Problem Solver Hanzo Hangboard Review
Most climbers can't always be climbing because normal life has a habit of getting in the way. Whether it is work, family commitments, travel or the million other potential reasons we can't get to a crag or an indoor wall - it is always a challenge to stay fit for climbing when you can't get to go climbing enough.
Some people get around it by building a small wall or setting up a pull up bar or hangboard in their house, garage or garden. I even have a few friends that have done something similar by setting up boards inside their camper vans, but for most of us it is finding a solution while travelling that creates the biggest headache - especially if that travel is in an urban environment.
I end up staying in hotel rooms rather more than I'd choose and my usual workout, due to lack of options, ends up being sit ups, press ups, a local area run and using a finger exerciser. Although it would be nice to add a hangboard, unfortunately your average Premier Inn doesn't offer too many mounting options - but maybe now there is an option? Over the last few months I've been testing out a hangboard and hanging kit made by the niche Swedish brand Problem Solver and it is great. It may make a good training solution for you too?
The Problem Solver Hanzo is designed for portability with the board measuring only 380mm x 105mm x 24mm and weighing a very travel friendly 425 grams. The board is beautifully crafted from birch and has a range of hold options sized at 19, 17 and 13mm depths and there is another single 19mm slot on the back. A 4mm cord hanging system allows you to hang the board from a tree or other structure.
Of course, most hotels don't have a handy suspension point and what adds a great deal of versatility to this system is that Problem Solver also sell a rather unique fixing kit allowing the board to be fastened above a doorway by resting it on the architrave. The kit initially looks quite complicated but can be worked out pretty easily and once you understand it you'll also realise the kit isn't actually supporting the weight of the board. The hangboard sits on top of the door architrave and the clamps (like big G clamps that a joiner might use) actually hold it there by pulling from each side of the door opening. It is a clever system and can work on door openings up to 15.5cm depth.
The board and fixing kit arrived just before I was due to spend a couple of nights in a hotel and so I thought I'd test it at home first. I opened the fixing kit and a jumble of metal and wood came packaged together in a neat square, but once I separated them it all looked a bit like a large scale meccano set.
Fortunately Problem Solver have a handy fitting video (see link below) and with that I soon had it in place over one of our door frames. The clamps hold the board securely onto the frame but when you pull down on the board it is the top edge of the door architrave that is taking the load - so that obviously needs to be strong enough.
Once secured, the board is good to use. It features a selection of slots of varying depths (see info above) and the top edge of the board also provides a finger friendly option. The holds are smooth and the edges are carefully formed to give smooth edges with one side being squared off edges and if you hang it the other way the holds have a rounded profile. It is superbly designed.
If you hang the Hanzo with the built in cord you can wrap your fingers over the top edge and the slots even allow you to curl your fingers over into slots on the back side if you wish. Even better, the way the hang loop is constructed allows the board to be tilted forwards or backwards to change the angle and therefore the level of difficulty too. Another very clever feature.
Having had success with hanging the board in a few UK hotels and at home, I then took the Problem Solver and hang kit on my recent trip to Peru to see if I could get some good training while away. The short length, light weight and smooth round edges makes the board simple to pack in a 90 litre duffle although the hanging kit is a significantly bigger challenge. There are quite a few pieces and the metal rods don't make packing very easy. Luckily, I had an old neoprene laptop sleeve that conveniently fits everything in perfectly (and even had room to add a length of tape sling and carabiner for hanging from trees or beams).
The sleeve, being neoprene, also provides some protective cushioning so if you get one it may be worth finding something like this online. It would be nice if Problem Solver provided something like this with the hanging kit or offered it as an accessory. The other thing to consider is that the hanging kit, all nicely constructed from solid wood, is fairly weighty. When all packed away in the neoprene sleeve it is a reasonably heavy travel companion.
So, if you are happy to carry the weight it all lies nicely flat in your travel duffle and you are good to fly. I got a decent amount of use of it all in Peru but did find that the building methods common there meant quite a lot of door openings don't have an architrave around them. Still, for the amount of times I could hang it either from a tree, other structure or frame then I was really happy to have it with me. It is finger friendly and the range of hold options they have managed to fit into something so small is very impressive.
Beautifully crafted and versatile and with a good variety of usage methods - I really like the Hanzo board and fixing kit combo. Because you buy them separately you may just choose to buy the board as a lightweight travel companion, but the real versatility comes with the combination of the two. They are individually crafted and so aren't a particularly cheap option. The board and hanging kit cost 60 euros each (and can be ordered directly from Problem Solver). They will, however, serve you well for many years.
In use the system offers a surprising amount of versatility given that it's so small. There is a good selection of options and, unlike me (!), if you do find the holds too big then Problem Solver market a selection of inserts that you can slot in to make the holds shallower.
If you need a travel size board (and a way to attach it in a building) I think the Problem Solver Hanzo ticks all the boxes. Full details on their products are available on their website here and they have produced a Hanzo video which you can find here. Go train!
Posted by Paul
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