Climbing equipment varies widely depending on what type of climbing it is meant to be used for, but arguably the most important piece of climbing gear is the rope. Climbing ropes are not cheap, and they have to pass safety tests in order to be proven worthy for use on the wall. That’s why you have to consider all the facts before finding the best climbing rope that meets your needs.
Features that matter in ropes
To find the best climbing ropes to fit your needs, it is helpful to understand some characteristics of different ropes and how that affects their usefulness.
Length & Diameter
The length and diameter of a climbing rope affect its performance. In general, the skinnier a rope is, the lighter it is. When you have many meters of rope, this weight can really add up so, for long distance hiking between pitches, it might be wise to choose a skinnier rope to cut down on weight for those in-between hikes.
The downside of skinnier, lighter ropes is that they are not thick enough to be as durable or resistant to abrasion as thicker ropes. Skinny ropes are also not rated to withstand as many falls as thick ropes, so they don’t last as long either. Additionally, skinny ropes move through belay devices, such as gris-gris, at a faster rate than thick ropes so they can be more difficult to control.
Skinny ropes are ideal for long distance hiking between climbs, but for top roping or when you expect to take a lot of falls, a thicker rope is more ideal. But what exactly is a skinny rope? Well, any rope with a diameter of under 9.4 mm is considered a skinny rope.
The thicker ropes, ropes with a diameter of 10 mm and higher, are best for top rope climbing particularly at climbing gyms. Because of their durability and ability to withstand multiple falls, they are also useful for when you are working on climbing a new route and expect to fall frequently.
Because frequent falls at the gym and big walls can wear out a skinny rope quickly, a durable thick rope will help you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to investing in a climbing rope.
Most climbing ropes can be purchased in increments of different lengths, which contribute to differences in their usefulness. The most standard length is 60 meters which will be satisfactory the majority of the time.
A rope should be at least double the length of the wall you will be climbing so,if the wall at your gym is 15 meters high, you will need at least 30 meters of rope to accommodate the distance between you, the top of the wall, and your belayer, plus some extra length to account for knots.
Weight of the rope
The weight of climbing ropes can also affect their performance. The diameter and length are usually what determine the weight of a climbing rope. How dense the rope is depending on its construction also affects its weight.
Rope weights are measured by grams per meter of rope. You can figure out the total weight of your rope by multiplying this value by the total length of your climbing rope.
Ropes can come with specialized treatments added into the manufacturing process to give them useful properties for outdoor use. One of the more common treatments is a dry treatment, which helps a rope to resist water absorption. This is important because wet ropes can become much heavier and less durable, so falls will not be as comfortable because the rope’s ability to withstand impact force is compromised.
Plus, freezing weather coupled with a wet rope spells trouble. For mountaineering and ice climbing, having a dry treated rope is important. It is less essential to sport climbers who might choose not to climb when it starts to rain. The dry treated ropes are usually more expensive than others.
Ropes can also include markings either on the surface of the rope or woven into the pattern of the rope to help you determine the middle or ends of the rope.
A rope with a middle mark is very important for rappelling and is usually denoted by black dye at the center of the rope. Another way to differentiate the two halves of a rope is a bicolor weave pattern, in which one-half of the rope has a different weave pattern than the other half.
Testing & approval process
The organization that tests climbing ropes is the UIAA, or Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme. A UIAA fall rating is how many falls a rope can withstand prior to failure.
In order to be sold as a safe climbing rope, ropes undergo many tests of durability and ability to hold a climber during a fall. These values are tested in a lab with much greater force than a rope would actually experience should a real climber fall.
Elongation of the rope is also tested. A shorter dynamic elongation is better because it shortens the length of a fall, potentially preventing a climber from hitting a ledge or the ground. The best way to measure the comfort of a fall is the impact force rating, which is measured in kiloNewtons (KN).
The lower the impact force rating number, the less force is placed on the climber when he or she falls. The tradeoff here is that a lower impact force can mean more stretch, which can be a disadvantage at climbing gyms or when top roping.
Now that you know what to look for in a climbing rope, we have compiled a list of eight great choices that work well for versatile climbing endeavors.
Product Reviews: Important Specs & Useful Tips
Most of the ropes that we have included in this review fall into the 9.5 – 9.9 mm diameter category. These ropes are best for versatile multiple uses. They are more durable than the skinny ropes but aren’t as cumbersome and heavy as ropes with a thicker diameter. These ropes can be used for hiking, trad and sports climbing and are your best bet if you want an unspecialized rope that will perform well in most climbing situations.
MAMMUT INFINITY 9.5 MM DYNAMIC CLIMBING ROPE
Dimesions: 9.5 mm in diameter
Special features: Dry treatment that meets UIAA standard for water repellency; black-dye middle marker; abrasion resistant
Best for: Ice climbing, trad and sport climbing
The Mammut Infinity Dynamic Climbing Rope is a great option for an overall climbing rope. It’s not designed to be the best in any one category, but it has the versatility to perform well in any number of climbing disciplines.
The Mammut Infinity is manufactured with several processes that help it retain its quality and durability. A heat treatment helps to increase the nylon fibers’ tenacity, so it is 120 percent more abrasion resistant than a rope that is not heat treated. Additionally, a dry treatment reduces friction within the rope by creating a lubricating function on the rope fibers.
At 70 meters in length, the Mammut Infinity allows for extended length on leads and rappels. It also features a black marker at the middle of the rope for security in rappelling. The Mammut Infinity can be purchased for cheaper as you go down in treatment level: the Classic, Protect, and Dry versions are separated by a $40 jump in price as treatment improves.
Related: Another similar rope you might want to consider is the Mammut 9.8 Eternity Protect.
EDELRID EAGLE LIGHT 9.5 MM DYNAMIC CLIMBING ROPE
Dimensions: 9.5 mm in diameter
Special features: Three coatings applied to rope during manufacturing
Best for: All around climbing; mountain climbing and sport climbing
Like the Mammut Infinity, the Edelrid Eagle Light is a great option for an all-around great, versatile rope. At 62 grams per meter, it is slightly heavier than the Mammut Infinity but has similar overall performance. The Edelrid Eagle Light features three different coatings for optimal handling and toughness.
The Pro Shield finish is designed for optimal performance, the Dry Shield finish is designed for dirt and water resistance, and the Thermo Shield treatment is designed for the best handling. The handling on the Edelrid Eagle Light is generally smoother than the Mammut Infinity because it has a thinner sheath.
However, the tradeoff here is that a thinner sheath can lead to poor durability in comparison to a rope with a thick sheath. All in all, the Edelrid Eagle Light is a supple rope with a good value that will work for a wide variety of general climbing activity.
STERLING ROPE FUSION ION 9.4 MM ROPE
Dimensions: 9.4 mm in diameter
Special features: Thin diameter but still a good overall rope
Best for: Light all around climbing
Due to its smaller diameter and lighter weight, the Sterling Fusion Ion is better used for lighter climbing applications than the Edelrid Eagle Light or the Mammut Infinity. While its durability is compromised by its smaller size, it has a nice catch for falls.
While the Sterling Ion is more durable and will have a longer life than the thinnest ropes available on the market, it lacks the design to handle repeated hard use like some of the more durable overall climbing ropes. In its impact force test, the UIAA gave the Sterling Fusion Ion a rating of 8.7 kN.
A lower number on the UIAA impact force test rating indicates less force on the climber during a fall. The sheath proportion of the Sterling Fusion Ion is 37 percent, which ranks it as less durable than the Mammut Infinity and the Edelrid Eagle Light.
PETZL VOLTA 9.2 MM DRY DYNAMIC SINGLE ROPE
Dimensions: 9.2 mm in diameter
Special features: Duratec Dry treatment, UltraSonic Finish; features a middle mark
Best for: Alpine and sending climbing
While the Petzl Volta is too thin and light to be considered a good all-around climbing rope, it is an excellent candidate for an alpine and sending climbing rope. It is lightweight and supple thanks to Petzl’s Duratec Dry treatment. The Duratec Dry treatment is designed to make the Volta more resistant to abrasion, water and dirt and helps it to keep its grip and handling even when it is wet.
Its soft surface allows for a comfortable belay. The sheath is 42 percent, which lends itself nicely to longevity and durability for a rope of this size. You can buy the Petzl Volta in lengths ranging from 30 meters to 100 meters and has a middle mark for rappelling and lowering ease.
The Volta also features UltraSonic Finish, in which the core and sheath are bonded together at the ends which help to reduce fraying on the ends of the rope. It is also certified for single, half and twin uses. Petzl ropes are known for their great quality, which also means a higher price tag. This is an excellent lightweight rope for elite climbers and others who will use it for alpine and sending climbs.
STERLING EVOLUTION VELOCITY CLIMBING ROPE
Dimensions: 9.8 mm in diameter
Best for: Heavy climbing; sport, trad, ice, hard mixed climbing routes
The Sterling Evolution Velocity Climbing Rope is another very versatile climbing rope. Its 9.8 mm diameter means it is a strong rope with great durability. It is a smooth rope that passes over abrasive rock surfaces and passes through belay devices smoothly.
It has a UIAA force impact rating of 8.8 kN for a comfortable catch upon falling. While it could be considered a lightweight thick rope, it could also fall onto the heavy end of the versatile climbing rope spectrum. It’s a great rope for someone who is buying a climbing rope for the first time.
One thing worth noting is that this rope comes factory drum coiled, so it is important to uncoil and then properly coil the rope upon purchase. Otherwise, it can become very difficult to untangle.
BLUE WATER LIGHTNING PRO SINGLE ROPE
Dimensions: 9.7 mm diameter
Special features: Double Dry treatment
Best for: Sport climbing, trad climbing
The Blue Water Lightning Pro is another great, versatile rope. Its UIAA impact force comes in at 7.8 kN for a comfortable fall. This rope is manufactured with a Double Dry treatment to help keep the rope from absorbing water on rainy days. This also helps keep it supple for belaying.
Its sheath mass is 35% and is constructed with a double-pick design. Climbers like this rope because it is lightweight and allows for flexibility on routes, but is thick and durable enough to withstand falls and keep you safe. It is known for its easy handling and that it is easy to clip, as well.
One benefit of having a thicker rope is that it will withstand wear and tear better, especially when climbing on sharp and abrasive material. Like the Sterling Evolution Velocity, the Blue Water Lightning Pro also comes in a factory coil, so be sure to uncoil and recoil this rope to avoid difficult tangles. All in all, this is an excellent and highly recommended rope with a great ratio of durability to weight.
BEAL ANTIDOTE CLIMBING ROPE
Dimensions:10.2 mm in diameter
Special features: ThermoFluid rope construction, Black Limit middle marker
Best for: Sport climbing, indoor climbing, trad climbing
The Beal Antidote Climbing Ropes have a thick diameter but are still considered to be a relatively versatile climbing rope. Because it has a large diameter, it is more resistant to abrasion and wear and handles nicely while belaying. It has a Black Limit middle marker to denote the middle of the rope for rappelling and belaying, and it also received a 100% Nylon Bluesign label to indicate that it was made with great ecological construction for having no chemical treatments or dye.
With a UIAA impact force rating of 7.8 kN, the Beal Antidote has great impact absorption for a comfortable fall. It does not have a dry treatment, which could make it heavier in rainy weather, which is something to keep in mind if you plan to climb in wet weather. Its ThermoFluid rope construction helps to reduce sheath slippage and improve durability. With its thick diameter and solid construction, this rope is useful for a wide variety of climbing endeavors.
EDELWEISS CANYON STATIC 9.6 MM EVERDRY ROPE
Dimensions: 9.6 mm in diameter
Speacial features: EverDry technology
Best for: Canyoneering
The Edelweiss Canyon Static Everdry Rope functions well for the activity in its name: canyoneering. Its claim to fame is that it is treated with EverDry technology, which helps it with abrasion resistance and stays light when wet. When it is in water, the Edelweiss Canyon shrinks by only 1 percent.
This rope has a sheath made of polyamide and polyester, which contributes to its water resistance and abrasion resistance. The sheath percentage of this rope is 44%. At only 59 grams per meter, it is one of the more lightweight climbing ropes included in this review.
One concern with treated ropes such as this is that they can be slippery. This can be good for handling and belaying, but it can also contribute to slipping inside belay devices such as a gri-gri. This problem is usually eliminated over time, but it is something to watch out for when using a new treated rope. Overall, its light weight makes this a good choice for canyoneering and other climbing.
What we learned
Having a great climbing rope can make your climbing trip much more enjoyable because knowing your rope and how it works (as well as its limits) can give you peace of mind when climbing or belaying. Rope diameter and weight are important things to take into account because they affect the durability of your rope as well as how flexible you can be in its usage. Knowing how you plan to use your rope the most is the most important thing to take into account when choosing a rope.
If you have a favorite climbing rope that we did not include in this review, please let us know in the comments section!