After misreading the original debate on these forums about the use of the Figure 8 KNOT, I wanted to really get a controversial debate and discussion going about the use of the Figure 8 DESCENDER in rescue.

I for one, will never advocate or promte the use of the Figure 8 for any part of a rope rescue, wheter it be as a descender, belay device, etc.

Here's my reasons, not in any order-

1) No safety mechanism- The Figure 8 has no single or double stop mechanism

2) Human Factor 1- The Figure 8 relies on the rescue having at least one hand on the rope at all times. In a a "lost footing" situation or similar, the rescue can let go of the rope to catch themselves, resulting in a fall

3) Human Factor 2- Two different ways to reeve it. Depending on what way you're taught, you can come up from the bottom or from on top of the device (Does that makes sense?) THis can result in larks heading the device if the unit/rope gets caught on an edge. This in turn can lock up the descender leaving the rescuer stranded.

4) Multiple lock offs- The device can be locked off multiple ways- again they all have different pro's and con's. THis can create confusion to members that may be used to one way, and then having to be taught another way, etc.

5) Load ratings- Again, depending on the type and brand used, there's a load of different load ratings. Again, adds to the confusion.

6) Hands off test- One of the tests we do here when training is to blow the whistle. Every member of the team should be able to take their hands off everything and no one should be able to move or be in danger. With a figure 8, you let you, you fall.

7) Casualty/Rescue safety- If the casualty is combattant (spelling?) or panics, they can put both them and the rescuer in danger by knocking them, etc.

8) Friction- The unit heats up very quickly and is really only best suited to short rappels.

9) Human Factor 3- The unit reuqires the operator to control the speed/friction by hand. This can be too hard to control in a rescue situation.

10) Human Factor 4- Load it up with a rescue and a casulty and you've just increased the isuses around controlling the device and the friction.

For me, I'll take a double stop descender any day over an 8. Recreationally I use the 8 for quick small jumps, but that's it.

Now I know this is going to be controversial, so let's hear your thoughts, but be nice about it!!!!!

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Replies to This Discussion

Train, train, train sound great, but if you base that training on unrealistic or inaccurate information, then that training time, effort, and learning is worse than wasted, because it results in "Garbage In, Garbage Out" syndrome.
Well you are correct train like its for real and we do that . . . . but are you saying a rack is not better than an 8 ? was there something inaccurate in my reply?
Robert, was that intended for me?
just wondering what you meant ?
Lots of people here - and elsewhere - say "Train, Train, Train" without giving any specifics. That doesn't really tell us a lot.

Anyone can do lots of training using dangerous or unrealistic techniques and simply re-inforce bad habits.

In rope rescue, I've seen a lot of training that was based on urban legends, not reality, even by some pretty good rope rescue teams.

As for a rack or an 8 being better, the answer is "it depends". If you want a single piece of gear that is light, easy to rig, and that is intended to pack into the boonies for a quick, single-rescuer low-angle to steep-angle access, I'd probably take the 8.

If I wanted a lowering device for a rescue load, I'll take either the rack or a specific friction device like a 540 or a Petzl ID. For rappelling, it's hard to beat the Troll ALLP Pro.

There are so many friction devices on the market now that any "8 vs. rack" debate ignores the numerous other pieces of gear that can do the job.
Anyone can do lots of training using dangerous or unrealistic techniques and simply re-inforce bad habits.

Amen to that brother!
Ok I'll buy that . . . yes good realilistic training cant be beat and yes there are bad trainers or maybe I should say inexperianced trainers. as for there are many devices yes I agree also. as for variable friction a rack is it. As for the 540 that is a belay device not a decent device. But what ever you use train with it in all conditions and be able to get yourself out of trouble with it and it should be trained so much it is almost instintive cause when the poop hits the fan that is not the time to try something new and under stress things change and bad things start spiraling out of control. You have to train in adverse conditions and be profisiant at the skills no matter the device.

...which doesn't matter if you use a redundent belay per NFPA 1670 rope rescue standards, as we do in most of the U.S.

Actually, 8's have a place for rapid access in rope rescue, particularly for low-angle rescues and wilderness work where you have to carry all of the gear in and can't afford to waste weight on a device that is heavier, more complex, and that has only one function.

If you're using a Figure 8 Plate in a rescue system then you're using it for something it's not rated to do, unless you have one of the rare 8 plates that's rated for General use.


It doesn't matter where you put an unrated or Personal use rated piece of hardware in the system - it's still not designed to support a load larger than a single person/300 lbs.

ok new to the group, didn't read every reply, i think that your points are right, but again its another tool in the tool box, people state the same about the munter hitch, peztal id... i could go on, used right, at the right time it can work.  

i see this was post in 08 but we went rounds in my dept about it in 2011 because so many had only used an 8 and never had been trained on a rack which is way better

i agree with those who say use an 8 for short rappels and a rack for everything else


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