Recently I heard as a general rule of thumb that one should leave at most the width of your hand as space between the knot (a figure eight for instance) and the harness. Its quite obvious that one doesn't want one or two feet of rope between the harness and the knot, since it might catch on something, but I never paid too much attention on whether its one, two or three times the width of my hand.

Aside from it being caught on something, are there any other dangers associated with having too much space between the knot and the harness?

  • 1
    I think this is simply to prevent you clipping into the loop created by the knot by accident (thus stopping the rope feeding as you climb). The placement of the knot itself should have no impact on fall factor, failure points, etc.
    – user2766
    May 30, 2014 at 11:57

3 Answers 3


Others might be able to give a more authoritative answer to this, or relate personal experiences where too much distance was a problem. However, I think there would be a clear problem if you were trying to lead climb with the figure-eight knot tied too far from your body. Imagine the situation where you're positioned with your hips directly in front of a piece of protection; in sport climbing, this is actually kind of a reasonable position to be in when you clip in. (For trad, you might want a position closer to your face, where it's easier to see if the placement is good.) If the knot is far from your body, then it's going to be awkward to reach way down and grab the single strand of rope below the knot in order to clip it in the carabiner.


One other issue with having a high knot is what happens when you fall. I once tied a figure-eight close to my harness (no issue there), but then followed it up with a strangle knot that was quite high (maybe a foot above the figure-eight). When I fell, I was sure someone had punched me in the face. In reality the rope had snapped tight and the strangle knot had struck my face since it was so high above the harness.


Another benefit of a close knot is less rope movement at the tie in. This is the rare case of nylon-to-nylon contact in the safety chain, abrasion will happen with heavy use.

Also, +1 for getting hit with the back up knot.

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