It is maybe not that surprising there are so many different types of climbing ropes out there. For most folks, a rope is a rope is a rope. Some have higher ‘tests’ to them, others less, but either way they get stored somewhere in the garage and only pulled out when your uncle gets his car stuck in the snow, again.
There is a bit more going on, however, with climbing ropes. More than just serving as some idle piece of equipment, they’re literal lifelines for athletes who climb hundreds of feet up the side of rock walls both indoor and out. The thickness, weight, and waterproofing treatment on these ropes can all determine the types of pitches a person can tackle, how much ‘give’ they’ll experience when they inevitably fall, and the type of equipment they’ll need to bring along with them up the wall. So to help new buyers determine the type of rope they will want to purchase, we included a quick primer along with our list of the best rock climbing ropes out there.
Climbing Rope Introduction
Get The Hang Of It
Ok, so you’re looking to buy your first climbing rope. What, exactly, should you be looking for? We’ll lay out some great options below, but first, we want to go over some basics of climbing ropes and what makes them different from other types of rope.
Twice The Rope, Twice The Fun
Rock climbing ropes are made up or an inner core and an exterior sheath. The interior is made up of a series of nylon strands that are twisted together while the exterior is made up of woven nylon fibers that protect the interior from abrasion. Different combinations of the amount of weave on the interior line and the thickness of the exterior make for different weights, diameters, and overall feel.
Diameter And Weight
The thinner the better. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple; the less rope you have to carry up the side of a cliff, the happier you’re going to be. Of course, there are tradeoffs. Skinnier ropes (less than 9.4mm) don’t last as long as thicker ones (medium being 9.4mm-9.7, thick being 9.8-10.2mm), and they also cost a whole lot more. Also, if you aren’t as experienced they can be harder to handle. So if you want the most dynamic pick, your best bet is to go for a medium diameter rope.
You’ll notice some picks on our list are described as ‘dry’ ropes. The reason for that is that they’ve been treated with a water-resistant coating both on the inside and out. This helps keep sudden rainstorms wet rocks, and ice from soaking your rope and weighing you down like crazy. It also has the added benefit of decreasing abrasion and increasing lifespan.
Long Way Down
The length of rope you’re going to need can vary a bit, but for the most part you’re going to be safe sticking to 60-meter rope. Sure, there are some routes that have been set that require 70-meters, but they’re not as common. Just to be sure, though, your best bet is to talk to the people you climb with and see what kind of gear they have.
Black Diamond 9.9mm Non-Dry Rope
Coming in three different lengths, this 9.9mm climbing rope from Black Diamond is an ideal pick for the climbing gym. It is much tougher than others on the market while its soft catch has made it a favorite among newer climbers. Unfortunately, this rope doesn’t have a dry treatment so it is better used in the climbing gym rather than out on traditional routes.
Beal Booster III Classic Rope 9.7mm
What sets this rope apart from others is its competitive price and high performance build. The 9.7mm, 70m rope offers up soft catches, a super durable sheath, and comes with dry treatment options for those looking to ascend traditional routes. Some reviewers noted that it is a bit stiff at first, but it loosens up with more use.
Edelrid Boa Pro Dry 9.8mm
A thick, single rope that manages to handle well and catch decently, the Edelrid features a dry treatment to keep dirt and water out, and a drop rating that is much higher than others in its field (meaning it can safely catch you from even long falls). Another benefit of this rope is the fact that you can use it for a variety of types of climbing – whether sport or trad.
Petzl Arial 9.5mm
This rope is thinner than others on this list in part because it is intended for use by more experienced climbers looking for something that handles great and weighs a lot less. The ease in handling is due in part to Petzl’s EverFlex treatment that helps stabilize score strings to make for a more consistent rope that works well over its entire life. Thankfully, all of this special treatment doesn’t come at the expense of a soft catch.
Sterling Evolution Velocity Rope 9.8mm
Manufactured specifically for those looking to take on long routes, redpoint attempts, or crag climbs, this rope has a lightweight but stiff feel to it the makes for easy handling. But more than just handling well or even offering a soft catch, the rope is incredibly durable – with some attesting to it standing up to years of rough use.
Edelweiss Curve 9.8mm Unicore SuperEverdry
For those looking for a rope that won’t have any slippage between the inner core and outer sheath of their line, this is a good pick. This rope uses a special ‘unicore’ technology that bonds the two parts of the rope to one another. This results in a much stiffer line (which some folks won’t like) but one that still provides plenty of give during a fall. To top this off, it features a dry treatment that reduces friction and keeps it from being weight down by moisture.
Mammut Infinity 9.5mm
Despite its thin circumference (just 9.5mm), this rope is more than capable of heading out to the most challenging traditional climbs. Along with being given a dry treatment, the rope underwent a heating prices that increased the ‘tenacity’ of the nylon and made it 120% more abrasion resistant than its peers. In addition to these features, the rope handles incredibly well and boasts a soft catch.
Maxim Pinnacle Bi-Pattern 2x 9.5mm Dry Rope
A thinner rope intended for more experienced climbers looking to cut down on weight and work with an easy-to-handle line, this option features a dry treatment that keeps both dirt and water out and a solid catch that’ll keep you comfortable even after falling hard.
12 Best Rock Climbing Gyms In America
Ok so you’ve got the whole rope thing figured out. But what about your technique? The best place to hone that skill is in one of the 12 best rock climbing gyms in America.
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