Best Climbing Ropes: The Top 6 of 2017
|Climbing Rope||Retail Price*|
|Top Pick: Mammut 9.5mm Infinity||$$|
|Best Value: Sterling 9.8mm Evolution Velocity||$$|
|Best for Beginners: BlueWater 10.2mm Eliminator||$$|
|Best Lightweight Climbing Rope: BlueWater 9.1mm Icon||$$|
|The Workhorse: Sterling 10.1mm Marathon Pro||$$$|
|Best Gym Climbing Rope: Sterling 10.1mm Slim Gym||$|
With any piece of climbing gear nowadays, there seems to be an overwhelming number of options. So many options, in fact, that researching and choosing which piece of gear to buy is a time-consuming process.
Climbing ropes are no exception.
Simply put, it can be difficult to know which ropes are worth your money and which aren’t. For that reason, we’ve compiled here a list of the best climbing ropes available today to help you find the right rope for your purposes. All of these options are single, dynamic climbing ropes and we’ve given each a descriptor to help you know the type of climber or climbing for which they are best suited.
Table of Contents
- Top Pick: Mammut 9.5mm Infinity
- Best Value: Sterling 9.8mm Evolution Velocity
- Best for Beginners: BlueWater 10.2mm Eliminator
- Best Lightweight Climbing Rope: BlueWater 9.1mm Icon
- The Workhorse: Sterling 10.1mm Marathon Pro
- Best Gym Climbing Rope: Sterling 10.1mm Slim Gym
- How to Choose the Best Climbing Rope for You
Top Pick: Mammut 9.5mm Infinity
Imagine you could only use one climbing rope for all of your climbing. What would it be like? It’d likely be lightweight but durable, smooth and easy to handle but also easy to clip. It would fit whatever belay device you have and provide a nice, soft catch. Finally, it would be versatile and perform well for many different types of climbing.
As you could probably guess, I just described the Mammut Infinity. With the Infinity, Mammut has combined some of the most desired climbing rope features into one rope.
At 9.5mm diameter, the Infinity is at the thin end of the range which climbing experts commonly refer to as “all-around” single ropes. The Infinity lives up to this classification. You can use it for gym, trad, sport, alpine, and multi-pitch climbing. It is also a good climbing rope for long approaches since it is so lightweight for its diameter (58 grams/meter).
The Infinity is incredibly durable for its diameter, too. Indeed, its sheath accounts for 40% of the overall weight and has a Teflon coating which helps the Infinity handle lots of wear, abuse, and abrasion.
The rope also checks many of the boxes for ease of use. It belays smoothly and fits in a GriGri. It needs little breaking in and doesn’t kink much. The standard option comes with a center mark and bi-pattern ropes are also available.
The only real “cons” of the Infinity are that the center mark can fade over time and the rope is pricier than other ropes with similar specs. However, we think this rope, given its quality, is well worth the extra money.
There are multiple optional features (bi-pattern, Mammut Protect, Dry) and multiple lengths (50m, 60m, 70m, and 80m) so you can customize your Infinity to your preferences.
Best Value: Sterling 9.8mm Evolution Velocity
The Infinity, while in our opinion the best climbing rope available today, is pricier than comparable ropes. Instead, you might be looking for the best climbing rope for the money — the climbing rope that offers the most bang for your buck. For you, we have included our selection of the best value climbing rope, the Sterling Evolution Velocity.
This 9.8mm rope is reportedly the rope of choice for Chris Sharma. It is still in the diameter range for “all-around” single climbing ropes which means, much like the Mammut Infinity, the Evolution Velocity is versatile. It is great for sport, trad, ice, and mixed routes and well-suited for entry-level climbers and advanced climbers looking for a well-rounded rope.
The Evolution Velocity has all the qualities of a top-quality rope. It has the right amount of stiffness so that it won’t flop over while clipping. It is durable, relatively lightweight (62 grams/meter), and a good deal when compared to comparable ropes. Lastly, it handles smoothly and does a good job of withstanding friction and abrasion.
Slap a great price on a well-rounded climbing rope and the Evolution Velocity is the result. The rope comes in multiple lengths (35m, 50m, 60m, 70m, and 80m) and has bi-pattern coloring and different treatment options available for extra.
Best for Beginners: BlueWater 10.2mm Eliminator
Looking for your first climbing rope? You can’t go wrong with the two options mentioned above, but if you want a rope that is extra sturdy and trustworthy then the BlueWater Eliminator is a great choice.
We’ve selected the Eliminator as the best beginner climbing rope because it provides the added durability and security that beginner climbers may be looking for. The rope has a UIAA fall rating of 8, the highest of any rope on this list. At 10.2mm it is also the thickest rope on this list. Lastly, it smoothly flows through belay devices and carabiners and catches you softly when you fall.
Yet, the Eliminator isn’t all about sturdiness and durability. The rope is also lightweight for its thickness (64 grams/meter) which makes it easy to carry relative to other thick ropes. The rope is also reasonably priced, coming in at the same price points as many thinner ropes. In effect, it’s like you’re getting extra rope strength for the same price.
The Eliminator is best used for indoor and outdoor top roping, lead climbing, and multi-pitch climbing. While we have picked it as the best climbing rope for beginners it can be used by climbers of any skill level when they want added peace of mind when it comes to safety.
One downside to BlueWater ropes is that they don’t have a middle mark indicating the halfway point in the rope. This is useful if you’ll be rappelling (such as when cleaning anchors), but if not then it likely won’t be a big issue for you. BlueWater does sell bi-pattern ropes, though, for people who need to be able to easily tell the ropes halfway point.
Best Lightweight Climbing Rope: BlueWater 9.1mm Icon
Some climbing trips require you to pack or climb with gear that is as light as possible. Will you be trad climbing with a heavy rack? Climbing long, multi-pitch routes? Facing long approaches during which you need to conserve your energy? Lead climbing at your limit and need the lightest rope possible?
Thin, lightweight climbing ropes are important in all these situations and more. Of all the ultralight ropes on the market, though, the BlueWater Icon stands out as the best.
The Icon is 9.1mm in diameter and only 55 grams/meter. This means a 60m rope weighs just 3300 grams (7.28 lbs) and an 80m rope weighs just 4400 grams (9.70 lbs). Despite its thinness the rope still has a nice rigidity to it that helps it handle and belay smoothly.
And according to professional climber Cedar Wright (who reviewed the rope on Backcountry.com — near the bottom of the page), the Icon is “the best lead line in the world today” and “the perfect balance of weight and durability”.
On the other hand, skinny, lightweight ropes are usually not as strong as thicker, heavier ropes. BlueWater did a great job with the Icon, though, of mixing durability and lightness. The rope has a thick sheath which accounts for 35% of its mass and a tight weave that helps keep it thin and helps it last longer than other ropes of similar specs.
Lightweight climbing ropes aren’t ideal for every situation, but if you need one then the Icon is a top choice. Once again, BlueWater doesn’t put middle markers in their ropes but they do offer bi-pattern ropes for extra.
The Workhorse: Sterling 10.1mm Marathon Pro
A workhorse climbing rope is one that is incredibly durable and can handle lots of abrasion and abuse. They might be heavier but they can withstand a lot. For the best option in this category we have chosen the appropriately named Sterling Marathon Pro.
The Marathon Pro is a true workhorse rope that is ideal for all-day cragging sessions, multi-pitch routes, or any situation in which you need maximum durability from your rope. The sheath on the Marathon Pro is particularly durable and can withstand lots of friction from gear or rough rock.
At 10.1mm the Marathon Pro is pretty thick. However, it’s relatively supple for its thickness and clips well, catches well, and can easily be used with a GriGri.
The thickness of the rope makes it heavier so it isn’t the best for long approaches or situations where you need a lightweight rope to minimize the weight of your climbing pack (see the BlueWater Icon if that’s what you need). Also, despite its external durability the rope has a middle-of-the-pack UIAA fall rating of 6 so if a high fall rating is what you’re after then look at the BlueWater Eliminator.
As with all the ropes on this list, the Marathon Pro has multiple lengths and extra options available.
Best Gym Climbing Rope: Sterling 10.1mm Slim Gym
Last but not least, we wanted to include the top option for those of you who need a climbing rope for the great indoors. The Sterling Slim Gym is a cheap, thick, no-fluff rope that is ideal for indoor sport climbing.
Despite the name, the Slim Gym is 10.1mm in diameter — the same as our pick for best workhorse climbing rope, the Sterling Marathon Pro.
It comes in 25m or 30m lengths since those are often adequate length for gym walls. However, if you need a longer rope look at the 40m Mammut Gym Rope, our runner-up for best gym climbing rope.
The Slim Gym clips and belays well. Besides that, it’s pretty simplistic. There is no dry option since the rope is intended for indoor use and thus unlikely to ever get wet. Due to its short length it retails for a low price.
How to Choose the Best Climbing Rope for You
Different types of climbing call for different rope diameters, and diameter directly affects weight. Sometimes, you need your rope to be as thin and light as possible. Other times, you want a highly durable rope, and durability almost always add thickness and weight. Consider the type of climbing you’ll most likely be doing with your rope, then use that to inform the diameter you need your climbing rope to be. Here are the general classifications for climbing rope diameters (for single, dynamic ropes):
- Skinny ropes: 8.9-9.4mm
- All-around ropes: 9.5-10mm
- Workhorse ropes: 10.1-11mm
These aren’t set in stone, but are helpful guidelines for how to think about which ropes are good for which climbing scenarios. Also, generally speaking, the thicker the rope the more durable and stronger it is.
You can purchase most climbing ropes at a variety of lengths. The reason is obvious: some climbing scenarios call for a long rope, others for a not-so-long rope. ‘Standard’ rope lengths are 60m and 70m, but, like always, consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing and where you’ll be climbing in order to determine the best length for your purposes.
In some situations (e.g. rappelling) you need to be able to easily tell where the middle of the rope is. Standard climbing ropes often indicate the middle of the rope with a “middle marker” — a colored and/or textured patch. However, the middle marker can be hard to find when the rope gets dirty, can fade away over time, or might not even be added to the rope by the manufacturer (e.g. BlueWater doesn’t include middle markers).
If you need to be able to easily tell where the middle of the rope is, it’s worthwhile to consider investing in a bi-pattern rope. A bi-pattern rope is covered in one design pattern on half of its length and by a completely different design pattern on the other half. This makes it easy to tell where the middle of the rope is. However, bi-pattern ropes are usually about $30 more expensive.
All the ropes on this list (except the Sterling Slim Gym) come with an optional “Dry” variant. This means the rope has been treated with water-resistant coatings that help the core and sheath repel water. A dry core and sheath, in turn, help the rope last longer. Dry variants come at a premium but might be worth it if your rope could get wet (such as from ice or mixed climbing) or if you’d like the added protection.
UIAA Safety Criteria
We trust our lives to climbing ropes. Rope safety is therefore no small matter.
Luckily, the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme), the international climbing and mountaineering federation, has created safety standards that all climbing ropes must meet. This article from REI does a good job of explaining what those standards are and what they mean. Once you familiarize yourself with the standards it is easier to make an informed decision about which rope offers you your preferred level of safety.
Photo Credit: Mammut, Sterling, BlueWater, Leonardo Pallotta