the ultimate guide to the best climbing ropes

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Climbing Ropes

Whether you are a seasoned trad climber, an ice climber, or just starting with gym climbing, a good climbing rope is your lifeline. Your dynamic climbing rope is what keeps you connected to the mountain, allowing you to lead climb with confidence. Understanding what makes a gym climbing rope reliable and robust is paramount for a safe climbing experience.

Why Climbing Ropes Matter

The best rock climbing ropes around, whether single ropes, half ropes, or twin ropes, give you the freedom to push your limits confidently. A rope’s features can enhance your rock climbing or alpine climbing experience, regardless if you’re working with thin ropes, thick ropes, or anything in between.

Essential Climbing Rope Features

The first climbing rope and features you consider are integral to its efficacy. When pondering over your climbing gear checklist, pay heed to the types of climbing ropes, diameter, dry treated ropes, and the middle mark.

Types of Climbing Ropes

Single ropes are your go-to for most sport climbing and gym climbing situations. They’re the only rope you’ll need for a simple belay device setup. Half ropes, also known as double ropes, offer more flexibility and can reduce rope drag on multi-pitch routes with lots of traversing. Twin ropes are treated as one rope when clipping gear, making them a favorite among ice and alpine climbers.

Single, Twin, and Half Ropes: Understanding the Differences

Climbing ropes are available in three main types: single, twin, and half (also known as double) ropes. Choosing between these depends on the kind of climbing you’ll be doing.

Single Ropes

Ideal for top roping, lead climbing, or big wall climbing, single ropes are workhorse ropes. The 9.5 crag is an excellent example of a dynamic single rope suited for a variety of climbing scenarios.

Single ropes are the most common type of climbing rope. They are designed to be used alone, with both the climber and belayer managing one strand of rope. Single ropes are versatile and suitable for a variety of climbing styles, including gym climbing, sport climbing, and top roping.

Single ropes range in diameter from around 9mm to 10.5mm, with thicker ropes typically offering more durability and thinner ropes providing less weight and drag.

When using a single rope, protection is placed in a linear fashion and the rope is clipped through each piece as the climber ascends.

Half Ropes

Half ropes, also referred to as top rope stretches skinny ropes, are excellent for multi-pitch climbing. They help reduce rope drag and provide an extra safety net by providing two independent points of attachment.

Half ropes, also known as double ropes, are used in pairs, but unlike twin ropes, they are clipped independently into separate pieces of protection. This means that one of a half rope might clip into protection on the left side of a route, while the other is clipped into protection on the right.

This method reduces rope drag on wandering routes and allows for longer rappels. It also provides redundancy—if one rope is damaged, the two other ropes can serve as a backup. Half ropes are usually around 8mm to 9mm in diameter.

Climbers often use half ropes for trad climbing, alpine climbing, and other climbs with zigzagging routes or sharp rock that could potentially cut a rope.

Always remember that the type of rope you choose should align with your specific climbing style, safety needs, and personal preference.

Twin Ropes

Twin ropes are a lightweight rope option loved by alpine climbers. They’re clipped together into two ropes with gear, providing redundancy and decreasing the chance of rope damage from sharp edges.

Twin ropes are a pair of identical ropes used together as a single unit. When climbing with twin ropes, both ropes are clipped through every piece of protection, just as you would with a single rope. This system adds redundancy, meaning that if one rope is damaged, the other serves as a backup.

Twin ropes are typically thinner (usually 7mm to 8mm) and lighter than single ropes, which makes them a good option for long multi-pitch routes, ice climbing, and mountaineering where weight is a crucial factor.

The Diameter and Length

Your climbing rope’s diameter and length influence its weight, durability, and handling. Thicker ropes like the robust 10mm offer more durability and a soft catch but come with a weight penalty. Skinny rope varieties, such as a 9mm, are lighter but may not offer the same longevity.

Dry Treated Ropes

When you’re outdoor climbing or ice climbing, a dry treated rope is an essential piece of your climbing gear. A dry treatment resists water and dirt, which can prolong your rope’s life.

See also  What Events Competitions For Rock Climbing are?

Middle Mark

A middle mark on your rope helps measure distances and aids in rappelling. It’s a simple yet vital feature, especially when you’re halfway up a route and need to know the middle of the rope.

The Top 5 Climbing Ropes

Selecting the best climbing rope depends on the type of climbing you do. Here are five excellent options, suitable for a range of scenarios, from trad rock climbing rope, to ice and alpine climbing, or even beginner climbing rope needs.

Mammut Infinity Dry

This climbing rope shines when it comes to durability and handling. It’s a dynamic and durable rope with dry treatment, ensuring peak performance even in wet conditions.

Petzl Volta

Lightweight and robust, the Petzl Volta is the skinny rope that performs excellently in rock climbing and mountaineering. Its versatility and durability make it a top pick.

Black Diamond 9.9mm

The Black Diamond 9.9mm is the ideal beginner climbing rope. It’s a thick rope that offers fantastic durability and handling without breaking the bank.

Beal Booster III

The Beal Booster III is a skinny rope that doesn’t compromise on durability. This half rope is excellent for sport climbing and trad climbing, given its excellent handling properties.

Sterling Evolution Velocity

This climbing rope is a go-to for many climbers. It strikes a perfect balance between durability, lightweight, and smooth handling.

Caring for Your Climbing Rope

A well-looked-after climbing rope lasts longer. Proper storage, regular inspection, and mindful usage all add to your rope’s lifespan.

Proper Storage

Store your climbing rope in a cool, dry place, away from harsh chemicals and sunlight.

Regular Inspection

Check your rope for any signs of damage or unusual wear and tear regularly.

How to Choose the Diameter of a Climbing Rope

Choosing the right diameter for a climbing rope largely depends on your specific climbing style and requirements. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

1. Your Climbing Type

Different types of climbing call for different rope diameters.

  • Sport and Gym Climbing: If you’re primarily into sport or gym climbing, a rope with a larger diameter (9.5mm – 10.5mm) is typically recommended. These thicker ropes are more durable and can handle the frequent falls typically associated with these climbing styles.
  • Trad and Multi-pitch Climbing: For traditional (trad) climbing or multi-pitch routes, a medium diameter rope (9mm – 9.5mm) often provides a balance between durability and weight.
  • Alpine, Ice Climbing, and Mountaineering: For alpine, ice climbing, and mountaineering, a thinner, lightweight rope (8mm – 9mm) is usually preferred due to its lighter weight. For these styles, climbers often use half or twin ropes, which are even thinner.

2. Your Experience Level

Beginners might prefer thicker ropes (10mm and above) as they’re more durable and easier to handle. As you gain more experience and confidence, you might move to thinner ropes that are lighter and easier to manage over long distances or for complex manoeuvres.

3. The Rope’s Purpose

Are you buying a workhorse rope for regular climbing or a specialist rope for specific climbs? Workhorse ropes, typically thicker (9.5mm – 10.5mm), are designed for durability. Specialist ropes, often thinner, are designed for specific purposes like lightness for alpine climbing or reduced rope drag in trad climbing.

Remember, no one rope will be perfect for all situations. Over time, you may end up with different ropes for different climbing styles and situations.

Best Practices for Using Climbing Ropes

Even with the best climbing rope, safety and effectiveness rely heavily on proper usage. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind.

Proper Belay Technique

Using your belay device correctly is crucial for safety. Understand how to give and take slack efficiently and how to catch a fall. Always pay attention when you’re belaying, as your partner’s safety depends on you.

Avoid Sharp Edges

Sharp edges can damage your climbing rope over time. Whenever possible, try to reduce contact with sharp rock edges or features, especially when the rope is under tension.

Minimize Falls

While climbing ropes are designed to withstand falls, frequent hard falls can deteriorate the rope faster. Learn how to fall to minimize impact forces and try to limit unnecessary falls when using outdoor climbing ropes.

Proper Rope Coiling

How you coil your rope can affect its lifespan. The butterfly coil and the mountaineer’s coil are two methods that help reduce kinks and knots in your rope.

The Role of Climbing Rope in Rescue Scenarios

In emergency situations, such as when a climber is injured, your climbing rope can be an invaluable rescue tool. Knowing some basic rope rescue techniques, like how to ascend a rope, make a haul system, or perform a crevasse rescue, can be life-saving skills.

See also  Tips for Climbing Photography

Exploring Other Types of Climbing

Once you’re comfortable with one type of climbing, consider branching out. If you’ve been sport climbing, try some trad climbing, or if you’ve been working on single pitch climbs, try a multi-pitch route. Each type of climbing presents unique challenges and learning opportunities.


Climbing ropes are much more than a lifeline. They’re an integral part of your climbing experience and can even open up new opportunities in the types of climbing you can try. Invest in a rope that suits your needs, take care of it, and most importantly, climb safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the best diameter for a climbing rope?

The best diameter for a climbing rope depends on the type of climbing you’re doing. If you’re a beginner or doing top roping, a thicker rope, around 9.5mm to 10.5mm, would be ideal due to its durability. For sport climbing or trad climbing, a diameter between 8.9mm to 9.4mm offers a good balance between weight and durability. For ice and alpine climbing, skinny ropes around 8mm to 8.9mm would be appropriate because they are lightweight and manageable.

  1. How long should my climbing rope be?

The length of your climbing rope depends on the climbing routes you will undertake. For gym climbing, ropes between 35m to 40m are usually adequate. For outdoor sport climbing, you might need a rope between 60m to 70m. For big wall climbing or alpine routes, ropes up to 80m or longer might be necessary. Always ensure your rope is long enough to safely lower or rappel from the route you’re climbing.

  1. How often should I replace my climbing rope?

The lifespan of a climbing rope varies based on frequency and type of use, as well as how well it’s cared for. As a general rule, if you climb regularly (multiple times a week), you should look at replacing your rope every one to two years. However, if you notice any severe abrasion, cuts in the sheath, soft or hard spots, changes in diameter, or other signs of damage, replace it immediately.

  1. What is dry treatment on a climbing rope?

Dry treatment is a special process that manufacturers apply to a climbing rope to make it resistant to water and dirt. This process helps protect the rope from getting heavy and stiff when it gets wet and can also increase its lifespan. Dry treatment is particularly useful for ice and alpine climbing, but it can be beneficial for all types of climbing to prevent moisture damage.

  1. Can I use a single rope for all my climbs?

While single ropes are versatile and can be used in many climbing situations, they might not be the best option for every climb. For instance, in multi-pitch climbing or routes with lots of traversing or sharp edges, using half ropes or twin ropes can be beneficial for reducing rope drag and providing redundancy. Always assess the type of climbing and the specific route conditions when choosing your rope.

Is a 70m rope worth it?

A 70m rope is worth it if you’re climbing long sport routes or multi-pitch routes where a shorter rope might not suffice. The additional rope length allows you to climb and descend longer pitches safely.

  1. How many mm should a climbing rope be?

The diameter of a climbing rope should typically range from 8mm to 10.5mm, depending on the type of climbing. For beginners, sport climbers, and gym climbers, a diameter of 9.5mm to 10.5mm offers good durability. For trad, alpine, or ice climbing, a skinny rope diameter of 8mm to 9mm provides lightweight handling.

  1. How many meters of climbing rope do I need?

The length of rope you need depends on the type of climbing you’re doing. For gym climbing or trad climbers, a rope between 35m to 40m is usually sufficient. For outdoor climbing or multi-pitch climbing, a 60m to 70m rope is more suitable. For big wall or alpine routes, a rope up to 80m or longer may be necessary.

  1. What is the hiking rope called?

Hiking or trekking does not usually have dynamic climbing ropes or involve the use of a specific rope. However, in situations involving steep terrain, fixed ropes may be used for safety. For mountaineering or glacier travel, dynamic ropes are typically used.

  1. What rope holds up best outdoors?

Dry treated ropes hold up best outdoors as they are resistant to water and dirt, which can prolong their lifespan. Dry treatment is particularly useful for outdoor, ice, and alpine climbing.

  1. What kind of rope is used on Everest?
See also  How Tight Should Climbing Shoes Be?

Mountaineers typically use dynamic ropes when climbing Everest. These ropes have the ability to stretch under load, reducing the impact force generated in a fall.

  1. How do you tell if a rope is dynamic or static?

The packaging or product details of a rope usually specify whether it’s dynamic or a static rope. Dynamic ropes are designed to stretch and absorb the impact of a climber fall, while static ropes have minimal stretch and are used for rappelling and rescue situations.

  1. How do you cut a climbing rope without fraying it?

Use a hot knife or a heated blade to cut a climbing rope. The heat will melt the nylon fibers, preventing them from fraying.

  1. Can you cut a climbing rope shorter?

Yes, you can cut a climbing rope shorter, especially if a section of the rope is damaged. However, it’s essential to seal the cut ends with heat to prevent fraying.

  1. When should I cut my climbing rope?

You should consider cutting your climbing rope when there is visible damage, such as fraying, cuts, or changes in the rope’s texture. Always inspect the damaged part carefully. If the damage is near one end, it might be more practical to cut and seal the rope rather than replacing it.

  1. How do you cut and fuse a climbing rope?

To cut and fuse a climbing rope, use a hot knife or heated blade. The heat melts the nylon fibers, creating a seal that prevents the rope from fraying. Always exercise caution when using hot tools.

  1. How do I choose a sports climbing rope?

When choosing a sports climbing rope, consider factors such as its diameter, length, and whether it is dry treated. Typically, a good sports climbing rope has a diameter between 9.4mm to 10.2mm and a length of 60m to 70m. A dry treated rope can also be beneficial, particularly for outdoor sport climbing.

  1. Do I need a dry rope for sport climbing?

While a dry rope isn’t necessary for sport climbing, it can provide benefits. Dry treated ropes resist water and dirt, which can enhance the rope’s lifespan, especially when climbing outdoors.

  1. How much rope do I need for sport climbing?

For most sport climbing routes, a 60m or 70m rope should be sufficient. However, always check the specific requirements for the route you plan to climb.

  1. Is sport climbing the same as top roping?

Sport climbing and top roping are not the same. Sport climbing involves lead climbing where the climber clips their rope into pre-placed bolts on the wall as they ascend. Top roping, on the other hand, involves climbing a route with the rope already set up through an anchor at the top.

  1. What rope does Chris Sharma use?

Chris Sharma, a professional rock climber, often uses ropes provided by his sponsors. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, he was sponsored by Sterling Rope.

  1. What rope does Adam Ondra use?

Adam Ondra, one of the world’s leading climbers, uses ropes provided by his sponsors. As of my last update in September 2021, he was sponsored by Black Diamond Equipment.

  1. Which rope is good for climbing?

The best rope for climbing depends on the type of climbing you’re doing, your skill level, and personal preference. However, some top contenders often recommended by climbers include the Mammut 9.5 Crag Classic Rope, the Sterling Evolution Velocity, and the Petzl Volta.

  1. What is a triple-rated rope?

A triple-rated rope is certified as a single, half, and twin rope. This means it meets the safety standards for all three categories, making it highly versatile for different climbing scenarios.

  1. What rope does Tommy Caldwell use?

Tommy Caldwell, a famous rock climber, uses ropes from his sponsor. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, he was sponsored by Edelrid, and the Tommy Caldwell Pro Dry DT was a rope designed with his input.

  1. How do I choose a mountaineering rope?

When choosing a mountaineering rope, consider factors like the rope’s weight, dry treatment, and whether it’s a single, half, or twin rope. A lighter, dry treated rope is typically preferable for mountaineering. Whether you choose a single, half, or twin rope will depend on the specific demands of your climb.

  1. What is rope rock climbing called?

Rope rock climbing is often called “sport climbing,” “trad climbing,” or “top roping,” depending on the specifics of how the rope is used in the climb.

  1. How do you rock climb ropes?

Rock climbing with ropes involves various techniques depending on the type of climbing. These can range from tying into a harness, belaying another climber, leading a route, or setting up a top rope. It’s essential to learn these techniques from a certified instructor or experienced climber for safety.

Similar Posts