Knot of the Week: Tying a Barrel Knot for Single Line Rappelling - ITS Tactical
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Knot of the Week: Tying a Barrel Knot for Single Line Rappelling

By Bryan Black

Urban Rappel Equipment

In one of our more recent articles on setting up an urban rappel, we went over two methods for tying off a static rope for single-line rappelling. Today, we’d like to go over the Barrel Knot and how it’s tied.

The other knot we mentioned in that urban rappelling article is a Bowline, which we’ve gone over before on our Knot of the Week series. The Barrel Knot is preferable to the Bowline, for the simple reason of it being a friction knot (or slip knot), meaning that as it’s loaded, it will self-tighten around the stationary object it’s tied off to. An important note here is that while tying this for rappelling purposes, you should always use a large diameter tree or object that you’ve deemed sturdy enough to rappel from. Small trees have no place in a proper rappelling setup.

Tying a Bowline for single-line rappelling is acceptable as well, but with a Bowline being a fixed loop, it will move around much more than a Barrel Knot and again is why the latter is preferred.

How To Tie a Barrel Knot » Bends

(Strength: 4/Secure: 5/Stability: 3/Difficulty: 3)

Please refer to our Knot of the Week introduction post for a description of what these ratings mean.

The Barrel Knot is somewhat similar to the Double Fisherman’s Bend and shares much in common with a hangman’s noose, although that uses a different tying method. The Barrel Knot is also great for tying off a rescue line to a stationary object before throwing it or lowering it down to the someone being rescued.


  • Single-Line Rappelling
  • Affixing a Stationary Rescue Line

Tying Instructions:

  1. Start by wrapping the line around your stationary object with the working end off to your left (this instruction set can be accomplished from starting the other direction as well.)
  2. Pass the working end up and over the standing part of your line, where your extended thumb rests.
  3. Wrap over your thumb, up and around the standing line with four passes. Ensure your thumb stays in one place.
  4. With the excess working end, feed it into the void created as you remove your thumb.
  5. Grasp the barrel knot in your left hand and pull the working end with your right as you tighten the knot against the object you’re tying off to.
  6. Once secure, tie a safety knot with the remaining length of your working end. Ensure this is close to the start of the barrel knot as well.
  7. The safety knot can be an overhand knot, but a Fisherman’s Knot is preferred and is what’s shown in the photo.
  8. For more on a Fisherman’s Knot, refer to our KOTW article on the Double Fisherman’s Knot. A single Fisherman’s is just one side tied.

View the gallery below and follow along with the steps above!

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