How to Choose a Rock Climbing Rope

Disclosure: Links marked with * are Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases if you decide to make a purchase through these links – at no cost for you!

When climbing it is essential to have the right equipment. One of the most important pieces of equipment to look at when approaching rock climbing is the rope. But how do you choose the right rock climbing rope?

There are a number of qualities that should be thought about before selecting a rope:

  • Rope Type: For every type of rock climbing there is the right type of rope. You have to choose from dynamic ropes, static ropes, single ropes, twin ropes and half ropes.
  • Length: The standard is a 60 meter rope. Remember to check if the length of the rope is sufficient for your route.
  • Diameter: The thicker the rope, the safer, heavier and more durable it is.
  • Safety Rating: Your rope should have a certified safety (which fortunately is given by various standards everywhere).
  • Other Rope features: Middle marks and dry treatment could be helpful features for your rope.

What Types of Rope are there to choose from?

There are a number of ropes to select from when it comes to mountain climbing, but at the end of the day, there are two main ropes to choose from; dynamic ropes and static ropes. Both have their own sub-category choices and have different traits that are served for different purposes.

What is a Dynamic Rope?

Recommendation: Edelrid Python 10.0mm Dynamic Climbing Rope*

A dynamic rope will soften the impact of a climber when they are falling. Dynamic ropes are meant to stretchable and serve almost like a cushion so that when you’re falling, you’ll feel as if you’ve falling onto a springboard or trampoline and will just spring upwards after falling. This is commonly used for recreational use, such as mountaineering, rock climbing, and ice climbing.

Dynamic ropes are made from materials such as nylon, which keep the rope durable and strong. With these types of materials, you won’t have to worry about any sort of breaks in the ropes.

There are three categories of Dynamic ropes: twin ropes, half ropes, and single ropes.

Single Ropes

 The single rope is the most common type of rope used amongst climbers. These are used for sports climbing and big wall climbing, so chances are if you’re going to rock climb for fun, this is your go-to rope for climbing. Other types of ropes will be used with others, but the single rope is used by itself, making it easy to manage.

The reason why the single rope is used so often for a variety of climbing activity is that they can be found in a number of different lengths and diameters.

In general, they are by far the easiest to use out of the three types of dynamic ropes. Between the easy management (it is ONE rope after all) and its usability for multiple climbing techniques, they are an easy first option when it comes to rock climbing. If you want to make sure that you know the rope is a single one, just look at the end of it. There will be a number label that you can find there.

Check on Amazon*

Twin Ropes

This version of the rope is a two rope system, so there will be more than one rope involved, unlike the single rope. You can use the twin ropes in a traditional climbing setting, but make sure that the rock routes are multi-pitched, meaning the rock you’re climbing should have a belay station to place the rope. The twin ropes are also pretty much the equivalent of having two single ropes, meaning that you’ll need to make sure that you take care of both when you are climbing, as they are normally placed in the same areas and weigh about the same/have the same thickness.

The twin ropes are the lightest of the multi-type dynamic rope. With its very skinny frame, they are easier to manage for a double rope system since they are both so small and light in terms of weight. The fact that you have two ropes also allows you to climb even further/higher from wherever you started since you’re dealing with two ropes instead of a single one.

From a safety perspective, twin ropes can be very useful. If one of them breaks during a fall or a climb, the other one can still provide a form of safety so that you do not completely fall from wherever you lose your grip.

It would be wise, however, to have a little more experience with climbing before you decide to purchase a set of twin ropes. They require more skill to tie up and obviously with two ropes, they are a bit more to manage. If you’re focused on getting used to rock climbing itself, chances are you’ll want to stay with the single rope for now.

Check on Amazon*

Half Ropes

Much like the twin ropes, half ropes also consist of two ropes available for use. The difference is the way it is used. To successfully utilize a half rope, you have to clip protection on each side. If done right, you can reduce the drag (or the friction and weight felt by the climber).

Expert climbers are the best fit for using half ropes since the management of them and the techniques required to successfully use them are more complex than single and twin ropes. Because half ropes are both different weights, make sure to buy them as a pair and don’t try and mix them with other ropes. They are designed for each other and mixing them up with other ropes could lead to a loss in effectiveness.

Check on Amazon*

What are Static Ropes?

Now that we’ve explained how the dynamic rope and its three sub-categories work, we can talk about static ropes. If your line of work requires climbing (i.e carrying things, rescue work, etc) or enjoy caving, then your best choice for these activities is a static rope. Unlike dynamic ropes, the static ropes won’t stretch as much. In fact, you don’t want them to have that same bouncing out stretching effect that they have since that could endanger the load you could be carrying for a job or the person you’re rescuing. In some instances, however, a static rope can be useful for recreation climbing in situations such as fixing something during a climb.

When using a static rope, make sure you’re moving slowly and that everything is secure when dangling the object it is carrying or yourself. Static ropes can’t break a fall and could cause injury if you wind up falling whilst wearing one.

Check on Amazon*

What is the importance of Length to a rope?

Length is super important to a rope other than the fact that it helps make it stretch further. It’s important to keep in mind that the longer the rope is, the more weight you’ll have to carry between carrying yourself and the extra slack when you’re climbing. The standard for most climbers is around 60 meters. In any outdoor climbing environment, a rope that is 60 meters long will give you the length you want to climb that extra inch of the mountain and will also ease you of any burdens concerning the weight of the rope.

Indoor climbing is usually in a fixed setting, so you can get away with using ropes that are closer to 30 meters. Since gym and climbing facility ceilings only go so high, the standard is going to change. You may not need as much slack to save yourself if you fall. As long as you have enough to lower yourself comfortably from wherever you are in the gym, you’ll be fine.

It’s also best to confirm the length of the rope before you begin using it for climbing. You never want to be in a situation where the rope is shorter than you remember it to be and you wind up struggling to reach the anchor while you are climbing.

If you’re purchasing a static rope than you’ll find yourself buying the ropes by the foot rather than by the meter since you’re not looking for a rope that stretches when climbing.

What is the importance of the Diameter of the rope?

The diameter is important when measuring the durability of the rope. Earlier in the post, it was discussed how the three types of dynamic ropes differ in terms of thickness. The thicker the rope is, the more likely you’ll be able to use that rope for a long period of time and more frequently since those are more durable. Single ropes are often considered the most durable because the diameter can be as high as over ten millimeters.

If you’re new to the sport of climbing and expect to fall a fair amount of times, you’ll want to select a single rope that can take the abuse of weight falling multiple times. If you’ve had some experience with climbing under your belt, selecting a rope between 9.0 and 9.9 is the best choice, as they are both durable and weightless, giving climbers a chance to ascend their setting of choice at a much quicker pace.

Static ropes are often measured in inches due to not being as flexible or durable as dynamic ropes. If you see the diameter for a static rope, it’ll likely be labeled in millimeters with the inches mark right next to it.

Half and twin ropes will never be found over nine millimeters in diameter. Since they are multi-rope tools, they need to are less heavier to be more effective since there is more management involved. The average half rope can be found at about nine millimeters while the twin ropes have a thickness of eight millimeters.

What Are UIAA Safety Features?

The UIAA (short for Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) is the international federation for mountaineering and climbing. They are the ones that help make the standards for climbing equipment so that climbers alike can enjoy a safe experience when climbing. A series of test run on each product that is manufactured for climbing before they are released to the general public for consumption.

The main standards that the UIAA tests for including Dynamic Elongation, Static Elongation, Impact Force, and Fall Rating. By going through these tests, the rope tests what its overall strengths and weaknesses are before they can be released for sale. If they can meet the required standards, the rope is fine to use.

Static Elongation

The static elongation test is when a rope is tested to see how much it can stretch with 80 kilograms of weight attached to it. It is essentially being tested to see if it can perform the proper tasks that a static rope does, which is carrying a fixed amount of weight.

Different ropes have different standards when they are put through this test. When half ropes are tested, they cannot 12 percent of the total rope length. Single ropes and double ropes can’t exceed any more than ten percent. The higher the elongation rate is, the less desirable the rope is simply because more energy is expended on the rope preventing itself from breaking rather than snugly holding the weight.

Dynamic Elongation

The dynamic elongation test is for measuring how long the rope can stretch during test falls. The lower the elongation is, the higher the impact the climber will feel when falling. UIAA standards note that ropes cannot stretch any more than 40 percent of the entire length of the rope.

Fall Rating

The fall rating test for a rope is the process of testing the fall of a rope while it is loaded with a certain amount of weight. With the weight on it, the rope is dropped a certain amount of times until it shows it is close to or is failing. The higher the falling rate is, the longer the rope(s) will last.

When testing the fall rating for a single rope, it is attached to 80 kilograms of weight and dropped at least 5 times (or 5 UIAA falls). Half ropes are dropped the same amount of times as a single rope, except 55 kilograms of weight is placed on one of the two ropes since one rope is expected to be stronger than the other. On twin ropes, 80 kilograms is placed on both of them. Since both ropes are expected to be strong, they are dropped for at least 12 UIAA falls.

It’s important to make sure you look closely at the fall ratings when you are first selecting a rope. If you’re new to climbing, make sure the rope has as high of a fall rating as you can find.

Impact Force

Impact force is the force felt when the climber takes a fall on the rope. As mentioned earlier, the impact force is taken into account during other tests such as the dynamic elongation. It is often measured in kilonewtons.

Impact force and dynamic elongation have an inverse relationship. The impact force will increase if the dynamic elongation is lower and vice versa. Ideally, when you are climbing and you experience a fall, you want a lower impact force. A lower impact force makes for a softer landing, which also means less of shocking feeling when falling because it will be easier to brace for.

It is also important to note that another test that is often used is the sheath slippage test. To test the strength of the core and sheath, the UIAA will pull two millimeters of the rope just to make sure it can take a certain amount of pressure. Sometimes the sheath will slip, sometimes it won’t slip at all.

Other Rock Climbing Rope Features

What is a Dry Treatment?

Like any solid object, a rope is going to gain weight if it begins to take in water. Water can also make a rope harder to move and untie/manage. Dry treatment is made with some ropes so that it can absorb moisture without the rope getting “water logged”.

Although they can initially be more expensive than other ropes, it is a worthwhile investment. Imagine hiking in a rainy part of Washington or Massachusetts and it begins to rain (a standard in both states) or the air becomes filled with moisture? Purchasing a rope with dry treatment may be a worthwhile investment at that point. They are highly recommended if you do climbs such as trad or ice climbing. In fact, dry treatment coating a rope could make the more protective from harmful outdoor chemicals you may experience when climbing.

Dry treatment ropes have one or both of the following:

  • A dry core
  • A dry sheath

Both are important properties of a dry treated rope that you should immediately look at if you’re planning on hiking in a moisture-dense environment.

What Are Middle Markings on a Rope?

You can never turn away from the important details in a rope, especially when you are using it to climb in challenging settings. It’s important to acknowledge the middle of the rope where they display the middle markings. These are great for measuring how much rope you want to use before you place the rope and hook into a part of the rock you are climbing.

In fact, there are a number of different middle markers that can be found on a rope. One of the most common ones is the bi-pattern. With a bi-pattern marking on the rope, it’s easy to tell which part of the rope you’re grabbing or how much of it you’ve used when climbing.

Some ropes will also include end warning marks to make sure you know you’re at the end of the rope when climbing. You certainly don’t want to be confused as to why you don’t have enough slack just before you reach the top, do you?

You can create your own markings on the rope if yours doesn’t have one. Just make sure you’re using the right utensil, otherwise, you may damage the nylon on the rope, which could weaken the product as a whole.

How long does the average Climbing Rope last for?

The lifespan of a rope really does depend on how often you climb for however long you decide to do it for. If you’re somebody who likes climbing every once and a while (let’s say every few months), you can keep the rope around for as long as almost a decade. If you are a hiking savant and climb daily, you’ll likely be headed to the store to buy a new one within a couple months.

This is all, of course, subject to how well you care for your ropes. There are a number of different ways to wash and clean your rope so that it can sustain peak performance for a long period of time before you have to retire it.

–> When to Retire Climbing Gear?


Now that you’ve been introduced to all these different features to look for when purchasing a climbing rope, you’re ready to go. Between the types of ropes introduced, the testing required to create a safe product, and all the little extra features worth noticing, there are plenty of nuances to pick at when selecting any rope of your choice. Perhaps you are best at venturing alone in a lead climbing setting and will choose a single rope.

Eventually, you’ll be experienced enough to manage a more challenging piece of equipment like a twin or half rope. By having the right insight on what you want in a climbing rope, you can save time, money, and make yourself safer when it comes time to climb that steep mountain or sheet of ice. Thankfully, rock climbing provides a diverse number of ropes to select from.

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

Disclosure: This website is the property of Martin Lütkemeyer and is operated by Martin Lütkemeyer. Martin Lütkemeyer is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to enable Web sites to earn advertising revenue through advertising and linking to Links marked with * are affiliate links.