Climb Gear Reviews

Best Figure 8 Rope Descenders

Since humans have started climbing up, they have been presented with the problem of coming back down. In bouldering halls and over reservoirs of deep water, this problem is somewhat diminished, however when awkwardly straddled between two granite pillars a kilometer above the hard Yosemite floor, you will probably want to find a more elegant solution than mangling your body on the ground, destined to be dinner for hungry bears.

A simple figure 8, made out of a strong metal, has been the industry standard for climbing and rescuing using ropes for decades. While some manufacturers attempt to modernize the device and to make it more intuitive, nothing yet quite compares to the strength and reliability of the figure 8. In this article, we are going to explore the setup use of this device, as well as comparing some of the most popular products on the market.

What are the Best Figure 8 Rope Descenders?

When looking at products that are potentially going to save your life, it is reassuring to know that you can depend on them. Using a combination of personal experience, user feedback, and manufacturer specifications, we have compiled the following list of figure 8 descenders to perhaps narrow down your search. At the end of the list, we have answered some common questions to help you understand the figure 8 descender a little more.

1. ProClimb Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 50 KN
Type: Silver

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Usually, when something is advertised as a “rescue figure 8”, we can presume it comes with integrated ears, and the ProClimb Rescue Figure 8 is no exception. This figure 8 is a durable and dependable piece of equipment, complete with a glossy finish to help the rope seamlessly glide over the exterior and with integrated ears to help the user lock-off, to guide the rope, and for search and rescue operations. Furthermore, it can withstand a huge 50KN of force, the highest on this list, meaning you can be sure that it won’t break during operation. The high quality of the product, however, does make it a little more expensive than other products on this list.

Pros

  • A huge 50KN of force resistance
  • Integrated ear design to help streamline use
  • Durable, lightweight and strong

Cons

  • Additional loops can be confusing when new to using figure 8 descenders

2. Fusion Climb Aluminum Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 35 KN
Type: Blue/ Black

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If you opt for a figure 8 without integrated ears, then the Fusion Climb descender is a fantastic choice. Not only is it more budget-friendly than the ProClimb Rescue, but this certified figure 8 can withstand more than enough force (35KN) for any regular climbing situation. It is lightweight yet strong enough to throw onto any harness, and dependable enough to secure you at height.

While descenders without ears are more liable to the rope slipping out of position and locking you off mid-descent, the humble figure 8 has been used for securing people at height and rappelling without ears for decades. With that being said, more climbers are opting for the eared designs as an extra level of precaution.

Pros

  • Simple and intuitive design
  • 35KN of force resistance – enough for almost all climbing-related uses
  • Extremely affordable

Cons

  • No integrated ear design – depending on use, product may be liable to slipping out of position

3. Azarxis 35 KN Climbing Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 35 KN
Type: Black/ Red

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The Azarxis 35KN Climbing Rescue Figure 8 is our most affordable figure 8 descender on this list, yet according to the product specifications, it can withstand just as much force as the Fusion Climb figure 8 descender above. The array of bright colors available make it a more personal addition to your harness than the previous options, and also makes it possible to easily contrast the colors and so it is easy to intuitively differentiate between all of your climbing gear.

The main problem with the Azarxis figure 8 is quite a serious one. Usually, safety equipment comes with a CA or UIAA certification printed on it, and so the climber can confidently know that the force resistance printed is reliable. The Azarxis is lacking this, so although it may withstand 35KN of force, users will have to put their confidence in the manufacturer alone instead of certified governing bodies. If the product fails, you may not survive to be able to post a negative review. Furthermore, it is advertised as a “Rescue Figure 8 Descender”, yet is lacking in ears.

Pros

  • Available in multiple colors
  • Cheap and affordable, yet fully functional
  • 35KN of force resistance – enough for climbing

Cons

  • No obvious UIAA or CE certification

4. AOKWIT Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 35 KN
Type: Black/ Blue/ Orange/ Grey/ Purple/ Red/ Silver

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The AOKWIT Rescue figure 8 descender is essentially a classic figure 8 rappelling device. It boasts a solid 35KN of force resistance, and it is small and lightweight enough to slip onto any harness.As it is simpler and considerably cheaper, and certainly provides enough protection for climbers despite not having the full 50KN of resistance capacity.

One of the best features of the AOKWIT Descenders is the smooth matt finish that coats them. Not only is it vibrantly colored and pleasant to touch, but it allows climbers to easily detect damage to the device simply by looking. Figure 8s are strong and sturdy devices, but like all climbing safety equipment, they do wear down over time.

Pros

  • Excellent finish makes it easy to detect wear and tear to the product
  • Simple and intuitive design
  • Portable and lightweight with loops large enough to slip ropes through easily
  • More Affordable alternative to the AOKWIT 50KN

Cons

  • Not as streamlined as the AOKWIT 50KN and without ears for better braking compatibility

5. Epic Peak Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 40 KN
Type: Black

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The Epic Peak Rescue Figure 8 is the most affordable eared design on this list with 40KN of force resistance. It is comparable to the AOKWIT 50 as it has an almost identical shape which helps with braking in emergencies. The larger loop is shaped so that the rope glides through in the optimal position. The larger loop, however, is a little smaller than the AOKWIT 50, and the product is a little weaker, although more than strong enough to support a fall and any rappelling situation.

The black finish can easily chip off, but this does also make it easy to determine if the product has taken any damage throughout its use.

While a little cheaper than comparable eared products, it is very difficult to determine how reliable the safety rating of this figure 8 descender is as there is no information about official certification on any of Epic Peak’s products, and a search on google does not warrant many results. It may well be a very dependable product, but once more, climbers will have to risk relying solely on the manufacturer’s word for this.

Pros

  • 40KN of force resistance
  • Affordable pricing compared to similar products on this list
  • Eared design for better braking power,
  • Streamlined shape for optimal rope positioning

Cons

  • Top Finishing comes off easily
  • Weaker than the 50KN models

6. AOKWIT 50KN Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 50 KN
Type: Black/ Red

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The AOKWIT 50KN Rescue Figure 8 descender is a modern spin on the classic descender, engineered to increase usability and to maximize braking capacity when in use. The modified shape of the larger loop helps to optimize the rope position for comfort and glide, and the bent ear design creates extra friction and locking off abilities, as well as ensuring that the rope glides through the correct place on the descender without slipping out.

Once you have learned how to use a figure 8 device for rappelling, which does take some attention and time, the AOKWIT 50KN is simple and safe to use and packed with subtle features to maximize your safety.

The model also comes equipped with the fantastic finish that their 35KN figure 8 descender does above. It is an incredibly strong and durable product, but this comes at the price of being considerably larger and heavier than comparable devices.

The stronger devices and those with the eared designs do tend to be a little more expensive, and understandably so as they are put through more rigorous testing and require extra material to produce. If you are looking for a budget option, it might be worth checking out the more traditional designs of descenders that may not be figure of 8. Furthermore, while users seem to trust it, the product is lacking in certification.

Pros

  • A full 50KN of force resistance
  • Bent ear design with modern features for streamlined use
  • Excellent finish helps users detect damage before use
  • Versatile product that can be used for much more than descending in many situations besides rock climbing

Cons

  • Not as simple and intuitive to use as some more modern designs
  • Premium Pricing

7. GM CLIMBING 40kN Rescue Figure 8 Descender

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Force Resistance: 40 KN
Type: Red

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The GM Climbing 40KN Rescue Figure 8 is another affordable yet strong, eared descender. While not as strong as the ProClimb eared descender, 40KN is more than sufficient force resistance to be used in daily climbing uses. The bright red design is catchy and makes it easy to pick out quickly amongst other gear on a harness.

Pros

  • Integrated ear design
  • Bright color – easy to identify on a climbing rack
  • 40KN of force resistance

Cons

  • Not quite as strong as the AOKWIT 50KN

What You Should Know Before Buying Rope Descenders

What Are Ascenders And Descenders?

Simply put, it’s all in the name. A rope-ascender will assist you in climbing up a rope. They usually come in the form of either handles with small teeth that will only let the rope slide in one direction or small clips you can attach to your shoes. Some people will also use something called a daisy chain for this instead. A rope-descender is a mechanism that will assist you in safely climbing down a rope, and is often used in rescue, gardening, and any sports that require ropes.

What You Should Know Before Buying Figure 8 Rope Descenders

Right from the start, you need to know that your safety, and in many cases your life, rely on this humble piece of metal. Thorough training should be completed at ground level to ensure that you are comfortable using the products and possess the relevant rope skills required before using the device at height or to belay a partner from. The following points are also worth considering before committing to using figure 8 descenders.

Benefits Of A Figure 8 Descender Compared To Other Types Of Descenders

As aforementioned, some manufacturers have started to explore alternatives to the figure 8 descender. These often benefit those who are not so comfortable setting up the rope correctly, or who want to control their descent using levers or something similar. This is great, however, the numerous moving parts in most alternatives make them liable to break more easily than a figure 8, and as a result, they are usually considerably weaker and can withstand less force. If you are using the device, simply to rappel, you are not likely to exert a large amount of force on the device, however, if you are to fall, this can be problematic.

Another benefit of simple figure 8 descenders is that they are usually considerably cheaper than alternatives on the market, and while budget should not be at the top of your priority list when buying life-saving safety equipment, it is certainly nice to have a bit of extra cash at the end of the day.

How Do You Use A Figure 8 Rope Descender

Figure 8 descenders have multiple uses, however, the most common two in climbing are for belaying a partner and for safely descending a rope. Rope Lab in their article clearly demonstrates multiple setups for the device, as well as explaining how each setup is best used.

Canyoneering USA clearly demonstrates in their article how to lock off a figure 8 device without ears, should you need to stop mid-descent, although there are multiple functioning methods to achieving this. This technique can also be used on devices with ears. For those who prefer video demonstrations, check out these videos below.

How to lock a figure of 8 descender

Precautions While Using A Figure 8 Rope Descender

Firstly, when buying your descender, you should check if the device has been UIAA or CE certified; in most cases, you will find the product has been certified by both. Also, check to see the force resistance rating it has been given, which should be displayed on the device in the form of KN. Figure 8 descenders are among the strongest of climbing components, and anything over 22KN should be more than sufficient for most situations.

Before using the device, you should thoroughly check it for wear and tear. While this is not a problem with new devices, these are designed to last for a long time, and over the years, the rope will begin to rub its way through the metal. If there are any deep indentations or signs of distress, immediately discard the product and purchase something new.

Last but not least, before using the product, ensure that you know how to set it up and how to use it correctly. Try a few scenarios out at ground height before you commit on the wall. Ensure that all moving parts (such as the rope) are free of any obstructions on your harness and so you will not get caught up during your descent.

If your device is not auto-braking, it might be worth setting up a prusik loop in case you become unable to control your descent and need your setup to stop you from falling.

Questions and Answers About Rope Descenders

Is a figure 8 descender better?

A figure 8 is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for so much more than simply descending. It does take a little more time to understand the theory behind how it works before using it safely in the field than some of the newer designs featured on our list, however, the lack of moving parts makes it considerably more durable. Whether or not it is better or worse than other designs is purely a matter of opinion, and will depend largely upon how you intend to use it.

How to lock off a figure 8 rope descender?

There are several methods to locking off while using a figure 8 descender, and these are consistent across both eared and un-eared devices. To lock off
Ensure that there is a large amount of friction in the rope, either by pulling your control rope close to your body and sharply downwards, or by crossing it under the end leading to the anchor.
Remember to release the friction slowly so that you can stay in control when it is time to descend again.
You can check out a more detailed explanation and video in the article.

What is a rappel ring?

A rappel ring is a solid loop of metal that is most often used at anchor points. They are often used when climbers have to quickly bail from a route at the sacrifice of some cheap but trustworthy equipment.

Can you rappel with a dynamic rope?

You certainly can rappel using a dynamic rope, but do be aware that the rope will stretch considerably more than a static rope, so be sure to slow down your rappel before you get to the ground and not to stop suddenly to compensate for this.

How do you use figure 8 descender?

Have a look at the videos posted above under “how to use a rope descender” for a detailed demonstration of setting up a figure 8 descender and how to use it safely.

How to use a Figure 8 rope descender with ears?

Your ears should not impede your descent, however, if you are asking about the ears that are often found on figure 8 descenders, we understand your concerns. The ears on a figure 8 descender are there to help guide the rope into the optimal position on the figure 8.
The use of the ears depends upon the setup you are using. The standard figure 8 setup works the same on both devices and without the ears. The ears can, however, be used to lock off the device. If you watch some of the product videos on Amazon you can see how the ears can be of use.

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