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Most sport rappellers start out with a Figure Eight. However, Figure eights aren't always the best option as they put large bends in the rope ,decreasing the life of your rope more quickly than most other descenders.

Cavers tend to use Racks and Bobbin style descending device.

Climbers prefer using their belay device to descend as it avoid having even more gear and most tube style belay devices do not twist the rope.
Popular Figure 8 Belay Devices (View all Figure 8 Belay Devices)
Black Diamond Super 8
$11.96 - 15.99
Petzl Huit
$14.21 - 22.00

A rack is a very specialized descending device typically used by cavers who are utilizing SRT or single rope technique. It has the added bonus of giving the user the ability to adjust the friction on the rope no matter how much the rope weighs, which is invaluable for longer rappels.

Figure Eight / Whale Tail
"Normal" Figure Eights

This figure eight by Black Diamond is the most typical device you will come across. However, there are many modifications that manufacturers include to make them safer, easier to use, or more versatile.

The Petzl Huit Antibrulure has a special heat resistant tab on the top, so you can grab it without burning yourself.

Modified Figure Eights

The rescue eight has two "ears" at the top that allow a user to tie the rope around the device and come to a complete stop without holding onto the rope. Another useful feature of most rescue eights is the double clip at the base, which allows the user to clip it into multiple points without having to take it off the carabiner. It also has an extra large ring, designed to provide less friction so that it moves easier down a high angled slope than a typical figure does. This design isn't necessarily purposed for vertical use, however, because of the lack of friction, rescue eights are a very typical sport rappelling piece simply because they'll go faster than any other device.

The Petzl Pirana allows for three different braking positions, each with varying amounts of friction, and has a lock off feature that is easier to use than the rescue eight. The pirana's optimal uses are canyoning and rescue work.

The biggest advantage of a bobbin style descending device is that they put gradual bends on the rope and therefore increase the life of your rope. Unlike a figure eight, a bobbin style descender is specialized for SRT, or single rope technique and cannot be used with a dual rope system. These devices are ideal for rappelling under most conditions until you get in to situations where you have to descend with a lot of extra weight, or have an especially long drop (the extra weight of the rope will lock the device).

Bobbin Only
The Petzl Simple works by applying friction gradually over a long piece of the rope. By doing so, it minimizes the amount of friction on any one spot on the rope (by distributing it more) and thus increases rope life.

Bobbin and Cam
The Petzl Stop has the same advantages of the Simple (above), but also has a camming mechanism that automatically stops the device unless its disengaged by the user (by depressing the brake lever). This makes this device an ideal setup for almost all types of rappelling.

Belay Devices
Many belay devices are adequate as well for descending.
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