Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best tug-of-war ropes

Tug-of-war is an exhilarating athletic game that’s easy to organize and fun to play. Collect two teams, put them on opposite sides of a long rope, and start pulling. No one needs an introductory course on how to play tug-of war. Deciding the winner is simple, too: whichever team overpowers the other and pulls the rope over to their side is victorious.

Another good thing about tug-of-war is that it doesn’t require a lot of equipment to play. You simply need to make sure you have a long rope that’s sturdy enough to withstand the stress of being pulled in opposite directions.

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The origin of tug-of-war is uncertain, as many cultural histories mention rope-pulling as a game or war-training exercise. These mentions date back as far as 2,500 to 3,000 years.

Key considerations

When looking for a tug-of-war rope, length and thickness are two of the most important factors to consider. The materials with which the rope is made are also significant.


Tug-of-war ropes quickly increase in price as the length increases. You likely don’t want to spend extra money for a length of rope you don’t need.

The official tug-of-war rules require a rope that is 110 feet in length, designed to accommodate eight players per team. If you plan to have a competitive tug-of-war team, you’ll want something that adheres to the official requirement. However, if you’ll be playing a less-strenuous game involving fewer people, a shorter rope is probably going to be more appropriate.


The thickness, or diameter, of the rope is another important consideration. The official rules say the rope should have a diameter of about 1.5 inches. This is a comfortable diameter for the hands of adults, but if people with smaller hands are playing, such as a group of kids, a rope with a smaller diameter is more appropriate.

Rope materials

Tug-of-war ropes are available in multiple materials. According to the official rules, only manila rope (made from manila hemp) should be used for the game. However, almost any kind of rope material would work for non-official games.

  • Manila: For official games where quite a bit of stress is placed on the rope, manila delivers excellent durability. Manila also absorbs a little bit of moisture, which prevents the surface from becoming slick.

  • Poly: Poly rope, also called unmanila rope, takes on a slight slickness when it gets wet. However, poly rope does have a greater longevity than manila, and it can also be easier on the hands.

  • Cotton and hemp: Cotton ropes and hemp ropes are soft types of rope that help players avoid rope burn. Notably, cotton can fray when it’s placed under stress, so this material is best reserved for recreational games.

Don’t use an elastic nylon rope for tug-of-war. If the rope snaps or one team loses its grip, the snap-back of a nylon rope could pose a safety hazard to those nearby.

"The Tug-of-War International Foundation (or TWIF) establishes rules and organizes the sport worldwide."


As you look at various tug-of-war rope options, think about the type of game you want to play. This will help you find the appropriate rope.

Game types

  • Standard tug-of-war: Standard tug-of-war games involve a single rope. Players hold the rope in their hands without wrapping it around their wrists or arms. Players should have their palms facing upward when grasping the rope.

    Think about whether the players will be wearing gloves while playing. For competitive games with gloves, rope burn is not a serious concern. In recreational games, however, players are unlikely to have their own gloves. Be sure to seek a rope material that protects players from rope burn.

  • Four-way tug-of-war: Another type of game is a four-way tug-of-war. (Some people even play eight-way games.) With this game, a specialized rope is required. The gear has a ring in the center. Four sections of rope are attached to the ring. The four players then loop the far end of the rope around their waists. During the game, each player tries to pull the other three toward one of four nearby goals.

    This type of game calls for specialized gear. A four-way tug-of-war rope is pricier than a standard rope.

Tug-of-war rope prices

Prices vary quite a bit for tug-of-war ropes. This is a situation where you could potentially save money by thinking about how you plan to use the product before getting it. If you want to get equipment for several field day games, like potato sack races and ring toss, your tug-of-war rope will need to fit into your overall budget.


The least-expensive tug-of-war ropes cost from $15 to $30. These ropes typically stretch less than 25 feet long. They’re aimed more at recreational use and children than competitive adult teams.


These ropes for tug-of-war cost from $30 to $100. Pricier ropes will be up to 100 feet in length and larger than one inch in diameter. Tug-of-war ropes at the lower end of this price range will be 25 to 50 feet in length.


The priciest tug-of-war ropes run from $100 to $400. These ropes are 100+ feet long and 1.25+ inches in diameter. They’re aimed at competitive games. Four-way tug-of-war ropes also fit in this price range.

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Did you know?
International tug-of-war championships are held annually for all-female, all-male, and mixed teams. Indoor and outdoor competitions are held.


If winning at tug-of-war is your ultimate goal, we’ve collected some tips to help you gain an advantage.

  • Mix up your players along the rope. Don’t place all of the strongest players in the back. Instead, mix players of varying strengths across the length of the rope. You’re trying to prevent players who are next to each other from slipping or losing grip at the same time.

  • Always pull as a team. You’ll have a better chance of moving the opposing team if your team members work together. Have everyone on your team make a pulling motion at the same time. Take tiny steps backward in sync to begin moving the rope in your favor.

  • Use your upper body (arms) to hold the rope and your lower body to anchor and pull. Your leg muscles are much bigger than your arm muscles, so allow these big muscles to do most of the work, using the ground as leverage.

  • Maintain a wide stance. You don’t want to fall while playing. Keep your balance by spreading your feet shoulder-width apart. Sitting on the ground after falling is against the rules, and you must stand back up immediately. Losing your balance will cost your team.
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The Olympic Games included tug-of-war as an official sport between 1900 and 1920. Great Britain won the final gold medal in 1920.


Q. I want to start a competitive tug-of-war team. How do I find tournaments and official clubs?

A. Because the Tug-of-War International Foundation oversees championships, start at its website, which has information on local resources. It also provides information on registering a team and finding tournaments.

Q. What’s the best way to keep tug-of-war teams evenly matched?

A. During formal competitions, teams must have the same number of people on both sides. Additionally, there are weight limits for the overall team at tournaments. Keeping the number of players and their weights similar helps create the right competitive environment.

Q. What’s the best way to stay safe while playing tug-of-war?

A. As with any sport, playing tug-of-war can lead to injuries. Take care that no part of your body becomes entangled or wrapped inside the rope. It’s against the rules to hold the rope this way, and it’s also extremely dangerous. Players should use gloves to prevent skin burns from the rope, as well.

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