For decades Petzl is known for high quality and reliable equipment for vertical activities. Through its history and philosophy, Petzl has earned a strong reputation among suppliers and customers. In the meantime, the brand from France has become an integral part of the tree climbing scene and tree care.
Behind the success of the family-run company Petzl has a company philosophy that has its roots in values that has been upheld from the very beginning, that has been retained and that has become a fixed point of reference in the company’s history. The founding father Fernand Petzl did the necessary pioneering work by developing the first products in his workshop.
His son Paul, who still heads the company today, is regarded as the driving force and visionary behind the Petzl brand. He played a decisive role in the further development of the products and the future direction of the company. His target- and solution-oriented approach was to work efficiently and to offer unique solutions for collective requirements.
Pioneering work in the field of climbing equipment
The company’s history goes back to 1930 when Fernand Petzl, a speleologist ( cave explorer ), laid the foundation stone for his family business in France. It is therefore not surprising that Petzl’s DNA is located in undiscovered spheres beneath the earth. His idea of initially expanding the range of climbing equipment for personal use only led to a sustainable expansion of the climbing range.
Further driven by his inventiveness and striving for more, Petzl succeeded in launching his first products at the end of the 1960s. The first rope clamps, descenders and headlamps found their way under the company name Fernand Petzl to the still clearly arranged climbing market of that time.
The product portfolio expands further in the following years. Petzl adds a new market to its initial business field of cave expeditions and protective equipment. The small company now produces climbing equipment for industrial climbers. The product range is broad and ranges from hand climbing clamps, such as the Ascension L, to abseiling devices and headlamps with revolutionary LED technology, such as the Tikka Range.
The sum of each individual milestone contributed to creating a basis on which the success of the company today is founded. Despite the successes, the Petzls do not look back, but into the future. They want to move forward and see this as the greatest profit. Making the inaccessible accessible – that was true then as it is today.
Petzl in Crolles
The rapid expansion is the impetus for the foundation of Petzl in Crolles. The small town in the Rhône-Alpes, surrounded by high mountains, lies near the French town of Grenoble. In the following years, the company continued to establish itself on the international market. Further safety devices and fall arresters, such as the Petzl GriGri® complement the product portfolio in the 2000s. The strong demand on the international market leads to the founding of subsidiaries in Germany and Spain in 2014. Today Petzl offers various solutions for athletes and professional users in the field of outdoor activities, caving, climbing professions, as well as equipment for emergency forces, including lighting and headlamps.
Integration of the arboriculture business segment
Later, another group of climbers discovered Petzl’s adapted product range: The arborists. Initially, devices and equipment mainly met the requirements of industrial climbers, but Petzl responded to the special needs of tree climbers. Petzl was intensively concerned with the way tree climbers climb trees and, as a result, developed the first products. With the Sequoia, Petzl created a tree climbing harness for climbing on single ropes. Equipped with material loops and tool holders, it ensures comfortable and efficient climbing.
In order to make it easier and more practical for arborists to get high into the treetops, Petzl developed the Pantin Foot ascender on the basis of his articles in the field of speleology. In the field of climbing hardware, the ZigZag and its successor, the ZigZag Plus, are regarded as proven and safe mechanical prusik for smooth and efficient movement in the tree. As the demand for the products increased, Petzl decided to differentiate its product range more strongly from each other. In accordance with the interests and needs of the various types of climbers, the French differentiated and specialised the various product ranges.
Petzl now employs more than 800 people worldwide, 500 of them in France. In addition to its headquarters in Crolles, Petzl has four own production facilities where the majority of its products is manufactured and inspected: Three factories in France and one in Malaysia. On a long and close basis, the French work together with suppliers and dealers from all over the world. Petzl sells up to seven million products in over 50 countries and launches over 20 new products every year.
More than a supplier
The company is not only active as a manufacturer of products, but also in many other areas. With Petzl-Solution, it is committed to the global exchange of information between industry and users in order to further develop practice-oriented solutions for the benefit of the user. Petzl acts as a multiplier and sends its knowledge and experience around the globe. It sees itself as a network of experts and interested users in a vertical space, which is accessible and retrievable worldwide as a knowledge platform through short distances.
Regular training courses and events educate customers on theoretical and practical levels and ensure more safety in everyday climbing life. For the first time in the history of the Petzl Technical Institute (PTI) in Germany, a customer event is organised together with a distributor: The Freeworker-Petzl Event.
With the Petzl RopeTrip®, the company created an international event that took place for the first time in 2012 in Crolles. In addition to the competition for rope access technicians, this event aims to bring together industrial climbers from all over the world and stimulate the international transfer of knowledge. The Petzl RopeTrip® takes place every two years at different destinations around the world. In 2018 the Petzl RopeTrip® made its first guest appearance in Germany. 40 teams from all over the world met in the old buildings of a disused steelworks, today’s Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord.
The Petzl Foundation supports a wide range of international projects by non-profit organisations in the fields of environmental protection, accident prevention and scientific research. Petzl supports them in the clarification of sources of danger in everyday climbing and provides contributions in the field of risk management. In addition, Petzl is committed to the protection of our ecosystem, for example through expeditions to explore tropical forests, or to explaining the consequences of climate change on the vegetation of the Alps.
More articles on the Freeworker blog