Here’s How Long and Thick Should Your Climbing Rope Be

Your climbing rope is one of your most important tools and it should be just the right length and thickness to be of use.

How do you decide how long or thick your climbing rope should be? First is to consider the kind of climbing activities that you will be undertaking. Rock climbing or cliff scaling usually involves longer ropes simply due to the steep, vertical climb. Mountain climbing often involves shorter ropes, but this would depend on the mountain.

Not knowing how thick or long the rope you bring should be can lead to all kinds of issues, such as carrying unnecessary weight or being short of achieving your goals.

Factors Involving Climbing Rope Length and Thickness

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding how thick the climbing rope that you will be using should be and how long it should be. You can’t just walk into any sports center and then pick out the nearest roll of climbing ropes you find that has the label “climbing” on it. After all, your climbing rope is going to affect all sorts of aspects of the activity, including:

·         Safety

·         Efficiency

·         Weight

·         Transportation

·         Space

·         Speed

·         Litter

Those are just the surface concerns, as well. There are many others that touch on environmental matters and generally being a responsible climber. To that end, you are going to want to consider the following factors if you are going to choose a climbing rope:

TypeConsidering whether to get Single, Half, Twin, Static ropes
ThicknessConsidering the diameter of the rope
LengthConsidering the length of the rope relative to the use and the intended destination
MaterialsWhat materials the rope is made with
WeightHow heavy the rope is in terms of mass, diameter, and length
FeaturesConsidering the varied characteristics of the rope, including whether or not it is dry-treated if it is bi-color if it has a middle mark, and so on
SafetyRopes come with safety ratings that take into considering such factors as elongation, impact force, and such
UseWhat the use of the ropes are for and what you intended to you them for

To say that not all climbing ropes are the same is no exaggeration since you are as likely to find major differences between the various types on the opposite side of each spectrum. Some are meant specifically for indoor use, for example, while others are supposed to be for hauling things that are bigger and heavier than humans.

Knowing which is which will help you not only avoid unnecessary expenses but also going through hardships that you never needed to experience. After all, what would be the point of putting you through the difficulty of carrying a massively heavy rope when you could have brought something much lighter and slimmer?

Type – There are different types of climbing ropes that you can buy and know about them is extremely important if you want to make the right choice. To start with, the following are your most basic options when shopping for climbing ropes:

·         Single

·         Half

·         Twin

·         Static

Knowing which one you should get for which climb is imperative because you don’t want to end up being short of the necessary length just because you didn’t know the type that you needed. In the case of single, for example, these are basically your most versatile options. Not only will it fulfill the job of climbing as intended, but it will also be quite easy to customize it as you need.

As for the half rope, this is quite useful when it comes to such things as descending wandering routes. You can secure yourself on either side, so you won’t want to worry about just one rope limiting your options on where you can go. This is the same advantage that you get with twin ropes, though, you do get more versatility out of half ropes than this type.

Basically, with twin ropes, you have no choice but to clip both through the protection that you have in place. This will then provide more drag, which gives you more control over your descent. Speaking of control, you have a static rope, which has quite a limited number of uses. Basically, it’s for when you don’t want any stretching or wobbling.

This is basically the most stable kind of rope, which makes it perfect for rescues or when transporting goods. For climbing itself, though, you might want to go with another option.

Thickness – Then there is the matter of the thickness, which is actually referred to as the diameter of the rope. Naturally, the thickness will be affected by the type of rope that you are going to get, which is a point that you definitely want to pay attention to. In the case of a single rope, for example, you are getting the usual 9.4mm diameter.

This is about the regular kind of rope that climbers who are not planning on doing anything too extreme would bring. It’s quite light and sturdy enough for most jobs, but if you are extra paranoid, you can go with the 9.5mm to 9.9mm variety. They can be a bit heavier, but not to an unreasonable point.

For the really tough sorts of climbs, though, you might want to go with the ropes that are at 10mm or beyond. These will be the toughest, most durable kinds that will be able to handle your weight during a snap fall. However, they will be extremely heavy.

Just for reference, both the half and the twin rope varieties usually sit around the 8mm to 9mm range while the static rope can range from 9mm to a whopping 13mm. Naturally, the thicker the rope, the heavier it is going to be, but this is not the only factor that contributes to the weight.

Length – Then we come to the matter of the length which, as already mentioned, is affected by the type of rope that you will get and what you will be using it for. The purpose of the rope is going to dictate just how far you will be throwing it down. So it only makes sense that for jobs that involve depths surpasses several hundred meters, you would not a rope with the corresponding length.

With regards to outdoor climbing sessions, what you want to aim for is to have a bit of wiggle room between the distance of the climb or descent and the length of the rope. For anything below 50 meters, for example, a 60m to 70m rope would work well. For indoor climbing, you won’t usually need more than 35 meters’ worth of rope.

This is due to the fact that indoor wall climbing typically doesn’t really go that high due to construction constraints and the limited space. What’s more, you would usually be given a rope by the staff if you are going to a commercial indoor climbing establishment, so you might not need to worry about that. Then again, there are exceptions, which include spots meant for the gathering of pros.

As for the static rope length that you might need to bring, this is something that is a bit more complicated to discuss. This is due to the simple fact that there are no set lengths for these types of ropes. You can actually buy them by the foot or by the meter, so you will have to decide based on the likelihood of needing them during the climb.

Materials – Climbing ropes can be made of vastly differing materials, but they can still share several properties that make them similar enough as to make the issue negligible. The materials used for making a climbing rope only really need to meet a few criteria in that they must be:

·         Flexible

·         Strong

·         Can be weaved

·         Can be lengthened

·         Can withstand the punishing use

With that said, different companies will have different blends of materials to achieve those matters. More often than not, you might even end up with a rope that is made of entirely different stuff than you expected. So you might want to take a look at the label of the rope to see if this particular detail is indicated.

Barring that, you need to get a feel for the rope itself with your bare hands. You should stretch, bend it, wrap it, and squeeze it. If the rope feels right to you, then you should be able to use it without an issue. However, if it feels too light, too brittle, too thin, or too poorly made, you might want to go with another brand.

It’s also worth remembering that companies and manufacturers can change their methods and ingredients without telling customers. As such, there is no guarantee that the rope you bought from a certain brand five years ago will be the same as what you will get five years from now.

Weight – Then comes the weight, which is directly proportional to the length, diameter, material, and type of rope that you are going to get. This is basically your biggest concern when it comes to the burden that your equipment will be placed on your body. The heavier your gear, the more energy you expend, and the more dangerous the climb will be.

As such, choosing your equipment, which includes your rope will basically come down to a balancing act. You are getting items that you are likely to need but you also need to make sure that you will have enough strength to bring them with you. if you can’t make that determination, your climb is going to be a grueling and arduous one.

Then there is the issue of you being able to use the ropes as they are. After all, you do need to either climb or descend with the ropes. This means needing to carry it with you in some capacity. If the rope is too heavy, even the act of dropping it over a ledge can prove risky. What if you get caught in the line and get pulled down, as a result?

You will even need to imagine just how well anchors, lines, and other protective measures will be able to handle the weight of the rope. These are just some of the considerations that come in when looking at the aspect of weight.

Features – Believe it or not, climbing ropes do come with certain features other than the fact that they are ropes. These are not negligible when it comes to what the ropes will be able to do for you, especially if you are the kind of climber who pays attention to details. To that end, you will want to know if the rope you are planning on getting have such features as:

·         Being dry-treated

·         Offering middle marks

·         Bicolor

·         End warning

To be clear, some ropes have been given a treatment that basically makes them unable to absorb that much water or moisture. Naturally, you want this because rope that absorbs water is heavier and less durable, which then makes it less useful for a climb. Unfortunately, ropes that were given dry treatments are more expensive, so that’s something to think about.

Ropes that come with a middle mark is great for climbing since you will then be able to quickly identify the middle of the rope. For things like rappelling, being able to identify this particular spot as fast as possible will allow you to move as fast as possible.

The bicolor feature is basically something that offers the same benefits as that of the middle mark since the weaves change color after going past the middle. However, depending on your preferences, this might not necessarily be better than the middle mark. Having that black dye spot makes it easy to find while the change in color might not offer the same efficiency.

Finally, there is the end warning mark, which is exactly what it sounds like. It means that you have come at the end of the rope, which is useful for when the color blends with the surrounding. Knowing how much rope you still have to go can be essential for keeping you safe.

Safety – Speaking of keeping you safe, did you know that climbing ropes can actually be purchased based on their safety ratings? This is only to be expected, though, since climbing ropes are tied to dangerous activities and they need to be tested so that you know that they will be safe to use.

The most reliable ratings for climbing ropes are those given by the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA). This is basically an association composed of mountaineering authorities for the purpose of overseeing climbing activities, events, communities, practices, figures, and of course, products. The factors that they consider when rating are:

·         Fall Rating

·         Static Elongation

·         Dynamic Elongation

·         Impact Force

The fall rating is basically a test that involves tying a certain amount of weight to a rope and then letting it fall to see just how much of the force it can take. Different ropes get different weights, with single ropes being put through the wringer with 80kgs. Half ropes get lighter weights of 55kgs and twins get 80kgs spread out to both ropes.

As for the static elongation, this is a test that sees how far the rope will stretch when tied to 80kgs of weight. The weight just hangs from it though, which is the opposite of what the dynamic elongation test is for. The latter basically looks into how far the rope would stretch when dropped with that kind of weight.

Finally, the impact force basically tests how much force is placed on the rope during the falling rating test. This involves measurements in the kilonewtons and the higher the force that the rope can withstand, the safer it generally is.

Use – Finally, we have the matter of use, which can certainly be quite a subjective topic. This is basically what you will be using the climbing ropes for, though, you would likely already have a pretty good idea about this thanks to the discussions so far.

The ropes that are meant for indoor use, outdoor use, rescue, transporting, and securing can all come in different forms and flavors. You need to take this into consideration when you are shopping for the climbing rope that you are going to use. To be clear, you cannot use some ropes for some purposes if they are of opposing natures.

For example, you simply cannot use a static rope for climbing because it does not stretch and will not likely be able to handle the rigorous use that you have for it. Such ropes will also likely be heavier in comparison by virtue of their purpose and with all things being equal. As such, you must know what you will be using the ropes for beforehand before getting your ropes.

Importance of Proper Rope Length and Thickness

The importance of having a rope that is of the proper length and thickness rests largely on your safety, mobility, ability to achieve your goals, and complete your climb in an expedient manner. If you don’t have a climbing rope with the appropriate length, for example, you could end up not having enough to reach the heights you wanted to or to get down.

If you don’t have a rope of the right thickness, you might end up with a string that will snap under your weight with the slightest of movements. Then again, if you go in the opposite direction and get a rope that is far too thick, you could then end up carrying a load that is far too heavy for you.

None of those scenarios are desirable, especially the part about you having to carrying something that is heavier than you really need to. Your rope should only be as long and as thick as it needs to be to accomplish your goals without being too heavy. Then again, if the situation does call for it, there is no escaping the fact that you might have to deal with the weight.

When this happens, you have to make sure that you are taking the appropriate measures such as hiring extra hands to carry the rope for you. If you are climbing somewhere that will inevitably involve the using of a ton of rope, you will want to conserve as much of your energy as possible.

Shopping for Climbing Ropes Properly

There are quite a few things that you can do in order to make sure that you are coming away from your shopping trip with the right ropes if you are planning on going on a climbing expedition. To start with, you need to consider the kind of climb that you are going to do. What kind of terrain will be involved? How deep or how high is the height that you will need to ascend or descend going to be?

These will need to be answered before you move on to other concerns like just how much weight you can actually carry with your current strength. If you are going on a climbing trip that will likely involve carrying a lot of ropes, you will need to have corresponding physical capabilities to suit such a trip. If you are not in that kind of condition, you have to either bulk up or not go.

From there, you will also want to think about your budget since some types and brands of ropes are inevitably going to be more expensive than others. We already brought up the matter of the dry-treated ropes being more expensive than those who didn’t go through that treatment. Other conditions can also apply to affect the cost of the rope.

Finally, you need to know what type of rope you need to get in the first place. You need to know if you will use it solely for climbing or if you will also be using it for securing items. Will you be pulling up objects with it? Depending on the answer to these questions, you might end up getting ropes that are different from what you expected.

Related Questions

What is the Best Climbing Rope?

The best climbing rope is one that allows you to complete your objective while being only long, thick, and heavy enough to suit the job. However, if you are looking for specific impressions on various brands and the like, there are a ton of websites and user reviews that you can find on the web.

How to Tell the Difference Between Dynamic and Static Ropes?

A dynamic rope stretches and a static rope does not, which is why it can be quite easy to tell which ropes you can get when you basically just give them a tug. Then again, you are unlikely to come across static ropes in a bundled form since you often need to buy them piecemeal by the foot or meter.

Consequences of Bad Rope Choices

There are some very clear indicators as to how bad your situation is going to get if you are bringing the wrong rope with you and the worst of them is definitely your death or a permanent injury. Which of them is worse than the other would depend on your perspective, but there you go. In any case, you have to put in a ton of thought into your choices before you go climbing.

If your rope is too thin, flimsy, cheap, or made of the wrong materials, for example, there is a chance that it will snap the moment you start to fall and need to make a stop. After all, if you are rappelling, you will be making some routine falls and stops as you descend. The wrong choice of rope can send you plummeting down to your death.

Heavy ropes also lead to more energy expended and a huge drain to your strength. If you can’t use your strength, your trip will be less fun than you would think. At worst, you might run out of energy in the middle of a climb.

Other Rope-Related Issues to Consider

With regard to other issues that are related to your climbing rope, you do need to think about the manufacturer. Some companies have built a reputation for being solid with their products while others are openly vilified.

You will also need to pay attention to the level of care that goes into caring for your rope. After every use, it must be cleaned by wiping it down and then air-drying it. You must not wash it in a washing machine or use a dryer of any kind. Not that the ropes would fit into those, in the first place, if they are too long.

Finally, the positioning of the ropes on your person must be planned and deliberate. You need to know how you are going to be able to move while you are carrying your climbing rope since you can’t just do it however you want. That would be inefficient and you risk toppling over when you lose your balance. 

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