Introduction: How to Tie a Swiss Seat

About: CpE student at Virginia Tech. Class of 2018.

Why spend money on expensive harnesses and other gear when all you need to securely rappel is some rope? I will show you how you can turn approximately 10 ft. of rope into a comfortable, safe, and easy-to-tie harness. This harness is referred to most commonly as a Swiss Seat and will only take 5 minutes to tie. The tying is fairly straight forward and can be completed by beginners who have never even tied a knot before! While this seat is fairly simple, I recommend practicing a couple times to build confidence before actually rappelling with it. While other variations of tying this seat exist, this variation is taught by the Army and Marine Corps and is the most basic method.

Materials Needed

  • Approximately 10-12 ft. of rope depending on your size. The rope should typically be natural fiber rope, or a static line rope, not damaged in any way, and rated to support more than your body weight.
  • A carabiner rated for supporting your weight, with a lockable gate.
  • Leather gloves if going rappelling.

WARNING: Always wear gloves while rappelling due to heat and friction created by the rope.

Step 1: Fold the Rope in Half

Take the rope and fold it so that both ends are together at one end. Grab the other end, hold it in your non-dominant hand, and place that fist at your same-sided hip. While keeping the center of the rope at your hip, bring the ends around your waist and hold them in front of you such that there is a longer and shorter side.

Note: The longer side should be approximately 1.5 ft. longer than the shorter side.

Step 2: Tie the Rope Twice Over Itself

Take the rope in your right hand and fold it over the rope in your left hand as if you're tying a shoe. Repeat this once more. Pull the ends so the rope is snug against your waist but not too tight. Let the ends of the rope hang in front of you on the ground.

Note: The common phrase is "right over left, right over left".

Step 3: Reach Between Your Legs and Pull the Rope Up Behind You

Reach behind your legs and pull the ropes up between your legs so that the ropes are very tight and are bisecting the middle of each back pocket. Take each rope and feed them down between your waist and the rope around your waist so that the ropes are up and over the rope on your waist.

Ensure the portion being fed down is closer to the center of your back. Men - make sure to have 'all of your eggs in one basket'

Note: The common phrase for this step is "sky to ground".

Step 4: Squat and Pull the Ropes Down Tight

Squat down three times and pull the ropes out and away from you. The tighter the rope is now, the more comfortable it will be once you begin rappelling. Then bring the ends of the rope back around your waist and hold them at the same hip you began tying the seat on.

Step 5: Tie a Square Knot at Your Hip

Square Knot - A type of double knot that is made symmetrically, is easy to untie, and holds securely.

Take the rope in your right hand and place it over the left as if tying a shoe. Then take the rope in your left hand (which was previously in your right hand) and place it over the right as if tying a shoe. Tighten this knot snug to your hip.

Note: The common phrase is "right over left, left over right".

Step 6: Tie Half Hitches on Both Sides of the Square Knot

Half Hitch - a knot formed by passing the end of a rope around its standing part and then through the loop, often used in pairs.

Feed the rope on the right sky to ground through the portion of rope used to tie the square knot. Then feed it back down through the hole created. Feed the rope on the left ground to sky through the portion of rope used to tie the square knot. Then feed it up through the hole created.

Step 7: Tuck Remaining Rope Into Your Pocket, Feed Carabiner Through Front Ropes

Tuck the loose rope into your pocket. Feed the carabiner through both ropes across the front of your waist as if you are sliding a fish hook down your chest. Spin the carabiner around such that the larger end is away from your body and the latch is on top. Spin the lock until the red markings disappear, it is tight, and it cannot be opened. Have fun rappelling!