Knot of the Week: Swiss Seat - ITS Tactical

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Knot of the Week: Swiss Seat

By The ITS Crew

Swiss Seat 12We return to our regularly scheduled Knot of the Week today with the Swiss Seat.  The Swiss Seat is also often referred to as a rappel seat, as it’s purpose is to serve as an emergency rappelling harness.

Many survival and E&E kits contain a carabiner and a 12 ft. section of rope just for this purpose.  Not to sound overly dramatic, but in an emergency, just these two items could mean the difference between life and death.

A Swiss Seat can also be used to transport an injured victim to safety if no rappelling harness is available to them.

We highly recommend that before carrying a 12 ft. section of rope for a Swiss Seat, you see if it’s the right amount of rope for you.

In the YouTube video below, the waist size shown is a 32″ and the rope is just the right length. Your mileage may vary.

Swiss Seat » Misc.

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

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

Uses:

  • Emergency Rappelling Harness
  • Transporting an Injured Victim to Safety

Instructions:

Make sure you have enough rope left over to properly back up the square knot tied in the Swiss Seat.

  1. Find the center of the rope
  2. Hold the bight of the center against your left hip if right handed or right hip if left handed
  3. *The reason for this is that when tying the final square knot, you want it opposite from your rappelling brake hand*
  4. Drop the bight and wrap the rope around your waist
  5. If wrapped correctly you should now have one end that is longer than the other
  6. Make one overhand knot and a consecutive second wrap (it doesn’t matter which side)
  7. Allow the running ends to hang down
  8. Pull the running ends through your legs and around your backside, squatting to tighten
  9. Feed each side up and behind the waist wrap creating a half hitch to lock
  10. Tie a square knot off to the side of your body you originally started on
  11. Backup the square knot with an overhand knot in each working end
  12. If you have excess rope, consider carrying less or simply tucking it into a pocket
  13. Attach a locking carabiner through the initial wrapped portion of the Swiss Seat as well as the wrap with the square knot
  14. Ensure the gate is facing you to avoid it rubbing on the rope, and “screw down so you don’t screw up!”

View the gallery or YouTube video below and follow along with the steps above!

Video:

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Discussion

  • Tim

    Most complicated swiss seat ever.

    • Sorry you feel that way Tim, we’d love to hear your suggestions on how to tie a Swiss Seat that’s less complicated.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • I agree there is a easier way to tie up a swiss seat, back in college I was a climbing/ropes course instructor I’ll dig through my old crap and scan in a easier way for you

    • Greg Whited

      There are plenty of improvised rapelling harnesses, but only one Swiss seat. This is the way I learned it 20+years ago, and the way my son learned in 2 years ago. Each different version has it’s positives and negatives…some take more rope, or more time, or are less comfortable. Some offer redundancy, or upper body stability (really good if you have an unconscious patient). Thanks for posting the vid, guys. Really get a lot out of your site!

  • We used these in basic training because it’s easy for a class of 250 brand new privates. Get it wrong and you will definitely feel it in the jewels. Nice article.

    • Thanks Thompson! It’s definitely not the most comfortable way to rappel, but for it’s intended purpose it works great.

  • Francis

    Yeah , I agree… this swiss seat isn’t comfy at all !!! We did that during my recruit training. Nice website by the way !! I love the tricks with the zip-tie , It works !

    Francis

    • Francis,

      Thanks for the kind words, glad you’re finding the articles useful!

      ~ Bryan

  • H.J. Simpson

    Great vid guys, another quality addition to the site. One small suggestion: tie the backup overhands on the tails of the square knot closer to the square knot’s body. The point of the backups is to prevent the tails from backfeeding through the square knot. If the backup overhands start to loosen and untie, you are better off having them closer to the square knot body because that will give you a better chance of seeing them loosen before they come undone. It’s easier to see than verbalize!

    This is common with the backup knot to a fig. 8 on a bight tie-in. Folks will have some slack after tying the knot so they tie the backup more to keep the slack out of the way than to actually back up the knot.

    If you’ve got a few more extra inches left on the tails, a grapevine knot will have much less tendency to come loose than an overhand, especially on somewhat stiff rope (as opposed to soft webbing).

    • H.J.,

      Thanks for your kind words, and your great suggestions. Your information is a great addition to the article!
      I know I’m guilty of using a Figure 8 tie-in backup to keep the slack out of the way. I’ll be more aware of that now 🙂

      ~ Bryan

  • Paul

    I took a commercial climbing course a few years back and demonstrated a swiss seat and a bowline on a coil that we used in upper mountaineering at Ranger School… While impressed with my knowledge of ropes and knots, my classmates at the commercial course were decidedly unimpressed with the comfort of old school practices!

    • Good story Paul! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Nice article. one of My best friends taught me this a few years ago after coming home from the Army. He was in the 82nd Airborne & went to Air assault school. He bought some rope & cut it all to length for me & another friend when he taught us. I’ve carried that & 2 Locking carabiners in my car trunk attached to my backpack for years. some of my friends think Im the weird over prepared guy… all well

    • Brandon,

      It seems to be common to have to take crap for being the one who’s prepared, I always think to myself… Yeah we’ll see who’s calling who in an emergency!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Bryan

  • I know I just commented above (Brandon)
    But after this quick refresher
    (retrieving the rope from my car trunk)
    I taught some co-workers at the Ambulance Station how to tie a “Swiss seat”. they all thought that was pretty slick. & did it in seconds. We work & live in a mountain region of Northern California so it may just come in handy one day!

    • Blake Mims

      ha HA! nothing like a little force multiplication…

  • David W

    Thanks for that, I used to think it was really complicated but now I realized how easy it is. Thanks.

    • David,

      Glad you were able to follow along easily and thanks for the feedback!

  • Siphran

    Great article, im going to need to dig up my rope so i can give it a try. Just a quick question, do you have any videos of this same version of a Swiss Seat in action? Just to get an idea on how its supposed to work.

  • Andrew

    Great vid thanks for shring your info!

  • Dave

    I have never rappelled and have no knowledge on the subject but am interested so decided to take a look and come across this site. I don’t know how or even if there are any other ways to make the swiss Seat but if people think this is complicated, they probably shouldn’t be rappelling in the first place.

    I watched the video once and will never forget how to make it. That was the most simple and clearly illustrated instructions. Thanks.

  • Kody

    What diameter rope did you use for the seat?

  • Great article on the Swiss Seat. I would like to know the specifics of attaching rope to carabiner. Which way do you feed the rope thru?

  • RedNek

    I have been running up and down ropes for over 25 years and have used a harness for most of those yearsyears, seeing your vid took me back to the day I first got started, I had almost forgot how to tie a swll seat, thanks for refreshing this tie up for me I will be making use of this onfo in the coming week as I am headed for a wall to test out some new equipment. keep up thegood stuff. WALK VERTICAL!!!

  • Koopa

    @Francis  A swiss seat is a million times more comfortable when made from webbing – that way your weight is distributed across a 2″ strap rather than a 5/8″ rope.

  • Koopa

    Great refresher! I seem to remember a way of tying a Swiss seat that wrapped around the chest and back also.. essentially forming an improvised Class III harness. Anyone remember how to do this?

    Also the Swiss seat is a million times more comfortable when made with webbing. That way your weight is distributed across a 2″ strap instead of a 5/8″ rope.

  • daveee

    How thick is the rope??

  • Anon

    Why is Silent Bob tying a swiss seat?

  • Danny Douglas

    Sure sounds more difficult than it is. In the 1960s, my Special Forces Battalion used these on a day to day basis. One length of rope and a D ring was just fine for rappels down cliffs, and out of copters. I got lost in the instructions. Its easy to just start with the rope behind the waste with one end in each hand. Cross hands in front and pass the ends between the leg, move the hands to the back between the crotch and bring them up the sides crossing one end with rope over to the other hand and tie with a square knot at your left side. The Swiss seat is done. Bring the D ring in with the right hand clip open and push it downward through the ropes, the waste band, and the two lengths which pass through the crotch, then spin the D ring, upside down. Your rappel rope then is dropped through the D ring, wrapped twice around the end, and you go from there. Bringing the rope around to your lower back/buttocks with right hand, and the left hand up toward the top of the rope. Wear gloves. Lower your self, bit by bit, by slightly releasing the tight hold you have at your backside, then closing it tight again.
    Sounds difficult, but is easy to do. Practice a LOT before actually using it. Go down some 45 degree rocks, walking through them, before using vertically. WATCH OUT, its not fun to have a shirttail come out, and wrap around this. Requires one to unhitch, and rewind the rappel rope back into position. I fell three stories, after doing this, and inadvertently dropping the D ring. Our medic whispered down to me (since we were doing this at a college, demonstrating for a group of special ROTC guys) to stand still on the window sill at the top of the third floor windows of the college admin building- and we would demonstrate a rescue, he came down the rope (all 5 foot 4 of him) had me loop my 6ft 2 body army around him, and pushed off. I remember saying OOPS. When I woke up, I was laying flat on the grass- having missed the sidewalk by two inches, and looked up, and the medic was till hanging up there, upside down with the rope around his ankle. Last time we tried that!.

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