Picking the right equipment and things for a climbing and rappelling adventure is as crucial to the overall experience as the activity itself. Those who go for the sport all know how important it is to pick out the best materials, climbing shoes, harness, anchors, helmet and most importantly, how to choose a climbing rope.
Without the rope, rappelling is simply not possible and climbing safely to the top is not possible. If you’re thinking that choosing a climbing rope is just about heading into a store and asking the shopkeeper for the best and most reasonably priced rope they have, you need to think again.
Not all climbing ropes are made the same. All climbing ropes have different types, lengths, diameters and features. You also should know how to choose a climbing rope that will work best for you and for the specific application you need it for.
If you are not very sure about exactly what it is you are looking for, you have come to the right place. We are going to tell you how to choose a climbing rope so you can make the best possible decision using the information we provide you.
How to Choose a Climbing Rope
1) The Diameter
The first thing you need to consider when you want to know how to choose a climbing rope is the diameter. Climbing ropes seem to be getting slimmer and slimmer. A decade ago, 11 mm thick ropes were pretty common for abseiling, but with better technology and construction techniques, ropes are relatively slimmer now.
10 mm thick ropes are pretty common now, but you can even get ropes as thin as 8.9 mm diameter. Likewise, twin ropes and double ropes have also become slimmer.
Ultra modern weaving techniques and better materials allow manufacturers to make thinner ropes, but the cords in the middle are where the real strength of the ropes lies. With a slimmer sheath, the rope does tend to become less durable no matter how well made the materials are.
This is the reason why choosing the diameter is a balancing act. You need to decide where you want to lean more towards: durability or light weight?
10 mm single ropes are good for everyday use. Ropes slimmer than that are better for redpoint burns, fast and light alpine descents and hard onsight attempts. These are all situations where the weight counts a lot.
It is harder to control the speed of skinnier ropes while the thicker ones provide a better grip and control with the compromise on weight. Choose depending on what kind of activity you’re going for. In case you need to improve your grip strength, we have reviewed the best grip strengtheners.
2) The Length
Next up is the length of the rope. It is an important part of how to choose a rope. The standard length of a rope used to be 50 meters and that is why the anchor stations in most sports areas were made in a way that you can lower off using 25 meter markers.
60 meter ropes and 70 meter ropes are becoming more common now and the anchors on the routes can be set to longer distances of 30 meters and 35 meters.
Using too short a rope is a risky ordeal. The first issue is that you might not be able to reach the anchors on the route. There is also the fact that the belayer might accidentally lower you off the end of the rope. Nobody wants that to happen.
Make sure you choose the length of the rope based on the route length and the distance of anchors. And of course, you need to make sure you tie off the ends of the rope so being belayed off the ends never happens, regardless.
3) Certifications – Single, Double and Twin Ropes
We mentioned single, double and twin ropes earlier. These are different certifications for climbing ropes and part of how to choose a climbing rope is to know about these certifications.
3.1) Single Ropes
Single ropes are around 9.5 mm to 11 mm thick in diameter, but they can be as slim as 89 mm. They are intended to be used as single strands, hence the name. You need to connect them to each and every piece of protection. They are the most common and most useful ropes for climbing.
3.2) Double Ropes
Also known as half ropes, they are always paired together and should never be used as a single rope. You need to alternate them while clipping them through the protective gear. Alpine routes and icy routes are the most popular situations where you need two ropes to rappel properly. They are typically 8 mm to 9 mm thick.
3.3) Twin Ropes
Not to be confused with double ropes, twin ropes are usually the slimmest one out of the different climbing ropes. They are also the lightest with the 7.5 mm thickness making it possible. Twin ropes are best used as a unit.
Essentially, you can consider it like using a double rope as a single rope – you clip it through every protection gear you have. You will find certain ropes that have been certified for use as single, double and twin ropes. It’s good to check the tags to get this information. For a better understanding, read our article on half ropes vs. twin ropes.
Black Diamond 7.9 MM Dry Climbing Rope
BlueWater Ropes 7.7mm Ice Floss Double Dry Dynamic Twin Rope
4) Weight per Meter
While you might assume that a skinnier rope will always be lighter, it is not the case all the time. A skinny rope which has a dense and tight weave will have a lot more weight than a fatter cord that has a loose weave.
The measure of the rope really is on the weight per meter measured in grams. It is one of the most vital aspects to consider when you want to know how to choose a climbing rope.
Final Thoughts on How to Choose a Climbing Rope
These were the main considerations on how to choose a climbing rope, but here are a few additional things you need to keep in mind to help you make the best possible decision:
- Static and Dynamic Ropes: Ropes are designed to stretch and absorb force. The static elongation is how much it stretches when you’re static and dangling while the dynamic elongation is the maximum impact force. It shows how much a rope can stretch to absorb energy. You want a rope that can stretch enough to absorb sufficient impact, but not too much that you lose control and hit something while you try to stop suddenly. Learn the difference between static vs. dynamic ropes.
- Dry Coating: A treatment to repel water and lubricate the rope fiber to make the climbing ropes more durable as well. Here is our article for choosing non-dry ropes vs. dry ropes.
- Falls Held: A rope needs to withstand a series of test falls before it is given approval. These tests put the rope through the worst-case scenarios a climber can be found in. It is one of the important factors to consider with the elongation (static and dynamic) along with the impact force they can bear.
- Climbing Rope Pattern and Color: there are climbing ropes with two different patterns and colors. Here is what you need to know about bi-pattern climbing ropes.
Hopefully, you will be able to make a better informed decision because of these tips on how to choose a climbing rope. Remember that the most expensive rope doesn’t necessarily mean the best one for you.
Choose using these factors and you will get the best rope for yourself. And one final tip for sustaining a long life for your rope is to learn how to properly wash your climbing rope.
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