Learning how to make a harness out of webbing is crucial for any serious rappeller. You never know what situations you may find yourself in and this technique may save your life or the life of someone else. Or you know, it could just save the day in a tight spot. Your friend invited an extra guy, that doesn’t own a harness. You have a group of boy scouts your taking out for a quick trip. Whatever the case, you’re sure to make your own harness at one point or another, so its a good trick to have up your sleeve. Wearing harness made out of webbing isn’t going to be comfortable for very long, so it really is best just to use this harness in crucial moments.
You will need webbing 8-9 feet long (20 feet for the Swiss Seat) and a locking carabiner. If the person who will be using the harness is larger, you may need a longer piece of webbing. Just as you would check your ropes for wear and tear, you would especially want to check your webbing for wear and tear in this situation. Run the webbing through your hand to make sure there are no tears or signs of age or sun damage.
There are a few ways to make a harness and the process to make a harness out of webbing is fairly easy. I actually find it easier to make than some of the essential knots we have to tie. Here are just two of the ways to make a harness out of webbing. The simple harness, is just that – simple. It will get the job done, but the hasty harness and the Swiss Seat are much more sturdy and will offer much more support if the person using the harness made of webbing isn’t able to support themselves easily, but the hasty harness and the Swiss seat will be a bit more comfortable, but will take a bit longer to make.
Before I get started, when tying knots with webbing, do not use figure 8 loops. Webbing is flat, and will not lay the same in a knot as a round rope will. When tying knots with webbing, we will tie overhand knots. The knot we will be using for all of the harnesses is called a water knot. You can learn how to tie a water knot in our article on How to Tie Rappelling Knots, Hitches, and Bends. Water knots tie nicely and stay tight with the flat rope which. This knot is the most used and useful knot when tying two pieces of webbing together so I would highly recommend taking time to become familiar with this knot.
This harness is just as the title says. Simple. I wouldn’t use this on long rappels, or larger people, or people who are in an emergency situation, who may be weak. They’ll need to be able to support themselves with this harness as it is very basic and not meant for rescue situations.
Step 1 – Take one end of the webbing and tie a loose water knot. Take the free end of the webbing and insert it into the knot, and follow the curves of the knot. Pull the knot tight. The knot should have the two opposite ends of the webbing coming out opposite sides of the knot.
Step 2 – Place the webbing around the back with one strand of the webbing above the hips and one below.
Step 3 – Take the lower strand of webbing, and pull it forward between the legs.
Step 4 – Attach a locking carabiner to the three stands of webbing that meet at the front of the body, in the middle of the stomach.
The hasty harness is much more sturdy and one that can actually replace your harness in a tight spot. This harness can be used in emergency and rescue situations too. If you’ve gone on a trip and realized your harness is back in your car after your hike in or your harness has torn and you don’t have time to replace it before a big trip, this will do. It won’t be comfortable at all, and you’ll have to check your knots and tighten it up frequently, but it’ll get the job done.
Step 1 – Fold the webbing in two equal parts. Take the bite of the webbing and tuck, a couple inches of the webbing into the persons pants, at the bottom and zipper.
Step 2 – Reach behind the legs of and pull the webbing through. Separate each strand of webbing and pull one piece of webbing up and around each leg. Each leg should now be wrapped with webbing.
Step 3 – Take the webbing on the right side. Tuck it under the the right piece of webbing tucked into the pants and pull it through. Repeat for the left side.
Step 4 – Grab the two pieces of webbing falling to the floor, one side in each hand. Quickly pull each side in opposite directions. The harness should tighten around the legs and the webbing that was tucked into the pants, should pull out and lay flat across the front of the pants.
Step 5 – Adjust the harness so the webbing fits over the hips and is snug around the upper legs. There should be a triangle around the crotch.
Step 6 – Take the remaining webbing and wrap it around the waist 1-2 times. Tie the ends of the rope together using an overhand knot, and two safety knots in the tails of the remaining webbing.
Step 7 – Gather all of the webbing that crosses the front of the body and attach a carabiner.
The Swiss Seat is just as sturdy as the hasty harness and can be used in emergency situations or as a last minute, temporary replacement as well. It is a bit more complicated to tie, and again, very uncomfortable, but hey, if you want to conquer that rock or that canyon, it’ll get you there. Because it is a bit more complicated to tie, and has to be adjusted around the upper thigh, I personally wouldn’t put this on anyone else, but if I were tying it for myself, I’d use the Swiss Seat in a heart beat.
Step 1 – You will need a 20 foot long webbing. About 5 feet from one end, make a loop about as big as your thigh and tie an overhand knot on a bight. Move down the webbing about 6-8 inches and make another loop for your other leg and tie that off again with another overhand knot on a bight.
Step 2 – Step into the loops and pull them up to your thighs. The loops should fit nicely around the top of your thigh and should stay in place. Take your time to find just the right size of loop for your thigh if you will be wearing this for a while.
Step 3 – Wrap the longer end of the webbing around your waist, being sure to keep it snug, as many times as you can. Leave enough room at the end to tie a knot. Take the short end of the rope and tie that around your waist one and half times, bringing it around to your belly button to meet the other end of the webbing. Tie the webbing together with a water knot. Tighten up the water knot so there is no wiggle room in the webbing. It should fit nice and flat, against your body, but not too tight that you can’t breathe. Tuck all the loose ends in.
Take a large locking carabiner and hook it through all of the webbing across your belly and the strand between the two leg loops. You will know the waist strands are tight enough if you have to bend to get the leg loop strand of webbing into the carabiner. The carabiner will act as the belay loop.
My Webbing Recommendation
I have found the Country Brook Webbing to be great. It can hold up to 600 pounds, it is ultra violet light, rot, mildew, and moisture resistant. In other words, its great stuff, its sturdy and strong and will hold up to a lot of abuse. It comes in spools of 25 yards, but you can easily cut the webbing down to a size that you will need. Be sure to take a lighter to the end you cut and give it a little burn to prevent fraying.
There you have it, three ways to make a harness out of webbing. Again, always check your webbing before hand, use overhand knots, not figure 8 knots, tighten and adjust as you go, (webbing knots are notorious for spontaneous untying) and don’t plan on being comfortable. This simple harness is for simple situations, and the Hasty Harness and Swiss Seat are for long days on the rocks, or emergency situations If you are a serious rappeller, you will use this technique at some point so try to become familiar with at least one of these harnesses made out of webbing. You will thank me and yourself later.