How to Make a Fast Rope for Climbing - ITS Tactical
 

How to Make a Fast Rope for Climbing

By The ITS Crew

1 of 3 in the series Make a Fast Rope

We’ll be taking a different approach to our Knot of the Week Series for the next three weeks, as we bring you a few articles on creating your own Fast Rope for Climbing. Fast Rope Insertion & Extraction Systems (FRIES) provide safe and efficient methods for inserting and evacuating personnel to and from specific targets. Fast Ropes come a few different ways, which is with an eye splice or a metal ring for hook up to the davits found on some helicopters. They’re also available with and without the loops for extraction. As this KOTW is for creating a climbing rope, we’ll be creating a Fast Rope with an eye splice and without extraction loops. Today we’ll be getting into how you create the 4-Strand Round Braid that’s used to braid a Fast Rope, followed by instructions in the coming two weeks on eye splicing the Fast Rope, and either back splicing or whipping the bottom end.

BUDsRopeClimb

Why a Fast Rope for Climbing?

First of all if you’re not climbing a rope, you’re missing out on one of the best forearm and grip workouts around. Climbing a rope is at the core of the Functional Strength discussions we’ve had here on ITS. While we’ll save the reasons and methods for climbing a rope for a later article, let’s just say it’s an important thing to train and could save your life. The reason that a Fast Rope is braided with a 4-Strand Round Braid, is to reduce overall kinking and create an outer pattern that’s easier to grip versus a smooth rope. This also aids in controlling the descent on insertion. That outer braided pattern also makes a great grip when ascending a Fast Rope. If you haven’t had the pleasure of climbing an old Fast Rope that’s been converted into a climbing rope, it’s so much nicer to climb. Climbing a Fast Rope is not a military technique, and not commonly practiced. Climbing in the military is typically done with a Caving Ladder, or in PT scenarios with Manilla Ropes. While Manilla Ropes are great to climb, they become frayed, slick and can leave splinters in your hands and other parts of your body if you’re not careful when descending. Purchasing a Fast Rope is out of most budgets, as one of these can run anywhere from $750 to $2000, depending on the length. Professional Fast Ropes for the Military are also made with machines, braided very tightly and almost impossible to identically create. What we’ll show today is not a professional Fast Rope, and isn’t a substitute for one. However, it is a great climbing rope and is equally as strong as a professional Fast Rope provided you use the rope and braiding technique we recommend.

Fast_Roping

Creating a Fast Rope

As mentioned above we’ll be demonstrating the 4-Strand Round Braid today, which is the first step in creating a Fast Rope. The rope we built was created out of 8 – 35ft. strands of 7/16″ Bluewater Assaultline Static Rope. This is where you’re asking yourself “Why did they use 8 strands when it’s a 4-Strand Round Braid?” The answer is because each of the four strands in the braid is doubled. We used Bluewater Assaultline Static Rope because we wanted something that was equally as strong as Military Fast Rope. With the four doubled strands used in construction, our Fast Rope has a 28,000+ lbf (pound force) or 129 Kn (kilonewtons) rating, and using an authentic eye splice was the strongest and safest method of terminating the line. An eye splice develops approximately 85% of the break strength of the line, and enables the rope to be girth hitched onto a beam to climb. You don’t have to use assaultline for your climbing rope, as it was around $200 for the length we purchased. We do recommend that you use static rope though, dynamic rope has too much flex to be used for climbing. If you need to use Nylon rope for cost considerations, use a Solid-Braid Nylon. We don’t recommend Nylon for climbing rope though, as it’s fairly slick when it comes to your grip. Why 7/16″ rope? Because four strands of 7/16″ equals the standard Fast Rope diameter of 1 3/4″. We actually came up with the calculation by using paracord, which is how we’ll demonstrate the 4-Strand Round Braid today. Paracord is 1/16″ in diameter and our completed 4-Strand round braid with paracord came out to be a 1/4″ in diameter, so we knew that using a 7/16″ rope would give us the required 1 3/4″ diameter we were looking for (7/16″ x 4 = 1 3/4″). 7/16″ rope is fairly close to 11mm if you need that conversion. If you’re interested in the Mil-Spec construction for Fast Ropes, they follow MIL-F-44422, which talks about everything from material to length (standard lengths are 60, 90 and 120 feet). Here’s something straight from the specification: “Construction: 1.75 inch (44mm) diameter made from Low stretch nylon fibers with a 8 braid construction to reduce rope kinking and afford fast, fully controlled, and safe descents.”

How to Make a Fast Rope

Instructions

We highly recommend that when starting this project, you practice the 4-Strand Round Braid with Paracord or other small line to get your technique down. It’s a bit different that a traditional braid and nearly impossible to explain in words, which is why we created the video below. A great mnemonic device for learning the braiding pattern is “back two, over one.” What you’re doing is alternating from the right to left outside pairs while taking the respective working end around the back side of two strands and over the last one it’s brought behind. This of course won’t make sense until you watch the video, but reciting this pattern will help you stay focused, because you’re in for a long braiding session. It took two of us around an hour and a half to braid our Fast Rope. We started with 35 ft. strands and wound up with a 25 ft. long Fast Rope that weighs approx. 16 lbs. You can estimate needing around 1.5 feet for every foot in length you want your Fast Rope to be. That’s also not including the length required for the eye splice and whatever method you use for terminating the end (future article). You’re also going to definitely need a buddy to help you braid, as creating this pattern plays havoc with the standing ends of the rope. They’ll develop twists that your buddy will have to fix, because you’ll be braiding and won’t be able to let go of the rope. You could do this by yourself by taping the braiding every foot or so to go back and untwist the lines, but you’re in for a long day if not many days. Braiding this Fast Rope is also a tremendous grip workout in itself. You’ll have to be tightening the braid while keeping it together and is not for the weak-fingered individual. If you are, find a friend with a good grip and be the one that untwists the lines and buys the beer.

Video and Photos

We’ve not only included a YouTube video on how to tie the 4-Strand Round Braid, but tried to accurately describe the process with photos as well. Remember that we’ll be back to show you how to complete your Fast Rope with and eye splice and terminating method in the following two weeks! We’ll be demonstrating rope climbing techniques in a future article that will help you learn this skill-set.

Building a Fast Rope for Climbing: Part 2, 4-Strand Eye Splice Building a Fast Rope for Climbing: Part 3, Whipping and Fusing A special thank you to CENTCOMSurvivor from our Forum for initiating the conversation that brought you this article. Creating a Fast Rope for Climbing is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, but was pushed to the side until recently suggested.

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Discussion

  • Orion

    Great article. $200 for 8 35 foot strands of this rope is a lot cheaper than actually buying a 30 foot rope. Ive seen them for as cheap at 1500 bucks. $200 is a great price!

  • William Harvey

    after finding this site while looking for knot tying videos I have really come to appreciate this site’s content and purpose. But after watching this extremely cool video and future projects concerning this knot, I just had to write and say keep up the awesome work man! Your site rocks!

    • William,

      Thanks for the kind words, we sincerely appreciate your support and we don’t know how to do anything else but awesomeness!

  • jon

    would this rope be good enough, i dont know if its solid braid or not but it is in accordance with the military manual; http://www.uscav.com/Productinfo.aspx?productid=9492&TabID=548

  • Bryan,
    Much thanks for putting this together! Its great to see you take a forum question and answer it in awesomeness.
    This is just what I needed to help me figure out how to make a climbing rope for my backyard gym.
    Keep up the great work!
    Eric S.

  • Graham Monteith

    I don’t know how ITS Tactical does it. Me and my bud were talking about this not too long ago and we both wanted to buy some fast rope but the price was crazy. This helps alot! I hope to try this in the near future!!!

  • Mike

    Great instructions! Would you consider a series on how to fast rope, much like your ones on rappelling?

  • nukefaith

    Abso-fucking-lutely AWESOME. Crossfitters in Berlin Germany will thank you for this!

    Thank you!

  • Bryan, I took a mile high look at this yesterday and retweeted it for you. Today I actually dug into it and I have to say one of your coolest projects to date!

    This pattern gives me some pretty interesting ideas even just using it with paracord.

    • Thanks Jack, glad you liked it. Of course the 4-Strand Round Braid is nothing new, but I’ve never seen a “How To” on Fast Rope construction.

      There’s a 4-Strand Flat Braid that would be good for Paracord as well.

  • I figured I’d buy some of the cheap rope mentioned to make a practice rope for our kids last night.
    My awesome wife watched the video and went right to work. Since this was for the kids we made four 50′ ropes and looped them at the top making each 25′ (not the correct method I know). I taped them together and my wife did all the braiding.
    Being the “rope untangler” was lots of fun and I had to be quick to keep up.
    One thing we found that helped was having my wife sit on the floor (indian style) and keep one of the rope strands (two ropes) on her right side and the other on her left. The other two strands I kept out to the sides and kind of angled to the front.
    This helped her keep track of where she was at and once you get a rhythm going it went pretty quick.
    We did have to stop once and we both forgot where we were and had to start over. What ever you do DON’T STOP!
    Anyway I hope that might help and I cant wait to get some nice rope and make another one.
    Eric S.

  • Cervantes

    We aren’t allowed to erect structures without a permit in my neighborhood, but I think my kids will be climbing some home made fast rope on grand daddys oak tree.

  • Daniel Meek

    Thanks for a great DIY. I have been considering buying a 1.5″ climbing rope, but now I may have to make my own.

    I was searching on ebay for a good deal on static rope and ran across a couple of postings for used fast rope. What do you think about buying a used fast rope… at 80′ it is probably a little long?

    Can’t wait to see the rest of this series.

    Daniel

    • Daniel, that’s definitely too long if you’re just using it as a climbing rope. You should build your own and you’ll be able to make it the exact length you need.

      Thanks for the kind words,
      ~ Bryan

  • Jason

    I made a 12″ paracord rope and it sure is nice. However is it normal to have it a bit ‘lumpy’ here and there? Overall pretty decent looking but some weaves are a bit tighter or looser – should I not worry about that?

    As a side note, one of these out of paracord will make a nice dog leash or bracelet. I’ll have to show the kids in my Cub Scout pack.

    Thanks again ITS.

    j

  • Pingback: HOW TO: Knüpf dir dein Fast Rope! « Spartanat's Blog()

  • Brad

    Bryan, I read that you said nylon rope can be used to help lower the cost, but you don’t recomend it for climbing? Not sure I understand this, are you kinda saying if you have to use nylon, due so at your own risk? I was thinking of giving it a try just to keep the cost down. Static line is a bit pricey for me right now. Great article.

  • Martin

    I just read the article on how to climb a rope like a Navy Seal.

    for those of us without a vehicle or a place to hang a fast rope at home, how much does the fast rope that you made weigh Brain, a rough guest is all I am looking for.

    • Terry Kowalik

      Bryan mentions the weight in the video – about 16 pounds for his rope.

    • Thanks Terry!

  • Greg

    Great segment!

  • Tim

    Just curious, but first amazing article!

    Going out today to purchase supplies to make one.

    I dont understand the 8 strand thing, as 8 x 7/16 would be a 3.5 in diameter rope….?

    Also an idea, use 2 strands, find the middle of both, throw a carabiner through it, fold over and tie the 4 strand braid, no need to make an eye splice.

    Thank you again for such a great website and article

    • Tim, glad to hear you are going to make one. Let us know how it turns out.

  • timc

    This is fantastic. Thanks. I did find these instructions on the internet which made it slightly easier. Take a look.

    -Count the strings from one to four, from left to right.
    -Begin by crossing the second string over the first and the third string over the fourth. You should see two “X” patterns formed with the four strings.
    -Cross the new second strand over the new third strand to create an “X” in the middle of the four strings and then begin the pattern again.

  • timc

    feel free to delete my above comment from june 2. i began to make the rope with those instructions and, although it works very fast, it creates a flatter braid more suited for girls hair, not a fast rope. it’s generally helpful for me because I have two daughters with long hair, but won’t work to create the rounder rope we are shooting for based on your instructions. sorry!

  • Tightey Whiteys

    Awesome kick-ass directions, as usual!

    Made a ~6 foot test version out of black/olive paracord to get the hang of making the braid. My 8 year old daughter thought it was cool and has since commandeered it as her new jump rope with her friends…

    When I get the $$$ to afford ~400 feet of static line I will build my fast rope! W00t!!!

    Cheers,

    -Julian

  • Steve

    How essential is it that the braid is super tight? I had a 3 person team braid 8 50′ strands of rope. It took us two hours, but as I’m sitting here making the eye splice, I feel like it’s just a little too easy to double up the braid. I do NOT want to unbraid and re–braid the whole thing again. How big of an issue is it? Is it a safety issue? The rope is loose enough that I can fairly easily pinch off any strand of the braid and fit a finger through the hole… help!

  • Gorgeoth

    The four-strand round braid is a great idea, and I realize my suggestion is a little more complicated, but would a six-strand braid allow me slightly more texture for grip, when I use the line (rope) for ascending and descending?

    I’m going to have to build myself a 20 ft length out of paracord, first your way, then extrapolate to 6-strand, just to see.

    Excellent item!

  • Andross

    I am excited to make a Fast-Rope, but wanted to use the 1000 feet of paracord I have lying around.

    What do you reccommend I do as so that I can get it up to a more reasonable diameter? Should I double up twice? Should I add more strands for weaving (or can you only use four)?

    • Rodrigo

      Did you ever use the paracord for this? I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing. Was thinking of making 8 strands of 3-strand braid paracord and then using those 8 for the 4-strand braid

  • Hoppy

    Thanks mate, your video helped a lot to make up my own fast rope, I’m off for a climb.
    Cheers from Australia, will be back for some more ideas.

  • AdamP

    Awesome Write up.

    I am in Canada so will offer a little advice for any fellow northerners looking to do this project. I was able to find the Bluewater cord here it was really expensive.So I opted to go with New England KM III 11mm Static Rope I found at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op). It looks like it has the same stats as the black water stuff, but I am not really concerned if it’s not as I never intend to jump out of a helicopter with this rope.

    Put mine together I had my dad come over and help me (64 years old). Great family project. Cardio for my dad running the strands around and a crazy forearm workout for me. I started with 12.5m segments and ended up with a fast rope approximately 9m long.

    Only thing I would recommend is if you are the one braiding to wear gloves. My finger tips were a little raw by then end.

    And try not to stop. I did a couple of times and then had to spend 5 mins staring at the rope trying to figure out where I was and what to do next.

    In all it took about 3 hours.

    Can’t wait to start my eye splice.

  • Travis

    Im sitting here trying to braid a short one with paracord , about a foot long so i can get the hang of it to make a 10 footer , but i cant seem to get the flow down pat , i cant get the first set of “x’s” braided to get the braid moving , any tips for beginners having alot of trouble?

  • Jeff Starr

    When I broke my chop stick, a fragment landed in the closet near my wife’s knitting needle…which turned out to be the perfect tool for helping with the i splice. I was able to buy most of my rope used off ebay. The remainder I got free from a local rock climbing gym. The ropes were not identical diameters (nor color) but the finished braid looks great. Pipe clamp and a paracord loop was a good way for me to anchor the end while I was braiding. My 12 and 14 year old daughters did the untangling. Don’t panic if you mess up the braid. Unbraid a couple of sections, stare at it a while, experiment until you regain your rhythm.

    Great project. I’m done except for the fusing and whipping. Gotta buy paracord and rope gun, tomorrow.

  • Kevin

    I know this an old article, but I found it the other day. I bought four 50′ 3/8″ utility ropes. This worked well, but I noticed that I did not braid tight enough and it lost its thickness after just a few climbs. To fix this problem I took the rope down and started the rope over again using some old rope I had as a core. I braided around the core and it has helped keep the rope tighter and maintain it’s thickness (it also helped that I braided tighter).

  • Charlie

    I made a rope out of four 120′ dynamic climbing ropes that I got for free. My plan was for using this a a battling rope more so than a climbing rope, but I’m sure it will get some climbing use.

    I doubled the ropes and zip tied them together and secured that loop to a tree for braiding. That left me working with four doubled 60′ lengths. Even though the tutorial suggests not doubling over(and if you are climbing on this a lot, then you should definitely finish with the loop shown) I would still double it over for braiding and secure the ropes to something with paracord through the loop.

    Since I was working alone, I put the working ends of each of the doubled ropes into a bucket so that I could just shuffle the buckets around while braiding. This worked pretty well except that braiding twisted the rope so you have to pull the rope out of the buckets every so often and straighten out the twists. You can also daisy chain the rope, but with longer lengths, you still end up with lots to manage.

    Braiding was done off and on over a few days. It’s not hard to restart the braid if you clearly mark where you are in the process. I duct taped around the braided rope when I stopped, always stopping at the same point in the braid(I used four different color ropes, so I always stopped with the red rope ready to go under from the left). Then I taped the two ropes on the right together, then the next rope left to those two, finally the last rope(in my case the red). This made it really easy to restart the braid.

    For finishing the rope, I used epoxy to glue the ropes together, then cut with a knife, and fused the end with a torch. A rope cutter really isn’t necessary if you take the time to make a clean cut and slowly apply heat to the ends(a heat gun would probably be perfect).

    The finished rope ended up at 39′.

    Thanks for the great tutorial!

  • Travis

    I just found this tutorial and it is awesome. Thank you. I have to ask why you went with an eye splice versus just halving the 8 strands and beginning the braid a foot or so down the rope?

    • Thanks Travis, the reason for the Eye Splice was to create the same Fast Rope configuration that the Military uses. Also to challenge myself to see if I could do it 🙂

  • Angel

    So I’ve made my fast rope out of retired 11mm rock climbing rope. I did not have enough length to have a functional climbing length AND make an eye splice. I am now left with 4 bites at the end of my rope that I’ve taped into 1 group. I have attached a locking oval carabiner rated for 3300lb but i’d like to be able to transport it for use at a local park, school, etc. since i don’t have a suitable tree on my property. Do you have any suggestions on how I could deploy this over a tree branch, but still be able to get it down once I’m done with my workout? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Charlie

      Angel – buy a sewn sling from a climbing shop – look for a 36″ probably. Tie a small weight into a length of paracord a bit longer than your climbing rope and the other end to the sling. Throw the weight over your branch, clip your rope into the sling and pull the rope up until you can get the bottom end of your rope through the sling to girth hitch to the branch. Pull your climbing rope down and the sling should cinch around the branch(make sure that the tied paracord is on the loop portion that cinches over the rope side). When you’re done with your workout, pull the paracord and that loop down and you should be able to retrieve the climbing rope.

      Try it on something low first to make sure you understand the mechanics and can retrieve it easily.

  • JS

    Nice article!

    Question: I’m wondering if there’s any way to build a climbing rope like this by acquiring less expensive ropes to build it? Nylon is out of the question due to it’s slickness as you stated, of course. Thoughts?

  • Fabian

    Thank you for this article (and the other two), I really enjoyed it. I’ve been making similar ropes for circus arts for a while, and I found a couple of neat stuff I didn’t knew. Like the electric ropecutter, I didn’t knew those existed! I’m going to buy one tomorrow.

    A technique that greatly improved my braiding time is to keep each pair of ropes coiled while I braid them. This way I don’t have to fight with twists because I’m only moving 1-2 feet of rope at a time, the rope doesn’t brush on the floor, handling the braid is way easier, and everything is much more manageable. A loop like the one in your deployment lanyard article is the best one to use, since you can pull out of it just a short lenght of rope each time, keeping the working ends short.

    This enabled me to work alone on braiding – since I have a short working end, I can take care of twisting by myself… and also I don’t have dirty ropes because they brush on the floor while I braid them.

    TL;DR – great article, but keep your ropes coiled while you braid and everything is going to be much easier. Keep up the good work!

  • Alex

    I just did a test run with an old 60 metre length of rope I had lying in the shed, while it was very stiff and quite an effort to braid physically, once I had the pattern down after the first few tucks it took me less than ten minutes to knock out a 2 metre section for a quick test. (Granted I have a strong seamanship background from the NAVY.) Using different colour ropes would definately help you keep track of the strands.
    I recently sourced some used ropes from some local high ropes and adventure parks, these places usually place a set life span on thier ropes for OHS reasons and I was able to take my pick of about a dozen “old” ropes for no cost other than a few phone calls to different places.
    My test rope was 10.5 mm and doubled up a few times to get eight strands it worked out at an average of 47mm diameter, this is thicker than the MIL standard but I have larger hands and it is a good width to work those grip muscles.
    Great idea and great instructions for a great addition to the home gym setup.

    • Thanks Alex! Great to hear about your method and I’m glad you got some use out of the article 🙂

  • SCott

    Great article & Video!  A couple questions for you guys though…So, I just ordered approx. 280 ft of rope from Ebay in the past 48hrs, only now to re-read the article and realize I bought alot of “climbing rope”, not realizing that it is probably “dynamic” rope.  (1) Is all climbing rope “dynamic rope” or would it say specifically?  Should I return it for a different product, or would it still be a good finished product? Why or why not?  I’m anxious to get started but don’t want to ruin a perfectly good 60m rope if the finished rope is going to not work properly.
    I appreciate the help and support.  
    -Scott

    • @SCott It really depends what your fast rope is going to be made for. If it is just for climbing the dynamic climbing rope might work just fine. Considering there are 8 strands and due to the pattern you’ll be weaving, the “flex” of the dynamic rope might not matter much in the grand scheme of things if you’re simply using it as a climbing rope.

    • SCott

      bryanpblack, Thanks for the feedback!
       I will be using the finished rope as an exercise rope at my home, so mainly single use.  What concerned me was the mention of dynamic rope being too stretchy, making me think it will cause the rope to not function well for climbing up and down or stretch out and loose its integrity.  Thoughts?

    • @SCott You should be fine then Scott, while I’ve never made one with dynamic rope, my thought is that due to the multiple strands braided together, it will cut down on the “flex” that you’d certainly feel if it was a single strand you were climbing.

    • SCott

      bryanpblack Sounds good.  I’ll let you guys know how it turns out and send pics of the rope when I’m done.  Thanks for the site -Scott

    • @SCott Looking forward to your pics, you’re more than welcome, glad you’re enjoying it!

  • guest

    so what kind of “shrink” do you have when you braid a rope like this?  If I want a 50′ rope, how long should the starting length of the segments be?

    • guest

      @guest 1.5x (read the article)

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  • Ethan

    Ok I meant to comment on this awhile back. you can eliminate the whipping and fusing steps if instead of starting with four individual lengths of rope of 35′ or how ever long you want it and use 2 70′ length looped to to give you the four stands needed. Basically start the 4 strand braid in the middle when you get to the working ends all you have to is put the eye splice in. It looks better and the whipping doesn’t come undone from use since you used a temporary whipping and you don’t have to melt the ends. I use this technique when I make a Cat-o-nine tails. It is the Bosun’s Mate in me what can i say.

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