As a rappeller, protecting yourself comes down to a myriad of factors. One of the biggest factors is how well you tie your knots! The knots we will discuss in the following article should be mastered to the point where you can tie them in pitch darkness or even in a cold soak so you can get familiar with discomfort and gauge how well you do under similar elements you may face while rappelling. You always want to be ready to prepare for the worst.
Since lots of strain is put on your line's fibers (mantle and kern) when you bend the rope into knot form, your line will tend to tear at or close to the knots( unless they get sliced open). Each knot puts a different kind of strain on different types of line. Which means, a knot that would be firm on laid rope will not be as firm on kernmantle rope or even webbing.
Furthermore, you will notice that certain knots will not stay as secure as other knots will depending on the type of line or webbing you are using. For example, a Water knot and Double Fisherman's knot are the only ones that should be used when joining two or more pieces of webbing. We have listed the knots we feel are as durable and as simple to tie and untie as they come to make life easier on you. Without further adieu , here are the top 7 knots to master and use on your rappelling journey.
#1 Figure 8
You would primarily utilize this knot when you are putting loops on at the end of your line or sometimes anywhere along the length of the line. It is fairly easy to tie and untie and retains about 80-90% of your ropes breaking strength depending on which line you are using.
When you are looping the end of your rope, first double the tail end of the rope back on itself and tie it off with an F-8. If you are trying to rig off an anchor or some other object using the F-8, take the tail around the anchor or object funnel it back into the F-8 going towards the opposing direction. You will know if you did it right when you see that you have made a biug F-8 knot in all its glory! If you want to maximize it's strength, make sure that the tail end of the rope is placed in the center of the knot as opposed to having it near the outside of it.
You would utilize this knot when you are linking together two separate pieces of line together, especially when they are different diameters. This knot is super compact, tough and does not get loose easily on accident. To perform the Fisherman, simply use two Overhand knots back on each other line.
Typically you will use the Square for linking two ropes together as with cinching. On opposing sides of the knot, the lines should clear out on the same side of the adjoining loops. If you mistakenly have them clear out on opposite sides, you did it incorrectly. One the ends, make sure that they are secured with Overhands. We advise not to use the Square for linking rappel lines because it doesn't give you the same security as with the Double Fisherman or Figure 8. You will get about 50-60% of your line's breaking strength so be careful with this knot.
#4 Water Knot
You may also hear rappellers call this the Ring Bend knot, this knot is excellent for linking webbing together. It can also be utilized with line. The Water knot is an Overhand knot but with the thread going the inverse direction with one another. It will look like a huge Overhand if done correctly. You will achieve about 80% of your line or webbing breaking strength with this knot.
You would use this knot primarily for making loops at the end of the rope or linking your line to anchors. It is also fairly easy to wrap this knot around trees or other cylindrical fixtures. That being said it is a breeze to tie and untie. The tail end of your line must funnel out on the inside of your Bowline knot. If it funnels from the outside, you made a mistake! For added safety measures make sure the tail is fastened to the Bowlines loop using an Overhand.
#6 Double Fisherman
This knot is simply a Fisherman's with the addition of another loop on each side of the knot. This knot, when done properly is as secure as they come. It retains about 70-80% of your lines breaking strength depending on which line is being used. It is our go-to for linking two or more pieces of webbing together, as it should be yours too! You will be hard pressed to find a better knot to secure your lines.