Ropes have come a long way since climbing first became a full blown sport. Modern ropes are specialized for their uses and therefore there are many differences between them.

So how do you know which rope is right for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself. The answers should help you make a decision.

*Note: Static ropes are not covered but are primarily used for hauling, ascending and descending. Not for climbing.

Single, Half or Twin?

Most climbers choose to climb on a single rope for top-rope, sport and traditional climbing. Single ropes (left) typically have a larger diameter (around 9-11mm) but this depends on its specific use. A drawback to the single rope system is that there can be a lot of rope drag when climbing wandering routes. For sport climbers this is rarely an issue (never an issue on top-rope) but many traditional routes have wandering gear placements due to the lack of available placements. Therefore, one may consider a half rope setup.

A half rope setup (middle) where the climber is attached to two ropes and each rope uses separate protection. Even though the protection wanders, the ropes do not and there is less rope drag. This is also safer in the case of falling rock severing a rope. Half ropes typically have a diameter of 8-9mm.

Twin ropes (right) are the less commonly used option but are often used in long multi-pitch routes. They share protection so they are similar to a single rope system, including rope drag. However, having two twin ropes allows the climber to rappel a longer length when the ropes are tied together (70m single = 35m rappel, 70m twins = 70m rappel). Twin ropes have an even smaller diameter (7-8mm) and shouldn’t be used for anything else besides a twin rope system.

Ropes- Single, Half or Twin?

What Diameter?

A larger diameter rope will hold up better over time whereas a smaller diameter is lighter.

Generally, the thicker the rope, the more falls it can take before it is recommended to stop use. Ropes are rated by the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) for how many falls as well as how much impact force (kN) a rope can withstand.

So if you are just running up routes with little to no falls then a skinnier, lighter rope may suit you better. If you are trying harder routes and are taking large whippers or hanging on the rope for long periods of time then you’ll want to use a thicker rope that will hold up better.

You should also consider what belay devices you prefer when picking a rope. Certain devices only support certain diameters. For example, the GRIGRI2  recommends a rope between 9.4 and 10.3mm but can support between 8.9 and 11mm.

What Length?

The longer your rope the further you can climb and rappel in a single pitch. However, the longer the rope the more it weighs and costs.

It all depends on the length of the climbs you are doing. It’s also important to consider the length of the rappel of a multi-pitch route should you have to descend for some reason.

Dry Treated and Bi-Patterned?

A dry treated rope is treated with a water resistant chemical that prevents the rope from getting wet. So if you are ice climbing or sport climbing over the ocean a dry treated rope is preferred. However, just like sun block on your skin, the treatment will eventually wear off. According to Rock and Ice Magazine, a wet rope can still handle a static load but a dynamic force can severely damage the rope. However, once the rope dries out it should maintain its original impact ratings.

A bi-patterned rope switches sheath patterns at the halfway point so it can be more easily identified. This is convenient for rappelling or long routes where more than half the rope is used. A bi-patterned rope is more expensive than its single pattern counterpart. For this reason many climbers choose to mark the middle point with a marker instead though warnings exist against this (Read Here).

Where to Buy?

We have ropes in stock at the RockSport gear shop.  Come into RockSport and we can help you find the right rope for your climbing needs.  We can also do a special order if we do not have the item in stock.

RockSport Indoor Climbing (
1901 Silverada Blvd, #10, Reno, NV 89512




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: