The Best Rock Climbing Rope

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Coiling the Sterling Fusion Nano in Indian Creek, Utah. This smooth and skinny rope has held up to a lot of abuse for such a light, thin cord.
Credit: Ali Feinberg
We gathered a selection of the top climbing ropes on the market, and after a healthy amount of unwinding and flaking, put them to the test by climbing as much as possible across multiple different climbing disciplines. We cragged, aided, projected, whipped, climbed long multi-pitch routes, coiled, backpacked, and carried these ropes on long alpine routes. From Yosemite Valley to the High Sierra, and the Tetons to Indian Creek, we drug these ropes over granite and clipped them up sandstone. Ultimately, most of the ropes in this review are top notch, so we paid careful attention to the small details a user would notice, which allowed a few ropes to edge ahead of the others. We scored each rope on its weight, handling, catch, and durability.

For more detailed specifics on how to choose and purchase a climbing rope, read our Buying Advice, which highlights the different options and considerations when purchasing a rope for climbing.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Climbing Ropes (Dynamic) Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Mammut Infinity
Mammut Infinity
Read the Review
Video video review
Sterling Fusion Nano
Sterling Fusion Nano
Read the Review
Petzl Fuse
Petzl Fuse
Read the Review
Video video review
Mammut Revelation
Mammut Revelation
Read the Review
Video video review
BlueWater Pulse
BlueWater Pulse
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Street Price Varies $192 - $300
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $165 - $306
Compare at 6 sellers
$235
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $154 - $250
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $174 - $180
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score 
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77
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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75% recommend it (3/4)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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1 rating
Pros Surface Coating adds life and durability, lightweight, versatile, smooth handlingSkinny, lightweight, smooth handling, soft catch, durable for a thin ropeClimb Ready Coil, lightweight, suppleSuperDRY coating, lightweightLight for its diameter, extra durable 40 bobbin sheath, low impact force makes for soft catches
Cons expensiveNot a work rope, less versatile than all-around ropesnot the most versatileNot the most versatileStiff and not very supple, No middle mark
Best Uses Multi-pitch and alpine climbs, sport climbing.Hard sport sends, light and fast alpine climbingHard sport climbs, multi-pitch and alpine climbsSport climbing, alpine climbing.General climbing
Date Reviewed May 31, 2013Jun 04, 2013Jun 03, 2013Jun 02, 2013Jun 03, 2013
Weighted Scores Mammut Infinity Sterling Fusion Nano Petzl Fuse Mammut Revelation BlueWater Pulse
Weight - 25%
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7
Catch - 15%
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Handling - 40%
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Durability - 20%
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Product Specs Mammut Infinity Sterling Fusion Nano Petzl Fuse Mammut Revelation BlueWater Pulse
Diameter 9.5 mm 9.2 MM 9.4 mm 9.2mm 9.9 mm
Weight 58 g/m 53 g/m 56 g/m 55 g/m 62 g/m
UIAA Rating 6 " 7 6 6 7 " 8 7
Impact Force 8.7 Kn 8.5 Kn 8.25 Kn 8.7 Kn 7.8 Kn
Static Elongation 7.5% 7.2% 7.2% 8.4%
Dynamic Elongation 32.5% 34.4% 31% 35.5%
Dry Coating Option Superdry Dry only Duratec Dry Superdry Double dry option
Middle Mark or Bi-Pattern Option Mid mark Bi-pattern option Mid mark Middle Mark or Bi-Pattern Option Bi-color option
Lengths Available 50, 60, 70, 80 meters 50, 60, 70, 80 meters 60, 70 meters 60, 70 meters 60, 65, 70 meters

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Mammut Infinity
$240 60m
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85
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Mammut Tusk
$220
100
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74
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Sterling Fusion Nano
$216
100
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83
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Sterling Marathon Pro
$204 60m
100
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74
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Mammut Revelation
$254 70m Superdry
100
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80
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Sterling Evolution Velocity
$204
100
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74
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Metolius Tendon
$299
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BlueWater Lightning Pro
$214 60 m
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75
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BlueWater Pulse
$216 60m
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77
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Petzl Fuse
$235 60m
100
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82
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Maxim Equinox
$134 60m
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64
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Maxim Glider
$287 10.2 mm 70m bi-pattern
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68
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BlueWater Eliminator
$233 60m bi-pattern
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69
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Sterling Rock Gym
$316 for 100m
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Petzl Nomad
$235 60m
100
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69
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Beal Edlinger
$140 60m
100
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59
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Maxim Pinnacle
$204
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69
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There is quite a selection of dynamic climbing ropes on the market. Each rope has a long list of technical specs and numbers, which can make deciding on the one that is best for you a bit overwhelming. In fact, we found that comparing ropes turned out to be much harder than expected. All the ropes perform the basic functions of catching falls and protecting climbers, so what are the main differences? Obviously, ropes differ in length and diameter, but what about two ropes of the same diameter? Several ropes have special features, such as the Mammut Teflon Coating Finish and the Maxim TPT sheath weave, but from the point of view of a buyer standing in a store and looking at two 10.2mm ropes, such as the Maxim Equinox and the Beal Edlinger what can we say about the differences?

After a close evaluation and comparison of many different ropes, noting how they felt while climbing and belaying and observing how they perform in real climbing applications, we were able to find the details that matter. Read on to see what we discovered.


Diameter
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Rope Reviewing
Credit: McKenzie

For the purposes of this review, we have categorized the ropes into three groups based on diameter thickness and weight. Ropes of different diameters are tailored to use in different situations, so we have broken down when you would want to consider which type of rope.

  • Thick Diameter Workhorse Ropes — (10.4 10.2 - 10.1mm)
These are the thick and beefy ropes that can handle tons of abuse. They are good for big walls, aiding, lots of top-roping, working on projects, and generally can hold more falls.
+ long life, lots of friction when catching a fall
- Heavy, bulky, not as smooth handlling

The workhorse ropes we tested were:
Beal Edlinger
Maxim Equinox
Maxim Glider
BlueWater Eliminator
Sterling Marathon Pro
  • Medium Diameter All-Around Ropes — (9.9 9.8 9.7 - 9.5mm)
These are the most versatile ropes, and can be used for just about any type of climbing. They are lighter than the fatty workhorse ropes, last longer than the skinny ropes, and make a perfect first rope, or choice for someone who only owns one rope.
+ Can climb anything
- Not a specialty rope

The all-around ropes we evaluated were:
BlueWater Pulse
BlueWater Lightening Pro
Mammut Tusk
Mammut Infinity
Maxim Pinnacle
Sterling Evolution Velocity
Petzl Nomad

  • Skinny Sending Ropes — (9.4 9.2 - 8.9mm)
Skinny ropes are the ultimate "light and fast" climbing accessory. They are strong ropes with a fraction of the weight as the fat ropes, which is ideal for hard sport sends, all day alpine or multi-pitch routes, and amazing feats like freeing a big wall.
+ Supple, lightweight
- Shorter life, require a more attentive belay to catch falls

The sending ropes we tried were:
Mammut Revelation
Sterling Fusion Nano
Metolius Tendon
Petzl Fuse



Weight
A rope is typically the heaviest single piece of climbing equipment used. Using a lightweight rope will keep the packs light on the approach and the difficulty of clipping down when you have led a full-rope-length pitch. Even if you climb at Rifle, where approaches are non-existent and you can almost belay from your car, the last thing you want is a heavy rope weighing you down at the overhanging crux.

This is where the skinny sending ropes shine. As a rule of thumb, the thinner the rope, the lighter it is, due to less materials being used over the whole length of the cord. Rope weights are measured in grams per meter increments, since the variable length of climbing ropes changes the total weight. (A 70 meter will always be heavier than a 50 meter, no matter the diameter.)

The heaviest ropes in our review were the 10.2mm Maxim Glider and Equinox, both thick workhorse ropes that weigh in at 66 g/m. The lightest rope was the anorexic 8.9mm Metolius Tendon at 52 g/m, followed closely by the 9.2 mm Sterling Fusion Nano at 53 g/m. Some ropes proved to be anomalies when it comes to weight. For example, the 9.9 mm BlueWater Pulse weighs 62 g/m, while the thinner 9.8 Mammut Tusk weighs more at 64 g/m.

Catch
We rated the ropes for catch based on a couple details: how soft the catch felt when actually whipping on the ropes and the impact force rating. (See our Buying Advice for more details on this spec.)

The lower the impact force rating (in kiloNewtons), the less force is applied to the falling climber, ie the softer the catch. We noticed that the impact force ratings varied widely across the board. The ones with the highest force ratings were the Maxim Glider and Equinox at 9.8kN each, and the lowest were the BlueWater Lightning Pro and Pulse at 7.8 kN each. In our tests, we noted that the Metolius Tendon felt particularly stretchy when catching a fall.


Handling
This category may seem a little vague, but it describes our overall impression of using each rope. We scored each rope on its suppleness and the overall feel while carrying, coiling, climbing, clipping, and belaying. Does it feed well while you pay out slack to the leader? Is it easy to pull up and clip into your protection?

We noticed that ropes with surface treatments, either a dry coating or a Teflon coating, had a much smoother glide when new, and kept this feel much longer than ropes with no surface treatment, such as the Beal Edlinger. Overall, the skinny ropes have a more supple feel, due to their lightness, and the thin diameter which makes the whole rope feel more flexible. However, some of the thicker ropes like the BlueWater Eliminator and the Sterling Evolution Velocity still maintained a supple feel.

The ropes that stood out for the best handling were the Mammut Infinity and the Metolius Tendon, both of which have a Teflon coating. The Tendon is only 8.9mm in diameter, so its thinness allowed it to handle very smoothly. The Sterling Fusion Nano was also one of our favorites in this category. Both the Maxim Glider and the Maxim Pinnacle were notable in this category, because they utilize a 1 over 1 sheath weave technology, making the sheath thinner and smoother than other ropes that are woven with a 2 over 2 pattern, and allowing these ropes to glide more smoothly through belay devices and quickdraws.

Durability
When you throw down a chunk of change on an expensive piece of equipment, you want it to last a while. A rope is the piece of climbing equipment that gets retired most often, and with good reason it is your lifeline. However, some ropes still last longer than others. Overall, the thicker diameter ropes, like all the workhorse ropes, last a bit longer and usually are rated by the UIAA to catch more falls than the thin diameter ropes.

The UIAA rating is a measurement of strength. (See our Buying Advice for more details on this spec.) It is the number of falls a rope can take without failing, but these falls are not equivalent to a climbing fall. It is simulated with 120 lb weights attached to the rope, and are dropped from 7.5 feet above a clipped carabiner, with a simulated belay less than a foot away. This creates a fall with far greater forces than a typical climbing fall would generate. However, the more of these falls a ropes can withstand, the longer potential life it has before needing to be retired. The rope with the highest UIAA rating is the Mammut Tusk, with a fall rating of 9-10. The runners up are both the Maxim Equinox and Glider, with a rating of 9.

Besides width and strength, the other main factor that affects durability is the way the sheath is constructed or treated. The longer the sheath holds up, the more protected the core remains.The Mammut Infinity and Metolius Tendon earn extra durability points due to their Teflon coatings, which allow the sheaths to withstand abrasion and rough rock longer. However, the thin diameter of these ropes means they still wear out more quickly. Other ropes that stand out for their durability are the BlueWater Pulse, which has a 40-bobbin sheath making it extra burly, and the Sterling Marathon Pro, which is designed with a thicker sheath for longer life.

From a user's observation of durability, the most disappointing ropes were the Maxim ropes, all of which had to core slide out of the sheath at the ends to varying degrees. Especially the Pinnacle, where the core pulled out quite far, giving the entire rope a soft, mushy feel and made it impossible to tie-in without trimming about a meter off the ends.


The Bottom Line

Editor's Choice Award

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McKenzie Long coiling the Mammut Infinity and wearing the Camp Armour Lady on the Grand Teton, WY. This rope is thin at 9.5mm and is light, so it makes a good rope to bring on long alpine days.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

The 9.5 mm Mammut Infinity wins the Editors' Choice award because it is one of the most durable and versatile ropes we evaluated. The medium diameter allows it to handle any type of climbing, and the Teflon coating keeps the rope feeling fresh longer than most other ropes. It handles smoothly while being lightweight, making it the perfect choice for long approaches or climbs. If we had to buy just one rope, this would be the one we would put our money on. While we appreciate the super-skinny sending ropes, like the Metolius Tendon and the Sterling Fusion Nano, and find uses for workhorse ropes like the Sterling Marathon Pro and the BlueWater Eliminator, this rope performs better over a wider range of applications, which is what wins it top billing.

Best Buy Award

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Alexandra Long wearing the Camp Armour Lady helmet and belaying with the Mammut Tusk on West Country, Tuolumne Meadows. Since the Tusk is a fairly light rope, weighing 63 g/m, it is a great all-around rope that can be used for any climbing discipline.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The Best Buy Award goes to an inexpensive yet extremely versatile all-around rope. The Mammut Tusk is medium diameter at 9.8 mm, so can be used for any climbing discipline and will last longer than a much thinner rope. The Tusk also is rated to hold more UIAA falls than any of the other ropes we evaluated, belying its strength and proving it has a long life ahead of it. A standard 60 meter will only set you back around $200, which is reasonable for a dynamic climbing rope. We feel that the Tusk gives you the most rope for your money.

Top Pick Award for Best Skinny Sending Rope

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The author leading on the East Buttress of El Cap, Yosemite Valley, CA with the light and smooth Sterling Fusion Nano.
Credit: Crystal West

The 9.2 mm Sterling Fusion Nano is hands-down our favorite skinny sending cord. It only weighs 53 grams per meter and feels much thinner than the specified diameter. With smooth, supple handling, this rope is just plain fun to climb with. It will help you send your project or accompany you on an epically long push in a day, and still provide a soft catch.

Top Pick Award for Best Workhorse Rope

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The Sterling Marathon Pro fixed for jugging. This rope is thick and burly enough to use for aid climbing, which wears on ropes, but it isn't too heavy.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The 10.1 Sterling Marathon Pro takes the cake as the best workhorse thick diameter rope. It hovers just under the other workhorse ropes with a diameter of 10.1 instead of the standard 10.2 and above, which also keeps the weight down. It is burly enough for jugging or repeated top-roping, and comes with a dry core, that keeps the weight of the rope down in the event of a surprise downpour.

Also take a look at our Dream Rock Climbing Gear list.

McKenzie Long
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