December 4, 2020

A Guide on How to Tie a Swiss Seat Harness

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Let us now discuss the most ancient emergency Swiss Seat harness for rappelling purposes. Irrespective of a rappeller’s skills, it is the most critical equipment for a climber’s safety. I am obsessed with protection and always want to talk about it.

Today, I was exploring different ways to improve climbing safety. I wanted to talk about a few safety tips. Suddenly, I realized that it is high time to introduce the Swiss Seat to my readers. It has immense possibilities of saving the lives of several rappellers.

I want to mention here that this type of harness for an emergency is not quite famous these days. People now depend mostly on a standard rappel harness. Incidentally, if you are interested to learn about a rappel harness, you should check my detailed guide here.

This harness guide also tells you the procedure to choose a suitable one for you. Let us assume that you don’t have the harness equipment, and all of a sudden, you feel that you need to do rappelling in an emergency.

If we talk about emergency rappel knots, the Swiss Seat is amongst the most ancient ones. It can never offer the exact level of protection as a traditional harness. Still, it can potentially save your life for sure. It is not all that difficult to tie a Swiss Seat. However, if you make a mistake in any part, it can wind up badly.

Know More about a Swiss Seat

It is perhaps impossible to find out about the place where it was invented. However, this knot is about a few hundred years old. When general rappel equipment was not available, people used to adopt creative methods to climb down safely.

How to tie a swiss seat harness

A few rappel techniques were evolved. Some of them used only the strings. A guide was written by me recently about rappelling techniques. You can refer to my rappelling ropes guide to find more about such methods. Please ensure to go through it once if you want to know more.

Rappellers have tried to use several webbed harnesses. Among them, two such tackles were quite different from the others. These two are the Swami Belt and the Swiss Seat. Both of them have pros and cons. However, the swiss option became more famous than the other one. I don’t mean that the Swami Belt disappeared into nowhere.

What Differentiates a Swiss Seat from a Swami Belt

At the first look, the Swiss Seat feels a little extra comforting than the Swami Belt. Perhaps it is more dependable on an overall basis. However, some rappellers chose the Swami belt over the other one. Here are some of the reasons:

  • 1) Perhaps, the Swami Belt distributes the force in a better way. However, it boils down to two things. Firstly, the strength of your drop and secondly, the kind of string or web you use.
  • 2) The pulling point of the Swami Belt is located over the center of gravity of a climber. It helps the climber to remain straight during the descent.
  • 3) Some rappellers believe that the Swami belt can be quickly tied since it needs many wraps about your waist.
  • 4) In the case of using a two-inch tubular web, it has comparatively less weight.

There are noticeable differences in the design of both types. During the descent, the Swiss Seat divides maximum force to the rappeller’s legs. Similarly, the Swami Belt puts the weight on the rappeller’s waist. Finally, it depends upon you which type of design is suited for you.

The Way to Secure A Swiss Seat Or Rappel Seat

Generally speaking, you must keep a standard survival kit. It may include a string of twelve feet and a carabiner. You can say that such a kit is the raw material for making a simple rappel seat or emergency rappel harness.

If you have a waist size of more than 32 inches, you will require a little extra length of the string. Hence, it is crucial to practice tying the rappel seat. That way, you will know the length of the cord you need according to your waist size. Also, please ensure to have sufficient rope length to tie the square knot for your Swiss Seat.

YouTube video

Here is a step by step procedure:

  • 1) Firstly, you will be required to find the middle point of the string roughly.
  • 2) After that, hold the bight by your left hip. We assume that you mostly use your right hand. You would prefer to keep it on the opposite side of your brake hand. 
  • 3) Drop that bight now. Wrap the string on the waist. Please check that one end of the cord must be longer. 
  • 4) Now, you should make an overhand knot and a second wrap on any side. Ensure that the running ends are hanging free.
  • 5) Pull those ends through your legs and back. Squatting will make everything tighter.
  • 6) Feed each side up and behind the waist. It will create a half hitch for locking.
  • 7) Now, you make a square knot by your side where you initially began-backup this knot with an overhand knot on both ends.
  • 8) Still, if any cord is left, push it into your pocket. Please note to use a smaller rope next time.
  • 9) Link the carabiner through the earlier wrap of the Swiss Seat. Repeat this for square knot wrap also.
  • 10) Ensure that the gate faces towards you. Or else, it will keep rubbing the cord.

Let us hope that you are not confused. I have researched this thoroughly and got an exciting video. Here you can watch every step in full detail. I believe that a visual feel is crucial to learning to tie any knot or an emergency harness.

Is the Rappel Seat Comfortable

No, it does not provide much comfort. It is not very pleasing for men too. But comparatively, it provides enough support while dropping down. This is precisely the reason why rappelers and their trainers choose it.

A lot of slack may be generated by the time you finish making it. It will depend upon the cord length. The excess margin may be a little uncomfortable to some people. Therefore, I usually suggest my readers tie the harness and practice it many times. Potential rappellers should do so before using it in a real emergency. 


You can rely on the Swiss Seat for an emergency rappel harness. Moreover, it is easier to tie this knot. At the repetition cost, I would remember to use this knot only as a last resort. Nowadays, several affordable options are available to rappellers. All these options offer a comfortable and safe rappelling experience.

Swiss Seat is still used by military people for providing training to their staff and even for real-life rescue operations. They use it for rappelling in an emergency scenario.

Moreover, people also use the Swiss Seat for transporting injured people to safe places. Such harnesses are used by skilled rappellers. Therefore I will never suggest novices to try it. You can mostly rappel with it, but it can endanger your life if you make mistakes in any step.

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About the author 


Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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