For reasons of time-saving and avoiding retie figure 8 knots all the time, can I clip the figure 8 knot via two carabiners each clipped to either loop of the harness? This way there will be no cross loading of the carabiner. Clipping is way faster than tying figure 8 knots.

The carabiners are double-locking ones.


First, thanks to all of you. You provided such an amazing info! Can't stop clicking upvotes. I see there is missing some clarification about why I need all that. So I'm putting it here.

Soon I with my kids will go to a hiking trip involving several sections of scrambling through a canyon. The youngest is 4 y.o. I have harnesses for the elder kids and full-body kid's harness (Black Diamond Momentum). Since we will have several such sections of climbing and regular hiking between them I thought that clipping and unclipping carabiners would be much faster (mind the fact that I will safeguard all three kids). The scrambling sections themselves are not very long, so they will not take much time to pass. There are anchors on top of each section, so my plan was that I climb, clip the rope, then probably go down and safeguard my kids one-by-one (there will be more adults).

There will be no hard falls, since I'll watch them and will keep the rope tight through my belaying device. Having that convenience of fast clip/unclip is hugely important and also safer. Because if you stuck there after sunset - it's no joke.

  • 1
    What do you mean by the biners being clipped to "either loop of the harness"? Do you mean the loops/attachment points on the leg part and the hip part respectively, where the central attachment ring goes through? Sorry I don't know the conventional terms for these parts in English.
    – imsodin
    Nov 6, 2017 at 15:05
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    I think he means clipping into the belt loop and the seat loop independently, bypassing the belay loop.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 7, 2017 at 5:49
  • 4
    Just stating an opinion here: you'll need only a couple seconds for tying you fig8 after a while if you keep tying it every time. And then you are used to The One True Way (TM) which means that you can keep the principle of least surprise also in this aspect of your safety procedures.
    – knitti
    Nov 7, 2017 at 7:46
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    Thanks for that extra context. Given your additional context the plan makes much more sense than some of the scenarios I was originally picturing.
    – Erik
    Nov 7, 2017 at 20:21
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    FYI, comments on the accepted answer have lead to this question: Is there any evidence that attaching a biner to both seat and leg loops results in a 3-way load?
    – Roflo
    Nov 27, 2017 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


Lots of people will double up twist-lock carabiners for various reasons, and it is considered an acceptable method of protection by many, although in my opinion it is very unnecessary (related: Is it ever necessary to double up locking carabiners?). They do not however bypass the belay loop as you are describing by clipping a biner into both the seat and belt loops independently. Doing so could eventually cause one biner to open the gate on the other, especially if using twist locks.

The best method I know of for clipping a climber in with a carabiner is to tie a tight knot onto an auto-locking, gatekeeper-style, pear-shaped carabiner such as a Black Diamond Magnetron Gridlock carabiner, or a Grivel Clepsydra Double Gate biner:

Grivel Clepsydra Double Gate secured to rope by wrapping the rope tight around the biner twice, then tying off with a double overhand (a round turn and double overhand noose - the rope will break before this knot comes undone), but you can also tie a tight figure 8 on a bight, a water bowline, etc. enter image description here

This is the simplest, fool proof method for tying into a carabiner while top-roping. Cross loading is eliminated, and your transition between climbers is a lot simpler and quicker.

  • 2
    I'm not doubting that it's safe, but I've literally never seen a knot like that recommended in any knot tying or rock climbing book I've ever read. That being said, I only really have experience with American literature, and I know EU does a lot of things differently. Is there any source you have that can speak to it's tried-and-true nature? Nov 17, 2017 at 13:06
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    @Fistbeard Tying into the rope with a carabiner for top-roping isn't exactly recommended to begin with. This knot is also known as the poachers knot, or scaffold hitch. There are lots of resources out there about it: mountainproject.com/forum/topic/110108159/scaffold-hitch
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 18, 2017 at 1:18
  • Just thought I'd add... if you tie a carabiner to both the belt and seat loops... you're setting up a perfect 3-way load (1 rope + 2 loops). This is regardless of the number of biners and type of gates and locks.
    – Roflo
    Nov 24, 2017 at 17:38
  • @Roflo This is repeated so many times and I still haven't seen any evidence (accident reports or measurements) for this. When load is applied, the belt and seat loops pull in one direction, the rope into the other. The curved form of the biner automatically brings the two loops together, effectively applying the force to the same position as the belay loop, just on a slightly bigger surface.
    – imsodin
    Nov 25, 2017 at 17:15
  • @imsodin me neither. But I did email Black Diamond years ago and they strongly advised against clipping into two loops.
    – Roflo
    Nov 25, 2017 at 19:31

I don't think it is great practice, but lots of people top rope off of a single biner attached to the belay loop. The belay loop is plenty strong for this purpose, but the carabiner adds an additional single point of failure into the system. Two locking carabiners that are opposite and opposed would provide redundancy in the case of failure. Using the belay loop is generally more desirable as it reduces the change of cross loading as there are only two points of contact (the rope and the belay loop) as opposed to using the harness where there are three points of contact (rope, waist loop, crotch loop).

Some climbing gyms may allow this, others will most definitely not allow this. I believe, but cannot find it on line, that some gyms actually require you to clip into pre-tied knots. The idea being the chance of the carabiner failing is lower than the chance of the knot being tied incorrectly.

  • 2
    Every Austrian climbing gym I've been to requires clipping in to pre-tied figure 8s for top-roping. The knot is usually covered in heatshrink tubing to prevent tampering. I usually used two O&O screwgate biners. I found I was practically guaranteed at least one cross-loading per ascent (no matter how careful I and my belayer were), until I realized that my harness had a no-twist belay loop which could prevent this. Overall it felt less safe and no more convenient than tying in directly.
    – Pont
    Nov 6, 2017 at 20:10
  • Regarding the single carabiner: The german alpine club (DAV) considers one safe-lock (Belay Master etc, tri-lock) carabiner or two opposite and opposed "normal" locking carabiners acceptable for top-roping, since simple twist-locks or screwgates might become undone if e.g. rubbing against the wall or the climber.
    – anderas
    Nov 7, 2017 at 6:34

Based on your edit that adds additional context your plan seems reasonable. In addition to the carabiners ShemSeger recommends you might consider a captive eye carabiner (any rated biner is fine. I'm just using these DMM biners as an example). These are often used in more industrial settings so they're often found in steel. Alternatively you can get a DMM Belay Master 2 carabiner. These are designed to ensure the biner is locked properly and prevent crossloading Finally, I agree with StrongBad that you should use the belay loop not the tie in points.

Original answer

This heavily depends on context and exactly what you mean by "either loop of the harness."

First things first. The only loops that are load bearing on a standard climbing seat harness are located in the crotch area. These are known as the tie in points. Any other loop on the harness is intended to hold gear and isn't strong enough to hold your weight.

Assuming you're talking about load bearing attachment points on the harness carabiners are only safe from cross loading in one very specific scenario. The carabiners need to constantly loaded so they maintain the appropriate orientation at all times and don't allow the rope/carabiner to move/rotate. The only way to really ensure this is to be climbing in a firm (constant tension on the rope) top rope situation. This is why the climbing towers you see at fairs with automatic belays are safe (among other reasons) even though they're using carabiners. These situations also benefit from the improved speed you mentioned. Constant tension on the carabiner is also why people aren't really worried about cross loading carabiners mid-rappel.

In any other climbing situation/scenario the modest additional speed gain and significantly decreased safety margin aren't justified. I've climbed with many different people both outside and in gyms. Unless you have a group of people working a single short easy top roped climb the climbing time is going to be much greater than the tying in time. It simply doesn't take much time to tie and untie a knot. Occasionally I've taken many falls on a climb and had to untie a rock hard figure 8 knot when my forearms and fingers are pumped. Even then the entire amount of time to untie was less than 5 minutes, and the time it takes to tie a figure 8 should be less than 2 minutes including dressing the knot. You shouldn't feel so pressured to avoid an worst case scenario of 7 minutes of work that you're willing to risk a ground fall from height.


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