Climbing Survival Tactical

How to Choose the Right Climbing Ropes

A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Climbing Ropes

Searching for some climbing ropes? If so, there are a few factors you should be thinking about before making any purchase decisions. It’s important to get the right quality equipment, especially when partaking in a potentially high-risk activity like rock climbing. Ropes come in different types, lengths, safety ratings and more, and every climber needs to be aware of these aspects and features in order to stay safe and use the right tools for every job. Here, we’ll be talking about all the things you should be looking out for the next time you go shopping for climbing ropes.


Types of Ropes

To begin, let’s focus on the different types of rope out there. Ropes are first split into two distinct categories: dynamic and static. Static ropes barely stretch at all, while dynamic ropes will stretch when necessary. Static ropes are useful for certain specific situations, but you’ll mostly be making use of dynamic ropes when climbing. The dynamic family of ropes is split into three subcategories: single, half and twin. Let’s look at each of these types in detail to understand the differences.

Single ropes are perfect for big wall climbing, sport climbing, and other activities. They are probably the most common type of rope you will see on climbing routes. They are called single ropes because they should be used on their own, rather than in conjunction with a second rope. You can buy single ropes in many different sizes and lengths, so you should always be able to find one for your specific needs. It’s easy to spot singles in stores as they’ll have a number 1 printed at each end.

Next, there are half ropes, easily noticeable with their ½ symbol on each end. These are best used for multi-pitch rock routes, ice climbs or mountaineering. They are called half ropes because you have to use two of them at the same time, with one being attached to protection while the other one is free. These ropes cut down on rope drag, as well as offering the extra level of safety and reassurance that comes with having a second rope in case of emergencies. At the same time, half ropes aren’t for beginners and do take some extra skill to keep track of. Also, carrying two ropes will weigh you down more than a single.

Finally, we come to twin ropes. You can spot these ropes with their infinity symbol printed at the ends. Twin ropes are used for trad climbing on certain types of route, along with ice climbing. Just like with half ropes, you need to use a pair of twin ropes. However, what makes them different is that both ropes always need to be attached to protection. They’re usually quite thin and light to help you cut down on overall weight, but they will add extra drag. As with half ropes, you’ll need a good amount of practice and experience to use twin ropes effectively.

rope lengths

Understanding Rope Sizes

Now let’s look at the different rope sizes, specifically the diameter and length of each rope. Thin ropes will usually be lighter and easier to handle, but they may be less resistant than the thick ones. You’ll need to choose the right rope for each job. For example, if you’re going to be top-roping, then thick ropes are essential. However, if you’re doing some general multi-patch climbs, thin ropes could suffice. The ideal thickness for all-round climbing is around 9.5-10mm. Ropes in this range should be perfect for beginners and are well-suited to a myriad of activities.

When it comes to length, you can buy ropes ranging from as low as 30m to as high as 80m. The most common size is 60m, and this should be perfect for most climbing expeditions. The golden rule to remember is that your rope should be twice as long as the route you’re going to be climbing. If you’re doing a 25m route, grab at least a 50m rope. This way, you’ll have enough rope to go all the way up and back down. The shorter ropes are generally used for indoor climbing, but you still need to be make sure that they are long enough to help the climber come down.

rope features

Miscellaneous Features of Ropes on the Market in 2016

As well as knowing about rope types and sizes, it can be useful to learn about the various features that certain ropes have to offer. For example, you might have noticed certain ropes being marketed as “dry-treated”. You’ll usually have to pay extra for this feature, but it can be a very useful one. Dry-treated ropes have been specially prepared to absorb less water and remain dry. This helps them to remain strong and light, even in wet conditions. Wet ropes can be difficult to manage, and if the water inside them starts to freeze then they can become very stiff. You should be using dry-treated ropes if you think you’ll be climbing some wet routes.

Other features include the middle mark and the end warning marks. These are helpful little marks that let you know exactly where you are on your rope. The middle marks are usually made from black dye and placed right in the middle of the rope, while end warning marks are also made with black dye and can be found towards the end of the rope, letting you know that you don’t have much left to work with. You can also find bicolor ropes which have two different colors for each half. These features aren’t necessary, but they can be handy and are recommended, especially for novice climbers.

guide to rope safety ratings

Understanding Rope Safety Ratings

Finally, it’s important to be aware of the various safety ratings you’ll find on each rope. In labs around the world, ropes are put through various tests to determine their strength and reliability. The fall rating of a rope shows how many falls it can support before losing its strength. Higher ratings mean that the ropes will be able to last longer than others, but it’s always smart to check your ropes often, especially after any falls, for signs of wear and tear.

You’ll also see the static elongation and dynamic elongation ratings. These show how far ropes stretch when put under certain amounts in pressure. In these cases, the lower numbers are better. Lastly, the impact force rating shows how much force will be put on a climber’s body in case of a fall. Again, lower ratings are better here and will provide for safer falls.

About the author

Mike Paris

Mike is the editor of NWT Outfitters and as you may expect, an avid outdoorsman... When Mike isn't logged into the NWT backend, he's camping, climbing, hunting, fishing, or doing some combination of the four.

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