So there you are, planning your next climbing adventure. You might have the location chosen, hotel booked, and tickets bought. But have one last hurdle – knowing what to pack!
Packing is the ultimate predicament for any traveler, as space in your bag is limited and you want to do everything you can to lighten your load.
So the question remains: What climbing rope should I bring?
After many hours of research, checking dozens of sites and reading hundreds of reviews, here it is: your ultimate rock climbing rope resource.
Whether you’re a dirtbag, backpacker, budget traveler, weekend warrior or hardened trad-wizard, this guide has everything you need to choose the perfect climbing rope for your travels. In this guide you will find:
- Reviews: The Top 5 Ropes For Travel
- Resources For Choosing Your Rope
- Rope Comparison Chart
- How do I to Choose My Climbing Rope Diameter?
- Dry Rope vs Non-Dry (Standard) Rock Climbing Ropes
- Static Climbing Ropes vs Dynamic Climbing Ropes.
- What is the Difference Between Single Ropes, Twin Ropes & Half Ropes?
- Rock Climbing Rope UIAA Falls
- Bi-Pattern Climbing Ropes and Halfway Point Markers
Best Uses: RP send goes, Alpine, Ice, Long-Multis
Pros: Extremely lightweight, dry sheath, great for long rappels or simul rapping
Cons: Sacrifices durability for its reduced weight
Price (70m): $255
The Beal Opera is the skinniest single rope on the market, and was the first rope to break the 50 g/m barrier (clocks in at 47g/m). If you’re looking for a lightweight option that won’t weigh down your backpack, look no more. This rope is so light you’re not even going to feel it!!
This rope is ideal if, for instance, you’re planning on doing some long alpine missions on the Fitz Roy near El Chalten, or trying your hand at some of Cochamo’s bigwalls, where the hike-ins are long and steep. One of the greatest advantages of this rope is that it can comfortably be used as a single, twin, half or tag line, making it perfect for any remote expedition.
This rope does come with some serious disadvantages. With the reduced weight and diameter comes a reduced durability. So, this ropes is not to be used for days of whipping on your project. That being said, if you’re looking for an ultra-lightweight option, the Beal Opera is the way to go. It is the most adaptable and cost-effective super skinny rope on the market and is a great rope to have in your quiver.
Best Uses: Cragging, Top Topping
Pros: Ultimate value for your money
Cons: Relatively low durability, no dry treatment, not versatile
Price (70m): $180
The Edelrid Boa Eco is without a doubt the best value for your money rope out there. For that reason, it is also one of the most popular and easiest ropes to find in the world. I’ve seen this rope in climbing shops all over the world, at Monodedo in Suesca Colombia, Edgardo’s Pizza in Potrero Chico and CMRC in Chiang Mia Thailand.
The Boa Eco is a great rope for cragging, top roping, or even multi-pitching if you don’t mind a bit of drag.
The real disadvantage of the Boa is that it is a non-dry rope, meaning that it is going to wear out much quicker than some of the more expensive options. The Edelrid Boa Dry is an additional add-on, but, at the price of $250 I would suggest going with another option. If you’re on a budget, or only plan on using the rope predominantly for sport climbing, it isn’t a bad option.
Please note, this rope is not an advisable option if you’re planning on doing alpine missions or adventurous trad or multi-pitches, as it doesn’t have dry-treatment.
In my opinion, there is a peace of mind that comes from having a “cheap” rope when you’re on the road. You’ll probably be less worried about lending it out, setting up top-rope, or getting it stolen. If you’re looking for a budget option, this is the best rope on the market period.
Best Uses: Cragging, Mulpi-Pitches, Trad, Top Roping
Pros: Great value for money, double-dry, good for all-around use, customizable add-ons
Cons: No middle mark on by-pattern, core gets soft fast
Price (70m): $215
If you liked Edelrid Boa Eco but your budget allows for a bit for flexibility, look no further. When compared to Boa, the Lightning Pro only costs about $25 more, but with that small amount of extra money you get an all-around higher quality rope with double-dry technology. This rope will more than pay for itself with the added durability that comes from dry ropes.
At a sleek 9.7mm, the rope feeds super smooth through just about any belay device, but at the same time has 8 UIAA rates falls, meaning that you’re not sacrificing strength for the reduced size.
The Lightning Pro also allows you to choose optional sheath add-ons such as dry, non-dry or bi pattern. These options mean that you can further customize your choice based off of preference.
The main complaint about this rope is that the core is notorious for wearing out quickly and getting “soft”. This is something to watch out for, but not a deal breaker for me.
This rope has pretty much hit the perfect medium between price and performance. It doesn’t quite match the Mammut Infinity in terms of durability, weight, and resistance, but coming in at nearly $100 less (The Infinity retails for $300), there are going to be some trade-offs.
Best Uses: Cragging, Mulpi-Pitches, Trad, Ice, Top Roping
Pros: Durable, double-dry, ‘Work-Horse’, good for all-around use
Cons: On the expensive side, only rated of 6 UIAA falls
Price (70m): $235
The Sterling Evolution Velocity is a highly durable, versatile, and tested, tried and true climbing rope. This rope has 35% of its weight coming from its sheath and Sterling’s new DryXP UIAA certified water repellent technology, which makes it highly water, dirt, and abrasion resistant.
With a diameter of 9.8mm, the rope is slightly on the heavy side (A 9.8 is heavy? What is this world coming to?!), which is certainly a factor if you’re going to be carrying the rope around with you on your back.
But all of this said, it is one of the best ropes out there, and though there most certainly are cheaper 9.8mm ropes available, none can match the Evolution Velocity in all around durability, flexibility and strength. This is a highly versatile rope, and can be used for almost any type of climbing! And for that reason I highly recommend this rope to any traveler, as it is a great one-rope-fits all.
Best uses: Cragging, Multi-Pitches, Trad, Alpine and Ice Climbing
Pros: Extremely durable, double-dry, can be used for all types of climbing
Price (70m): $299
Without a doubt this is one of the best all-around ropes on the market. Mammut ropes are known for being extremely durable and the Infinity does not disappoint. With 40% of its weight being just the sheath, the rope is highly resistant to abrasion. This durability coupled with Mammut’s dry core and dry sheath (double dry) technology makes it is one of the most resistant ropes ever created.
In addition, the Mammut Infinity has hit the perfect middle zone of 9.5mm, giving you the added advantages of lighter weight and and less friction when climbing, making it perfect for sending your projects or long multi-pitches.
And as a cherry on top, the rope comes in both 60m, 70m and 80m options, in addition to having two cheaper sheath options, the Infinity Protect and Infinity Classic. This means that you can customize your order based off of your own climbing preferences.
The only real downside is that the rope is that it is more expensive than some other options out there. But if you’re looking for a one-size fits all work horse that’s going to last you a long time, is lightweight, and can be used for any type of climbing, look no further. For these reasons, this is my ultimate recommendation for all of my users. This rope is an engineering marvel, and if it is in your budget, I highly suggest checking it out!
Climbing Rope Strength Comparison Chart
How do I to Choose My Climbing Rope Diameter?
There are trade-offs between every size of rope, but I’ll give you a few easy guidelines to follow if you’re starting off.
10.5mm – 9.8mm: Very thick ropes, heavy, cheap, but extremely durable. Not recommended for the long term traveler, simply because the extra diameter is going to add a ton of weight to your pack. These ropes are most commonly used in the gyms, or at your local crag with short walk-ins.
9.8mm – 8.9mm: The nice middle zone, and by far the most common range for a climbing rope. These ropes have hit the sweet spot between weight, strength, and durability. This is the range I recommend for 95% percent of my readers.
8.9mm – under: Super lightweight, and high performance. These ropes are ultra-light and won’t weight down your pack, but they come with the downside of greatly sacrificing durability and abrasion resistance. I recommend these ropes only if you’re planning on doing a lot of alpine-style or super long multi-pitches where the added weight can be a huge factor. You can also use these types of ropes for trad climbing or sport redpoint burns if you don’t think you’ll be taking a lot of falls.
Dry Rope vs Non-Dry (Standard) Rock Climbing Ropes. Do I Need a Dry Climbing Rope?
Dry ropes are an extra feature some ropes have which make them resistant to water. This is essential for anyone ice climbing, alpine climbing, or who regularly does long multi-pitches where they might encounter unexpected weather.
However, dry ropes come with a secondary benefit. They are much more resistant to abrasion and general wear and tear, and therefore have a much longer life when compared to standard ropes. In addition, they keep dirt out of the core of the rope, which also greatly increases the rope’s overall life. For these reasons it is almost always advisable to buy a dry rope, even if you don’t do the type of climbing mentioned in the first paragraph.
Also, keep in mind, there are generally two types of dry treatment ropes out there: dry sheath or dry core (also called double dry). Dry sheath ropes only have the dry treatment on the outside sheath, while double dry have the treatment on both the sheath and the core.
The only real downside of dry ropes is that they are more expensive, generally $50-$100 more. In the long run you’ll make it back, as dry ropes have been shown to last much longer than their standard counterparts.
For that reason, I suggest to everyone that even if you don’t plan on using your rope for any ice/alpine climbing, you still get a rope with at least dry sheath technology as it will greatly increase the life of your rope, give you piece of mind, and in the long run give you more bang for your buck.
Static Climbing Ropes vs Dynamic Climbing Ropes. How To Tell if a Rope is Static Or Dynamic?
There still is a lot of confusion out there regarding static climbing vs dynamic climbing ropes. Dynamic ropes have been designed to elongate a certain percentage when subjected to the shock loads which are commonly exerted on a rope when a climber falls.
Static ropes, on the other hand, have not been designed to elongate when subjected to impact loads. Because of this, static ropes should only be used for applications such as hauling gear, tieing off while working at heights or lowering an injured climber. Static ropes are not designed for, and therefore, should never be used for rock climbing!!
Almost all ropes come with a tag on the end which denotes its properties and whether it is a dynamic or static rope. If it doesn’t have the tag, the best way to tell is by bending the rope with your fingers. Dynamic ropes are much more soft and supple, while static ropes, in comparison, are quite stiff. With time you will be able to tell the difference by sight and touch instantly. If you’re unsure, ask.
What is the Difference Between Single Ropes, Twin Ropes & Half Ropes?
Single ropes (left image) are what might normally come to mind when you think climbing rope. These are single ropes which have been designed to resist the forces of falling. These are the ropes used by 95% of modern climbers. Generally speaking, they are much more durable, adaptable and thicker when compared to twin or half ropes.
Twin ropes (middle image) are climbing ropes which are designed to be used in a pair of two identical ropes both clipped into the same piece of protection. Many times, they are not rated to take falls by themselves, so it is very important to understand what type of rope you’re using. Generally speaking, and rope with a diameter of 8.5mm or below is considered a twin rope. For instance, in the case of the Beal Opera (described later in this article), the rope is rated to be used as both a single or twin rope, however, it is recommended to be used as a twin. This means that it is safe to take falls with just one rope, but it is advisable to use two, as it will greatly increase the life of the ropes. This type of twin rope system is most commonly used when doing long multi-pitch or alpine climbs and two ropes are needed to safely rappel.
Half ropes (right image) are climbing ropes which are designed to be used in a pair of two identical ropes that are clipped into alternating pieces of protection. These ropes are normally used when climbing long and wandering trad or alpine routes in order to reduce rope drag. This system also comes with the added advantage of facilitating longer rappels, and adds redundancy in case one of your ropes gets damaged.
Rock Climbing Rope UIAA Falls, What Does It Actually Mean?
Every climbing rope in existence has a UIAA falls ranking, generally between 5-10. So the question you might ask yourself is, what is a UIAA fall? The most important thing to know is that a UIAA fall is not a “normal” climbing fall, it is a ridiculously severe fall which a climber should never, or very rarely expect to take. This isn’t the 1970s, you don’t have to keep track of every fall your rope has!
A UIAA fall is defined by a fall factor of 1.77 or greater. The factor is determined by dividing the distance of the fall by the amount of rope that catches you. So for instance, a 5 foot fall which catches you on 20 feet of rope would have a fall factor of 0.25. To achieve a UIAA fall with 20ft of rope out, you would have to fall 36ft!! As you can see, it is nearly impossible to fall further than the amount of rope out unless you are multi-pitching as fall well below your belayer, as in most cases you would hit the ground before the rope caught you.
There is however a correlation between UIAA falls and overall durability of the rope, as seen on the graph below.
Generally speaking, the more UIAA falls the rope is rated for, the longer it maintains its strength. Total pitches and falls taken plays a bigger factor into the life of the rope as opposed to a few mega-wips. The main takeaway is, more UIAA falls is good, but don’t get too hung up on it.
Bi-Pattern Climbing Ropes and Halfway Point Markers
Last but not least, let’s talk about the difference between bi-pattern climbing ropes and halfway point markers. So as names suggest, a bi-pattern rope is when the pattern on the sheath of the rope changes at the halfway point. If your rope is not specifically labeled as a bi-pattern rope, then the middle of the rope will be delineated with a mark in the rope.
Bi-patterns are without a doubt better, as there are really no downsides of having this type of rope. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you ever need to cut the rope, the middle point will no longer be at the point of the pattern change. This added feature usually costs bout $15-$30 extra, and is advisable if you do a lot of multi-pitches, rappels, or plan on going to crags with long routes such as Potrero Chico.
Now you have a foundational knowledge of all the climbing terms you need to know to choose your rope. I have greatly summarized the data here to make it easy to understand and follow, so I would suggest that you dive in deeper and do further research later on down the road.
But, with that taken care of, here we are: the 5 best rock climbing ropes for travel!!
There is no perfect rope out there, as every rope has its own advantages and disadvantages. Use the information provided here as a start to do your own research and make a choice based of your unique circumstances. The recommendations here will apply to the vast majority of my readers. Even if you’re not convinced by my reviews, the info here will get you going in the right direction.
I hope you found this guide useful, and if you have any more questions, drop them in the comment box below!