Emergency Rappelling with a 215 Gear Ultimate Rigger's Belt - ITS Tactical

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Emergency Rappelling with a 215 Gear Ultimate Rigger’s Belt

By Bryan Black

Something we’ve wanted to do for a long time is demonstrate that rappelling with a Rigger’s Belt CAN be done.

There are a lot of close friends of mine that have trusted their lives to Rigger’s Belts in the service, but I’ve never heard of them being used for anything much other than a tie-in to a helo or other similar anchor point.

There’s also a lot of skepticism floating around about how the AustriAlpin Cobra Buckle used in the 215 Gear URB shouldn’t be used for lifesaving devices, particularly rappelling.

215 Gear URB

Emergency Rappelling 02About a year ago we created a very comprehensive gear review on the URB when it was first released. While we felt the review was for the most part complete, we had always wanted to follow up with a demonstration of the belt being used for what those purchasing rigger’s belts have always assumed they could be used for. Emergency rappelling.

We’ve loved the sewn loop of the URB since the day we saw it, and think it’s one of the best developments in the history of rigger’s belts being made. What started as something you went to your buddy in the loft to get made, has definitely evolved into a better-built product today.


The Cobra Buckle is in fact used throughout the Military and Government for many different safety harnesses and lifesaving devices. The Cobra Buckle also happens to be only buckle that we know of that will NOT open under load. If that’s not a safe buckle, than we don’t know what is.

With an 18kN rating (approx. 4,000 lbs.) this is also one of the strongest, if not the strongest load bearing quick-release buckle that we know about. Something new that AustriAlpin has just released for 2010 is their S.S. Nautic Cobra Buckle made of INOX stainless steel for the most severe oxidizing environments. They list it as ideal for applications in the Navy, SEALs, Coast Guard, SCUBA, Marine hardware, Bosun supplies, Yahting, Oil Platform rigging and whatever or wherever else nature demands the ulitmate in performance.

Jones Tactical just got a sample of one in that you can check out on his Flickr Account, we’re looking forward to seeing these new buckles in use.

Emergency Rappelling

Back in the 90’s the Blackhawk Rigger’s Belt was called the Emergency Rescue (Rigger) Belt for “complete confidence in life threatening situations” and was listed among the rappelling harnesses in the earliest catalog I still have of theirs from 1999. I could have sworn it was marketed as an emergency rappelling harness in earlier 90s catalogs I used to have, but I could be wrong.

I’m not sure when companies stopped marketing rigger’s belts as emergency rappelling harnesses, if they even ever did, but good rigger’s belts should be able to be used for emergency rappelling belts and that’s what we’ve shown today with the 215 Gear URB.

In the video you’ll see the URB in use with a standard locking lead carabiner and a safety prusik for my own protection. It is possible that you might not have the prusik in an emergency situation though. Click here for our KOTW instructions on creating a Prusik.

This information is provided solely as reference to supplement proper rappelling training from an experienced guide, not replace it. Rappelling is one of the most dangerous things you can do in climbing, as you have to rely on your equipment and anchors 100%.

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  • Daniel Garcia

    Very cool! Good to have on “just because” if you’re in the outdoors and get hurt. It’ll make it easier for rescuers to extract you or your buddies.

    • Absolutely Daniel, it never hurts to have a Rigger’s Belt 🙂

  • Billy Austin

    Very cool indeed. I’ve always wondered what the difference was between the normal uniform belts we wear in uniform and the riggers belts. Looks like I’ll be going out to get a riggers belt soon.

    Thanks guys and keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Billy! Just use that Prusik if you’re practicing with one!

  • m

    very impressive, i ended up getting the wilderness belt with titanium, instead of the soe. good job bryan, i like the prusick safety knot

    • M, I’ve heard the wilderness belts are good too, how do you like it? Prusik’s are a must in my opinion!

  • ZenEngineer

    Good video. When I have gone indoor rock climbing and had to sit in a harness coming down, I was grateful for the leg straps taking some of the weight. How comfortable is it with just the belt?

    • ZenEngineer, It’s actually not as bad as you’d think it is. You definitely feel a difference from a standard sit harness, but it does the job and will definitely work in a pinch.
      Thanks for the comment!

  • unknown

    does anyone know how this kind of rappelling is called? esp. i wonder if the knot in the main rope has a name i can google and learn more about.

  • Kao Akana

    Looks good for a walk down, but I bet it would kill if you had to do a free rappel – yikes!

    I used to billet next to a rigger company and always wondered about the title “rigger belt”.

    Great job getting out there and testing it for yourself!

    • Kao, for a “free rappel” I’d definitely recommend a Munter Hitch. Look for that soon on our KOTW!
      Thanks for the kind words!

    • Gary Wilson

      A Munter Hitch is always better than a biner wrap, and quicker to hook up.

      And the belt is good as long as you don’t have to stop quickly…. backache or back injury will surely result.

      I promise. I teach the program several times a year.

    • Munter(Italian) Hitch is a safer, simpler, and more practical solution. Sometimes a pain if you are doing it with a double rope rappel and a thick static rope, but otherwise, Munter has my vote too

  • James Engel

    I’ve worn the Blackhawk version of this for years. I pulled the same test here, just off of barn rafters. (we lack any sort of rocky ledge here) Worked out great. Little tricky on a free fall rappel. Hard to lean back.

  • John Taxpayer

    Yikes! Careful with that setup. That wrap around the biner looks awfully fast (as opposed to a munter, biner brake, ATC…). Would that prusik actually catch you if you lost control, or just melt through?

    • John, It will definitely catch and hold. A munter or biner break are definitely superior to the wrap, but the purpose was to show that even a quick double wrap will work sufficiently in a pinch. Look for the Munter in our next Knot of the Week series.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • I Love Outdoors

      Does a prusik decrease the rope’s life because i always rappel without any autoblock

  • John W

    I agree on the munter as well.

  • jim

    Petzl also has a quick release buckle that they use on some of their work position harnesses. It is called a fast buckle. also rather bombproof for a buckle. It is a ittle more cumbersome to use as it has what is essentially a very wide hook and loop construction, but just as impossible to come undone without human intervention. (and even once you depress the release you still have to unhook the two sides so it cannot come undone under load unless you overcome the load) This might be different from what you are looking for, but i thought i would mention it as another possibility.

  • Jerry

    Check out the Yates uniform rappelling belt w/metal V-ring. Yates also makes a belt with leg loops that roll up and stow in a pouch on the belt.

  • Matt

    Its always good to learn new tips and tricks. Everyone keeps talking about the munter hitch but when I went to Air Assault School we hooked up the same way you did and if we had heavy rucks we would do a friction hook up by addind an extra wrap. It worked just fine. Thanks for all the good info ITS tactical gives out.

  • Allwet

    Remember the whole point here , was “in an emergency”. They are not advocating for use “instead of”.
    Just sayin…
    DJ out.

  • stevejanes704

    Sorry if it’s rude, but the double wrap in this scenario is not smart, it’s just the wrong way to do it. Frankly it’s pretty dangerous. The munter is just as fast and about 50x safer. The prusik is also completely redundant unless fear of falling rock or ice is in play, especially when using a proper munter and not that silly double wrap. 
    I rappel on an Arc’teryx H150 riggers belt daily sometimes, it is certainly about the most uncomfortable method you could possibly think of to do a vertical rap, sometimes on overhangs or 90 degree vertical walls, it can feel like it’s cutting into your ribs. Bottom line, I would, and do trust my life to it regularly. It is not designed as a fall arrest system, but a fall restraint system, to make it 100% safe, the addition of the leg loops (sold separately), completes the package as a certified fall arrest safety harness.

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