How To Choose Climbing Ropes: A Detailed Guide For Climbers & Mountaineers

Rilor Staff
Update: October 9, 2021
Table of Contents

Learning how to choose climbing ropes by yourself is an essential skill, especially if you are into ascending big walls and towering landscapes. These ropes aren't just mere amenities; they are lifesavers. They can help you traverse your destination as safely as possible. They can also make impossible climbs doable. 

But for a climbing rope to do those things, it should be durable and functional. Read on so that you can understand the fundamentals in selecting the ideal climbing rope for you. 

How To Choose Climbing Ropes

The following are the considerations that you need to take into account when choosing climbing ropes. I recommend that you sort it through so that you'll be able to get the right rope for your next adventure.

Different Types Of Climbing Ropes

One should know that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to climbing ropes. Specifically, there are two different variations: static and dynamic. 

A static climbing rope doesn't stretch that much. Because of this quality, they are extremely useful whenever you are ascending, hauling your luggage, or lowering someone that has been injured or immobilized. You should never use these static ropes for lead climbs and top ropes; after all, they are not tailored or proven to be safe to be used on such applications. 

Meanwhile, a dynamic climbing rope is known for its stretchability. Therefore, it works well in absorbing the impact or force if ever you fall from the top. When it comes to dynamic ropes, you have three options: twin ropes, single ropes, and half ropes. 

Single Ropes

Most climbers today are purchasing single ropes. The term "single" in its name simply refers to the fact that the rope is stand-alone; it is not utilized with other ropes. These single ropes are available in different sizes, which makes them useful in various climbing applications. Moreover, they have hassle-free usage, as compared to other types of dynamic ropes. 

Interestingly enough, there are single ropes that are classified as twin ropes or half ropes. These single ropes are useful for different techniques in climbing. When choosing a rope, you have to make sure that it fits the bill. This means that it should only be used on the application that was proven to be safe. 

You can know if that rope is a single rope if it has a circled number one on its end. 

Single ropes are best used for the following climbing approaches: top-roping, big wall, sport, and trad climbing. 

Twin Ropes 

A twin rope uses a dual-rope system. Specifically, you have to clip the strands of the rope together, which is quite similar to what you do with single ropes. With this setup, you get adequate rope drags. Such a benefit enables you to use these twin ropes if you are trekking non-wandering terrains. Moreover, these twin ropes have a thinner construction than half ropes. Of course, that's an advantage if you want a lightweight climbing amenity. 

With a twin rope, you will be able to rappel twice the distance of a single rope. Furthermore, a twin rope gives security if one of the ropes gets broken during a descent. 

On the flip side, using these twin ropes requires training and effort. You have to remember that using them will require you to belay and climb with not one but two ropes. Furthermore, there are instances where the weight of these two ropes is heavier than a single rope. 

Twin ropes are suitable for the following climbing applications: non-wandering, ice climbing, and mountaineering. 

Half Ropes

Half ropes also use two ropes, which is plainly similar to twin ropes. Every time you ascend using these half ropes, you have to clip one of the ropes on the left protection and the other one on the right protection. If you can do this properly, you will be able to go straight and parallel using the rope. It is an efficient method of decreasing the rope drag, especially if you are in wandering routes. 

If you connect the ropes of half ropes whenever you are rappelling, you will cover more distance than with a single rope. Furthermore, they also give an extra layer of protection if one of the ropes gets damaged.

The disadvantages of half ropes are pretty similar to twin ropes. They tend to be heavy, and they require practice before you can use them efficiently. 

Keep in mind that some models of half ropes are classified as twin ropes. Hence, you can use multiple climbing techniques with them. There are also triple-rated half ropes; you can use them as a single, twin, or half ropes. They are the most versatile options in the field. 

Half ropes are suitable for the following climbing applications: wandering route, trad climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. 

The Diameter Of Climbing Ropes

The diameter of climbing ropes influences their performance. For instance, a thin rope is light, but it has less durability than thick ropes. You need to be skilled so that you can belay with them as safely as possible. Meanwhile, ropes that have thick diameters offer more durability and abrasion resistance. They can handle constant use and abuse. 

You should use a thick rope if you are top-roping from a tall crag. For applications that involve multi-pitch ascents, you should get a light and skinny rope. 

  • Single ropes (up to 9.4mm) - These ropes are extremely lightweight, which makes them suitable for multi-pitch climbs. But keep in mind that they cannot handle multiple falls. They are technically difficult to use because of their minimal durability. 
  • Single ropes (9.5mm to 9.9mm) - These single ropes are also lightweight. However, they are versatile enough for you to be able to use them in various climbing applications--such as trad climbing. They have sufficient durability to deal with the arduous conditions in craggy mountains. Moreover, they are easier to use than extremely skinny ropes. 
  • Single ropes (10mm or more) - Single ropes that fall in this range are suitable for big-wall climbing, gym climbing, and top-roping. These climbing techniques are known for their difficulty; therefore, they can wear out climbing ropes easily. You have to get a rugged and sturdy rope if you want to conquer the odds. 
  • Twin ropes and half ropes - A twin rope have a diameter of 7mm to 8mm. Meanwhile, half ropes usually range from 8mm to 9mm in diameter. 
  • Static ropes - These ropes have a standard diameter of 9mm to 13mm. 

The Length Of Climbing Ropes

You should also decide the length of the rope that you should buy. Most of the time, dynamic ropes have a length that ranges from 30 meters to 80 meters. If you can get a 60-meter rope, then your needs are already covered. 

  • For outdoor climbing, you need a rope that has an adequate length. In this way, the rope's half would be longer or equal to the route you will climb. For instance, if the route has a distance of 30 meters, then you need a 60-meter rope so that you can traverse it upward and downward. For other climbing applications, longer ropes are needed so that climbers can be lowered safely to the ground. 
  • For indoor climbing, you will only need short ropes. You can actually settle for 35-meter options or less. They are suitable for gym climbing because their routes are generally shorter than their outdoor counterparts. But of course, you still have to assess the route first before you pick a climbing rope. In this way, you can make sure that the rope will help you lower to the ground safely. 

When it comes to static ropes, lengths may vary. In fact, some of them are sold with precise measurements so that you can really get the length that you need. After all, static ropes are versatile; they are used for hauling items, rescuing, and caving. If you are doing these climbs, you should be specific to the length of the climbing rope you pick. 

Other Features To Consider

  • Waterproofing - Climbing ropes have to possess a certain degree of waterproofing. In this way, they won't absorb water. If they get drenched and sucked water, they will become heavier. It reduces their durability, which, in turn, could cause them to be less resistant to the impacts caused by falls. Meanwhile, if the rope is exposed to cold temperatures, it might get stiff and difficult to handle. 

To prevent these things from happening, dry treatment becomes a necessary feature for these climbing ropes. But of course, you may not need to have this feature, especially if you are just indoor climbing. You still have to assess whether such a feature is valuable or not. After all, ropes with dry treatment are expensive. 

  • Marking on the middle - Many of these climbing ropes have markings in their center. Usually, these marks are colored black. Their purpose is simple; they help you see the rope's center, which is essential every time you rappel. 
  • Markings on the rope's end - There are ropes that have marks on their ends to help you identify if you are reaching their threshold. It is a necessary feature whenever you are rappelling or lowering items and climbers. 
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