Rappelling Gear List

With almost every activity, having the right gear can make a world of difference. Without the right equipment, you are very limited in what you can do. Rappelling is no exception to this, though this can often make it a very intimidating sport to get started on. In the most basic sense, all you really need is a harness, helmet, rappel device, and a rope to get down on. In practice, however, there is a lot more to keep track of. Throughout this article, I will explain many of the basic pieces of equipment to help you get started on your rappelling adventures!

If you’ve read my Rappelling Basics article, you would have learned briefly about a few items that are critical to getting down a cliff safely. These would be a helmet, a harness, and a rappelling device. Helmets for any sort of mountain sport, whether climbing, canyoneering, or mountaineering, are pretty much the same. When looking for a beginning helmet, look for something durable and affordable. I wouldn’t recommend spending more than $50. The nicer helmets are very lightweight and comfortable, but for starting off the comfort isn’t worth the price.

Harness #

Harnesses are also very versatile between disciplines. If you are just planning on doing rappelling activities such as canyoneering, I would suggest looking for something with wider leg straps and waistband for comfort while hanging. This will add more weight, but I have never regretted rappelling in a thicker, heavier harness.

Rappel Device #

Depending on the rappelling device you have, you can also use it to belay for climbing. (An ATC, for example, has many uses in rappelling, belaying, and other safety scenarios). For starting off, a simple figure 8 is generally your best bet. These are easy to set up and use, plus they are pretty affordable, only about $15. There are a lot of other devices that are very similar to the figure 8 but have more functionality for adding friction (to have better control of your descent), and for locking yourself off mid-rappel.
Never try rappelling on your own until you are totally confident with your ability to descend the rope in a safe and controlled manner. Actually, just never rappel on your own in general, and always have someone who knows how to set up anchors, the rope, and a belay. These skills are necessary to have before leading a trip.

Anchors #

Webbing or cord is necessary for building anchors that you will rappel off of. Many well-travelled routes will have bolts next to the rappels that you can thread the webbing through for an anchor. Other places will require you to wrap the webbing or cord around rocks or trees in order to secure your rope. These are both very cheap, usually costing less than half a dollar per foot (In future posts I’ll explain more about the basics of anchor building and such).

Carabiners #

Carabiners are another piece of equipment that you will want to have. Quite frankly, carabiners may be one of the most important things you can bring with you. A lack of carabiners will inhibit your ability to build anchors, connect to the rope, hold gear, and essentially do anything else other than walk around the mountain or canyon. Carabiners are also pretty cheap and can be purchased for $10-15. Make sure you get locking carabiners for connecting to your belay device and for building your anchor.

Rope #

Last but not least, you will need a rope to descend on. You will want a static rope that won’t stretch when you rappel on it. The length of rope will depend on what you will be rappelling off of, though a good first rope to buy will be 60-70 meters (around 190 to 225 feet). This will allow you to go off some good-sized rappels, but won’t be too long to be obnoxious. A rope will be the most expensive piece of gear, running between $150-$250 depending on length and quality.

And that’s the start of your rappelling gear list. As you get more experienced you can get more advanced gear which will allow you to do more technical rappels. Have fun, be safe, and make sure to have someone with experience help you at first. Enjoy the cliffs!