 370 108 19 756 39 78
Howell-N-Mann Twin 378 Howell-N-Mann Twin 9.8 mm. duble-sided frame, 1 common TI/Al dual hyperbar, 5 Ti/AL bars per side, cap nuts Howell-N-Man, 1993 830 416 166 20 1381 20 116
John Cole, Version A 516 John Cole, Version A 9.8 mm. steel frame, 7 Gerry & REI bars, coiled & wrapped eye, hex nut, noncommercial Gerry Schindel, 1995 647 290 70 29 589 33 56
John Cole, Version B 1497 John Cole, Version B 9.5 mm  steel frame, 5 Al bars & 2 steel bars, coiled & wrapped eye, hex nut, lock washer, wing nut, noncommercial Bob Thrun Collection, 2017 671 318 64 20 405 30 50
John Cole, Version C 1425 John Cole, Version C 9.5 mm  steel frame, 6 Al bars, coiled & wrapped eye, hex nut, noncommercial David Jones, 2014 721 363 72 19 496 37 68
Krok Pro 1355
1360
Krok Pro 8.0 mm. steel frame, hollow SS hyperbar, 4 hollow SS bars, stamped eye closure, pin keeper. Gear4Rocks, 2012 439 266 77 20 409 21 35
Lewis 1148 Lewis 9.4 mm. SS frame, 5 Al bars, welded eye, lock nut Neil Edwards, 2008 659 272 63 24 415 31 42
Warren Lewis 548 Lewis, Warren 11.3 mm. steel frame, 6 Gerry bars, welded eye, set screw keeper Warren Lewis, 1998 842 371 69 23 589 34 135
Petzl, Version A 379 Petzl, Version A 9.3 mm. SS frame, 5 unfinished solid bars, stamped eye closure, pinned nut keeper ? 484 285 57 23 374 28 33
Petzl, Version B 512 Petzl, Version B 9.3 mm. SS frame, 5 various solid bars, stamped eye closure, screw keeper Inner Mountain Outfitters, 1995 473 285 57 23 374 29 32
PMI Long, Version A 380
1226
PMI Long, Version A 9.8 mm. SS frame, 5 hollow steel & 1 Al SMC bars, coiled eye, 2 hex nuts
  • Pigeon Mountain Industries, 1978
  • Holly Pender, 2009
746 328 62 26 529 33 67
PMI Long, Version B 1183 PMI Long, Version B 9.5 mm. SS frame, 6 Al SMC bars, coiled eye, 2 hex nuts Gene Clinger, 2008 643 326 64 22 448  29 32
PMI Short 381 PMI Short 9.8 mm. SS frame, 5 unfinished Al bars, coiled eye, 2 hex nuts ? 557 290 62 28 503 33 32
Rock Exotica Rescue Rack, Large (shown with Rack Jack) 530 Rock Exotica Rescue Rack, Large
(shown with Rack Jack)
9.8 mm. SS frame, 7 hollow SS bars, welded eye, lock nut
  • Rack: On Rope-1, 1997
  • Rack Jack: Josh Babcock, 2007
771 365 51 27 503 19 83
Ross, Nick 369 Ross, Nick 9.8 mm. SS frame, 6 unfinished solid bars, coiled eye, lock nut, noncommercial John E. Weinel, Inc., 1989 717 378 67 25 633 35 84
Rescue Systems Inc. 1244 Rescue Systems Inc. 9.5 mm. SS frame, 1+5 unfinished solid bars, coiled eye, lock nut eBay, 2010 749 362 71 22 571 35 65
Russian, Version A 494 Russian, Version A 7.2 mm. frame, 5 soft anodizzed bars, coiled eye, cap nut John E. Weinel, Inc., 1991 280 228 48 23 252 21 23
Russian, Version B 385 Russian, Version B 10.5 mm. SS frame, 6 stamped U bars, coiled eye on swivel, lock nut keeper 1994 869 405 62 21 527 35 91
SMC Angled 383 SMC Angled 9.8 mm. SS frame, 2 large solid Al & 4 stamped steel U bars, 90 degree welded eye, lock nut L&S Sporting Goods, 1989 743 345 68 46 1079 33 80
SMC Angled/welded w/ Prototype Swaygo Rack Trap 1058,
1038
SMC Angled/welded w/ Prototype Swaygo Rack Trap 9.5 mm. SS frame, Swago Rack Trap (#1038) & 5 stamped steel U bars, 90 degree welded eye, lock nut
  • Rack: Gary M. Steffan, 2007
  • Trap: Swaygo Gear, 2007
749 386 68 46 1214 33 89
SMC Angled/welded /w extended brake bars 1059,
1196
SMC Angled/welded /w extended brake bars 9.5 mm. SS frame, 3 solid Al & 2 extended Al bars, 90 degree welded eye, lock nut
  • Rack: Gary M. Steffan, 2007
  • Bars: Swaygo Gear, 2007
836 362 215 47 3642 34 101
SMC NFPA 543 SMC NFPA
9.8 mm. SS frame, 1 25 mm. & 5 19 mm. unfinished solid bars, welded eye, closure plate, lock nut On Rope 1, 1997 711 367 63 27 624 33 88
SMC Short 2446 SMC Short 9.5 mm SS frame, 4 std. & 1 long 19 mm unfinished solid bars, welded eye, lock nut Bob & Bob, 2017 557 311 71 20 443 33 60
SMC Straight 384 SMC Straight 9.8 mm. SS frame, 3 large & 2 Std unfinished solid bars, welded eye, lock nut Inner Mountain Outfitters, 1992 711 367 63 35 809 34 78
SMC Straight /w Howell-N-Mann bars 1323 SMC Straight /w Howell-N-Mann bars 9.5 mm SS frame, Dual Ti/Al hyperbar, 4 short & 1 longer Ti/Al bars, brass spacers, lock nut Jeff Levin, 2012 681 365 102 19 709 34 57
SMC Straight /w SMC SS bars 2411 SMC Straight /w SMC SS bars 9.5 mm SS frame, 6 SMC SS C-bars welded eye, lock nut Bob Thrun Collection, 2017 802 364 68 22 535 33 72
SMC 18"/w On Rope 1 modifications 1402 SMC 18"/w On Rope 1 modifications 9.5 mm SS frame, SS hollow hyperbar & 6 U bars, lock rings, springswelded eye, lock nut On Rope 1, 2013 1009 452 92 25 1038 32 64
Speleoshoppe, Version A 386 Speleoshoppe, Version A
9.8 mm. SS frame, 6 grooved soft anodized bars, coiled eye, lock nut Speleoshoppe, ca. 1979 773 366 70 22 564 35 111
Speleoshoppe, Version B 1117 Speleoshoppe, Version B
9.5 mm. SS frame, 6 grooved unfinished Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut Charles Knowles, 2007 798 363 70 22 568 35  103
Speleoshoppe, Version C 1376 Speleoshoppe, Version C 9.5 mm SS frame, 5 unfinished Al bars, coiled eye, lock nut Speleoshoppe, 2012 575 276 71 20 392 34 19
Storrick, Version A 387 Storrick, Version A 9.8 mm. SS frame, 1 square & 5 round unfinished solid bars, beveled coiled eye, hex nut, noncommercial Robert W. Storrick, 1975 713 346 70 25 606 37 68
Storrick, Version B, with Rogers spooled brake bars 387,
938
Storrick, Version B, with Rogers spooled brake bars 9.8 mm. SS frame, 1 square & 5 round unfinished solid bars, beveled coiled eye, hex nut, noncommercial Dr. Gary D. Storrick, 2004 822 346 127 32 1402 36 92
Storrick, Version C, with Rack Chock 388, 980 Storrick, Version C, with Rack Chock 9.8 mm. SS frame, Rack Chock & 6 unfinished solid bars, coiled eye, lock nut, noncommercial Dr. Gary D. Storrick, 2005 777 366 70 23 589 37 107
Storrick MegaRack 388 Storrick MegaRack
9.8 mm. SS frame, 6 graded Al bars (#2 /w catch), spacers, coilled eye, hex nut Robert W. Storrick, 1975 1327 400 87 43 1496 50 97
Unknown, Version A 2403 Unknown, Version A 9.5 mm SS frame, 7 REI Al bars, welded eye, hex nut Bob Thrun Collection, 2017 664 344 64 21 450 32 68
Unknown, Version B 2426 Unknown, Version B 11.1 mm steel frame, 6 SMC bars, welded twisted eye, lock nut Bob Thrun Collection, 2017 786 385 64 40 981 29 112
Unknown, Version C 2457 Unknown, Version C 9.5 mm SS frame, 6 mixed SMC bars, welded eye, lock nut CarolJo  Rushin-Elron, 2017 790 460 63 25 731 33 139
Unknown, Version A 2459 Unknown, Version D 9.4 mm steel frame, 3 REI & 3 SMC bars, frame-wrapped eye, lock nut vtgtrends, 2017 687 371 63 20 468 33 25

O- and U-frame Racks Rack weight chart