rappel rack

Best Rappel Racks

In my earlier climbing days when of course I wasn’t experienced, I used to think how can I descent from a cliff with a lot more friction!

Not knowing, I used different gadgets to control my descent. One day, I went for a climb with my friend and I saw this strange kind of tool in his hand he was using while rappelling. I didn’t ask him anything but was curious.

We got on the point to start our endeavor and he asked me, “Where’s your rappel rack, man!” I responded, “Where’s my what?”, and then he took out his and asked “This thing!” and it was that same piece of equipment that I got curious about a few moments earlier. Now I thank God that I didn’t find it the hard way!

A rappel rack is a tool that you must have for activities like different types of rappelling. The rappel creates friction and controls descent. If you do rappelling that involves descending from considerable heights like a high cliff, down a cave or a bridge, then this tool becomes quite handy.

This Article Will Cover:

What is a rappel rack?
Why would you use a rappel rack?
The difference between a standard rappel rack and a micro or a mini one
The purpose of spaces on a rappel rack
What are the best rappel racks available to buy?
Our choice for best rappel rack
Rappel Rack Buying Guide
Frequently Asked Questions
Closing Thoughts

What is a Rappel Rack?

It’s a simple tool that you can use either to increase or decrease friction.

You can thread your rappel rope between the bars. When you add or remove bars it will allow you to increase or decrease friction according to your needs. It can provide you with much more control over your descent. When you fully learn how to use your rappel rack you will see how good your rappel descents become.

But here’s the trick…With more bars, you will be able to control your descent as the friction on your rappelling rope increases. On the other hand, with fewer bars, you can lower the friction on your rappelling rope and that way you can adjust the speed of your descent as per requirement.

When I first used my rappel rack, I found increasing and decreasing the number of bars slightly difficult for no apparent reason. But once I got used to it, it became a piece of cake.

rappel rack
The Petzl Rack Rack, reviewed in a little more detail below…

I just mentioned this fact to alert you. If you are new with rappel racks, then make sure that you learn how to use them effectively before you use them on your first descent.

Why Would You Use a Rappel Rack?

One of the particular reasons why I didn’t know about a rappel rack is I never went on any long rappels. Almost all of my climbs, and therefore my rappels, were short back in the day. Many guys still question the use of a rappel rack because they think it’s not really necessary.

A rappel rack is suitable when you are going for free-hanging or cave rappelling or something similar. For small rappels, you might not need a rappel rack but it should be there in your gear for long rappels.

Now the question is why is it required for long rappels? The most important use of this tool is to create friction because you are threading the rope in multiple bars.

Rappelling into a cave
Rappel racks are more than suitable for descending into caves slowly.

It will create multiple points of friction, but the points will remain cool and your rope will not burn or get damaged. Your regular rappelling tool tends to melt the rope and it can become very dangerous for you on long rappels. The reason behind that is a regular device for rappelling has fewer points for friction and the rope tends to heat up quickly.

Controlling rope and speed becomes difficult in such situations and this may lead to an accident. If you think that this is enough of a problem, wait till you hear more!

Rappel racks are a must where you think water or mud can be critical factors. Devices other than a rappel rack may get affected by extreme conditions.

These rappelling devices can sometimes get clogged or jammed if you expose them to extreme conditions too often. When you expect these types of conditions, you need to have a rappel rack with you. Even if your rope gets extremely muddy or wet, your rappel rack will keep you in control.

The Difference Between a Standard Rappel Rack and a Micro or a Mini One

The difference between all these rappel racks is the size and the number of bars.

  • A micro rappel rack features a couple of bars that are good enough to provide decent friction. It is ideal for mid-range descents and rappels. On the other hand, a micro rappel only has one pair of bars in it and it’s the smallest in size when you compare it with a mini or a standard rack.
  • A standard rappel rack is large in size and it usually comes with three or four pairs of bars in it. The increased number of bars provides strong friction. This is why standard rappel racks are considered suitable for long rappels and descents.
Seattle Manufacturing Corp Micro Rappel Rack
Micro Rappel Rack by SMC.
rappel rack
Standard Rappel Rack by Petzl

 

The right choice for you relies heavily on the length of the descent.

If you think that you don’t need s standard rack, go for a mini or a micro one based on your needs. If you are a beginner, start with a micro rack first and as you increase the length of your rappelling activities, increase the size of the rappel rack as well.

Using rappel racks requires skill and precision, and for this reason, you should start with a smaller unit.

The Purpose of Spacers on a Rappel Rack

The rappel rack spacers are highly advanced ancillary parts. These spacers position, and spread the top bar as well as the second bar on your rappel rack. As the top bars on a rappel rack are prone to overheating, these spacers tend to spread out and significantly reduce the contact between the rope and the bars. Consequently, these spacers keep the rope cool. You need to keep in mind that 3/8-inch spacers don’t fit on your rappel rack’s nose.

As the upper bars are not offering friction that a climber requires, cooling the bars should be the immediate concern. You need to be very cautious when you are spreading the upper bars because you will be forced to use more bars to get the required level of control.

In a normal scenario, a climber uses 6 bars under the last spacer to gain control. Spacers with screws come in 7/16-inch and 3/8-inch size. For the nose of the rack, only a 7/16-inch spacer will work. Therefore, you need to buy even numbers of both these spacer sizes.

What are the Best Rappel Racks Available to Buy?

Petzl Rack Descender

Best For...
Intermediate and experienced climbers.

Petzl rappel rack

If you have been on some climbs and descents before, then this is the right kind of rappel rack for you. It can quickly enable you to make adjustments to the rope for obtaining the right amount of friction. It’s one of the most commonly used rappel racks and is highly recommended by experienced climbers.

This Petzl rappelling rack is multifunctional and you can use it for a variety of objectives. The rack is good at providing friction to the rope and puts your safety first. The rack itself is pretty lightweight and compact.

Multifunctional

You can conveniently make adjustments to the number of the bars on the rope and you can obtain the amount of friction that you require. You can easily make the adjustments at any time and it doesn’t take much of your time either.

However, you need to be experienced with using rappel racks if you want this Petzl rack descender to be useful for you. For this reason, it’s an ideal rack to use by experts and intermediate climbers. At times the descents can get pretty quick and you need to understand how to work with a different bar.

Rope Care

This rappel rack prevents your rope from burning or melting. One of the best reasons why you should use a rappel rack is rope care. As this rack from Petzl comes with five bars, it will guarantee sufficient rope care.

Of course, if your rope stays in great condition it will be better for your climb. The rack is able to distribute friction as well as heat caused by friction and assists in preserving the rope. It also prevents the rope from twisting.

Lightweight but Durable

Despite being a standard rack, its design is lightweight and compact. It only weighs approximately 1.03lbs. It is also compatible to be used with a single rope with a diameter ranging between 9 mm and 13 mm and you can also use a doubles rope with a diameter ranging between 8 mm and 11 mm.

Despite being lightweight, this rack is sturdy as its frame is made of stainless steel while the bars are made of aluminium. Now you can easily carry it in your gear and rely on it during different rappelling or descending situations.

The Petzl Rappel Rack is best for experienced rappellers, cave descenders and rock climbers.

PETZL - Rack, Variable Friction Descender
20 Reviews
PETZL - Rack, Variable Friction Descender
  • MULTIFUNCTIONAL: The number of bars engaged on the rope may be adjusted at any time to obtain the...
  • ROPE CARE: Good distribution of friction and heat helps preserve the rope.
  • SAFETY FIRST: The RACK does not twist the rope.
  • COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT: Only weighs 470 grams and is compatible for use on single rope (9-13 mm) or...
  • DURABLE MATERIAL: Made out of stainless steel frame and aluminum bars.

Why We Love It?

  • Great value for money
  • Multipurpose
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Highly durable
  • Offers good rope care

NFPA Rack by Seattle Manufacturing Corp

Best For...
Pros who do long rappels.

Seattle Manufacturing Corp Standard Rappel Rack

This standard rappel rack comes from the Seattle Manufacturing Corp (SMC), is suitable for those who do long rappels quite often, and is a really good price.

It’s quite frequently regarded as the best rappelling rack in the world because it’s built for professionals and people with climbing and rappelling experience. This is a simple yet rugged rack that offers a tremendous amount of versatility.

Versatile

If you’re looking for a versatile rappel rack, then there is no better option than this rack from SMC.  One of the best features of this rappel rack is that you can use it for a variety of purposes. You can either use it for your personal adventure activities and as a work-safety or rescue equipment.

You can either use it for descending in caves or climbing rocks. It also works well with cliffs. The mechanism is simple to control and if you have prior experience, then you won’t have any trouble using this rack.

User-friendly

Despite being made for the experts and professionals, this rack is effortless to use. Of course, you will have to work with it and that only comes with experience.

It’s designed for professionals who have spent a lot of time climbing and rappelling.

This rack enables you to control your descent at an increased level because it features more bars. You can even descend at faster than usual speeds using this rack.

Quickly Ties

This rack comes with an additional bar that allows you to tie the rope when you want to stop during your descent. It is one of the best options for you to consider if you are looking to use your rappel rack for a variety of purposes. Additional bars for tying the rope is suitable for rescue operations.

You can easily tie the rope, and then stop wherever you want during your descents. The process of tying or releasing the rope is pretty swift. You don’t have to waste time during your descents when stopping.

Solid Construction

This rack is made of stainless steel and provides a tremendous amount of strength, durability, and reliability. There are not many rappel racks that you can find on the market featuring UL certification. But this one does come with one.

It’s built for various emergency situations. Seattle Manufacturing Corp has a wide variety of racks and all of them come certified under UL standards. The company doesn’t compromise on quality hence; it’s one of the best manufacturers of rappel racks.

This professional-grade rappel rack is built to deliver.

Seattle Manufacturing Corporation SMC 6 Bar NFPA Standard Rack
7 Reviews
Seattle Manufacturing Corporation SMC 6 Bar NFPA Standard Rack
  • Mountaineering, Mountain and Urban Rescue, Caving, Canyoneering

Why We Love It?

  • Professional grade
  • Versatile construction
  • Best for work environments and emergency situations
  • Ideal for professionals and experienced climbers

Micro Rappelling Rack by SMC

Best For...
Casual climbers.

Seattle Manufacturing Corp Micro Rappel Rack

This is the right rappel rack if you are just an intermediate or beginner at rappelling and do this activity for entertainment purposes. It’s not made for long rappels but pros can also use it. However, professionals or expert climbers mostly won’t really do small descents.

What’s the best part? You can use a range of different ropes varying in diameters with this rappel rack. The u-shape mechanism provides you with exceptional weight distribution on both sides. You can also use doubled or singled ropes with this rack without any problems.

U-shaped Construction

One feature that differentiates this rappel rack from the rest is its U-shape. This shape keeps the distribution of weight equal on both sides, this means that you don’t have to bother about twisting ropes and it will also help in keeping the device, and your rope steady.

This shape also makes the rack useful for a variety of applications and weights. For this reason, this rack is best for a variety of applications including caving, canyoneering, and mountaineering and even short rescue operations. But keep in mind that this rack is not for long rappels as due to the weight of your body, the rope may start to slip.

Reliable and Durable  

Though this rappel rack is made for short rappels, that doesn’t mean Seattle Manufacturing Corp hasn’t taken care of the durability and reliability of this product. Just like all other products that come from SMC, this micro rack also goes through a strict quality assurance test. Now you don’t have to worry about your safety when you are hanging from the cliff.

This rack is made of tubular steel and is also lightweight. You can easily tie off the bars and stop midway. This rack is built to perform and it will continue to do so for a long period of time on your short rappels.

Rope Safety

Another excellent feature of this rack is that it won’t twist the rope under any circumstances. The even weight distribution factor comes in to play here, but that is not the only contributing aspect. The bars are designed in such a manner that they keep the rope in a hold and prevent it from rotating or twisting inside the rack. This is what makes the SMC rappel rack the best option when it comes to handling. No rope twisting means that there is no chance of rope tangle or break.

Best for short rappels, this rack is suitable for a variety of operations ranging from adventure to rescue.

Why We Love It?

  • Excellent rope safety
  • Use as a double as well as a single rope
  • Well-balanced weight distribution
  • Solid construction
  • Easy to use

Our Choice for Best Rappel Rack

The best rappel rack that you need to consider is the Petzl Rack Descender. We think this is the best rack to buy because it’s equally suitable for both novices and experienced climbers. This rack comes with rope safety and it also features five different bars that allow you to stop midway in your descent. You can take it on your long rappels as well.

It’s lightweight yet durable. The solid steel frame of this rack provides good strength and the aluminium bars make sure that your rope stays cool and doesn’t burn due to friction.

You can use this versatile rappelling rack for a variety of purposes. It’s good for adventure as well as emergency situations. Make sure that you purchase an even number of spacers of both 3/8-inch and 7/16-inch sizes to go with your rack.

PETZL - Rack, Variable Friction Descender
20 Reviews
PETZL - Rack, Variable Friction Descender
  • MULTIFUNCTIONAL: The number of bars engaged on the rope may be adjusted at any time to obtain the...
  • ROPE CARE: Good distribution of friction and heat helps preserve the rope.
  • SAFETY FIRST: The RACK does not twist the rope.
  • COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT: Only weighs 470 grams and is compatible for use on single rope (9-13 mm) or...
  • DURABLE MATERIAL: Made out of stainless steel frame and aluminum bars.

Rappel Rack Buying Guide

There are various aspects associated with a rappel rack and you need to keep in mind all of them if you are looking to buy the best product that meets all your needs and requirements.

As there are so many rappelling racks available, buying the right one might seem a bit confronting. Therefore, we have developed this guide for you. You’ll get to know the features you need to look for before you buy one.

Size

There are different types of rappel racks when it comes to size. You can find a standard rappel rack and a mini, in addition to a micro rack. The standard one is large in size as compared to the mini or micro racks. The standard rack in most cases features five to six bars. You can use double or single ropes in them without any issues.

Some of the models also come with tie-off bars allowing you to stop midway. The mini and micro racks come with three and two bars respectively. Some of these models also feature a tie-off bar. The standard size rappel rack is unsurpassed for long rappels while the other two are good for shorter rappels.

Number of Bars

The number of bars has a crucial role to play along with the size. With a larger size, you get more bars, and with more bars, you are able to control your descent with more authority. The thing is if you are on long rappels, you will need more bars to control your descent.

Hanging around in thin air can be problematic and for this, you will need a good quality rack that also comes with a tie-off bar.

Tie-off Bar

This bar is an extra bar that allows you to stop midway in the air during your descent. You can tie your rope around it so it doesn’t move and you can maintain your position to perform the activity for which you have stopped.

The tie-off bars are mostly used for rescue operations because you can stop your descent and maintain your position for a long period of time.

Tie off bar for a rappel rack
Tie off bar for a rappel rack, image courtesy of smcgear.com

Spacers

These spacers are a tiny piece of equipment on your rappel rack to ensure that the rope maintains a good grip. Furthermore, these spacers can reduce the amount of tension and friction when you descend.

Spacers are there to keep the pressure of the rope and hence, they are good for rope care. They come in two different sizes. You need to have an even number of spacers on your rappel rack.

Spacer for a rappel rack
Spacer for a rappel rack, image courtesy of onrope1.com

Frequently Asked Questions

When Shouldn’t I Use a Rappel Rack?

There are quite a few implications of using a rappelling rack. These racks are pretty heavy and you will be carrying an extra load with you. For a rappelling rack, it’s better for you to use a strong rope or doubled rope. Such a rope will work better with this device.

You need to keep in mind that with this device you can only move your rope in one direction. Therefore, it is only useful for descents. A rappel rack is very hard for passing belays so you cannot use it during your climbs.

Apart from that, these devices don’t come with any automatic braking feature and you have to make it work on your own. As a result, it is better to use this device once you have a lot of experience using it.

What is the Max Weight That a Rappel Rack can Take?

Many rappel racks come with a weight capacity that ranges between 440lbs to 880lbs. Make sure that you only look for racks that come with steel frames. These racks will be heavy but they will also offer you strength and reliability in your climbing and rappelling activities.

Is There Any Assembly Required for a Rappel Rack?

No, you don’t have to do much when it comes to assembling a rappel rack. The only thing that you will need is to add more spacers according to your requirements. The rest is all ready to use as you purchase it.

What’s a Cave Rack?

This is a rack for wine barrels and it is designed to use inside the caves. These racks come in multiple sizes including three barrels, two barrels, and four barrels.

Check out some more cave racks here.

Closing Thoughts

Rappel racks are a great climbing device to control the amount of friction during your descents. The basic purpose of using a rappel rack is to keep the rope from burning out by keeping the friction minimal with the help of bars.

Some rappel racks come with tie-off bars that allow you to stop during your descent. You’ll find it useful during cave rappelling, rock climbing, and cliff-hanging.

Have you used a rappel rack before? Do you find this device useful? Have your say by leaving a comment below!

Be safe!

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