Freestanding Aerial Rigs
Let’s face it, aerialists want to perform everywhere. Some places they want to perform do not have structures from which they can suspend themselves and their apparatus. In these cases, freestanding aerial rigs are often the best choice.
Freestanding aerial rigs typically have either three legs (called Tripod rigs) or four legs (called Quad rigs or Swing-Set rigs), and are made of either steel or aluminum tubing. Before going any further, let me insert one of my “Delbertisms” here, “There is no such thing as a perfect solution.” By this I mean that every solution has pros and cons. Your task is to look at the pros and cons of each solution and decide which one is the best (not the perfect) solution for your needs and budget. Hopefully, this issue of The Flywire will help you understand some of the pros and cons of these types of freestanding rigs and materials.
Quad vs. Tripod
Let’s compare some general characteristics of these two designs:
Longer setup time
Setup: 2 people min.,
4 people preferred
Less setup time
Setup: 1 person min.,
2 people preferred
Quad rigs have a wider base than Tripod rigs and can often be used with swinging apparatus, whereas Tripod rigs are too unstable for swinging apparatus. DO NOT SWING ON A TRIPOD RIG.
When I was young my father taught me that, “if you get what you really want (not settling for less) you will always be happy with your purchase.” This, of course, sometimes meant delaying a purchase until I had enough money to buy the one that I really wanted. I mention this here because, for most uses, I prefer Quad style rigs to Tripod style rigs for how I use them. This does not mean that Tripod style rigs might not be the best solution for you - see the advantages and disadvantages above. I have two Quad rigs, and despite the cost and longer setup time required, I am happy with my purchase. However, if I needed a rig that I could setup by myself, I would want a Tripod rig. Remember, there is no perfect rig.
Steel vs. Aluminum
Aerialists seem to be constantly debating the pros and cons of steel verses aluminum. There is no good guy or bad guy in this debate - different materials simply has different characteristics. Below is a short comparison of these materials.
Note: Because aluminum is weaker than steel, aluminum rigs are made from larger diameter tubes - which makes the rigs more massive. In the end, the overall weight of the rigs are about the same. Different manufacturers of freestanding rigs have decided which metal they feel is best for their rigs, based on their design and how they see their rigs being used.
(must be painted)
Will not rust
I am not promoting any style or any manufacturer’s rigs over another. I will describe what I see as the pros and cons of each rig. These are my opinions based on mostly my experience with the rigs, but also on comments I have heard from people that I respect. Any comparisons that I make are done so help you understand which rig might be best for a specific use. Only you know how you plan to use the rig, so the rig that is best for one aerialist may be the best for another. Re-read the Delbertism in paragraph two. Got it? OK, let’s get started.
Trevor Boswell’s Freestanding Aluminum Quad Rigs (TrapezeRigging.com)
(Trevor only makes aluminum quad rigs.)
This may be the Cadillac of freestanding aerial rigs – it is also the most expensive $2,750 (free shipping). This rig stands 18.5 feet tall, when fully assembled, but is designed so that it can be setup without one set of leg extensions so that it will fit in ballrooms that do not have enough height for the “full” rig. It weights approximately 200 pounds. It comes with very nice rubber-soled foot-pads that protect wooden or carpeted floors. The web site says that two people can set it up in ten minutes; however, it is much easier for four people to set this rig up. This rig has a wide 24’ x 26’ base that is very stable and does not need leg straps or guy wires.
This is a strong, stable and well-built rig with a static capacity of 300 pounds. The 6-foot long crane bar has hanging three hanging points (two points with bearings for swings). There are also points for hanging pulleys for lifting an apparatus/performer. The crane bar can be hung independent of the legs. Maximum part length is 6'-6".
The one (minor) shortcoming in this rig, as I see it, is that I wish it came with a rope tie-off cleat near each foot.
Backyard Freestanding Rig
This is Trevor’s smaller and less expensive ($1,050) version of the rig described above. It can be setup as a 7.5-foot or 13-foot high rig. At 7.5 feet, the base is 10’ x 10’ and at 13 feet, the base is 16’ x 18’. The rig weights just 110 pounds but has the same 300-pound capacity as Trevor's bigger rig. This rig should be able to be set up by one person (I have not setup this rig, so I cannot say with certainty). This is an excellent rig for practicing indoors or outdoors.
Need a lightweight practice rig for support just one person that is easy to set up? This is it. Available in 8-foot high (8' x 8' base) or 9-foot high (9' x 9' base). Maximum part length is only 4' and weights only 50 pounds.
Ludwig Goppenhamer’s Steel Freestanding Rigs (Damnhot.com)
(Ludwig makes both quad and tripod rigs from steel. All of Ludwig’s rigs use the same legs so a user can purchase a tripod rig and later purchase a quad header and more legs to have a quad rig.)
Aerial Performer Portable, Freestanding Rig (Quad)
Ludwig’s quad rigs come in three heights: 21 feet ($1,780), 16.2 feet ($1,565) and 11.2 feet ($1,350). They have a 4-foot long header/crane bar and 4-foot long extension feet are available. The base is only 19’ x 17’ which makes it’s capacity higher ( 400 pounds) than Trevor’s Quad rig. However, unlike Trevor Quad rig, Ludwig’s quad rig not intended be used with major swinging apparatus unless you add guy cables (plus, there are no ball-bearing points). Ludwig will customize the number of hanging points on the header for your needs. This rig is available in many different colors. Ludwig also sells a 6-foot headed for aerial yoga. Two participants can work on this rig at the same time. The weight of the rig is approximately 200 pounds and the maximum part length is 6'-6". Leg straps are required.
Ludwig started building his “no frills” freestanding rigs in 2001. His goal was to design and build strong, low-cost, portable aerial rigs. His rigs are probably some of the most portable rigs available; and because the height of each foot is adjustable, they are also the best if you need to set up your rig on a non-level ground. I also really like the rope tie-off cleats on these feet.
Ludwig’s rigs are well made and have some very useful features, especially for outdoor use. He also has an online setup manual.
All of Ludwig's rigs (Quad and Tripod) use the same legs. This means that an aerialist can simply exchange headers (and add legs) to create different types of rigs. This versatility allows an aerialist to start with a simpler Tripod rig (described below) and add to it over time to create larger rigs.
Aerial Performer Portable, Freestanding Rig (Tripod)
Ludwig builds two types of headers for his Tripod rigs. His “tee-pee” headers, where the three legs come together at a single point. Ludwig’s teepee headers are completely welded and extremely strong, unlike the tee-pee headers made by many other manufacturers.
Ludwig also makes a “T” shaped header. The “T” shaped header makes it possible to hang a trapeze on this rig, something you cannot do on other tripod rigs. The “T” shaped header also makes the base of the rig wider and more stable than you get with the tee-pee header. I think this is a very cleaver design.
A 21-foot high tripod rig cost $1,425, a 16.1-foot high tripod rig cost $1,250 and an 11.2-foot high tripod rig cost $1,075. Shipping is not included.
If you are considering purchasing a rig from Ludwig, I strongly suggest that you talk to him about your needs. Ludwig is very knowledgeable and willing to help you decide which rig is best for you (and even suggest another manufacturer if he feels that one of their rigs are better for your needs).
Several other companies make tee-pee style tripod rigs. To be blunt, I do not care much for most of these rigs. I have read far more negative comments about these rigs than positive comments. And, from the photos that I have seen of some of these rigs, I feel that most are not well designed. I have used rigs made by both Trevor and Ludwig and I can attest to the quality of their design and construction, so I would purchase from them. Now, which rig is right for you, only you can decide. But, hopefully you now have more information to help you make that decision.