Everything You Need To Know About Choosing a Climbing Rope

Everything You Need To Know About Choosing a Climbing Rope

You've been scaling indoor walls for some time now and you've decided: it's time to take it outside.

One of the very first steps to making the indoor-outdoor transition is to invest in a good rope. This is an important stage in a climber's journey and could be an expensive one, so we want to help guide you in the right direction before making that jump.

First, start by asking yourself: What will I be doing with this rope?

Will you be a gym, top rope, sport, trad, or a big wall climber? Perhaps you will do them all! There are a lot of different disciplines within the climbing world and thus we have to select the right tool for the task at hand. 

There are several types of ropes such as single, static, twin, and double ropes. Since it's your first time selecting a rope, we'll keep it simple and focus on single ropes.

A single rope means that the rope is rated to be used by itself. If you're not sure what kind you have, look at the end of the rope for a label. A single rope will have a number one within a small circle. Each rope has a UIAA fall rating that can be also used as a comparative value. Generally the greater the fall rating the safer the rope is.

Now with all that said and done, let's get started on the rope selection process! 

Gym Climbing Rope

Length: 30-40m

Diameter: 9.8-10.2mm

Rope Type: Single - Dynamic

Features: These ropes are great workhorses for indoor use. The shorter length is much easier to handle as most indoor climbing walls do not require a full 60m rope. Odds are that you will be taking whippers on a regular basis so that's why a lot of gym ropes will be on the thicker side.

Sport and Trad Climbing Rope

Length: 60-70m

Diameter: 9.0-10mm

Rope Type: Single - Dynamic

Features: Outdoor sport and trad routes typically require only a 60m rope. But I'll be honest, there are times 70m has come in very handy.

The benefits of a 70m rope include the ability to climb longer routes, link pitches and make longer rappels. The downsides of the 70m ropes are increased cost, increased weight, and more rope to flake out or coil while out climbing.

Choose the length based on your future goals. Perhaps start out with a 60m and add the 70m to the gear closet when you're ready. Choose a diameter based on your skill level and use case.

Generally, a thicker diameter (9.8mm and above) is recommended if you plan to use the rope for both top rope and sport climbing as the thicker ropes can typically handle more abuse. Skinny ropes (9.5mm and below) are a true game-changer. Today's modern skinny rope is proven to be just as strong as a thicker rope, so In addition, they allow the lead climber to climb harder, clip easier and provide a substantial amount of weight savings.  

Our Rope of Choice

Recently, we got the chance to test out the Trango Catalyst 9.0mm/70m rope. When I picked up the box from the mail, I instantly thought that they delivered the wrong rope because the weight of the box was so light, it was hard to believe a 70m rope was actually in it. To my surprise, it really was a 70m rope.  

We spent several days in Joshua Tree putting it through the wringer. Here are my key takeaways after using the Trango Catalyst 70m rope:

  • This rope is one of the skinniest single ropes on the market but it doesn't lack in safety and durability. The falls caught on this rope were extremely soft and there were no signs of wear and tear after many days of grinding away against the coarse and crystallized Joshua Tree rock.
  • The outer sheath is dry coated and helps keep the rope clean and dry. On one particular route, I accidentally kicked a part of the rope into a nasty green pool of water. I panicked and then realized that it didn't affect the rope whatsoever due to the coating. Dry coat for the win!
  • The pure lightness of the rope tremendously decreased rope drag while leading. I honestly felt as if the rope wasn't even there most of the time.
  • As a belayer, I found that the skinnier rope ran through the belay devices so much smoother than my 9.8mm rope. This is something to note for beginner climbers as it could possibly be easier to lose control with certain devices. We used the Vergo which worked like a dream with this rope.
  • Because of the 70m length, we were able to rappel to the ground and bypass downclimbs saving us a lot of time. 
  • Middle marks are always a plus! The contrast of the bright blue color and the dark black middle mark on this rope made it very easy to spot. I have many ropes that I can barely distinguish where the mark is after only a couple of times out.

Each rope has a different purpose and it all depends on your climbing goals. Some are meant for starting climbers who are looking for an all-around rope at an entry-level price. Others are meant for climbers who have tried the whole spectrum of ropes and now know exactly what they need in terms of size, coating, weight, and pricing. 

Choosing a rope is a lot like choosing a car – no matter what you choose, it will get the job done. There are a lot of models to choose from, but it all depends on your needs and that will ultimately help guide your decision.

Happy climbing! 

Have more questions? Ask below!

Thank you to Trango for providing us with the Catalyst 9.0mm to test and review. 

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