One of the most important knots in rock climbing is the figure eight knot.

Actually, you can’t go rock climbing without knowing how to tie a figure eight knot, unless you want to be dependant on your belaying partner doing all the work for you. Still, even in that case you could only go top roping. Don’t even think about multi-pitching without knowing how to tie the figure eight knot.

So, how is it done?

I’ll never forget how it was explained to me because it used a metaphor which you simply can’t forget. I want to share that with you.

Here’s the trick I use to remember how to tie a figure eight knot:

Here’s the trick I use to remember how to tie a figure eight knot:

Make a loop in the rope. This is the head of an octopus. Left and right are two of his tentacles.

Step 1: How to Tie a figure 8 Knot

We’ve got to strangle the octopus.

Hold the loop in place, and wrap the rope once around his neck, like so:

Step 2: How to Tie a figure 8 Knot

This isn’t enough to kill him just jet.

That’s why we’ll use the end of the rope to pierce the octopus through his head in a fatal strike:

Step 3: How to Tie a figure 8 Knot

Once we’ve done that, all we have to do is pull both ends of the rope. And voila, a figure eight knot magically appears!

Step 4: How to Tie a figure 8 Knot

How to tie a double figure eight knot

As you know, you need to make a double figure eight knot to secure yourself for rock climbing.

All you have to do is basically trace the figure eight knot, that you’ve just tied, with the other end of the rope.

Start from the bottom.

Go under the first diagonal rope, just like to rope does that you’re tracing.

How to tie a Double Figure Eight Knot step 1
Simply trace the rope of the existing figure 8 knot

Now come around the back and go over. At each step, simply trace the rope that’s already forming a figure eight knot.

How to tie a Double Figure Eight Knot step 2
Keep tracing it: going under, over, under, over, …

Next, curl back down while going under the diagonal rope, still tracing the shape of the rope that you’re following.

How to tie a Double Figure Eight Knot step 3
Trace it some more!

Now, go over the two ropes that are parallel to each other and curl around the back of them.

How to tie a Double Figure Eight Knot step 4
That’s starting to look like a double figure eight!

Lastly, trace the rope all the way back to the top again, going over and under the two pairs of parallel pieces of rope.

Double Figure Eight Knot
And we’re done!

As you can see it boils down to:

  • Over
  • Under
  • Over
  • Under
  • Over
  • Under
  • Over
  • Under

That’s all there is to tying a double figure eight knot.

Easy, right?

How far should the figure eight knot be away from the loop of my climbing harness?

The knot should only be roughly the size of a fist away from your climbing harness. This is a precautionary safety procedure.

You see, theoretically something could get stuck in the rope between your figure eight knot and climbing harness if the loop the rope makes become too big.

What if you fall and a sharp piece of rock gets in there? This could lead to serious safety issues.

Therefore, keep the knot close to your climbing harness, no further than a fist’s length, just to be safe.

Why is the figure eight rope knot safe?

One of the main reasons why the figure eight knot is so safe, is how easy it is to inspect it.

It’s hard to forget how a figure eight looks like, and anomalies are really easy to spot. The same goes for the double variant, the ropes should simply be parallel.

Should I use a back up knot along with my figure eight knot?

Yeah, you definitely should.

In rock climbing there’s so many variables that can go wrong, that you really need to put safety first. When you’re 100 ft up in the air, it’s simply not enough if something works 99% of the time. So always use a backup knot, just to be safe.

This article is intended as a general guide on how to tie a figure eight knot, but it can never replace proper instruction by a certified instructor. I don’t want you to climb for the first time after reading a couple of ‘how-to’ articles online.

Please be responsible and climb with experienced climbers that can show you in real life what you’ve learned online.

Climbing Blogger

Zealous boulderer, gear geek and editor. Typically has more flappers than fingers on his hands. Occasionally enjoys the feeling of being scared of heights. Mostly prevents looking down too much, though, and cheers at the invention of climbing chalk.

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