How To Tie an Emergency Harness- (Swiss Seat)

How To Tie a Swiss Seat.

 Bryan Stewart

Learning how to tie an Emergency Harness (Swiss Seat) is a great skill to learn.  Having the right length of rope or webbing can be a difference maker in an emergency situation.  I have used the swiss seat to rappel down a sheer cliff while backpacking in Tennessee, it was quick and got the job done.  Practice so you can be proficient with this skill.


Start with a length of rope or 1" webbing 10 feet in length.  The length will vary depending on the size of the individual.   Make sure your shirt is tucked in your pants and not loose.

Make a  bight in the center of the rope by folding it in half once. Fig. A.

 Hold the bight on your non-brakehand side hip. Fig B (If you are right handed this will be your left side. Left handed users the bight in on your right side.)

Pull one end of the rope entirely around your body.

-Both ends should now be out in front of you. Fig D









Tie a overhand knot around your body, at approximately waist level. (ensure it is above your hips) This is the belt/waist part of the harness.  This does not need to be tight, just pulled comfortably around your middle.

You should have four twist of rope on top as it wraps around the other. Fig.-E-H

Grab both ends of the rope and pull them under your body between your legs. Fig. J  The best way to do this is to bend slightly at the waist, reaching behind you grab and pull the hanging ends.












Reach behind your body and pass the rope over the waist part of your harness.  Fig. J

The ends should be pulled toward the small of your back. Fig. J   Notice the position of the loops in the rear on the waist.

Pass the ends of the rope over the belt portion and back through. Fig. K

Pull the ends outward and away from your hips. This will form a half-hitch knot around the waist. This friction will lock down on the waist when under tension to secure the leg loops. Fig. L

Squat downward grasping both ends of the rope. Stand up slowly while pulling tension in the rope ends.   Pull tightly and snugly while standing.  You do not want  any slack at this time.  This will cinch all slack from the leg-loops and “lock” the half-hitch in place. Fig. L



Continue to hold tension; pulling each end towards the opposing outsides of your body. Meet both ends on your non-brake-hand side. This is where you begin to tie off the harness and finish up. Fig. M 

Tie a square knot with the two ends on your hip in order to secure the harness. Fig. N  Your knot should be clean and neat.

Finish the harness by tying two safety knots on the outside of the square knot. Fig. P

Tuck the remaining rope ends into your pocket.

You have now completed your improvised swiss seat harness!  

You are now ready to attach a carabiner to the front and begin your descent.

The information given is intended for those who are under supervision or who have rope experience.  Rappelling without proper safety procedures in place can be dangerous.  Always have someone else double check your harness, ropes and knots.   

 All images are from the U.S. Army manual on Tower Operations.