Different rappelling techniques are used to suit personal preferences, experience levels, the length of the descent and available equipment. Choose a rappelling technique based on your knowledge of that technique and how it is suited for the situation.
A fireman's belay, carabiner brake, munter hitch rappel, extended rappel, Australian rappel, guide's rappel and the Dulfersitz--a technique using only a rope and no rappel device--are common rappelling methods. Knowing different techniques will help you be more confident in a wider variety of mountaineering scenarios.
Backing up a rappel is one of the safest rappelling techniques, and it is growing in popularity. If your hands come free of your rappelling rope or device, a backup acts as a brake to prevent a free fall and will lock you off when properly rigged.
Rappelling used to be performed using only a rope and the Dulfersitz technique. As climbing hardware technology advanced, new devices like the figure eight, ATC, Reverso and stich plate have been introduced to make the activity safer and ropes easier to rig.
Rappelling should never be performed without guidance from a qualified instructor. Gear for rappelling should never be used without a thorough inspection. Always wear a helmet, perform a buddy check when possible and inspect all rappel anchors thoroughly.