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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: An all-arounder, so not specialized
After loads of whippers and miles of rock, from hanging tufas of Grecian limestone to ice-choked seams in Ruth Gorge granite, we selected the best overall climbing rope from a field of ten worthy choices. A combination of smooth handling and a pleasant catch initially set the Mammut Infinity apart. At a slim 9.5 mm diameter, its low weight was expected, but the outstanding durability it also exhibited was a surprise that further separated it from the field. All of these qualities conspire to create an exceptionally well balanced rope that earned it our Editors' Choice award. There may be better options in the ultra skinny or workhorse categories, but the Infinity deserves the accolade of best all-around life line. An honorable mention deserves to be given to the Edelrid Eagle Light, which is the same diameter as the Infinity. It has slightly more supple handling but is a little bit heavier and less durable. The Edelrid ranks a close second place.
Our selections for the best ropes in three different categories can be seen, along with the six other competitors, in The Best Rock Climbing Rope Review.
RELATED: Our complete review of climbing ropes (dynamic)
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This year Mammut restructured the terminology they use for the various dry treatments they offer. It was frustrating to decipher these changes on their website, which currently contains a seemingly endless string of contradictions, but this is what we ultimately concluded: Classic means a totally untreated rope, Protect is a treatment to the sheath only, designed to increase durability, Dry is a thorough treatment to the core and sheath that's supposed to eliminate all water absorption. These changes were made to reflect the new UIAA (2014) standards for water repellent ropes. Only the Dry version receives this certification with 1% water absorption. We used the Dry version in our tests.
With a 9.5 mm diameter and 58 g/m weight, we consider the Infinity to be part of the all-around rope category. This weight is low enough to score fourth lightest in our ten rope review, but this positional rank could be misleading. For the all-around category its weight is definitely on the low side. For example, the Edelrid Eagle Light is listed at an identical 9.5 mm but weighs 4 g/m more, a difference that equates to nearly 10 ounces in a 70 meter length.
This highlights a problem we mention in the How to Choose the Best Climbing Rope article; diameters are not measured consistently between manufacturers and ropes with the same advertised size can feel noticeably different in hand. Therefore, we advise shoppers to also factor weight into rope selection. In our opinion, it is a more objective measurement and more important for the overall performance.
In our tests the Mammut ropes felt a little fatter compared to other company's advertised sizes. With the Infinity, this size discrepancy wasn't really an issue because it handled well and its weight is equal to, or lower than, other ropes with the same listed diameter.
Objectively evaluating catch can be a difficult task. Many other factors can affect the 'softness' of a catch beside the properties of the rope itself. These include the weight and motion of the belayer, combined with the length of the fall and the amount of rope out. So when evaluating catch we are mostly just trying to confirm that UIAA's listed scores for impact force make sense.
At the end of testing the authors met to select the award winning ropes for four different categories. There were some disagreements but they kept it civil and ultimately settled on the selections using their own personal experiences and reports from our testers. Afterwards, they realized that all the winners have UIAA impact force ratings within a narrow range of 8.5 to 8.8 kN—the Infinity is listed at 8.7 kN. In such a small sample of ropes this could be a mere coincidence. A brief look at our old review, however, showed that each of the award winners then also fell inside this impact force range and all of the bottom scoring ropes were rated outside. Therefore, we are beginning to suspect that this range may provide the type of catch that most climbers prefer.
As we mentioned, the Infinity falls within this goldilocks range and has an impact force of 8.7 kN. In the field our testers reported that it provided a pleasant catch. Not too hard or too soft, and most importantly, it gave these same nice catches throughout the full length of our review. It has elongations of 6.8% static and 30% dynamic in the UIAA tests. These values seem to be correlated with impact force and are similar to those of other high performing ropes we tested.
The double-pick sheath on this rope is notably looser than many of the other ropes tested, especially when compared to the slim and sleek Sterling Fusion Nano IX. This did not seem to adversely affect its handling and it received a respectable score of seven out of ten from our testers. We like how smoothly it feeds through belay devices, particularly with assisted braking models, like a GriGri or with ATC-style devices in auto-block mode. While two similar ropes, the Sterling Fusion Ion R and Edelrid Eagle Light, did receive initial higher scores in handling, unlike those ropes, the Infinity was able to maintain its smooth handling throughout its entire life. We think the Teflon coating, designed to reduce friction between rope fibers, that is included in the dry version we tested, may have contributed to this handling longevity.
The most outstanding characteristic about this rope is its durability. Especially at such a skinny diameter and low weight, it has an impressive lifespan. Credit for this should go to two important qualities: a 40% sheath proportion that ranked it third highest amongst ropes reviewed, and the previously mentioned Teflon coating. The contribution from sheath proportion is relatively simple to understand; more mass in the sheath means more material to resist abrasion. In our opinion, under normal use the majority of ropes are retired from damage to exterior sheath rather than damage to the core, so the amount of sheath is important.
The Teflon coating is a little trickier to appreciate. Essentially this treatment is supposed to have a lubricating effect on the rope fibers, allowing them to slide more easily against one another. In a fall this means less friction within the rope as it stretches and hopefully less damage to the fibers. Mammut says this helps the Infinity catch more UIAA test falls and improves abrasion resistance—by up to 120% in the Dry version compared to the Classic. We're uncertain if durability actually increases this much for real world applications, but we can say this rope outperformed all the other similarly sized competitors in our tests.
At this weight and price point we think the Infinity is ideal for intermediate climbers looking for a rope that can work well in a variety of climbing disciplines. Like we've mentioned already, it's fairly lightweight and reasonably durable, so it can be used for overhanging sport projects or slabby traditional testpieces without any glaring drawback. Beginners, however, might be better off with a thicker and/or cheaper cord, like the Sterling Evolution Velocity, because with a 9.5 mm diameter, an improperly positioned top rope anchor on coarse rock could quickly damage the sheath.
Infinities have historically been priced in the middle of the field. A 60 meter dry option is currently suggested to retail for $229. This rope has been around for a long time while maintaining consistent popularity, so it is often possible to find it on sale. The price difference between Classic, Protect, and Dry versions is roughly $40 for each step up in treatment. We think all of these versions are a great value, but the Dry provides the best because it dramatically increases durability.
The name Infinity does a good job of indicating the outstanding level of durability that you can expect from this slim cord. But it is also the solid performance it offers in low weight, catch, and handling that make it such a well balanced rope and our Editors' Choice winner. There are many other ropes out there that might surpass the Infinity for one particular application, but none of them can match the consistent benefits across a range of disciplines. If you can only have one rope, you can't do any better than the Mammut Infinity.
— Jack Cramer
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 9, 2015
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