Best Rock Climbing Ropes

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

37 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
179 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best rock climbing ropes

Last Updated November 2019

Rock climbing is a sport that has slowly but steadily grown in popularity over the years. Once the province of lonely professionals and paid mountain guides, it has expanded to encompass a range of people from every walk of life. Today, it’s hard to find a major city that doesn’t have a gym or sports center with an indoor rock climbing wall.

Those gyms and sports centers have all the equipment you need for climbing. But what about when you decide to take it outdoors to the world of actual rock cliffs and walls? That’s when you need to start buying your own climbing ropes.

But if you’re just getting started, it can be daunting. There are many new terms to familiarize yourself with as well as different types of ropes for different functions. You’re going to need some guidance until you know your way around. Even an experienced athlete might need some help choosing the right rope out of the avalanche of possibilities. Keep reading, and we’ll give you all the help you need.

All climbing ropes must meet standards set by the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme (UIAA). You can visit their website to read the details on their standards and tests.

Key considerations

For rock climbing purposes, there are two main types of rope: static and dynamic. They are intended for different purposes, and using the wrong one could result in injuries. Finding the right rope for the right job is crucial to a safe and successful climb.

Static rope

Static rope is defined as any rope that is not intended to stretch when it is put under a load. For instance, if you hang a 100-pound weight from a 10-foot length of static rope and then measure the length of the rope, it should not have stretched due to the weight. It should still be 10 feet long.

Static rope has many uses, including the following.

  • Rappelling: Rappelling, also known as abseiling, is the practice of attaching a rope to a fixed point at the top of a cliff and then using the rope to safely descend. Abseiling is the French word for it.

  • Caving: Spelunking, as caving is often known, is the recreational exploration of known caves. Since descending in a cave is similar to rappelling, it makes sense to use the same type of rope.

  • Top roping: Top roping is a form of rappelling, but instead of the rope being attached to a point at the top of the cliff, it passes through an anchoring system that has wheels or pulleys and is belayed by someone on the ground. One end of the rope is in the hands of a person on the ground. It goes up at an angle to the top of the cliff to a pulley or other anchor, then straight down to the person who is climbing the cliff.

  • Load hauling: Hauling heavy loads would include lifting pianos or furniture to an upper floor, towing a car, or tying down a load to prevent it from moving during transit.

  • Fire rescue operations: Firefighters need ropes that don’t have any give or stretch in them when they’re trying to rescue someone, attach them to a helicopter to airlift them to safety, or lower them from a burning building.

Dynamic rope

Dynamic rope is constructed so that it stretches when it is put under a load. If you fall while you’re rock climbing, a dynamic rope will stretch somewhat to slow your fall and absorb some of the energy so you aren’t injured by a sudden stop. Dynamic ropes typically elongate about 30% to 40% when a falling weight is put on them, meaning a 10-foot rope would stretch another three to four feet. In static situations, such as hanging a dead weight from a rope, dynamic ropes would stretch about 5% to 10% of their length.

Dynamic ropes are used for the following.

  • Rock climbing: This is the normal activity people picture in their minds when they hear the term: climbing a cliff, hammering in pitons, and attaching ropes to them. If you slip or fall (it happens more than you might think), a dynamic rope will slow down your fall and let you swing back into the cliff like Spiderman.

  • Ice climbing: Dynamic ropes are an absolute necessity for ice climbing because of the frequent falls. Obviously, ice is slippery, and it’s almost impossible not to fall occasionally while climbing. That means you need a rope that will slow you down instead of breaking your back with a sudden stop.

  • Mountaineering: Mountaineering is like rock climbing, only more so. Not only will you face sheer cliffs, but you’ll also be crossing steep areas of loose rock called scree or talus deposits. Slipping and falling is practically a given in that situation. Again, you want a rope that will ease your fall, not break your back.

Length

Finally, you need to decide how much rope is required for your climb. The longer the pitch (the climb), the longer the rope you will need for it. If you’re just doing some rock climbing on 30- and 40-foot cliffs, you can use shorter and less-expensive ropes. Taller cliffs or full-on mountaineering will almost certainly require much longer ropes.

Most ropes have what’s called a middle mark in black dye to mark the exact center point of the rope.

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Features

Material: Ropes are usually made of nylon or polyester. The weave will determine how much stretch the rope has.

Thickness: The normal range of thickness for climbing ropes is 8mm to 12mm. Thinner ropes are lighter and easier to tie knots in.

Color: If you have a variety of different ropes, color-coding them by type would be an excellent idea. That way, you won’t grab the wrong rope for the job at hand. Luckily, static and dynamic ropes both come in a wide variety of colors.

Weight: Obviously, 100 feet of rope is twice as heavy as 50 feet of the same rope, so the weight of the material will begin making itself felt as you get longer ropes or more of them. In addition to the material, the thickness is also a determining factor in the weight of ropes.

Eyelets: Built-in eyelets on the ends of the rope, sometimes called buttons or hooks, are high-strength plastic loops sewn into the rope to give you a place to attach your carabiners, also known as D-rings. Some eyelets are steel instead of plastic.

Moisture resistance: During normal use, ropes will be exposed to high humidity, rain, mist, dew, and ice. They need to have been treated to resist moisture and water. Ropes that dry rapidly are good, but the drying process tends to make them stiff until you work the rope to restore it. Ropes that have been treated to protect them against absorbing water are called dry-treated ropes. Dry-treated ropes are more expensive than untreated ropes, but the treatment extends the life of the rope and prevents dirt from being worked into the fibers. Dry-treated ropes also have less drag when they are sliding through D-rings.

Rock climbing rope prices

Budget rock climbing ropes start around $14 for a 32-foot static rope, irrespective of color. A 100-foot length of inexpensive rope can run you around $55.

Mid-range ropes, some with built-in eyelets, start at around $18 for a 32-foot static rope and run up to $100 for a 100-foot rope.

High-end static and dynamic ropes start around $30 for a 100-foot rope and go up as high as $500 or $600 for a 600-foot rope. These will be high-quality, dry-treated ropes that are thick and flexible.

DID YOU KNOW?

The weight of dynamic ropes is often given in grams per meter.

DID YOU KNOW?

The weight of static ropes is usually given in weight per foot.

Tips

  • When cutting the end off a rope, tape the end where you’re going to cut as tightly as possible. Cut the rope — through the tape — then melt the individual strands together with a lighter to prevent fraying.

  • Ropes age just like any other piece of equipment. Any rope that is 10 years old or more should be retired, although some climbers prefer to change out there ropes more often.

  • Your rope should be twice as long as the pitch you’re climbing. For example, if you’re climbing a 40-foot cliff face, your rope needs to be a minimum of 80 feet long.

Other products we considered

We like the Aoneky 10 mm Static Outdoor Rock Climbing Rope. This is a good beginner's rope. It will handle up to 2,000 pounds and is ideal for rappelling, camping, hiking, or to use as a secondary safety rope during rock climbing. It has one free end and one eyelet end and is available in a wide range of colors.

We also like the Mophorn Dynamic Nylon Climbing Rope. This 10.5mm thick, 164-foot primary climbing rope has enough stretch to cushion sudden loads in case you slip. It's not too stiff to knot, yet it’s not so soft that it abrades easily, either. This white rope with black banding is a high-strength rope for every occasion.

Static ropes for rescue work are often sold by the foot so you can get exactly the length you need.

FAQ

Q. Why should ropes be cut on the ends?

A. This is where most of the stress occurs on ropes. The ends of a rope will begin showing signs of wear and tear long before the middle of the rope does. Cutting a few feet off each end can extend the useful life of the rope.

Q. What is a fall rating?

A. A fall rating is a standardized test where a heavy weight is attached to a predetermined length of rope and allowed to fall a set distance. The number of times the rope can survive this treatment before breaking is the fall rating.

Q. Is the fall rating test realistic?

A. No, though it does give a general idea of a rope’s strength and durability. Because the fall test is done rapidly in quick succession without giving the rope a chance to “recover” its elasticity, many experienced rock climbers believe the test should be revised or discontinued.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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