Best Rope Bags for Rock Climbing: The Top 5 of 2019
|Top Pick: Metolius Ropemaster HC Rope Bag|
|Best Value: Metolius Dirt Bag II|
|Budget Buy: IKEA Frakta Storage Bag|
|Honorable Mention: Petzl Bolsa Rope Bag|
|Honorable Mention: Black Diamond Super Chute Rope Bag|
Rope bags are important because they extend the life of your climbing rope by helping it stay clean. Plain and simple, dirty ropes wear out faster than clean ropes. They wear out your other climbing gear faster, too (friction, y’all).
We researched the best rope bags available and narrowed the long list of options down to our top five. Read on for our favorites.
- Top Pick: Metolius Ropemaster HC Rope Bag
- Best Value: Metolius Dirt Bag II
- Budget Buy: IKEA Frakta Storage Bag
- Honorable Mention: Petzl Bolsa Rope Bag
- Honorable Mention: Black Diamond Super Chute Rope Bag
- How to Choose the Best Rope Bag for Your Needs
Top Pick: Metolius Ropemaster HC Rope Bag
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The Metolius Ropemaster is as close to perfected simplicity as a rope bag may ever come.
It has the features that it needs to have, and no more. It was one of the first rope bags ever and the fact that it is still around today is a testament to its simple yet timeless design.
This 29 L pack comes with a tarp that measures 52″ x 58″ (132 cm x 147 cm). It has two outside straps with buckles which you can cinch tight to reduce the bags size. There is also a nifty little window in the tarp that lets you see what rope you’re carrying without having to take it out.
Despite all its positives, though, the Ropemaster isn’t the best choice for everyone.
It’s a messenger-style rope bag, and you might simply prefer a backpack-style bag. Also, while it can easily carry a 70m rope (with enough room for some other small gear), it isn’t big enough to carry everything. If you’re looking for a rope bag that can double as a climbing pack, look elsewhere.
Best Value: Metolius Dirt Bag II
When the original Metolius Dirt Bag came out, the consensus in the climbing community was that it was a great rope bag except for the tarp, which — at 3′ x 3′ — was a little small.
Metolius then improved upon the design and released the current version, the Dirt Bag II. It has more storage capacity (26 L) and a larger tarp that measures 52″ x 58″ (132 cm x 147 cm).
With these new changes, this rope bag is now a solid option at a great value. It can hold a 70m rope and is a messenger-style bag that comes with a single padded shoulder strap.
The Dirt Bag II has no bells and whistles, but it does come with one eye-catching feature: it’s price. It retails for a fair amount less than many other options out there.
In my opinion, it’s the best deal on a rope bag available today.
Budget Buy: IKEA Frakta Storage Bag
Whenever you bring up the topic of rope bags with climbers, someone always mentions using the good ol’ blue IKEA bag.
If you didn’t know, that bag has an actual name. It’s called the Frakta Storage Bag.
IKEA-bag-loving climbers have a point when they recommend the Frakta as a rope bag. For a few bucks when you buy it at IKEA, you can get something that serves about 1.5 of the two basic functions that a good rope bag serves:
- Transporting your rope
- Keeping your rope clean
How is it that it only does 1.5 of these things?
Undeniably you can use the Frakta to transport your climbing rope along with all your other climbing gear. The Frakta bags with the zipper can even be worn on your back like a backpack. However, it doesn’t come with an attached tarp which means it does a poor job of keeping your rope clean.
True rope bags come with attached tarps that you can lay out beneath your routes so your rope is less likely to get dirty. This is important since dirt damages your rope and, through contact with your rope, your other climbing gear.
However, this isn’t a deal breaker by any means. You can always purchase a tarp separately. Or, you can get all DIY up in here and hack it into a true rope bag.
If the Frakta Storage Bag doesn’t appeal to you but you still want a budget option, take a look at the Trango Cord Trapper Rope Tarp. It’s a simple, affordable, and lightweight rope tarp designed to function like a rope bag for those who carry their rope in their packs.
Honorable Mention: Petzl Bolsa Rope Bag
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The rope bags mentioned above were both messenger-style bags, so I wanted to include a top backpack-style rope bag for those of you who prefer this style.
Backpack-style rope bags are better for longer approaches or other situations where comfort and carry-ability are important.
The Petzl Bolsa Rope Bag is a lightweight backpack-style rope bag that comes with a 1.4m x 1.4m (4.6 ft x 4.6 ft) tarp. According to Petzl, it can comfortably carry an 80m rope plus climbing gear.
One of the benefits of this bag is that, since it can hold a fair amount of stuff, it can double as your climbing pack and be the only pack you take to the crag.
One downside is that the straps aren’t padded so, while it’s more comfortable than most messenger-style bags, it can get a little uncomfortable after a while.
Honorable Mention: Black Diamond Super Chute Rope Bag
The Black Diamond Super Chute is another high-quality messenger-style rope bag.
Besides being a good all-around pick, one feature that helped it earn an Honorable Mention pick is its funnel-shaped tarp that makes storing the rope easy. To do so, you just pick up the corners of the 4′ x 5′ tarp and the rope falls right into the bag.
The strap is well-padded which helps when you’re carrying the bag for extended periods of time.
How to Choose the Best Rope Bag for Your Needs
When choosing a good rope bag, it helps to start with a question.
Ask yourself: “In what situations will I mostly be using my rope bag?”
Keep your answer in mind when reading through our recommended evaluation criteria so you can pick the bag that is best for your particular situation. Also consider the ropes and other equipment you’ll be putting into your rope bag.
For example, if you’re doing 45-minute approaches with pounds and pounds of gear, you’ll probably need something different than the person who’s doing 10-minute approaches with basic equipment.
One of the most important — arguably the most important — function of a rope bag is to keep your climbing rope clean. Dirt can damage a rope and shorten its lifespan, so it’s important to keep your rope out of the dirt as much as possible.
Indeed, an article from Climbing Magazine cites a study that tested the effects of dirt on rope strength. The study concluded that “after one soiling/pulling event, the cord had lost approximately 20 percent of its strength”.
More interested in keeping your rope clean now?
Part of maintaining clean ropes comes down to basic care such as not stepping on them. Another large part of it comes down to getting a rope bag with a big enough tarp.
Rope bags with small tarps are commonly criticized. The smallest tarp sizes you’ll find are usually around 3′ by 3′ and many people have complained about this being too small.
If you want a good-sized tarp then 4′ by 4′ is a common size that most people find acceptable. Really long ropes might necessitate a larger tarp. However, if, on the other hand, you are trying to reduce your pack weight, you might purposefully look for a rope bag with a small tarp.
What will you be using your rope bag to store? Your shortest, lightest climbing rope, for example, or maybe all the gear that you’ll be taking to the crag that day?
To get a better idea of your ideal storage capacity, it helps to consider how long your rope is and how you like to transport it. Do you carry it in a separate bag or do you throw it in with all your other climbing gear?
Obviously, the longer your climbing rope, the more storage capacity you’ll need. Many rope bags will often list on their product pages what size ropes they can comfortably carry.
Also, if you’d like a rope bag that can double as a climbing pack, make sure that it is large enough to fit your rope and all the extra things that you’ll be putting in it.
Backpacks vs. Messenger Bags
Climbing rope bags come in two main styles: backpacks and messenger bags.
In case you don’t know the difference already, backpack-style bags have two shoulder straps and can be worn against your back just like, of all things, a backpack. Messenger bags have only one shoulder strap and are usually worn diagonally across the chest.
While neither style is inherently better than the other in terms of keeping your rope clean, the style does matter for transporting your rope. Messenger bags tend to swing and bounce around more and can be difficult to hike or scramble with. You often need to use one hand to stop it from bouncing around while walking. They also tend to be less comfortable, making them the inferior choice for long, technical approaches. One upside, though, is that you can carry a climbing pack simultaneously.
Backpack-style rope bags are much better suited for longer approaches where you need a comfortable pack that you can wear securely on your back. They also tend to be able to carry more stuff.
To pick the right style for your particular case, consider once again the type of approaches you’ll be doing and gear you’ll be carrying.
If you are in any situation where you want to minimize overall pack weight, don’t forget to consider the weight of your rope bag before purchasing. Stray ounces can add up quickly.
If you’re really looking to cut down on pack weight it might also pay to consider if you even need a rope bag. Could you shave off some ounces by stuffing your rope into your pack instead?
Doing so obviously won’t keep your rope as clean as it would if it were in a rope bag, but if your main desire is to cut down on pack weight then it might be your best bet.