Rappelling Essentials for Working Professionals

You work in an industry such as pararescue, construction, or the military, so rappelling will be a job requirement for you. You have the training to excel at your job, you just don’t have the equipment. What rappelling gear do you need?

We recommend the following rappelling equipment for working professionals:

  • Rappel rings
  • Belay device
  • Rappelling rope
  • Rappelling harness
  • Rappelling gloves
  • Hiking pants
  • Climbing shoes
  • Climbing helmet
  • Knife

In this guide to rappelling equipment for professionals, we’ll detail each of the recommended pieces of gear above one by one. We’ll also share shopping links so you can pick up what you need. 

9 Rappelling Essentials Working Professionals Must Have

Rappel Rings

Let’s start this list with rappel rings. A rappel ring or rap ring is a metal ring that’s forged, welded, or rolled. You use the ring to anchor yourself. Rap rings can prevent premature rope wear, especially if you’re using anchor materials such as webbing. 

The cylindrical shape of a rappel ring prevents it from wearing down too quickly, but that doesn’t mean a rap ring is forever. You will have to replace yours sooner or later, especially if you use it frequently.

Rap rings are beneficial in a multitude of ways. No matter the rope diameter you’re using, the ring can usually fit. Tugging your rope through a rappel ring is also easy, even if you’re on the ground. 

Since they’re small, some rappelers make the mistake of assuming they can buy a cheap rap ring. We don’t recommend it, especially for professionals. Inexpensive rappel rings will not last long. Within a few uses, they’ll develop burs or grooves that threaten the effectiveness of the ring.

GM CLIMBING rappel rings are high-quality rap rings that come in two-packs or four-packs to get you started. The rings are made of seamless aluminum with a breaking strength of up to 5,600 pounds. Designed with a thick radius, these rap rings won’t catch on your rope as you pull it. 

Belay Device

You can’t rappel without a belay device, as the device applies friction to one or two ropes to allow you to stop. Doing so is known as belaying. 

A belay device is a safety feature that’s designed to prevent you from expending too much energy. You connect your belay device to your harness using a carabiner. Many belay devices are metal alloy or aluminum. 

You can select from several types of belay devices, so let’s provide an overview of each type now.

  • Auto-belay device: An auto-belay device is for solo belaying. You can attach this type of belay device to a climbing wall, even if the wall is artificially made. Auto-belay devices are powered by friction, centrifugal force, magnetic braking, or hydraulics. 
  • Self-belay device: A self-locking or self-belay device is also recommended for solo rappelers. You can attach this belay device to a fixed ground object or wear it. Auto-locking will occur when the rope achieves a certain velocity. 
  • Assisted braking device: An assisted braking belay device introduces a sudden load to trigger a pinch point in the belay carabiner or to start the camming mechanism. Assisted braking belay devices include several subtypes, such as:
    • Revo: The Revo uses centrifugal braking so you can take in or pay out the rope without worrying about resistance. Arresting of the rope occurs once your speed is more than four meters a second.
    • Grigri: The Grigri is the most common type of assisted braking device. It has a camming device that tightly grasps the rope if you start to fall. 
    • Guide plate: An auto-blocking belay device or guide plate features a metal slotted plate to pass the bight through. Then you’d connect a carabiner so that when you pull on the rope, the carabiner acts as a lock. 
  • Aperture device: The last type of belay device requires a rope loop or bight through the aperture. The rope then attaches to the harness’ locking carabiner. Here are the subtypes of aperture devices:
    • Figure-eight: The figure-eight or eight belay device can sometimes cause rope twisting, so there are other more popular aperture devices than this one.
    • Tubular: The shape of a tubular aperture device is usually rectangular. The larger surface area allows for heat dissipation yet more friction for more sudden stops.
    • Sticht plate: The Sticht plate was one of the earlier aperture belay devices. It has a slotted metal plate, sometimes two such plates if you’re using two ropes when rappelling. 

If you want to buy a belaying device for professional work, the PETZL Grigri is a beloved classic for a reason. This assisted braking belay device is compatible with rope diameters of 8.5 millimeters to 11 millimeters.

Rappelling Rope

As a professional rappeler, you’ll likely be expected to provide your own rope. We wrote a very informative guide about choosing your rappelling rope that we recommend you read. It will surely come in handy.

Essentially, you can select between static and dynamic rappelling rope. A dynamic rope is stretchy and elastic, capable of expanding 40 percent beyond its original length. For rock climbing especially, dynamic rope is the right choice. 

Static ropes have some degree of stretch, but only about 10 percent of their original length. They’re recommended for rappelling for that very reason. 

While you can rappel with a dynamic rope, it’s not easy and should be reserved for mountaineering and rock or ice-climbing situations. 

As you shop for a static rope, we quite like the Singing Rock R44 NFPA rope, which is 11 millimeters and 200 feet long. 

Rappelling Harness

A rappelling harness is another critical piece of gear you must have as you rappel professionally. 

The harness features leg loops for you to slip your legs through. Both loops are adjustable so you can loosen their fit when wearing heavier, thicker gear (such as during the wintertime) and then loosen the loops as you wear fewer layers.

Some rappelling harnesses will have an ice clipper slot, although not all. The slot is intended to hold ice tools such as picks and rack ice screws. 

What your harness certainly will have are gear loops around your waist. These easily accessible loops can hold quickdraws, nuts, and cams for ice climbing, top-roping, and rappelling. 

To determine your rappelling harness fit, you should measure your leg circumference and your waist circumference using a flexible measuring tape. You’ll more than likely need to have a buddy step in and take the measurements for you. 

Like when buying clothing, the size of a rappelling harness can vary depending on the brand. This means that some harnesses can run smaller or bigger than others. Before buying your rappelling harness, always try it on.

If you’re shopping for your harness online, then go to your rappelling equipment store and try on a harness from a similar brand so you can get a feel for what the fit will be like. Double-check that the online retailer has a return policy.

For men, the Black Diamond Momentum harness is an affordable and durable pick. The harness comes in several sizes and features four gear loops, each of which is pressure-molded. The rear elastic riser is adjustable, and trakFIT leg loop adjustments help you customize your fit there.

The Black Diamond Momentum harness also features a waist belt with Dual Core Construction. The bullhorn shape of the waistbelt is for your comfort. A Speed Adjust waist buckle is pre-threaded.

For women, the PETZL Corax LT climbing harness is a stellar option. It features nylon construction and a series of loops for keeping your gear. In the back is a loop for a chalk bag; you also get dual flexible gear loops around back. The front has dual rigid gear loops.

Closed-cell foam pairs nicely with nylon webbing for your comfort. The fabric liner on the inside of the harness is also comfy. The back and sides of the Corax LT climbing harness are intentionally wider for hip support. 

Built-in weight distribution features will help when rappelling for hours. The DOUBLEBACK steel buckle is a safety feature that’s also good for adjustments.  The leg loops feature a stretch fit. 

Rappelling Gloves

As you can imagine, if you’re sliding down a rope all day bare-handed, you’re going to end up with blisters, cuts, and abrasions rather quickly. That’s why a well-fitting pair of rappelling gloves is a must. 

You might already own sports gloves, but we wouldn’t suggest using them for rappelling. The gloves will be too soft and flexible, and their material likely won’t provide enough protection to prevent damaging rope burn.

Rappelling gloves are supposed to be hard and inflexible. Not only do the gloves safeguard your hands from rope friction but they protect your digits from sharp rocks and other natural hazards as well. 

Your gloves will likely feature areas of reinforcement throughout, especially in the areas you’ll use the most to rappel. You might be able to use clip-ons with your rappelling gloves as well.

The most common materials for rappelling gloves are synthetics and leather. Both have their pros and cons. Synthetic gloves cost less and are more breathable, but they’re not as thick. Leather gloves are durable but not very breathable, and you’ll pay more money for a pair.

PETZL’s Cordex Plus medium-weight gloves are built for rappelling and belaying. The gloves feature goatskin construction with leather and nylon. Padding on the palms prevents friction and heat generation as you belay. 

The cuffs are neoprene. You can secure each cuff with Velcro. A carabiner hole lets you connect your rappelling gloves to your harness. 

Hiking Pants

Climbing rocks and rappelling down them is not something you do in a pair of jeans or slacks. Jeans are too rigid, and slacks will rip and tear (and so can denim, come to think of it). Wearing hiking pants will make you a more professional rappeler.

Hiking pants fit about the same as the other pants in your wardrobe, so you should be able to shop your regular size. That said, we always recommend trying on hiking pants before purchasing them.

Your pants should allow for unencumbered, easy movement. If they feel too tight, then size up, as you’ll be uncomfortable when you work long hours. Don’t buy pants that are too loose either. Then they’re a tripping hazard, not to mention the pants could get caught on branches without you realizing. 

The prAna stretch Zion men’s pants feature UPF 50+ sun protection, which is certainly important. Lightweight fabrics or materials with loose weaves can let the sunlight in, burning your legs even if you’re wearing long pants.

The Zion pants have an angled cargo pocket as well as mesh-lined pockets. The waistband is adjustable for a comfortable fit and you can also roll up the legs and snap them into place if you get warm. 

The inseam gusset is ventilated to prevent overheating. Should you get a little wet, these hiking pants will dry fast due to their durable water-repellent finish.

For the women, the Columbia Saturday trail pants are mid-rise, straight-leg hiking pants for optimal movement. These pants also have roll-up legs. Rear pockets secure via a hook and loop closure while one hand pocket features a hidden zip pocket.

The two-way stretch won’t restrict you when rappelling; the knees are articulated to further enhance your range of motion. The Columbia Saturday trail pants also feature Omni-Shade UPF protection at UPF 50+. 

Climbing Shoes

We’ve discussed climbing shoes for rappelling on the blog, so we’ll keep this section brief. 

Climbing shoes are rock-climbing footwear. The fit of the shoe is closer than wearing a loafer or a sneaker. The shoes will feature minimal padding and incredible traction thanks to the sticky sole. Many climbing shoes include an extended rand, which is a rubber layer that starts at the shoe’s tip and goes underneath. 

The La Sportiva TarantuLace performance rock climbing shoe is one of the best that money can buy. You can shop the men’s edition here and the women’s edition here.

The TarantuLace climbing shoe boasts FriXion RS sole technology and a LaspoFlex midsole. The leather upper is unlined for comfort. The overlay of the shoe is synthetic leather and supports your feet as you climb and walk.

A lacing harness system lends further support to your foot and is adjustable for precise comfort all day long. 

Climbing Helmet

Although you’re a confident rappeler, that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen. You should never enter a site without a helmet, whether you’re climbing up a rock wall or coming down. 

We just so happened to write a guide on choosing the right climbing helmet, which will be a great resource for you. 

To recap that post, you need a helmet that fits your head properly. When trying on helmets, leave it unbuckled and turn your head back and forth vigorously a few times, then nod your head. Does the helmet go flying off? If it does, it’s too loose. If it remains on your noggin, it’s a good fit.

An eight to 10-ounce helmet will be lightweight yet tough enough for all-day wear when rappelling for work. 

The Black Diamond half-dome helmet is a favorite of rappelers everywhere. The helmet uses molded EPS foam to prevent head pain. A custom suspension system features wheels for toggling adjustments to the helmet’s fit. Ventilation throughout will keep warm air moving away from your head.


The last piece of essential equipment for professional rappelers is a knife. Ideally, the knife should clip to your body (or your gear) or have a lanyard for easy carrying. 

Although you hope you’ll never have to use the knife, if you ever must cut yourself or someone else down because your rope is snagged, you’ll be glad you have it. In some instances, carrying a knife on your person could even be the difference between life and death.

After all, if you’re stranded in a remote area with no one to help you, you must rely on yourself to detangle from the rope. 

Before buying a knife, you might want to double-check with your boss whether it’s allowed. 

Final Thoughts 

Rappelling is a duty required in industries such as the military, construction, pararescue, police, and many more. The 9 pieces of rappelling equipment we discussed today are all essentials that will allow you to do your job well.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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