If you’re in a hurry and want to find out what the best climbing rope is, we recommend the Black Diamond 9.4 mm Climbing Rope.
How many of you watched the documentary “Free Solo”? If you did, chances are your heart rate spiked a few times and your hands got uncontrollably sweaty as you watched Alex Honnold scale a 3,000 foot wall with no protection. It was an incredible feat of both physical and mental prowess, but I want you to imagine what it would be like to climb so high with nothing to fall back on (literally).
Picking out a climbing rope shouldn’t be a fast, thoughtless process. You spend a lot of time trying on shoes and harnesses to make sure they fit and are comfortable…why wouldn’t you at least spend that much time making sure your primary lifeline is up to the challenge?
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following climbing ropes:
- Black Diamond 9.9 mm Climbing Rope
- Petzl Volta 9.0 mm Climbing Rope
- Black Diamond 9.4 mm Climbing Rope
Climbing ropes are typically measured in meters, and come in a variety of lengths. It’s important to know what sort of routes you’ll be climbing before you inadvertently buy a rope that’s too short for your project. For the sake of example, the rope that I climb on the most is 60 meters long (about 200 feet), which means I can climb routes that are up to 100 feet tall. In case you don’t understand why I can only climb a 100 foot wall even though my rope is twice that length, it’s because I need 100 feet to get to the top, and then another 100 to be lowered back down. I’ve never actually climbed a pitch that tall before, simply because it’s cutting it a little too close for comfort, but you get the idea.
I also wouldn’t recommend getting a rope much longer than mine either. I’ve seen some people climb 40 foot walls with a rope that’s 260 feet long…think they need all that extra length? Yeah, probably not. Having so much excess rope lying around makes it easier for it to get trapped, twisted, knotted, and dirty, decreasing its overall longevity. While you’ll find a need for an 80 meter rope once in awhile, in all practicality, it’s not worth it.
Ropes come in a variety of diameters as well (you can think of this as the thickness of the rope). While not super important, I’ll just briefly touch on why this should matter to you at all.
A thicker diameter doesn’t necessarily equate to a stronger rope, though they do tend to be more abrasion resistant than thinner ropes. They won’t wear out as quickly, and are less likely to snap when rubbed over sharp edges, but they are noticeably heavier too. Also, thicker ropes don’t move very well through my GriGri, but if you have an ATC or other tube style belay device, this won’t be as big of an issue.
Thinner ropes are less durable, but many climbers (including myself) prefer them because of the weight reduction. It doesn’t matter what diameter you choose to climb on, but most new climbers prefer a thicker rope because it feels more secure, while more advanced climbers prefer thinner ropes because they’re lighter.
Static vs Dynamic
Hopefully you already know this, but ropes can either be static or dynamic. Static ropes don’t stretch at all, and are great for rappelling and anchor building, while dynamic ropes do stretch and are the only thing you should be climbing on.
If you were to fall on a static rope, all of the force that normally would have been absorbed by the stretch in the rope would go into your body. At best, you break a few bones or rupture an organ or two, and at worst you would die immediately. Long story short, always buy a dynamic rope for climbing – there are plenty of other dangers to be wary of without creating new ones.
Best Climbing Rope Reviews
The rope that I climb on is 9.6 mm thick, but other than that, this is exact same piece of gear that I use for outdoor climbing. It is a dynamic rope, and I’ve found that the amount of stretch is perfect for me – not too much, and not too little. Obviously this rope is a little thicker than mine, so it won’t stretch quite as much, but it should still be suitable for most beginner/intermediate climbers.
I’ve also put my rope through the ringer in terms of climate and abrasion, and it’s held up beautifully for the couple of years that I’ve had it. There hasn’t been any fraying, cuts, or damage to my core, and this thicker rope will be even more resistant to damage like that. Black Diamond is well known for making quality gear, and when my current rope runs out of life, you can be sure I’ll buy another one just like it.
– Diameter is good for beginner/intermediate climbers
– Slides through belays devices easily, but isn’t slippery
– Not overly heavy for the thickness
– Collects dirt easily when used outside
Looking for something strong and light that can carry you through mountain passes and canyons? The Petzl Volta might be the rope for you. At 9 mm, it is quite thin and a little slippery, but is fantastic for those times when you don’t want a lot of weight holding you back.
It’s going to be a little less abrasion resistant than the Black Diamond rope listed above, but it’s by no means unsafe. With proper rope maintenance and care (things you should be doing no matter what you’re using), you won’t even notice any wear and tear for awhile.
This rope is also coated with a water repellant treatment. The coating not only helps repel water and dirt, but also works as another barrier against the rock, slowing the abrasion process. Unfortunately, the largest size available is 60 meters, but as I’ve mentioned before, that is the length of rope that I climb on almost everywhere I go. Chances are you won’t need anything longer than that for the majority of routes you’ll be climbing.
– The middle of the rope is marked
– Water repellant
– Resists dirt well
– A bit slippery
– Less durable than a thicker rope would be
I’m not going to lie…I’m a bit partial to this diameter. It’s a good mix between smooth and light, wide enough to not feel slippery but thin enough to slide easily through my belay device. I’ve had too many frustrating moments as a thicker rope got caught in my GriGri, and I was forced to make my friends wait suspended in the air while I fixed the problem.
This rope, on the other hand, glides nicely through both a GriGri and an ATC, so you’ll be okay no matter what you use for belaying. Like its 9.9 mm sibling, this rope stands up to the rough edges of the crag like a dream. The middle marker is also very well done, and handy when you want to rappel or want to do something else that would require knowing where the halfway point is.
– Really smooth through belay devices
– Handy midpoint marker
– Very durable
– Comes in a good variety of sizes
– It’s debatable on whether the color is actually gold (looks a little more like a lime green). If color doesn’t matter very much to you, though, it’s not a huge issue.
Finding the right rock climbing rope for you is one of the best things you can do. It’s an item that not only affects the climber, but the belayer as well, so extra special consideration should be taken before you decide what you want to purchase. Because of that, I like the Black Diamond 9.4 mm climbing rope the best.
Not only is it nice for the climber because it’s lighter than most ropes, but it’s also great for the belayer. It’s thick enough to sit nicely in most belay devices, but not too thick that it gets caught at the worst possible times. Easy to clean, and resistant to damage from abrasion, it’s a good all around rope that’ll last you for a long time.
Want to use your new rope for rappelling? Read our guide to learn how!