How to Choose Climbing Rope: An Expert Guide

How to Choose Climbing Rope
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

The climbing rope is your most important piece of climbing equipment. A good climbing rope is the first thing that is going to take your climbing addiction from a brief pulling workout into a full on obsession. They are the strand that links together the entire safety chain and the thread that saves your life when you fall.

When you start climbing, you may be surprised by the large selection of ropes. We carry rope for rock, caves, ice, rescue, and more. Figuring out how to choose climbing rope is going to depend on your personal uses and needs.

Different climbing ropes

Different styles of rope are better suited for different types of climbs. With so much riding on this piece of equipment, it’s very vital to choose the most appropriate one for the kind of climbing you’re doing. There are different climbing ropes on the market today, all of which come in various categories. Here’s how to choose a rope that will suit your climbing style and goals. Check out our earlier piece on how to select the right kind of rope for you outdoor needs.

Types of Rope

There are two main types of ropes: dynamic and static. A dynamic rope is designed to stretch or elongate to absorb the impact of a falling climber. It’s very vital to ensure that you buy a dynamic climbing rope because static ropes will not absorb energy and also leave your body to take the full force of the fall.

See also: Best Climbing Rope: Choosing a Rope for Both Performance and Safety

For all types of climbing such as sports climbing, lead climbing, and trad climbing you will need a dynamic rope. If you are looking for a dynamic rope for climbing, you’ll have three choices: single, half/double, and twin ropes. The choice between single, half/double, twin, and static ropes determined by what type of climbing you do.

Single Ropes

Single ropes are the most popular type of climbing ropes and they are suitable to be used for a wide range of climbing disciplines. They are strong and simple to use for both lead climber and belayer and single ropes typically come in 9.2- to 10.2-mm diameters. Single ropes are ideal when the route follows a fairly straight line, so choose one for indoor walls, sports climbing, and short straight-up trad climbs.

Twin Ropes

Twin ropes are a two-rope system and both ropes are treated as the single rope in which both climbing ropes are clipped into each piece of protection.  Making use of two ropes prevents the horrifying possibility of a rope being cut over a sharp edge.

Using twin ropes

Twin climbing rope has all the disadvantages of a single climbing rope. It is probably the least commonly used of the three dynamic choices of rope. They are the thinnest ropes of all, going down to 7.5 mm in diameter.

Half/Double Ropes

This is a two-rope system where the climber is tied into both ropes and clips into protection with either rope. These ropes are typically 8- to 9-mm thick. The purpose of using two ropes in this manner is to mitigate or completely eliminate rope drag on wandering pitches. Double/half climbing rope systems are very popular with alpine climbers and mountaineers.

Static Ropes

Static ropes are very efficient in situations where you don’t want the rope to stretch, such as when you are lowering an injured climber, hauling a load up with the rope or ascending a rope. Never use static ropes for lead climbing or top roping because they don’t stretch and it will not absorb any forces in a fall scenario and could lead to serious injury.

Features to Consider

Climbing rope is one of the most important parts of your climbing gear. Most people face a real challenge in choosing the best climbing rope or the one that best fits their needs.

Rope features to look for

When you’re shopping for climbing rope, make sure you keep all these important features in mind so that you can get exactly what you’re looking for. For more information on how to climb a rope, check out this piece to find out.


The diameter of your rope is going to dictate which activities you’ll be engaging in. Novices should stick to thicker ropes that can do everything they throw at them. Ensure you know what range of rope diameters your belay device is approved to work with and don’t stray outside those parameters.

Thicker ropes are more resistant to abrasion and probably last longer overall. Large diameter ropes are heavy but very durable, making them a good choice for top-roping and early lead climbs. Skinnier ropes are light and have low impact forces, making them best suited for alpine, ice and hard sport on sights.

At the local crag, if you are top-roping you will possibly want a thicker rope. If you are hiking for multi-pitch climbs, you will want a skinnier and lighter rope. Skinner ropes feel smoother, clip more easily, and cut down on pack weight.


Ropes come in a variety of lengths ranging from 30 meters all the way up to 80 meters lengths but 60 meters is considered to be the standard and today, these are still the most common, and are able to get you up and down lots of routes.

Climbing rope length

What you need to take into account when deciding on a rope length is the area that you climb as well as if you are going to be setting up base-managed top rope sites or doing a lot of rappelling and also think realistically about how you spend most of your time climbing and pick the length that suits you best. If you’re not sure of the length, it would be best to consult experienced climbers as well as a guidebook for recommendations.


The overall weight of a climbing rope is determined by the length and diameter. A skinny rope is usually a lightweight rope than a thicker rope, but not always.

Core construction is the factor that can make a skinny rope weighty than a thick rope. The real measure of rope is its weight per meter, listed in grams.

Specific Features

Look for these features when you are comparing climbing ropes that suit your needs. They can improve your performance and ease of use.

Dry treatment

Ropes perform very differently when wet and can lose a significant amount of dynamic strength. A substantial weight is added to a thoroughly soaked rope but it is best to keep your rope away from water. However, moisture cannot be avoided all the time.

Rope dry treatment

Sudden rain showers or ice climbing can get your rope wet. To prevent a rope from absorbing moisture, a dry treatment may be a water-repellent coating applied to the outside of a rope, which will diminish sooner or later. The best dry treatments seal both the core and the sheath.

Dry-treated ropes are considered to be more costly than non-dry-treated ropes so you have to decide whether or not you need dry treatment rope. Dry treating has more advantages beyond simply keeping a rope dry. These coating reduce friction and also lessen rope drag and extends lifespan.

Middle mark

This is a simple mark, usually made with black dye to help climbers easily and quickly identify the middle of the rope for various applications. Being able to identify the middle of your rope is essential when rappelling. Rope manufacturers will often mark the middle with a black ink that doesn’t wear the sheath out but fades with use.

This is another important factor affecting the price and functionality of climbing ropes. There are also after-market rope markers you can apply yourself, but whatever you do don’t use a sharpie.


Bicolor rope employs two distinct colors or patterns on either half; meaning there is a change in weave pattern that differentiates the two halves of the rope and creates a permanent, easy to determine middle mark. Bicolour ropes may tend to be more expensive but are more effective way to the black dye mark because dye can fade and become difficult to see, so it’s best to have an identifier that will last through exposure to the elements.

End warning marks

Some climbing ropes include black dye or thread indicating that you are reaching the end of the rope. This can be very useful when you are rappelling or lowering a climber to the ground. This feature is intended for safety purposes, and should definitely be considered.

Safety Ratings

The safety standards for climbing ropes were developed by The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme, and all climbing ropes are tested in independent labs to ensure that they meet these standards and all climbing rope must adhere.  It is these ratings that will help you determine the best climbing rope for the kind of climbing you’ll be engaging in.

Look at these ratings when you thinking about what type of climbing rope to choose. A certified piece of climbing or mountaineering gears must carry a UIAA Safety Label, which shows that the gears compliance with UIAA standards. Elongation percentages, fall rating, sheath slippage, and impact force are all in line with the UIAA’s requirements.

Rope safety ratings

Look at these ratings when you thinking about what type of climbing rope to choose. A certified piece of climbing or mountaineering gears must carry a UIAA Safety Label, which shows that the gears compliance with UIAA standards. Elongation percentages, fall rating, sheath slippage, and impact force are all in line with the UIAA’s requirements.

UIAA Fall Rating

This is the number of falls a rope can withstand before it fails entirely. Lab falls create much greater force than most real-world climbing falls, so you can rest assured that these ropes are durable. The falls they simulate are unlike the falls you might experience, but the number is still useful for comparison: the higher the “falls held” number, the more durable the rope is.

Therefore, a rope must pass the UIAA minimum 5 fall requirement and we believe this number is very important. All ropes that meet the UIAA fall rating standard are safe for climbing.

Static Elongation

This is the amount of stretch that occurs in a rope when 80Kg weight is tied to its end. Elongation on single and twin ropes cannot surpass 10 percent of the total rope length and half ropes cannot surpass 12 percent. Look for a static elongation around 7 percent. These are important figures for those who are interested in top-rope climbing, carrying gear, and climbing with the use of ascenders on fixed ropes.

Dynamic Elongation

This is the amount of stretch that occurs during a UIAA test fall. Higher elongation equals longer fall and lower impact forces. Lower elongation equals a shorter fall with higher impact forces. Lower numbers are better because this means that climber that is falling won’t hit the ground or a ledge.

Collecting climbing rope

This also means that there is more impact to the climber, the belayer, and the gear. To balance these requirements, dynamic elongation has been limited to no more than 40 percent by the UIAA.

Impact Force

This is referred to the amount of force placed on a falling weight during the first UIAA test fall, measured in Kilonewtons. More elongation equates to a low impact force.

Balance must be met between elongation and impact force. You should look for a rope with a low impact force, because it absorbs more energy and put less stress on you, your gear, and the person belaying.

Sheath Slippage

The sheath of a rope is independent of its core and can slip if the rope is not produced correctly. The core does the hard work and the sheath protects it. It is possible to vary the relative size of core and sheath to attain different performance. For any given diameter of rope, those with a thicker sheath will be more durable and better resistance to cutting while a too-thick sheath can make the rope unpleasant to handle.


Climbing in a great outdoor but can be quite dangerous, so it’s important that you reinforce your safety as much as possible with the right kind of gear. As far as rock climbing gear goes, the ropes that are anchored in place to prevent a fall are just as important as other types of gear. Avoid both minor mishaps and major accidents by simply choosing the right climbing rope. To find out more about climbing ropes, read our article on this topic for reference.

Choosing your climbing rope

If this is your first time climbing, then it’s best to see the expertise to help you choose the right rope. We are confident that, with all the things you have learned here, finding a perfect climbing rope won’t be a problem for you again. If you have anything to share with us you can leave your comment below.


Bradley Page

Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!