Any piece of climbing gear has the potential to become a cherished relic, but perhaps none carries as many good memories as a trusty old rope. It’s your lifeline on everything from beginning top ropes to full-on alpine epics. A rope is your strongest piece of equipment, and in some ways, your most vulnerable. When you decide to buy a climbing rope, whether it’s your first or fifteenth, it’s worth considering how you plan to use the rope, what technologies are available, and what companies are at your disposal. Below are the best climbing ropes of 2018, and for more background information, see our detailed comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
 

1. Mammut Infinity Dry 70m ($270)

Mammut Infinity Dry climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, multi-pitch
Diameter: 9.5mm
Weight: 59 g/m
UIAA falls: 6-7
What we like: Great size, performance, and durability.
What we don’t: Doesn't have the silkiest sheath.

Had Goldilocks been a climber, she might have lamented about ropes, “this one’s too thin, this one’s too fat.” But when she came to the Mammut Infinity Dry, she would have snuggled up beside it and said, “this one’s just right.” Indeed, there’s almost nothing not to like about one of the best rope manufacturer’s best ropes. At 9.5mm, it hits that sweet spot between too heavy and too flimsy. It’ll last a lot longer than skinnier lines at one end of the spectrum, but it won’t drag you down on tough clips high off the deck like a 10mm line. And while the same could be said for any 9.5mm rope, the Infinity is not just any 9.5mm rope. It is one of the best.

Mammut ropes are known for their durability and longevity, and the Infinity is no exception. It’s not the silkiest rope out there, but the overall feel of this line is one of smoothness and suppleness. Mammut’s dry treatment, which meets UIAA standards for water repellency, also is super effective for a surprisingly long time. As the rope that puts it all together best—price, durability, and feel—we give the Mammut Infinity Dry our top spot for 2018... Read in-depth review
See the Mammut Infinity Dry

 

2. Sterling Evolution Velocity 70m ($269)

Sterling Rope Evolution Velocity 9.8mm climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, gym, top roping
Diameter: 9.8mm
Weight: 62 g/m
UIAA falls: 6
What we like: A time-tested workhorse from a great company.
What we don’t: There are cheaper 9.8’s.

Sterling has been making world-class climbing ropes for decades, and the Evolution line is one of their most successful. For good reason: these ropes just seem to last forever. The Velocity is our favorite rope in the Evolution series, and at 9.8mm, it’s a real workhorse. We used to turn to 10mm lines for projecting and everyday cragging abuse, but not anymore. This 9.8 lasts as long as any 10 we’ve used while never feeling quite as heavy.

The Velocity hits a real sweet spot for most climbers. It’s a great buy for beginners who don’t necessarily have all the tricks of the trade when it comes to caring for and maintaining a rope. At the same time, it’s a solid purchase for the seasoned veteran working his or her 5.13 project. It’s not the cheapest rope out there for the diameter, but it lasts a long time. And you have to feel good about supporting one of the only rope companies that manufacture their products here in the U.S.
See the Sterling Evolution Velocity

 

3. Beal Joker Golden Dry 70m ($300)

Beal Joker Golden Dry climbing ropeBest uses: Alpine climbing, redpointing
Diameter: 9.1mm
Weight: 53 g/m
UIAA falls: 5-6
What we like: Unicore technology is incredible; super lightweight.
What we don’t: A bit more specialized than a 9.4-9.8.

Whether you’re headed to the alpine or need an extra lightweight boost to send your project, the Beal Joker is our top pick for you. There are skinnier lines on our list, but the Joker provides the just-right combination of low weight and reliability. Though a true 9.1, it doesn’t have the shoestring feel that other skinny ropes tend to, and the added assurance provided by the Unicore technology doesn’t hurt. If you need proof, just watch this mind-blowing video.

What the Beal Joker is not is an everyday cragging line. It can be tempting to think that an expensive and high-performance rope is great for all applications, but this simply is not the case. The Joker has a lower fall rating than most (meaning it likely will not last as long) and stretches further during a fall than thicker lines. But for the right purposes, the soft and supple Joker is hard to beat. And for the Joker’s 9.4 counterpart, check out the Beal Stinger below.
See the Beal Joker Golden Dry

 

4. Edelrid Boa Standard 70m ($170)

Edelrid Boa Standard climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, gym, top roping
Diameter: 9.8mm
Weight: 62 g/m
UIAA falls: 6
What we like: Incredibly affordable, rather durable.
What we don’t: No dry treatment.

It’s often worth spending a little more for quality, but with climbing ropes, this isn’t always the case. It’s true, some ropes (like the Infinity) seem to do objectively better in terms of durability. Other times, you just get unlucky and your rope coreshots from running over a tough edge, a bad fall, or getting stuck while rapping. These things happen, and when they do, it doesn’t make a difference how nice your rope is. A coreshot in the middle means retirement for a rope 100% of the time.

If you’re looking for an affordable rope that you can feel a little bit better abusing in everyday cragging, the Boa is a great choice. There’s nothing fancy about it, but it simply gets the job done. The comfortably low price tag will ease your shopper’s anxiety, and you will be happy to know that we’ve actually found Edelrid ropes to last a fair bit longer than some of the more expensive competitors. It will get soft and squishy, the sheath will get fuzzy, and the light color will turn black from running through carabiners and belay devices. But cosmetics aside, this rope is a great value.
See the Edelrid Boa Standard

 

5. Maxim Airliner 2X Dry 70m ($299)

Maxim Airliner 2X Dry climbing ropeBest uses: Alpine climbing, redpointing
Diameter: 9.1mm
Weight: 55 g/m
UIAA falls: ≥5
What we like: Best sheath out there.
What we don’t: Low fall rating and high price.

This Maxim Airliner is one of most expensive ropes on the list, and it’s not a coincidence that it’s been bumped off the podium. Is the Airliner an incredible line? Oh yeah. Let’s put it this way, Alex Honnold has his name behind this rope (a portion of all proceeds go to his foundation’s efforts to provide solar power to communities in need). If we had unlimited funds and could choose one rope to use all the time, this might be it—the sheath is just that silky smooth. But most people don’t have that luxury, and the price is what keeps the Airliner from ranking higher.

For a $300 rope, we’d love to see more than 5 UIAA falls, although if it’s like other Maxim products, the Airliner may outlast that UIAA rating. That said, this rope is expensive for the rating, lacks the premium Unicore construction that you get with the Beal Joker, and is a bit heavier to boot. And we’ve said this before but we’ll say it again: a skinny line is a specialty line, not an all-rounder (unless you have those unlimited funds). But don’t get us wrong: if money isn’t a concern, you’ll certainly be happy with this Lexus of a climbing rope.
See the Maxim Airliner 2X Dry

 

6. Beal Tiger Unicore GoldenDry 70m ($300)

Beal Tiger Unicore GoldenDry ropeBest uses: Cragging, top roping
Diameter: 10mm
Weight: 61 g/m
UIAA falls: 7-8
What we like: Acts like a 10mm, feels like a 9.7mm.
What we don’t: You might be paying for features you don’t need.

We won’t try and hide it: we love Beal ropes, and we’re not alone. In fact, we have yet to meet anyone who isn’t psyched on their Beal line, whether it’s a 9.1 Joker or the 10mm Tiger. And although 10mm ropes quickly are going out of style, the Tiger still is relevant. Why? It simply feels skinnier than it is, has a staggeringly low impact force for its diameter, and doesn’t grow fat and fuzzy with age. In fact, at 61 g/m, the Tiger is as light as the 9.7mm BlueWater Lightning.

Sure, you could save some hard-earned money and opt for a rope like the Edelrid Boa above, which would be a great choice if you climb primarily in dry conditions at the crag. But for the extra cash, the Tiger offers the added strength of Unicore technology and a bump in durability from Beal’s GoldenDry treatment. Add it all up and the Tiger is a one-size-fits-all workhorse that will serve you well from crag to big wall.
See the Beal Tiger Unicore GoldenDry

 

7. Beal Stinger Unicore GoldenDry 70m ($290)

Beal Stinger Unicore GoldenDry ropeBest uses: Cragging, multi-pitch
Diameter: 9.4mm
Weight: 59 g/m
UIAA falls: 7
What we like: One of our favorite all-around ropes.
What we don’t: Expensive.

The Beal Stinger Unicore falls in the same category as the Mammut Infinity Dry above and Petzl Arial below. In fact, these three ropes are all so similar that they can be tough to decipher. With a respectable weight, a sweet-spot diameter, GoldenDry treatment, and Beal’s Unicore technology, the Stinger is a premium all-rounder and a nice choice for those wanting a one-rope quiver.

The most notable shortcoming of the Beal Stinger is the extra $20 you’ll be spending over the Mammut Infinity. You’ll likely be happy with either, and if you’re a big fan of Unicore technology, the higher price may be worth it. For those looking for a durable cragging line that also is at home swinging leads up Mt. Whitney, accompanying you on your red point, or staying dry in the ice park in Ouray, the Beal Stinger is one of the top ropes money can buy.
See the Beal Stinger Unicore GoldenDry

 

8. BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro Double Dry 70m ($225)

BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro Double Dry climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, top roping
Diameter: 9.7mm
Weight: 61 g/m
UIAA falls: 8
What we like: Super supple, handles well, 8 UIAA falls, affordable.
What we don’t: Can get floppy, no middle mark,

It’s something of a shame to throw the Bluewater Lightning Pro this far down on the list. In some ways, it is every bit as good as our #2 choice, the Sterling Evolution Velocity. It handles well, it’s a great diameter and super strong (at 8 UIAA falls, it’s more durable than any rope above it on the list), and it’s got a pretty durable sheath. More, it’s comparable in cost, and about the same in weight and diameter. So why does it fall down to the #8 spot?

The Lightning Pro does last, insofar as the sheath doesn’t wear out and the core stays springy. However, what happens in a very short time is that it starts to get floppy. This can translate into a few things: tougher clipping, more wear and tear on sharp edges and in any sort of toothed tractioning device, and quicker wearing at the ends of the rope where the knot gets tied (not to mention tougher knots to untie). Now, all of that is pretty esoteric and not problematic enough to kick it off the list. But in the end, we’ve found slightly more rigid ropes like the Velocity to be preferable over time.
See the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro

 

9. Mammut Eternity Classic 70m ($180)

Mammut Eternity Classic ropeBest uses: Cragging, top roping, gym
Diameter: 9.8mm
Weight: 61 g/m
UIAA falls: 8-9
What we like: Quality at a low cost.
What we don’t: Not a high performance rope.

Before we say anything else, check out the price tag and fall ratings on this rope. That’s right: for $180, you can get a line made by one of the best manufacturers in the game with one of the highest fall ratings on our list. Sure, the Eternity Classic is not dry treated, nor is it exceptionally lightweight. But for less than $200, it’s a well-made and supple line that will take a beating climb after climb.

It’s important to note that dry treatment doesn’t just keep water out, it protects the rope from dirt and dust as well. To have a long life, a rope without dry treatment requires a bit of extra care and attention, meaning a rope bag or tarp and routine washings. If gear maintenance and money savings are your cup of tea, the Mammut Eternity Classic is a superb choice. But if you know you won’t give it the care it needs, you’ll be retiring this rope before you know it. Do the math, and two Eternity Classics will cost you far more than the price of one premium dry-treated line.
See the Mammut Eternity Classic

 

10. Sterling Marathon Pro 70m ($275)

Sterling Marathon Pro climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, top roping, gym
Diameter: 10.1mm
Weight: 63 g/m
UIAA falls: 6
What we like: Fat and strong.
What we don’t: Heavy.

There had to be at least one heavy-duty fat rope to make the list, and this had to be the one. The Sterling Marathon Pro is unapologetic about what it is. It’s a rope. It’s a fat one. It will catch your falls over and over and over again. You can mistreat it, abuse it, use it, even probably confuse it with a static line and jug on it. And it will last.

That said, when it comes to sending, or doing a multi-pitch, or going anywhere with a long approach, you’ll definitely be turning to your partner and saying, “hey, let’s use your rope today since mine is so heavy.” And while that may be a good trick to make your rope last longer, it’s probably not a great way to keep climbing partners. All snarkiness aside, I do believe 10mm lines and fatter still have a place. That place may be shrinking as technology improves and skinnier lines get more and more durable; but if you really want a beefy workhorse and weight is not a concern, this is your rope.
See the Sterling Marathon Pro

 

11. Black Diamond 9.4 Dry 70m ($260)

Black Diamond 9.4 Dry climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, top roping, multi-pitch
Diameter: 9.4mm
Weight: 58 g/m
UIAA falls: 7
What we like: Durable and a good price.
What we don’t: Out of the box, this rope is so stiff that it’s unruly when flaked and difficult to tie into tight knots.

Black Diamond has long been an industry leader for climbing protection and hardware, and now they’ve added ropes to their lineup. Sort of. Just as Black Diamond skis are manufactured out-of-house by Blizzard, their ropes are made by Roca, a respected company based in Spain. And they’re better than ever—if you were disappointed by BD’s first generation rope lineup, don’t write them off completely. These Roca lines are highly durable, supple and smooth once broken in, and come in a minimalist selection of colors and sizes that make decision-making a breeze.

The 9.4 Dry is up against some stiff competition, including our #1 Mammut Infinity Dry, #7 Beal Stinger GoldenDry, and #13 Petzl Arial. All four of these ropes sport an ultra-versatile mid-9mm diameter, are rated for 7 UIAA falls, and come in similar weights. But Black Diamond’s rope is the stiffest of the bunch—in fact, annoyingly stiff out of the box. You’ll have to tighten your knots and retighten them later, and forget about making a neat and compact pile of rope on that tiny belay ledge. That said, the 9.4 relaxes over time, doesn’t grow fuzzy, and so far, has an impressively long life. Plus, BD offers the 70m for $260—$40 less than the Beal—and its non-dry version is available for only $200.
See the Black Diamond 9.4 Dry

 

12. Beal Opera Unicore GoldenDry 70m ($290)

Beal Opera Unicore GoldenDry ropeBest uses: Redpointing, alpine climbing
Diameter: 8.5mm
Weight: 48 g/m
UIAA falls: 5
What we like: The lightest, thinnest single rope on the market.
What we don’t: We might be old-fashioned, but 8.5mm just feels too skinny for a single rope.

If you just did a double take when you read the diameter spec, we don’t blame you. Just a few years ago, climbing on a 9.1mm single rope felt like a gamble, and now we’re down to 8.5? That used to be a skinny half rope! In all seriousness, if we were going to choose one company’s 8.5mm single to climb on, it would be Beal. Their Unicore technology truly is confidence inspiring, and the stiff yet supple feel of the Opera gives it a tough, “I trust this thin piece of thread to hold my fall” kind of feel.

That said, you better have a pretty good explanation for buying a rope this skinny. Are you pushing the limits of fast and light? Climbing the odd pitch but mostly using your rope to rappel or cross glaciers? Taking redpoint burns on your sick gnar project? Maybe these are reasons to choose the Opera. Don’t get us wrong, it’s an impressive rope and surprisingly strong. But it’s tough to escape the fact that the skinnier your rope, the more vulnerable it is to being cut. Call us old fashioned, but we’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
See the Beal Opera Unicore GoldenDry

 

13. Petzl Arial Dry 70m ($260)

Petzl Arial Dry ropeBest uses: Cragging, multi-pitch
Diameter: 9.5mm
Weight: 58 g/m
UIAA falls: 7
What we like: Impressive combination of durability and lightweight performance.
What we don’t: Dry treatment does not meet UIAA standards.

If you’re an experienced climber looking for a one-size-fits-all kind of rope, the Petzl Arial is worth a look. This rope hits the sweet spot between durability and lightweight performance, all with the nice feel Petzl seems to nail every time. And when we say durable, we mean it: the UltraSonic Finish (Petzl’s version of Unicore) and Duratec Dry treatment add up to make the Arial an absolute workhorse of a 9.5 (sounds a bit like a paradox, doesn’t it?).

True to form, the Arial only is available in two different shades of Petzl orange, and is known for showing dirt and losing its middle mark over time. Unlike the Mammut Infinity and Beal Stinger, the Arial is not UIAA rated for water repellency. In addition, the slick sheath slips easily through a Grigri, making us hesitant to recommend this rope for beginners. But for intermediate rock climbers who don’t need top-of-the-line dry treatment, the Arial holds steady with the competition in every other way and comes at a slightly lower price point. 
See the Petzl Arial Dry

 

14. Black Diamond 9.9 Gym 35m ($90)

Black Diamond 9.9 Gym climbing rope 35mBest use: Gym climbing
Diameter: 9.9mm
Weight: 64 g/m
UIAA falls: 6
What we like: A no-frills gym rope for under $100.
What we don’t: You won’t be using this rope outside.

For some of us, getting outside to climb simply is not a reality. Thankfully, climbing gyms are popping up like wildfire across the country, offering a fun and community-oriented vertical getaway right in the city. If this is your scene, it’s the perfect place to safely learn to lead climb. And for that, most gyms require you to bring your own rope.

Enter, the Black Diamond Gym Climbing rope. What differentiates this rope from the rest on our list? The obvious answer is length. Because most gyms don’t exceed 15 meters in height, bringing a 70-meter rope indoors is a bit excessive (not to mention more expensive). On that note, this rope keeps the price down by being everything you need for the indoor environment and nothing you don’t: no dry treatment, no focus on weight savings, and no Unicore technology. But it’s supple and durable, and BD even included the middle marker for good measure.
See the Black Diamond 9.9 Gym

 

15. Edelweiss Curve Arc Unicore 70m ($250)

Edelweiss Curve Arc Unicore climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, multi-pitch, top roping
Diameter: 9.8mm
Weight: 61 g/m
UIAA falls: 9
What we like: Unicore, 9 UIAA falls, bipattern, and affordable.
What we don’t: No dry treatment, bipattern mandatory, some questionable reviews.

At first glance, it seems like the Edelweiss Curve Arc should be a candidate for a higher ranking on our list. It catches more UIAA falls than any other rope, has a low impact force for its diameter, features Unicore technology, and even has a bi-pattern sheath design so you know where the middle is all the time. What’s not to like about this rope?

To start, the Curve Arc has a high price tag for lacking any sort of dry treatment. For just $20 more, you might as well opt for our number one pick: the much lighter and sleeker Mammut Infinity Dry. But our real reason for putting the Edelweiss Curve Arc all the way down here is this: this rope simply does not age well. From our experience, most Edelweiss ropes don’t. They might keep their strength, but you’ll be left with a fuzzy and fat rope that feeds laboriously through your Grigri. If it were $100 less we’d be singing a different tune, but for $250 a number of superior ropes are available.
See the Edelweiss Curve Arc Unicore

 

16. Sterling Fusion Nano IX Dry 70m ($262)

Sterling Rope Fusion Nano IX Dry RopeBest uses: Redpointing, alpine climbing
Diameter: 9.0mm
Weight: 52 g/m
UIAA falls: 6
What we like: Light as a feather, purportedly durable.
What we don’t: The last one I had didn’t last as long as I had hoped.

Many climbers will be surprised to see the Sterling Fusion Nano all the way down toward the bottom of this list. We know plenty of folks who swear by this rope, use it for everything, and are quite happy with it. At 9.0mm, it’s remarkably strong and surprisingly durable. Moreover, Sterling products generally are high in quality and this rope should be no exception.

That said, we have been unimpressed with the Nano, and have spoken to many others that feel similarly. Ours frayed and became fuzzy all too quickly, eventually forming a core shot through what we felt was pretty normal wear and tear. And when the alternative is the similarly priced and extremely impressive Beal Joker—with Unicore technology to boot—it’s hard to justify gambling on the Sterling.
See the Sterling Fusion Nano IX Dry

 

17. Millet Opposite TRX 9/10 80m ($300)

Millet Opposite TRX climbing ropeBest uses: Cragging, redpointing, top roping
Diameter: 9/10mm
Weight: 56 g/m
UIAA falls: 5 (9mm), 9 (10mm)
What we like: Two ropes for the price and weight of one.
What we don’t: Only useful in project/redpoint cragging environments.

Most high-level sport and trad climbers aren’t onsighting at their limit, meaning that they’re falling—often over and over again—before sending a route. As we know, taking lead falls on a rope decreases its lifespan, and generally the thinner the rope, the lower its fall rating. We also know that for climbing difficult routes, skinnier ropes are better. These facts make the decision of which rope to bring to the crag a difficult one, resulting in many climbers carrying both a thick projecting rope and a thin redpointing line.

The Millet Opposite TRX—an 80-meter line with 50 meters of 9-millimeter diameter and 30-meters of 10-millimter diameter—eliminates this constant rope debate. Top rope, project, and hangdog on the thick side, and when it’s time to send, tie into the 9mm and enjoy a lightweight ride. The rope is supple and durable, and surprisingly, the diameter change does not cause any issue with belay devices. It’s definitely a niche piece, but if projecting is your jam, this 2-in-1 rope might be worth a look.
See the Millet Opposite TRX 9/10

 

Climbing Rope Comparison Table

Rope Price Diameter Weight UIAA Lengths Middle
Mammut Infinity Dry $270 9.5mm 59 g/m 6-7 60, 70m Yes
Sterling Evolution Velocity $270 9.8mm 62 g/m 6 50, 60, 70, 80m No (bipattern)
Beal Joker Golden Dry $300 9.1mm 53 g/m 5-6 60, 70, 80m Yes
Edelrid Boa Standard $170 9.8mm 62 g/m 6 40, 50, 60, 70m Yes
Maxim Airliner 2X Dry $299 9.1mm 55 g/m ≥5 60, 70, 80m No
Beal Tiger Unicore GoldenDry $300 10mm 61 g/m 7-8 50, 60, 70m Yes
Beal Stinger Unicore GoldenDry $290 9.4mm 59 g/m 7 60, 70, 80m Yes
BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro $225 9.7mm 61 g/m 8 60, 70, 80m No (bipattern)
Mammut Eternity Classic $180 9.8mm 61 g/m 8-9 40, 60, 70m Yes
Sterling Marathon Pro $275 10.1mm 63 g/m 6 60, 70, 80m No (bipattern)
Black Diamond 9.4 Dry $260 9.4mm 58 g/m 7 60, 70m Yes
Beal Opera Unicore GoldenDry $290 8.5mm 48 g/m 5 50, 60, 70, 80, 90m Yes
Petzl Arial Dry $260 9.5mm 58 g/m 7 60, 70, 80m Yes
Black Diamond 9.9 Gym $90 9.9mm 64 g/m 6 35, 40, 60, 70m Yes
Edelweiss Curve Arc Unicore $250 9.8mm 61 g/m 9 60, 70m Yes
Sterling Fusion Nano IX Dry $262 9.0mm 52 g/m 6 60, 70m No (bipattern)
Millet Opposite TRX 9/10 $300 9/10mm 56 g/m 5/9 80m Yes

 

Climbing Rope Buying Advice

Types of Ropes

Single Ropes
Single is the most common type of dynamic rope and the only style we include in our picks above. Single ropes usually fall between 9 and 11 millimeters in diameter, typically measure between 50 to 70 meters in length, and are designed to catch lead falls without the use of a second rope (the other element in catching a fall is your harness, and you can see our top picks here). For any sort of single pitch climbing, and for the vast majority of multi-pitch rock climbing done in the Unites States, a single rope is what you’ll be using.
Rock climbing ropes

Half Ropes
Half ropes are a set of two thin ropes, usually both in the 8mm range. They tend to be used most commonly in the alpine, where routes might meander, bad rock is a concern, or two ropes might be needed for rappelling a full 60 meters. Interestingly, double ropes are used more often than single ropes in the U.K., where routes are wander-y and protection is sub-optimal (half ropes exert a much lower impact force than single ropes). Half ropes are used together and generally clipped to every other piece, or one is used on the right side of the route and the other on the left to avoid rope drag. Half ropes are tested separately and each has its own fall rating. Climbing with half ropes involves an extra amount of rope management—we’ll always opt for a single unless doubles are absolutely necessary. If you’re climbing in a party of three though, half ropes are the way to go.

Twin Ropes
Twin ropes are roughly a millimeter thinner than half ropes, and simpler to use as well. In short, the climber treats the two ropes as one, clipping both into each piece of gear. Twin ropes are sometimes used in alpine climbing when climbing as a party of two (to allow for long rappels and accommodate meandering routes) or in ice climbing where the sharp points on crampons and ice tools pose a greater threat of accidentally cutting or damaging your line. Twin ropes are rated as a pair (not tested individually) and thus are always meant to be used together.

Both half and twin ropes often are referred to as “double ropes.” Some double ropes are rated as both half and twin, but when they are not, it’s important to understand what your ropes can used for safely. Two commonly-made errors go against manufacturer recommendation. First, climbers often clip two half ropes to one piece of gear. A fall in this situation would be less dynamic than ideal, and thus exert extra force on the gear (a big deal when you’re falling on an ice screw or marginal gear). The second is climbing as a party of three on a set of twin ropes. Twin ropes are rated as a pair and are thus always meant to be used as a pair, not split up between two followers. While neither of these mistakes is likely to result in a fatality, it’s important to remember that user error is the most common reason for climbing accidents. Always use your gear per manufacturer recommendations.
 

Rope Diameter and Best Uses

Choosing the right diameter rope for any given climb can be tricky. Many climbers have a quiver of ropes for different needs: a short gym rope, a thick workhorse for top roping, a thinner rope for projecting routes, an even thinner rope for redpointing. And for some, an even thinner rope for fast-and-light alpine missions. In the past few years, the climbing industry has seen a huge leap in rope technology—the thinnest single rope on our list used to be 9.0, and now it’s the sleek Beal Opera at 8.5. Ropes even thinner are rated for lead falls (think about what we learned about half ropes above), but the skinnier a rope is, the more vulnerable it is to being cut. Thus, for now, ropes thinner than 8.5mm are generally only used as half ropes, tag lines, or employed for glacier travel or ski mountaineering.

8.5mm – 9.3mm (Alpine Climbing, Redpointing, Multi-Pitch)
Ropes in this category—often referred to as “skinny ropes”—are the lightest of the bunch, the least durable, and the most dynamic. Because of these properties, plus their high price tag, skinny ropes are a niche piece meant mostly for experienced climbers pushing their limits. When you’re climbing 3,000 feet in a day, hiking 20 miles to approach a route, or pulling the crux on your project, a lightweight rope can make all the difference. In the past, ropes of this diameter were thought of as dangerous or liable to sever on sharp rock. But now, with “Unicore” technology being employed by most major rope manufactures, skinny ropes are stronger than ever. But do take care: self-locking belay devices such as the wildly popular Petzl Grigri are often not recommended for ropes 8.9mm or under. For two of the top skinny ropes, check out the Beal Opera Unicore and the Maxim Airliner.
Mammut Climbing Rope

9.4mm – 9.8mm (Cragging, Top Roping, Multi-Pitch)
Medium diameter ropes are the most versatile and popular of all climbing ropes. If you tend to crag or sport climb in areas with short approaches, you don’t need the weight savings of a super skinny line. Plus, with a thicker rope you get greater durability and better handling (pulling a skinny rope after a rappel is hard work!). If you want one rope that can do it all—cragging, multi-pitch, and redpointing—a dynamic line with a medium diameter is the way to go. There are so many to choose from, but the Mammut Infinity and Beal Stinger are two of our favorite mid-range diameter ropes.

9.9mm – 10.2mm (Cragging, Top Roping, Gym)
Although ropes in the 9.9mm range and above are becoming increasingly unpopular, they still have their place. Maybe you’re just getting into climbing and want a rope that will serve you well for the first few years. Maybe your home crag has exceptionally sharp rock. Maybe you’re on a budget and are looking for the least expensive, most durable option. They might be heavy and bulky, but one thing is for certain: 10mm ropes will last a very long time. Even so, 10.2mm is probably about as fat as you would ever want to go—anything bigger is more than you need and not worth the extra weight. And buyer beware: some of the ropes in this category are made with more of a focus on budget than quality. For solid performance, climb after climb, check out the Beal Tiger and Sterling Marathon Pro.
 

Rope Length

Rope lengths have changed a lot over the years. It used to be that the industry standard was 100 feet, then 50 meters, then 60. Since the turn of the millennium, most serious sport climbers turned to 70 meter ropes. Of late, 80 meters is all the vogue.
Climbing rope (length)

Here in the U.S., your best bet most of the time is going to be a 70-meter rope. There are certainly select crags where you’ll want an 80, but if you climb at one of those, you probably already know that. For the rest of us, you may be tempted to go with a 60. I would recommend against that for two reasons: 1.) It’s such a bummer when you look up at that beautiful 35-meter pitch that gets more stars than anything else at the crag, and you can’t do it because your rope is too short. 30-35 meter pitches are getting more and more common, and you don't want your rope to hold you back. 2.) Even if you don’t ever climb a pitch longer than 30 meters, you will eventually wear out the ends of your rope, and need to chop one or both of them. If you do that to a 70, you end up with a 60. Do it to a 60, you’re stuck with a 50. And nobody uses a 50 any more.

The one exception I would make is if you tend to mostly climb alpine or multipitch trad routes that have walk offs instead of rappels. In that case, 60 is probably the length you are looking for. Hauling the extra 10m around all day is a pain, not to mention pulling it all up at the end of each pitch that was originally established on a shorter rope. And, of course, if you’re looking for a rope for indoor climbing, 40 meters will be more than sufficient. In fact, you can probably buy a 70m rope with a friend and cut it in half, and be just fine.
 

Dry Treatment

Many companies now make a selection of their ropes with a dry treatment that repels water and moisture. Dry-treated ropes have a number of benefits. First, they do not grow heavy with water weight when wet. Second, they have a longer life span, as falls on a wet rope age a rope quicker than falls on a dry rope. Third, dry treatments do a pretty good job (while they last) of keeping out dirt and other grime. And last, rope manufacturers have conducted tests conclusively showing that ropes with dry treatment resist abrasion more than ropes without dry treatment.
Climbing ropes (climbing)

On some ropes, just the sheath is dry treated, and on others, it’s the core and the sheath. In the latter case, the rope often is referred to as “double dry.” In 2014, the UIAA (the international governing body that develops and maintains safety standards for climbing equipment) created a water repellency certification for ropes. To meet this standard, a rope must absorb less than 5% of its weight in water when fully soaked. Interestingly, the UIAA found that many ropes labeled as “dry coated” actually absorb 20 to 40% of their weight. Thus, if you’re looking for a true water repellant rope, pay attention to the UIAA rating. Most modern double dry ropes should meet this standard.

Do you need a dry-treated rope? Maybe not, but it certainly won’t hurt having the extra durability. If you normally climb in dry conditions and are just looking for a long-lasting rope that won’t grow fuzzy with abrasion, a rope with a dry-treated sheath will do the trick. But if you are an alpine climber, ice climber, or mountaineer, you’ll likely be looking for a double dry rope, and one certified as water repellent by the UIAA.

Are there downsides to dry-treated ropes? The obvious answer is that they’re generally $50 to $100 more expensive than their non-treated counterparts. Additionally, they generally are slipperier (especially initially) than other ropes. For climbers who get their start in the gym on fat, fuzzy gym lines, the transition to belaying on a dry-treated rope merits a bit of caution. More, contrary to popular belief, treated ropes can become exceptionally dirty (the dirt does not penetrate the rope, but rather sticks to the treatment). That said, we think ropes with dry treatment generally are superior, and we consider the extra upfront investment worth it for a much longer lasting and abrasion-resistant rope.
 

Weight

Simply put, weight is a function of length and diameter. The thinner and shorter a rope, the lighter it will be. There are a few minor exceptions: the Beal Tiger, for example, is exceptionally lightweight for its diameter, and Black Diamond ropes tend to be heavy for their size. But overall, the lightest ropes are the skinniest, and vice versa. 

For the vast majority of climbers who crag close to the car, rope weight is a non-issue. But for alpine climbers with long approaches, multi-pitchers who are pulling hundreds of meters of rope in a day, or the redpoint sport climber, every ounce counts. In these scenarios, a skinnier rope is a sendy-er rope. Opting for a short rope (60m, or even 50m) can be an excellent way for multi-pitch climbers to shed weight as well.
 

Sheath vs. Core

Climbing ropes (crack climbing)The sheath of a rope is the outer weave that is visible to the naked eye, and generally accounts for 1/10th or less of the rope's diameter and weight. The core is where all the rope's strength is. When considering sheath and core, look for a sheath that handles smoothly and resists abrasions, and a core that can catch lots of falls while still maintaining its elasticity.

It’s worth noting that not all sheaths and cores are created equally, or along the same guidelines. Some companies put more bulk into the sheath to resist abrasion. Some put more bulk into the core to increase ability to catch falls over time. Different companies use different weaves and designs on the sheath, which can lead to a remarkably different feel in the handling of the rope.

One thing worth noting is the development of Unicore technology, which for the first time has managed to unite the sheath and the core of ropes that feature it. This offers much greater resilience to coreshots and disasters when the rope runs over sharp edges. We've been really impressed by this technology, and it's no coincidence a number of our top ropes, including the Beal Stinger, have Unicore construction.
 

Bipattern / Middle Mark

Why any rope ever would come stock without a middle mark is beyond me. Middle marks are super valuable. They give you a good reference of how far the leader has climbed, they tell you if you can toprope a long pitch you don’t know the length of, and they show you the point to pull your rope to on rappels, when rapping with a single rope. All ropes should come with some sort of a marking to let you know where the middle is. If I ever get a rope without a middle mark, I make one. There are all kinds of ways to do this, and some are more recommended than others. Some companies explicitly forbid the use of sharpies, others say they’ve never identified a problem. If you want to avoid a sharpie altogether, simply sew some colored thread into the sheath in the middle of the rope.

The one problem with middle marks is they always fade over time. There's only one kind of middle mark that does not eventually disappear: and that is a bipattern rope. Bipattern ropes like the Sterling Evolution Velocity actually change their weave pattern in the middle of the rope. While I really like the idea of bipattern ropes, I have to say, I don’t recommend them. First of all, they are signifcantly more expensive than their single-pattern counterparts, more so than I feel is justifiable. Second of all, if you ever chop one of your rope ends, your middle mark will be off forever; and unlike a sharpie-made mark, this one won’t fade.
Bipattern ropes

Static vs. Dynamic

If you're brand new to climbing, the terms static and dynamic lines may have you a little confused. A static rope is one that only stretches minimally (less than 5% elongation), and a dynamic rope is one that stretches a good bit more (about 5-10% elongation). For any sort of lead climbing, it is imperative to use a dynamic line. No exceptions. Taking a lead fall on a static line can have disastrous consequences, especially in the spine, cervical-spine, and internal organs. Static lines can be useful for rigging topropes, and sometimes for toproping itself. Most gyms, and some climbers will use a semi-static rope for toproping, which is right around 5% elongation. Finally, a static line can be useful in a tag line, or pull cord, which you use only for rappeling or hauling gear.
 

UIAA Falls

UIAA stands for Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme, and is the lead certifying body for climbing ropes. Most ropes are rated to a certain number of UIAA falls. 6-8 is a pretty good number for most single ropes, 8-10 is exceptional. If a rope is rated 8-10 UIAA falls, it does not mean you need to retire it after your seventh whipper. A UIAA fall is very different from a climbing fall, and entails forces of a different magnitude. That said, you should frequently check your rope for coreshots, soft spots, and abrasions. Just know that the higher the UIAA fall number, the more resilient the rope, subjected to normal wear and tear, over time.
 

Impact Force

Impact force is the amount of force, in kilonewtons, exerted on the leader end of the rope during a fall. Lower impact forces make for a soft landing and mean less stress on both the gear and climbers. Ropes with lower impact forces are ideal for sport climbers who routinely fall on lead, or alpine or ice climbers placing marginal gear. On the other end of the spectrum, higher impact force means less stretch in the rope, a huge benefit when top roping. Every rope will have its impact force listed on its packaging, and generally, the thicker the rope the higher the impact force.
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