In mountaineering, doing something quickly can be the difference between success and failure. Ideally you could carry one small piece of equipment that could accomplish a lot of different tasks quickly. Is the Kong Duck the small, lightweights, quick, and versatile tool that every mountaineer dreams of?
The Kong Duck is lighter and smaller compared to a typical ascender. The Duck is 70 grams compared to ascenders with handles made by Petzl or Black Diamond that weigh 165 grams and 200 grams respectively. For size and weight it is comparable to similar rope grabs such as the Wild Country Ropeman, Petzl Basic, and the Climb Technology RollNLock.
The Duck is versatile and relatively quick to set up. The Duck can be used as an ascender, progress capture or rope grab in a hauling system, and a length adjuster on a personal safety line. Typical ascenders use an array of teeth that grab the outermost sheath of a rope. The Duck uses a spring loaded cam to grab the rope, which also means it can be used to grab flat pieces of tubular webbing. This is useful for adjusting the length of a personal safety if you are working on an edge for an extended amount of time and want an easily adjustable safety.
For all of its versatility, it does still have some limitations. The major one overloading the device. Just like all rope grabs and similar devices, Kong is very clear about not shock loading the device or hauling something over 400lbs. In similar devices that use teeth to grab the rope the teeth can damage the outer layer of the rope if too much force is being held. Petzl lists the micro traxion’s maximum load at 4KN (900 lbs). This concern might not be present in knots such as the prussic in which a 7mm cord will fail at an average of 12 KN (2,700 lbs).
Another limitation of this device is it’s usability. Ascenders with handles usually have a spring assisted trigger to make it easy for the user to attach or detach it from the rope using only one hand. The Kong Duck needs two hands to put on the rope. This is not a big deal, but if you need to transition from rappelling to ascending or are transitioning between many sections of fixed rope it becomes apparent. Also, the lack of a handle means you often have to grab the carabiner that is attached to it as a handle. Because of this, the action of pushing the ascender up the rope is not as smooth as if it had a handle, especially over edge transitions.
The Kong Duck is an excellent piece of gear, depending on your role in the outdoors. If you know that you are going to be doing a lot of vertical ascending all day, it would be worth bringing an ascender. If you know that you are going to be hauling heavy equipment vertically, it would be worth bringing pulleys and prusik cord. If you don’t know what exactly the day or days have in store for you but you know you will be in some harsh terrain and the size and weight of the gear you can bring is limited, it would be worth ditching an ascender and pulleys and bringing a Kong Duck.