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This is a topic often discussed online, but all I could find so far was people sharing their opinions (including numbers) on what tie-in knot is the best. Here's what I've found out from different sources:

  • Figure eight: Fool proof to check, very hard to open after a fall
  • Yosemite bowline: Not as easily checked as figure eight, strongest knot for dynamic rope tension, easy to untie even after taking a punch.
  • Bowline on a bight: Easy to check, almost as strong as yosemite bowline, very easy to untie (in my experience it never tightens at all in the first place, being loose unless actively pulled on).

While I'm not at all against personal opinions as answers, these are usually not very good advice just on their own when it comes to matters critical to security; it's your life hanging on that knot after all. I would especially appreciate data on the knot strength; all the values I've got so far come from this German Wikipedia article, where somebody who doesn't know how to quote wrote down some numbers.

Long story short: Which one to use? Figure eight is starting to annoy me when my hands are tired and I've fallen. :-)

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Are you interested in the strength of each knot, or the usefulness? There are very, very few situations aside from massive shock loads that would be an issue for any of the three, strength-wise. – Greg.Ley Feb 19 '12 at 6:36
@Greg.Ley The problem is more that I want to get rid of the 8. I like the yosemite bowline because it feels tight and is said to be safe, but I've learned it from the internet and am a bit scared using it because of that. As for what I'm interested in: anything you can tell me about these. Possible ways of doing them wrong, what's the worst case that can happen and so on. And, as said, hard data on strength would also be nice. – David Feb 19 '12 at 6:50
Relevant information. The bowline is apparently more prone to being tied or used incorrectly. – Mr.Wizard May 17 '12 at 8:31
Is there anything we can add so that you might accept an answer here? – bmike Jul 31 '12 at 17:23
Your climbing partner needs to be able to check your knot. They're expecting a rewoven figure-eight, and they can reliably identify whether a knot is or is not a figure-eight. For those reasons, it's not a good idea to use some other knot for your tie-in, even if you understand it and think it has some slight advantage. – Ben Crowell Apr 4 '14 at 16:58

Most climbers use a re-threaded figure 8. The knot is not that important, though. In reading many accident reports, I have never seen one where the knot came untied or where there was a rope failure due to the knot on the harness. Pick a knot you're very familiar with, check it, and you're done. Spend more time checking belay devices, locking caribiners, communication with your partner, and especially your protection.

One way to untie a tight double figure 8 is to bend the entire knot back and forth, then push both parts (parallel strands) of one end into the knot. This should loosen it enough to come undone easily.

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Double figure eight every time - it never fails, and is always easy to untie, even after a good drop. – Rory Alsop Feb 19 '12 at 12:47
Yeah, +1. Figure eights, especially doubles, are easy to untie and very easy to check. Just look for an 8! – studiohack Feb 20 '12 at 0:25
@Rory please, is this a single or double 8? If that is a single, how do you tie a double? – Mr.Wizard Feb 20 '12 at 9:37
To tie in you tie a single figure of 8 in the rope leaving a long tail. Put the end through your harness and then create a loop and put the end back through the figure of 8 following the same path as the first. This video probably explains it better than me – Phil Feb 20 '12 at 11:12
Aren't figure 9 knots essentially the same as figure eight but much easier to untie while loaded? – yarian Aug 11 '12 at 5:35

I would say, dismiss the bowline on a bight since it needs a backup stopper knot to prevent loosening over time so it's not a "complete" knot like the other candidates.

The bends on the yosemite bowline are generally less tight than the figure eight. This bowline is less likely to jam, wears the the rope involved in the knot less, so from a rope longevity, fall damage to the rope, and general stress sense, the yosemite bowline would have to be the superior knot from an "engineering" standpoint.

I would not choose a knot on that basis and instead choose the one my party is most comfortable tying over and over and checking over and over. I don't see how the technical superiority of the yosemite bowline would make it measurably better "in the field" than the figure eight. If I didn't have a fid to assist in knot untying or my finger strength / rope choice made "untieability" after falls an issue, that would be a fair reason to choose a bowline over a more simple and jam-prone knot.

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The only arguments I have ever heard for the yosemite Bowline are from an "engineering" stance. But the ease of (tying and checking) the 8 make it the choice of most climbers. I agree with you. – MaskedPlant May 23 '12 at 22:40
The reason I switched to the (Yosemite) Bowline, years ago, was the figure eight's "untieability" after falls. It's easy to tie and to check as well. – Nikos Alexandris Aug 22 '12 at 7:30
Does a bowline on a bight really require a stopper? It's a stretch but imagine the working end slipped out of bight that holds it then kept slipping until the nipping turn was gone too. You would be left with a normal bowline with a really long tail - still very safe. – Jake Mar 28 '13 at 3:36
The bowline on a bight does not need a backup stopper. It is a complete knot, but it's good practice to back it up, as well as the figure eight. The standard bowline, however, is a different story. I wouldn't climb on it. – manoftheson Dec 15 '14 at 2:46
@manoftheson the bowline is used for all sails I ever sailed with, and never failed. What are the reasons why you wouldn't climb on it? – njzk2 Nov 17 '15 at 19:16

The three knots you listed are all quite suitable for tying in to a sit harness for rock climbing.

The figure eight is the most widely used and most readily and easily inspected, and is not a bad choice for tying in:

...When tying into the rope there’s a reason the figure eight knot has been the knot of choice for years. Strong, simple, easy to untie and nearly as strong as the rope, there is no better knot for connecting the climber to the system...

Tie the knot that you and your partner or group are absolutely confident in and can inspect without having to even think about it that hard.

You might think it's silly, but if you can't tie the knot with your eyes closed, you probably shouldn't use it until you can. Whatever the knot, it should become second-nature, and then you and your partner still need to check it.

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I have been climbing on a yosemite bowline for a long time, and never had any problems. I don't see it as any harder to check than a figure 8 once you are used to it. It's easy to tie, secure, faster than the figure 8, requires less rope, and never gets difficult to untie after falls. It's a great knot, and there seems to be a lot of superstitious aversion to it out there. I have been accosted by teenage gym workers on a couple of occasions who have almost no climbing experience about how "dangerous" the bowline is to climb on. At best it's nonsense, at worst it's insulting. Nothing wrong with the figure 8, but the yosemite bowline is a fine knot for climbing.

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