If I'm using two prusik's to climb a rope (one as a foot loop and one attached to harness directly) What's the minimum diameter of cord I should be looking for to remain safe?

  • 2
    @Mr.Wizard Static,Tech and Nylon can all be used. I suggest to anyone reading this to educate themselves on melting points for example Dyneema may not be suitable for use as friction hitches due to their lower critical melting point (150º Fahrenheit) as compared to polyester or nylon (350º Fahrenheit).
    – AM_Hawk
    Jan 11, 2014 at 20:52
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    While Mr.Wizardss and AM_Hawk's answer already provide a great deal of information, I wanted to stress an in my opinion very important point: While all these suggestions for diameters are good and well, always test it in the field. If the prusik slips, go one more time around the rope or use alternative friction knots (there are plenty out there, some of my favourite the prohaska knot described in an answer in this question or the [French Prusik](marinews.com/knots/rope-knot
    – imsodin
    Aug 7, 2014 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


EDIT: When the question was posed I misinterpreted it to be asking the diameter of the "Climbing Rope" not "Cord" However my answer for Cord diameter is also listed as "2mm less than cord diameter and not less than 5mm"

I would not go any lower than 7.5mm*, it is a common diameter used by rescue technicians.

There are several reasons why I recommend 7.5mm, listed below.

  1. You need to remember and account for the diameter of your prussik, which following the general rule of thumb, is at least 2mm less than the rope diameter. A 5mm (Static,Tech or Nylon) prussik supplies a good amount of grip. If you chose a rope of smaller diameter your prussik will be approaching some very small diameter cord.

  2. A 7.5mm such as the Sterling Escape Tech provides good abrasion resistance, and has the ability to withstand falls, something a rope of smaller diameter may not be able to provide.

  3. Any smaller than 7.5mm the rope itself will be difficult to ascend, and if you chose to descend on it the rope will have a tendency to coil up and even knot itself.

*According to numbers a 6mm static cord can hold 1600 lbs however I would not recommend using it for the purpose of ascending, let's keep it for hoisting the bear barrels into the trees.

If you attempt to ascend a rope using only friction knots please use a safety back up such as the system detailed below!

As a safety precaution tie off the slack end of the rope, using a figure eight on a bite, at progressive intervals and clip to your harness. To avoid having a clutter of these knots all hanging off your harness you might choose to untie and release each previous one. Note, however, some climbers prefer the clutter to potentially getting the trailing rope snagged far below.

  • I just noticed that you linked to a 7.5mm Twin rope as an example. So you are describing ascending two strands of rope at once? You should be able to use at least a 6mm Prusik loop in that configuration. I was assuming that you were referring to a single strand of Tech rope, like BlueWater's 7.5mm Escape-Tech.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jan 11, 2014 at 21:06
  • @Mr.Wizard No, ascending one rope...Picked a new rope to make it clear. Thanks for pointing that out.
    – AM_Hawk
    Jan 11, 2014 at 21:11
  • When I read this I get very confused about whether you are talking about the rope on which you are placing the friction knot or the rope used to do the friction knot. It would be great if you could clarify that.
    – imsodin
    Aug 7, 2014 at 13:01
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    I like the progressive interval knot idea, even though I typically have more problems with trying to get my friction knots unstuck, I've never had a friction knot slip on me before.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 7, 2015 at 21:34
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    1600 lbs of bear barrel, that's a lot of honey you keep in that thing!
    – njzk2
    Nov 19, 2015 at 19:35

I am going to approach this question differently. Since the question is marked with the tag the use of a 7.5mm Technora escape rope that AM_Hawk's answer focuses on seems unlikely. Also, the method by which he arrives at a minimum Prusik cord size doesn't address certain issues.

Cord diameter

All else being equal a smaller cord for a friction knot, such as a Prusik, will grip better than a large one. I have seen several guidelines, such as use cord no larger than 70% of the diameter of the rope being ascended, but truly this is only a guideline. A stiff and slick cord will have much less purchase than a limp and rough one, therefore maximum diameter is determined pragmatically by what will grip. There are cords made specifically for friction hitches, and these typically limp cords will work better even in larger diameters than will stiff accessory cord not intended for the application. For example, BlueWater 8mm Dynamic Prusik Cord is limper and will grip better than their 6mm Accessory Cord.

As far as minimum size, there really is none from a friction standpoint as the smaller cord grips better; it is entirely possible to use a shoelace, paracord, a string from your chalk bag, etc., so long as it can hold your weight. One would be a fool to have these thin cords be his only attachment to the rope of course. You can protect the ascent by progressively clipping in to loop knots in the rope, as AM_Hawk described, or you could use a non-toothed progress-capture device such as a Petzl Shunt. (Please don't implement a system without a full understanding of the devices, failure modes, and risks involved; this is merely an example.)

Perhaps you are seeking a minimum size of friction hitch that is safe as a primary connection point. That is hard to answer. One possible failure mode is burn-through; that is, if the knot slips the friction will melt through the cord long before you deck. Hypothetically a smaller cord, if the loop is appropriately sized and the knot well dressed, might be less susceptible to this as it should be less likely to slip, but a larger cord stands a better chance of arresting the fall before it melts or tears through. There is also the consideration of fusing. Several test reports describe the friction hitch fusing to the main line after slipping; while this is less immediately terminal than burn-through it could still leave you stranded.


I was unable to find dynamic (drop) testing of small diameter Prusik cords. However, here are some resources that seem relevant.

  • Mr. Wizard, does your concern about the melting point of Dyneema extend to the rope as well as the cord? In my mind, there's more of a problem with accumulating heat on the cord, as it moves with the climber, picking up heat from each slide and carrying it along. On the rope, however, any one surface only contacts the prusik briefly, so it shouldn't accumulate heat in the same way. My interest is in a safety rope for my deer-hunting stand, rather than in traditional rock climbing. A smaller diameter (within the 70% parameters of prusik knots discussed above) Amsteel rope (made from Dyneema) is
    – user8168
    Nov 19, 2015 at 19:04
  • @Walter Your comment appears to have been truncated. The main rope over which the friction hitch is sliding is usually not at risk of failure -- I have never read about a case where it was the element that failed at least. However I suppose it may be possible to produce a failure: suppose the Prusik cord is an aramid with a high decomposition temperature and the main line is Dyneema with a low melting temperature; hypothetically if the hitch slides a long way and then catches maybe it could accumulate enough heat to melt the Dyneema. (continued)
    – Mr.Wizard
    Nov 20, 2015 at 11:12
  • @Walter I suspect that you will run into other practical problems first, such as having strong enough Prusik cord that grips the slick Amsteel rope. Fall-arrest devices are usually made for thick industrial rope but there may be specialized equipment available that suits your needs. Consider posting a Question on this subject so that the wider experience of the community may help you find a solution for your specific situation.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Nov 20, 2015 at 11:16

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