Rappelling Gear: Everything You Should Need To Buy For First Rappel

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Best Overall
PETZL Pro Rig Descender New 2018 (Yellow)
NewDoar Right Hand Ascender Rock Climbing Tree Arborist Rappelling Gear Equipment Rope Clamp for 8~13MM Rope
Best Budget
GM CLIMBING Small Aluminum Climbing Rappel Ring for Rock Climbing Arborist Rescue Slackline Hammock Black Pack of 5
Outdoor_ar Climbing Anchor Bolt Hanger Rope 3/8 (4 pcs)
Metolius Personal Anchor System, Black/ Green, 42 inches
HWT’s Score
9.3
8.9
8.6
8.2
7.9
MSRP
$167.90
from $9.90
$19.75
from $7.99
$33.95
Type Of Equipment
Descender​
Ascender
Rappel Rings
Climbing Anchors
Personal Anchor System
Material
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Aluminum Alloy
Stainless Alloy Steel
Dynema Monster Sling Webbing
Weight
14.1 oz
8.8 oz
1.34 oz per piece
6 oz
3.3 oz
Size
Roughly 6″ x 3″ x 2″
7.68″ x 3.58″
2″ x 2″ x 4/9″
4.3″x 2.4″ x 0.4″
42″ long
Best Overall
PETZL Pro Rig Descender New 2018 (Yellow)
HWT’s Score
9.3
MSRP
$167.90
Type Of Equipment
Descender​
Material
Stainless Steel
Weight
14.1 oz
Size
Roughly 6″ x 3″ x 2″
More Information
NewDoar Right Hand Ascender Rock Climbing Tree Arborist Rappelling Gear Equipment Rope Clamp for 8~13MM Rope
HWT’s Score
8.9
MSRP
from $9.90
Type Of Equipment
Ascender
Material
Stainless Steel
Weight
8.8 oz
Size
7.68″ x 3.58″
More Information
Best Budget
GM CLIMBING Small Aluminum Climbing Rappel Ring for Rock Climbing Arborist Rescue Slackline Hammock Black Pack of 5
HWT’s Score
8.6
MSRP
$19.75
Type Of Equipment
Rappel Rings
Material
Aluminum Alloy
Weight
1.34 oz per piece
Size
2″ x 2″ x 4/9″
More Information
Outdoor_ar Climbing Anchor Bolt Hanger Rope 3/8 (4 pcs)
HWT’s Score
8.2
MSRP
from $7.99
Type Of Equipment
Climbing Anchors
Material
Stainless Alloy Steel
Weight
6 oz
Size
4.3″x 2.4″ x 0.4″
More Information
Metolius Personal Anchor System, Black/ Green, 42 inches
HWT’s Score
7.9
MSRP
$33.95
Type Of Equipment
Personal Anchor System
Material
Dynema Monster Sling Webbing
Weight
3.3 oz
Size
42″ long
More Information

There is a lot of gear out there if you’re a rappeller.

Aside from the basics like the harness, climbing rope, carabiners and belay devices, there are a few extra bits of gear that depending on your experience level, and whether you’re rappelling for fun or work, you may need.

In this article, we’ll look at the best items in the following four categories:

  • Descender Tool
  • Ascender Tool
  • Rappel Rings
  • Climbing Anchors
  • Personal Anchors

Our Reviews Of The Best Rappelling Gear

#1

Petzl Pro Rig Descender New 2018

BEST DESCENDER TOOL

This item is a must if you’re rappelling for work, and need to be up on the ropes for long periods of time.

Having the Petzl Pro Rig Descender will easily hold you tight to the line, and when you want you can flip the handle and lower yourself down.

FEATURED SPECS

Able to carry and lower loads of up up to 200kg.

EXTRA FEATURES

Designed for experienced rope access workers.

BUYING ADVICE

If you’re someone who needs a descender for work, this would be the product I’d recommend. It’s strong enough to keep you well supported when hanging from the rope.

BENEFITS

  • The AUTO-LOCK system allows users to easily position themselves at the work station without having to manipulate the handle or tie off the device

DRAWBACKS

  • Some reviewers have complained that the system, while it works wonders on the ropes, can be a bit cumbersome and confusing to handle

Technical specifications

  • Type Of Equipment: Descender
  • Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Size: Roughly 6" x 3" x 2"
  • Material: Stainless Steel
#2

NewDoar Hand Ascender

RUNNER-UP

NewDoar Hand Ascender

Alternatively to the previous item, an ascender you use if you’re hanging from the rope and need to get up to the top.

Simply gripping the ropes with your hands won’t always work, especially if you’ve been climbing for a while, that’s where the NewDoar Hand Ascender comes into play.

Its specialized mechanism bites into the rope giving you a better grip area, making it easier to climb the ropes.

FEATURED SPECS

Comfortable rubber handle adds the friction and protects climber’s hand.

EXTRA FEATURES

Accepts a wide range of rope sizes, 8~12mm so you can use this ascender in almost any situation.

BUYING ADVICE

Ascenders are incredibly useful for rappeler, and this one will do you well to have on your gear loop.

It comes in many different colors so choose the one you like best and hope for an easy ascent. Be sure to test any and all equipment out before using them on a real rappel.

BENEFITS

  • Made of stainless steel, the handle is rustproof and will resist corrosion, it will work for you for a long time

DRAWBACKS

  • Some reviewers have reported that the foot ascender that comes with some of these ascenders, sticks and doesn't want to let go, this can make it difficult if you're in the middle of an ascent

Technical specifications

  • Type Of Equipment: Ascender
  • Weight: 8.8 oz
  • Size: 7.68" x 3.58"
  • Material: Stainless Steel
#3

GM CLIMBING Rappel Ring 25kN

BEST ALTERNATIVE

These relatively small stainless steel Rappel rings by GM are very useful rappelling supplies when setting up your rappel.

Being able to withstand 25 kN (kilonewtons) of force these small rings are hefty.

A smooth design means that they’re equally strong all around, with no chance of snagging you rope as it passes through the ring.

FEATURED SPECS

Seamlessly forged, these rings are equally strong being pulled in any direction.

EXTRA FEATURES

These little rings are strong enough for any job you might want them for. These suckers are rated to withstand forces of up to 25 kN.

BUYING ADVICE

Rappel rings are an often forgotten piece of climbing gear but can be very useful when setting up anchors. These rings will offer you a great amount of strength in a very small package.

BENEFITS

  • Without seams, not only do you have greater strength, but your rope isn't going to snag when it's being pulled through these rings

DRAWBACKS

  • These rings come in packs of five, which may be a hassle to anyone who uses two rings per rope while they're rappelling

Technical specifications

  • Type Of Equipment: Rappel Rings
  • Weight: 1.34 oz per piece
  • Size: 2" x 2" x 4/9"
  • Material: Aluminum Alloy
#4

Outdoor_ar ARUNNERS 25KN

Outdoor_ar ARUNNERS

These climbing anchors can be drilled into the side of a rock face, or slipped through the wall at a climbing gym.

They’re designed, once they’re in the wall, to hold under almost any circumstance. They’re as permanent as can be, withstanding forces up to 25 kN.

FEATURED SPECS

These have the strength to hold under almost any conditions you put them under, rated to withstand 25 kNs worth of force.

EXTRA FEATURES

The stainless steel makes this item long lasting. You don’t need to worry about them corroding in the rain or sunshine.

BUYING ADVICE

These anchors will suit you well if you’re planning on making your own brand new rappelling or climbing route.

They’ll hold in place so you can have fun climbing or rappelling and not worry about the strength of your anchor or anchors.

BENEFITS

  • These anchors come with an expansion bolt and washer so that they're ready to mount right away

DRAWBACKS

  • The anchors do require you to drill into the rock face or wall or wherever you wish to mount them

Technical specifications

  • Type Of Equipment: Climbing Anchors
  • Weight: 170g
  • Size: 4.3"x 2.4" x 0.4"
  • Material: Stainless Alloy Steel
#5

Black Diamond Half Dome Climbing Helmet – Women’s

This device provides a very different type of anchor than the previous item.

This is a set of loops interconnected with each other, you attach them to your harness at one end, and to your anchor or what have you, at the other.

FEATURED SPECS

This model of personal anchor is an improved version of the original daisy chain.

EXTRA FEATURES

This updated version of the daisy chain is safer and more convenient than its predecessor.

BUYING ADVICE

This is a versatile produce, being able to be used in many different ways. It can be used to tie to anchors as well as help you ascend a rope.

It’s another one of those swiss army tools that are great to have in your gear bag or hanging from your gear loop.

This helmet is designed specifically for women and as such makes sure to provide a comfortable fit with room for a ponytail.

BENEFITS

  • These bits of fabric actually are about as strong as your climbing rope or harness. It can withstand up to 25 kN of force before it even begins to think about breaking

DRAWBACKS

  • Some reviewers complain that this product isn't long enough for their liking. At 42" long this item should be long enough for most purposes

Technical specifications

  • Type Of Equipment: Personal Anchor System
  • Weight: 3.3oz.
  • Size: 42" long
  • Material: Dynema Monster Sling Webbing

Rappelling Gear FAQ

Gear For Rappel

Looking at all the gear out there for rappellers, it can be confusing to know what you really need, and what is extra.

Do you really need this kind of carabiner? Do you really need a brand new harness? What about anchors, how many of those do you need?

We’ll finding the answers to these questions begins with understanding what you want to do. Are you just starting out in rappelling? If so you probably don’t need an ascender or descender.

Do you want to create your own climbing and rappelling routes? If so, you will want to get enough climbing anchors for your specific route.

Belay Device

Adjusting Belay Device

A bit of rappelling equipment that is often overlooked by novices but is absolutely vital to the rappeler is the belay device.

There are several different kinds of belay devices, but most of them fall into two categories: ATC or Grigri.

These two names come from the original devices to implement their specific mechanisms, and the names have been appropriated to apply to any device which uses these mechanisms.

The difference between these two types of mechanism is less important at the moment than understanding what the belay device does for you.

A belay device is used to control your descent by maintaining tension on the ropes.

It works by creating a friction lock on the ropes by first feeding the rope into the system and closing the system, either by shutting the built in mechanism (like with the Grigri) or clipping a sturdy carabiner through the rope.

When the rope is put under tension, the belay device will activate that friction lock, meaning that you can hold your whole weight with the gentle grip of one hand.

Harness

Wearing Climbing Harness

You could have all the necessary gear laid out in front of you, and if you don’t have a harness your rappelling trip is going to be cut short.

You can of course fashion a makeshift harness out of a bit of extra rope and a carabiner, but these DIY harnesses are never comfortable and certainly not as safe as the harnesses you would find at a rock climbing gym.

A good quality climbing harness has two tie in points, one around your waist, and the other between your two leg loops.

This means that when you rest your weight on the rope, your weight is divided evenly between your waist and your legs, like you’re sitting in a chair.

An important factor to consider when hunting for a climbing harness is the fit. You want to make sure that it fits snugly, but not too tight; comfortably, but not too loose.

A good rule of thumb is that when your harness is cinched up, you should be able to fit one or two fingers between the belt and your waist, but not much more.

The same rule applies to the leg loops. When trying on harness before you buy them, you should walk around for a little while.

The harness should not slip down as you walk, nor should it bite into your sides and legs while you’re climbing.

If you’re considering purchasing a used harness, make sure to inspect it thoroughly before handing any money over. If there is any damage whatsoever, you should pass on it.

Climbing harnesses need to be in tip top shape, and if there is a frayed bit of webbing, or a slightly damaged buckle, that could mean disastrous consequences for you up on the wall.

Helmet

Man Climber Wearing Helmet

This bit of gear is often ignored, which is a dangerous shame.

People think that they don’t need a helmet while rappelling because it’s just lowering yourself on a rope, how dangerous could it be?

And while, in some senses it is just lowering yourself from a rope, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, making it a terribly dangerous sport, especially when you’re rappelling outside.

For starters, when you’re lowering yourself down the side of a steep incline, things can very often be in the way.

The issue is not with the things that are below you as you lower yourself, the issue is with the things you pass, and are now above you.

Depending on the terrain, a rock could come loose and smack you on the hand, knocking your braking rope loose, sending you down toward the ground.

More importantly, that rock could hit you on the head.

This is where climbing specific helmets come into play. They’re designed with reinforced plastic and polystyrene on the top of the helmet to protect you from just such an event.

Unlike some other helmets, climbing specific helmets have soft shock absorption on the sides, in case you slip and end up banging your head on the side of the cliff you’re going down.

But the tops are protected against an impact with something sharp, like the edge of a falling rock. The dangers of things falling on your head aren’t just limited to rock falls either.

There are likely to be rappellers coming down the same slope above you, one of them might drop a carabiner or some other heavy metal object.

It’s times like these that you’ll want a good quality climbing helmet. They aren’t as bad as other helmets are either. They’re designed to be very lightweight, and ventilated so you don’t overheat.

A good fitting helmet will sit on your dome snugly, and without being buckled should hold tightly, even if you shake your head around.

The buckle and adjustment straps should be easily adjustable, especially if multiple people will be wearing the same helmet.

The straps should always be in pristine condition; you don’t want your helmet falling off when you most need it.

How to anchor yourself while rappelling?

The particular method of attaching yourself to an anchor will depend largely on the anchor you’re working with.

In cases of well established rappelling routes, you might find a couple of anchors securely cemented into the rock face at the top.

When you’re setting up a rappel from anchors like these, you’ll want to attach a sturdy rope between these two anchors and one or two carabiners hanging from this rope.

This is to keep the anchors themselves from wearing out due to the friction of the ropes sliding through the system.

When you’ve added your own anchor points to the original anchors, you then tie yourself to these anchors with an extension.

This will begin as your life line and then change into a belay extension when you start down the slope.

Now, using the rope you intend to rappel down, feed one end through your anchor and tie a stopper knot with plenty of tail.

Make sure to do the same on the other end of the rope. This is to keep your ropes from sliding out of the anchor in case the worst happens.

When both ends are tied with good strong stopper knots, feed the rope through the anchor until you reach the midpoint.

A good way to do this is to have the middle of the rope marked with a bit of tape, and coil the two ends of rope together until the mid point is reached.

Announce you’re tossing the rope down before you do so. Now your rope is in place, it’s time to add your belay device to the system.

Feed both ropes through the opening in the belay device and clip a carabiner through both ropes. Attach the carabiner firmly to the belay loop on your harness.

Before you head down the mountain, make sure to wrap a friction hitch around your rope under the belay device.

This will act as a backup in case you need to let go for some reason, it will hold you tight to the ropes.

Slowly lower yourself down to the ground, untie one of your stopper knots, and pull the rope through the anchors.

How to use the descending tool?

Rappel Descending Tool

Descender tools are very useful especially for people who work on ropes.

They’re different than a typical belay device because they have more complicated mechanisms that can pinch and hold the rope, meaning that you can put the descender into a setting that holds you still, and doesn’t let you descend.

To use the descending device, you’ll start by feeding the rope through the system.

Many descending devices are designed in such a way as to make it almost impossible to thread the rope wrongly.

There will also be a diagram of some sort etched into the metal of the device, taking all the guesswork out of preparing the system.

When you’re up at the top of the rope, ready to descend, you’ll pull the handle to the descend position. Many models of descender have varying levels of descent, from slow to fast.

No matter what speed you choose to descend at, a good descender device will, when let go, snap back to the locking position to hold you in place.

Before using a descender in a real life situation high above the ground, familiarize yourself with the system by reading the manual thoroughly, or perhaps consulting a climbing expert, who can show you how the machine works.

What is the difference between ascending and descending tools?

The difference between and ascending tool and a descending tool is the direction you wish to travel on the rope.

The ascender is used when you need to climb up a rope, and don’t want to rely on your grip strength around a 10mm rope.

A descender on the other hand, is used to climb down a rope steadily and safely.

Descenders, as we covered in the previous section, have complex mechanisms that can pinch and release the rope holding the climber in place or letting them descend.

Ascenders on the other hand are far more manual in their workings. They typically look like a handle with a small channel at the top through which you feed the rope.

Pressed against this channel is a lever covered in spikes. When weight is applied to the mechanism, the teeth bite into the rope, holding it tightly.

A climber or rappeler using an ascender is likely to have their foot clipped into it.

This is useful when ascending a rope because using your legs to lift your body is easier than trying to pull your way up using your arms. You can release the ascender pushing it up the rope.

The teeth are unidirectional so the rope moves smoothly down through the rope but will be held tightly if the rope tries to slip up through the mechanism.

How to use rappel rings?

Rappel Ring In Hand

Rappel rings can be used to do many different jobs when setting up or maintaining a rappel system.

They can be used to join a couple anchors, making a centralized point to rappel from.

They are not meant to be used as a belay device or anything like that. Even though there are methods you can employ to gerry rig a belay device with a carabiner and a rappel ring.

The rings do not open, which makes them useful only as links between carabiners or ropes.

They are very useful as a place for the rope to pass through, as they are circular and often without seams, they don’t put any wear on the rope.

Conclusion

Rappelling gear is multifaceted, and it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to find out exactly what you need.

There are the basics, your harness and ropes and belay device, but beyond that it can be difficult to find out.

In this article we tried to look at the best options for a few extra bits of gear for the beginning rappeler.

We looked at the best ascender and the best descender, as well as the best anchors, personal and wall, finishing off by looking at the best rappel rings on the market.

It’s important to note that before using any of this gear on the mountain, you should familiarize yourself with it, and make sure that you know everything you can about each piece.

Knowing these things ahead of time, can make a malfunction go by much easier because you’ll know what to do.