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Rope management is the climbing equivalent of doing laundry. It isn’t fun, but it’s an essential skill — and if you aren’t good at it, your day is going to stink.

Learning how to coil a climbing rope is the first step to becoming a rope management wizard. We’ll cover the two most common methods. All you need to learn and practice is a rope!

1. Double-Strand Butterfly

This is the most common method of coiling and carrying a climbing rope. It can be used to hang a rope or to create a “backpack coil” for an easy carry.

1. Find the Middle (or the Ends)

This coiling method can be started either from the middle or the ends of the rope. Both ways work fine, although starting from the middle allows you to work out any twists or tangles as you work toward the ends. To hang your rope, you’ll need to start from the ends.

If your rope has a middle marker, this step is easy. If not, you can find the middle by taking the two ends and flaking both through your hands until you reach the midpoint. This adds an extra step but ensures that your rope is tangle-free.

Note: If you’re planning to tie a backpack coil and would like to start from the ends, flake out 8-10 feet of both strands before beginning your coil.

2. Pull a Length of Both Strands

With both strands of rope in your hands, separate your arms to pull about 4 feet of rope. This is not an exact science — you’ll get the hang of finding the loop size that works for you.

Tip: If you’re making a backpack coil, don’t make your loops too long. They’ll bump on your legs and may even get tangled with your feet.

3. Place a Loop Over Your Shoulders

Take your length of rope and lift it behind your neck. The strands should fall in front of your shoulders.

4. Repeat!

Let go of the midpoint or ends (depending on where you started) and pull another length of rope. Lift it onto your shoulders.

Repeat this process, alternating hands to pull the rope.

When you have 8-10 feet of both strands remaining, stop coiling. You’ll need that length to wrap and secure your coil.

Note: If you’re tying a backpack coil and started from the ends, you can keep making loops until you run out of rope. The 8-10 feet you flaked out in Step 1 will secure your coil.

5. Remove the Bundle From Your Shoulders

With both hands, lift all the strands of rope over your head to hold them in front of you. Place one hand, usually your non-dominant, where your neck was. The loops should fall equally to both sides.

This step can be tricky, and it helps to have large hands. With a little practice, it will be quick and smooth.

6. Wrap It Up

Lift the coils in front of you. With your dominant hand, grab the remaining lengths of rope and wrap them horizontally around the bundle. Start 6-8 inches below your non-dominant hand and wrap upward.

Getting your arm underneath the loops to wrap them is another tricky element. It helps to lift the rope high with your non-dominant hand and swing it against the direction of the wraps.

Make at least 4-5 wraps around the bundle. If you’re hanging your rope, leave 2-3 feet unwrapped. If you’re tying a backpack coil, leave at least 5-6 feet unwrapped.

7. Cinch It

Pull a bight of both strands through the hole at the top of your bundle. Hold the bundle by this bight.

Pull the remaining length of both strands over the top of the bundle and through your bight.

If you want to hang your rope for storage, you’ll finish this step at the midpoint. You should end up with a convenient loop to clip or hang wherever you like. You’re done!

If you want to tie a backpack coil, pull both ends all the way through your bight and proceed to the final step. You should have around 5 feet of rope remaining.

8. OPTIONAL: Tie Your Backpack

Separate the two strands of remaining rope. Take one in each hand and use them to lift the coil onto your back with the loops facing downward. The two strands should go on either side of your neck.

Slide your hands down the strands and send both behind your back. Swap the strands between your hands, then bring them back in front of you. The two strands should now go over your shoulders and behind your back over the coil.

Finally, tie a square knot around your waist. If you’re still wearing a harness, you can tie this knot to your belay loop for an extra comfortable carry.

If you left too much rope at the end, no worries — just do another wrap around your waist with one or both strands. If you don’t have enough rope left to tie your knot, go back and undo a wrap or two to free up some slack.

You now have a convenient and secure backpack of rope. This is an especially useful coiling method for descents after a multipitch climb.

Tip: When you lift the coil over your head, lean forward and make sure that it sits high on your back. It will settle slightly as you carry it, and you don’t want the loops tangling with your gear or legs.

2. Single-Strand Butterfly

This method is convenient for cragging or approaches when you don’t have (or want) a rope bag. It keeps one end accessible, and it’s easy to throw over the top of a pack.

1. Find One End

This method is simpler because you’ll be coiling only one strand at a time. To start, just find one end of your rope.

Note: Coiling is always easiest if your rope is flaked and free from tangles. It’s possible to untangle as you go, but it can be a pain.

2. Pull a Length

Just like the first method, pull about 4 feet of rope between your hands.

3. Place a Loop Over Your Shoulders

Lift the length behind your neck. The two ends should fall in front of your shoulders.

4. Repeat!

With alternating hands, keep pulling armfulls of rope and lifting them onto your neck. Stop when you have about one armful (4-6 feet) remaining.

5. Remove the Bundle From Your Shoulders

With both hands, lift all the strands of rope over your head to hold them in front of you. Place one hand, usually your non-dominant, where your neck was. The loops should fall equally to both sides.

6. Create a Small Bight

Start one more loop of coil. Make this loop slightly shorter than the rest.

Instead of letting the other side hang across your hand, make a small bight and hold it in place as shown below.

7. Wrap It Up

Instead of wrapping the doubled bundle horizontally like the first method, use the remaining rope to wrap the rope vertically around the middle. Starting a few inches from your bight, wrap toward it. Pull your wraps tight as you go.

8. Thread and Cinch

When you no longer have enough rope to complete another wrap, thread the end through your bight.

On the other side of the wraps, find the strand of rope that connects to your bight. Pull it to tighten the bight, which should lock the end of the rope in place.

The rope can now be draped across the top of a pack for easy portability. A rope coiled using this method should stay flaked and tangle-free, and the end is readily accessible when it’s time to start climbing.

Best Climbing Ropes and Rope Bags

For a good all-around rope and a bag to carry it, these are trusted workhorses:

  • Mammut 9.5 Crag Classic. Various iterations of this rope have been a top pick for years. It’s a versatile and durable companion.
  • DMM Classic Rope Bag. DMM’s take on the classic rope bag is a winner. Compression straps keep things light and compact, and it can be carried as a satchel or a backpack.

You can also check out our lists of the best climbing ropes and rope bags.

How to Store a Climbing Rope

In most cases, coiling a climbing rope isn’t necessary for storage. Ropes may be stored in a neat stack in a clean rope bag or container. Make sure to keep stored ropes in a cool, dry place where they won’t be exposed to much sunlight.

If you prefer to hang your ropes, you can use the double-strand butterfly method starting from the ends. You’ll end up with a convenient loop for hanging.

Using a Rope Bag

For cragging and shorter outings, many climbers prefer to use a dedicated rope bag or tarp. These bags help keep your rope out of the dirt, and they have handy loops to keep the ends accessible and tangle-free. A full coil is unnecessary with a rope bag, although you’ll still want to keep your rope neat and flaked.

Mountaineer’s Coil

The mountaineer’s coil is a comfortable way to carry a rope on long alpine approaches. It looks cool, but it’s prone to tangles and introduces twists to the rope. We’d recommend sticking to the butterfly methods for most scenarios.


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