Nite Ize Figure 9 Carabiner
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $3 - $12
The folks at Nite Ize know you're not a Boy Scout, and you're not a sailor. But sometimes you need to secure a rope to a fixed object, or a rope to another rope. Their elegant solution is the Figure 9.
- Repeated use will fray ropes/lines
I'm not a salty sailor who's ridden the high seas for decades. I'm also not a Boy Scout with a sash full of knot tying merit badges. I'm just a guy who sometimes abandons my otherwise perfectly usable home for a day or three and sleeps outside in a hammock. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in this demographic.
Because every campsite is different, there's no 'perfect' setup to how you string up your tarp, and hammock, and bug net, and gear pack, and anything else you brought with you for the trip. Versatility becomes paramount when it's getting on to dusk and you have to create your home for the next 12 hours.
If the distance between your structures were always the same, and the diameter of the structures were always the same, and the proximity to anchors was always the same, and the height above the ground was always the same, and the amount of slope along the ground was always the same, then you wouldn't need versatility in your camping gear. You could bring the same suspension, and the same lines, and the same anchor hardware everywhere you went and be perfectly happy.
Does that sound like your camping life? It's not mine, either. The one universal of hammock camping is the camping spot will always be different from the last one. Sometimes the trees are large, sometimes they're small. Sometimes they're far apart, and sometimes... there aren't any trees. This makes the adjustability of your ropes and lines, and the need to tie off- and tie onto- dissimilar objects pretty standard. Nite Ize acknowledges these challenges and provides to campers their Figure 9 system.
"System" is a bit much of a description. The Figure 9 (whimsically titled from the shape of the item itself) is an aluminum fitting that cleverly connects ropes and lines without the need to make knots in the line. Knots, if you didn't know, greatly compromise the tensile strength of rope.
So, rather than remembering if you're supposed to use a bowline or a half hitch to keep your tarp from sagging onto you head overnight, you break out your Figure 9s to hold all your ropes and lines, no matter what the site calls for. Simply put, the rope is fastened at the loop end first. You can either use the end of a rope, or attach the Figure 9 in line on an existing run of rope already made fast to some nearby objects. The rope, as it passes through the loop end of the Figure 9 will hold itself, by direct pressure.
Or you can set it up so the loop stays put on a run of rope again, held in place by the tension placed on the rope. There's no downside to having too much line, and no need to cut your ropes to any specific length, as excess rope does not affect the performance of the fitting, it merely hangs from the fitting without tension.
The tension on the line is then set by wrapping the other end of your rope around the "hooked" end of the fitting, and securing the rope in the fixed "jaws". These so-called "jaws" are just a v-notched section of aluminum with serrated cuts along the sides which serve to bind the rope parallel to the direction of needed resistance. To remove the rope from the jaws, simply pull it sideways, perpendicular to the resistance, and the tension is released.
These aluminum fittings are very strong for their size and weight. The Figure 9 pictured, the small size, weighs in at just 0.11 oz. and is rated to hold 150 lbs. They pack light because they're small. It'll accommodates rope diameters from 2mm - 5mm, but honestly it has held 3/8" (9mm) rope for me just fine.
The serrated jaws will fray and ultimately destroy rope if you repeatedly bind and release the same section of rope over and over. If you find you are repeatedly using the same section of rope, you may want to devise a permanent solution to holding it, rather than using the Figure 9. These are best used for varying configurations, not a fixed, repeated use.
The fixed Figure 9s come in two sizes (that I'm aware, there may be more), the small (pictured) and a large size, and Figure 9s are also available as carabiners (settle down, they're not rated for climbing).
The carabiners offer the added versatility of clip-on/clip off attachment, but they are not rated as high for tensile strength as their solid construction counterparts. The smallest of the carabiner versions does, however, make a great keychain. Just sayin'.
So on your next camping trip, take plenty of rope line and a handful of Figure 9s in various sizes and configurations and conquer any logistic challenge.