You can find a myriad of rappel devices that function in many different ways. Few may outperform others for their respective uses. When selecting your device, a lot will have to do with what works for you, physically.
So, your rappel harness links you to the rope & anchor device. Make sure to go with a harness that feels custom fit and doesn’t agitate you in any way. Make sure the leg loops give way for complete leg movement.Make sure that the waist belt is snug enough that it would be impossible to come undone and get loose over the hips. It would be an added bonus if the harness would actually come with a belay loop, but if it doesn’t, that is OK.
Make sure to read the manual and get familiar with every function. You’ll be surprised at how many things you can do with it and how helpful they can be. Also get familiar with the buckle to make sure you are comfortable with it. We would never use a harness that was older than 4 years old. If you keep one past 8 years you can really be taking bigger risks than you think.
Rappel Plates and Tubes
Tubes & plates work really well as belays. They are also pretty good for doing their job as rappel devices. In order to rappel on one fixed rope, funnel a loop between a slot on one of these devices. and make sure top clip it to some locking device on your harness such as a carabiner. If you are using rope strands (dual +) funnel a loop you make with each rope into the device slots and link each onto the carabiner. Use your intuition and double check to make sure each rope is attached properly.
Your device will more likely come with a cable or keeper. Make sure to leave the loop clipped onto the carabiner when you begin to rig/unrig your rappel device, that way you do not run the risk of dropping the cable while working the rig. When you use a tube/plate, the wear and tear will more likely start on the carabiners( which are cheap and easily replaceable) .
That is the real purpose behind the tubes/plates. They work like washers. You will notice that the tubes typically take on a tapering angle. The large end of the tube is oriented in the direction of the carabiner so you optimize the friction levels. If you find that the rope constantly locks up while rappelling, don’t get jerked around! Try attaching another carabiner onto your harness/rope in order to flatten out the jam.
You will notice that these belays utilize a v-shaped groove design which makes it really easy to change the friction level to meet your purpose during your rappel. We highly recommend these, especially for newbies. We really like the GM V grooves. They hold up and they do not break the bank.
Figure-8 rappel device
You will find the figure 8’s come in a myriad of sizes and features. These are typically going to give you a nice and smooth rappel but they are not as good for belaying as other devices will be. Remember, pass a loop for each rappel rope into the large hole of the F-8 device.
The advantages for these are plenty though. For one, they are very easy to rig, and you get a very nice, unencumbered rappel most of the time. We would typically use these when we are sport rappelling and not for climbing (we would use a tube belay for that purpose). Reason being is that tube belays are lighter, kink the ropes way less, less bulky and they simply perform better when rappelling
Here’s a video for how to pull of a Fireman’s belay…
Problems with Figure-8
Many times with F-8, you’ll have the rope ride up on the rappel device, which leads to girth hitching and ultimately locks up your device. This is actually sometimes useful when you are looking to stop immediately. However, once you are ready to begin your rappel again you will have to remove the weight from your device and undue the girth hitch. If you aren’t careful with f-8, you will find twists in your rope which will funnel through the figure-8, causing stuck ropes. Make sure to link your harness with a sling along with one of the ropes to avoid twisting in your rope.
Remember: The last rappeler that is in line to land last should link the sling to one of the ropes, which will help keep the rope straight and unwinding around the other rope. If the ropes are wound around each other in all kinds of whacky knots, it may feel like an impossibility when trying to pull them down after landing.
How to use a GriGri- Go with Petzl
a GriGri is a belay mechanism that locks independently and works incredibly when using one line to rappel! When the GriGri you would simply push the Cam piece inwards when you are about to descend. Keep in mind that if you release the cam, you will not be able to move as it stops your descent instantly! The best part about utilizing a GriGri is you will not need a backup autoblock on your single rope rappels.
GriGri’s are utilized universally for all climbers whether they are route setters, mountain climbers, rappellers, or even photographers. The only downside with them is that they can really run a rope hot since it will be creating serious amounts of friction on your rope’s sheath. That is why you have to be really careful if you choose to nylon on your rope. Make sure to fix your GriGri properly and go with Petzl! We have noticed that they don’t heat the sheath as fast, are very durable and those two facts more than makes up for the price tag.
Here’s a great video on how to GriGri belay properly..
How to use..
Make sure the rope that is installed via the anchors goes into the correct slot (you will know which slot when you see the little guy engraving on the GriGri). The rope that is designated to your hand that will utilize the braking must come out through the slot marked with the engraved “hand” logo.
We don’t really advise on using a GriGri when rappelling with 2 ropes. However, this can be pulled off. The process is not simple though and you have to do it a couple of times before you get the hang of it. First, you would have to link the ropes through the anchors as usual. Then you would make a Figure-8 right under the knot you would have created to link the ropes. Then, you would link it to the second rope using a locking carabiner.
Pictured: Carabiner device with opposing gates
The second rope would be the rope you would use to rappel. Once you make it to the floor level or when you get to the next station, you would tug on the knotted rope in order to pull it down to you. Ease is key, don’t try and force down the retrieval. You don’t want it to hit sharp rock creating damage to the carabiner or rope. Even if you feel no resistance, check the strand and carabiner once you’ve pulled it down all the way. Last thing you need is to reuse a damaged carabiner or rope on your next rappel
Learn how to use GriGi’s before attempting!
Get help from someone who has rappelling with GriGri’s before going about it yourself. If nothing at all, consult this Manual and learn it like the back of your hand before use.
Best Carabiner Use For Rappelling- Creating a platform biner rappel device
When you utilize six or seven carabiners, you can really custom make safe-proof rappel device for emergencies. situations where emergencies may occur would be if you accidently let go and lost your primary rappel device.
- Make sure to link your locking biner with your belay loop you constructed.
- Then, link 2 or more biners onto this secondary device, using opposing gates .
- This will make sort of a platform of biners.
- Send a bight through each of the lines into the platform.
- Then, link two more carabiners into the bights, linking them to the strands overtop the biner.
- The idea is that you want both brake biners to cross the platform ones.
Note: If the ropes are running across the gates and not the spines of the biners then you are doing it wrong!
Munter Hitch- How to belay and tie
Munter hitches are made using the pear shape biners. The idea is you would create the hitch for both strands of rope and link both of them onto the biner to begin rappelling. You will find this most prevalent on the eastern side of the world. One downfall with the Munter is that it tends to twist and turn the rope, so we recommend only pulling this hitch off only once in a while and if you are not good at it then eliminate if from your repertoire.
If your carabiners aren’t big enough (not HMS) to be used with both ropes, then you will need to make to Munters in each rope and use your biners accordingly with each rope. You will then have two carabiners linked to your harness. You would then stretch one of the munter biners using an extra locking biner, or even two biners opposing each other . If they are not opposing then you run the risk of the two ropes locking up while pinching each other.
The brake hand rope should ALWAYS exit on the spine side of the biner! Reason is to lessen the likelihood of the locking biner failing or unscrewing.
- Line through Carabiner
- Create a rope coil and bend the top strand under the lower one.
- Link the locking biner into each sides of the folded strand and make sure it is lined up to the biners spine.
The primary applications for using rappel racks are if you are canyoneering, rescuing, and caving. The reason they are commonly used in these applications is because of how simple you can control friction levels while utilizing the racks. The only negative with racks would be that they are a pain in the butt to lug around. They can really add to a load so we would use these only for the applications mentioned above. We have used the SMC rack for years when we cave and it has served us well with no issues besides weighing only 1.9lbs. Most weigh at least 2lbs+.
A word on Safety Backup Plans
Unless you are tarzan or Stallone in Cliffhanger, you should always use safety measures when rappelling. Safety typically equates to having healthy gear with backup devices in place. It means to double and triple check the gear, it means to have a backup for the brake hand, nuts and cams in place and used as backups. It means to have fixed anchors when you can, with stopper knots at the ends of the strands to stop you from sliding off the line while rappelling.
Double and Triple Check!
We cannot stress this point enough. Make sure to check continuously at every checkpoint in your rappel. This is the singlemost critical habit we can teach you on here. If you take nothing from this article, make sure to double and triple check your buckles, harnesses, autoblocks, the device itself and any knots linking the ropes. Check to see that each rope fall towards the inside of the biner and that the biner itself is locked! Carabiners that aren’t locked can spell trouble. Make sure your rope is directed correctly through the rappel point, with no twists!
We have noticed that most rappellers we come across in the States avoid using autoblocks. We really don’t understand why?! Is it time consumption!? Laziness?! It like avoiding the emergency break in your vehicle when you are on a downwards slope. If the primary brakes slip there is nothing to hold you from rolling down, and wham! Your gone! Why not have a backup plan that is practically 100 % crash proof if your primary knots give out?
Best part of setting up a backup is that it only takes a few moments of your time! While rappelling it would be easy to untangle the lines with both hands. If you find yourself dropping out of control, your backup friction knot locks in place and saves your life! The higher the propensity of creating friction the better your chances of survival, period point blank. So give yourself ample opportunity to do so while enjoying the thrills of rappelling safely. The more control you have with your rappel the more fun you will have.
The autoblock is the easiest backup in our opinion. You just link a sling into the leg loop, wrapping it over and over under the device, then clip it with a biner as the picture to the right suggests. You can even go with an already made Prusik/Sterling which may come pre-knotted. We also prefer at least 9/16’ths nylon for the autoblock since it has a variety of other uses. The nylon does a good job at creating friction with its webbing properties.
When you are rappelling, make sure to carry the autoblock at a level 4/10 with your brake hand. When you are ready to halt, begin to clench the autoblock, slowly easing pressure until you are at about 9/10. Remember to keep the sling free of any tangles and loop around enough times (usually 6 or 7 loops) around the rope. It goes a long way if you utilize the slings within the wraps themselves. The idea is if you make to many wraps then you won’t go anywhere but too little wraps, and the autoblock won’t actually work at the exact moment that you will need it to. This is especially true when your rope is thin or brand spankin new!