The Best Rope Bags for Climbing

Click to enlarge
Metolius Speedster
Credit: Ian Nicholson
We looked at the eight of our favorite and most popular and best rope bags on the market today. We compared them side-by-side in a variety of ways. We compared how large their tarps were, how easy they are to roll up, how easily we could fit a 60 and 70m rope plus other items like shoes, draws, water bottles and so on. We toted them around comparing how well each one carried while slung over a shoulder, worn like a backpack, strapped to a backpack and how well each compressed to be shoved inside a backpack. We compared other usable features like tie-in points for the ends, small pockets for keys and cell phones, little windows and so on.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Rope Bags

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Metolius Vortex
Metolius Vortex
Read the Review
Petzl Kab
Petzl Kab
Read the Review
Metolius Ropemaster HC
Metolius Ropemaster HC
Read the Review
Petzl Bolsa
Petzl Bolsa
Read the Review
Black Diamond Super Chute
Black Diamond Super Chute
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Street Price Varies $47 - $50
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $40 - $50
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $38 - $40
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $32 - $40
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $34 - $45
Compare at 7 sellers
Overall Score 
100
0
95
100
0
94
100
0
92
100
0
88
100
0
88
Editors' Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Rope packs quickly and easily, compressible, can fit a lot of things, comfortable shoulder strapTons of features, super burly, big removable tarp, love that it stands up like a rope bucketEasy to roll up rope, big tarp, compressibleRope is quick and easy to pack away, works as a crag pack on it's own, tarp feels like one of the biggest because it lays flatFits a ton of stuff, easy to roll up rope, big tarp
Cons Rope doesn't always pay out as nicely as traditional modelsIt isn't was easy to pack inside another pack as other products we testedNo smaller pockets, not as nice to carry for long distancesRope isn't as easy to take out as other models, rope doesn't always pay out as nicely once it's taken back outNo small pockets
Best Uses Sport climbing, craggingSport climbing, craggingSport climbing, crraggingSport climbing, cragging, it can be used as a crag pack on its own for shorter days or warm weather sport climbingSport climbing, cragging
Date Reviewed Nov 28, 2014Nov 10, 2014Nov 11, 2014Nov 10, 2014Nov 28, 2014
Keeping The Rope Clean - 25%
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
Ease Of Packing The Rope - 20%
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
Ease Of Unpacking The Rope - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
10
Packability - 15%
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
10
Ease Of Transportation - 10%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
Extra Features And Useability - 15%
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Product Specs Metolius Vortex Petzl Kab Metolius Ropemaster HC Petzl Bolsa Black Diamond Super Chute

  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Click to enlarge
Product testing.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Why You Should Use One


A rope bag is essentially a must-buy for any crag climber. It will protect and extend the life of every rope you buy until it wears out, typically 20+ years or longer. Keeping your cord clean and out of the dirt and sand can easily extend it's life by 25% or more. Consequently it will easily pay for itself after as few as two or three ropes. When grit gets into your rope it will abrade the connection between the core and the sheath leading to their separation and "soft spots".

Value


While few people enjoy a better deal than us, when considering value, remember that all but one product that we tested are within $10 in cost of each other and range between $40-$50. The one exception to this is the Metolius Dirt Bag II which retails for $30. So unless you loose your bag or it blows away, it will likely last you the next couple of decades, so if you think you like certain features on a model that costs $10 more, then it's likely money well spent spread over the next 20 years.

Tie In Loops


All of the products we tested featured colored loops that are designed to tie the end of the rope to in order not to loose it (we've all been there). We consider this basic, frustration saving feature crucial, and didn't review any contenders without it. Nearly all the products we tested featured multiple color coded loops to help keep track of where both ends are.

Criteria for Evaluation



Keeping It Clean


The most important function of any rope bag is protecting your gear investment. We define protecting your rope as keeping it off the ground, and out of the dirt and sand. With this in mind we felt that contenders that came with bigger tarps were better. Also tarps that would lay flatter, maximizing their surface area, were better compared to designs where the tarp would pinch heavily at one side. More surface area means; it was more likely that most, or all of the rope would fall onto the tarp while pulling it through the chains, and made pre-climb flaking easier.
Click to enlarge
Metolius Speedster
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Metolius Vortex features the biggest tarp at 57 x 57". On top of that, because of the Vortex's design unlike many "burrito" style bags where the tarp sometimes pinches down and folds over on one end, the Vortex's tarp lays much more flat, utilizing every square inch more effectively. The Petzl Kab and Petzl Bolsa were the next two biggest, both only two inches dimensionally smaller. In the case of the Bolsa, which also lays surprisingly flat, in real world testing we could hardly feel a difference between it and the Vortex. The Petzl Kab has the biggest tarp among all the burrito style designs and was noticeably bigger than all other products of this style. The Kab caught falling cords and protected flaked ropes like a champion. One other cool and unique feature of the Kab, is its removable tarp. The Kab's tarp is connected by four snaps, and while we never used the bag itself on its own, we did use the just the tarp on several occasions.
Click to enlarge
Comparing the many different sizes and shapes during our side-by-side testing for this review. From top right, the BD Super Chute, the Petzl Bolsa, Petzl Kab, BD Super Slacker, Metolius Speedster and Metolius Rope Ranger
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Packing


In this side-by-side comparison we tested how easy each design was to pack up a rope. For this test we used a 70m x 10.1 rope. The easiest bag to pack was by far, the Metolius Vortex with its cool funnel shaped design. The Petzl Bolsa shares this funnel design and is nearly as easy, but with fatter ropes it took a little more effort to get everything packed away. It's interesting to note that between these two, we felt no absolutely difference with a 9.5mm x 60m rope but felt some difference (with several tests) using a longer fatter rope (that 70mx 10.1). The Black Diamond Super Slacker (as the name implies) was the next easiest to use with its fold and zip system.

Our top scores among the more traditional burrito style designs were the Metolius Ropemaster HC, Petzl Kab and Black Diamond Super Chute. All three of these feature over-sized, easy-to push in designs. We found the least easiest to pack were the Metolius Speedster and the Metolius Dirt Bag II.

Unpacking


Most rope bags pin the rope against the tarp when rolled, keeping it in place during transport, and saving the climber the hassle of re-stacking the rope before every climb. Pretty much all of the products we tested in this review preformed fantastically in this department with the exception of the two "funnel style" bags we reviewed: the Metolius Vortex and Petzl Bolsa. Most of the time they worked just fine and we didn't need to re-flake the rope, but ropes would rarely come out as consistently nicely oriented as more traditional burrito style bags. With the Vortex it was rarely bad and we would normally just leave the rope in the main bag and let it pay out of its bucket. The Bolsa took a little more effort, as the rope often didn't like to feed out of its backpack so we would do a controlled dump back onto the tarp and this worked very well most of the time. On rare occasions both of these funnel style designs would tangle badly, requiring us to completely de-cluster the rope, but this was rare.

Click to enlarge
Ian Nicholson rolling up a 10.1 x 70m rope in a Metolius Rope Ranger during our side-by-side comparisons. We had three different people roll up each contender and weigh in on which one was the easiest.
Credit: Jason Broman

Ease of Transport


We preformed several side-by-side comparisons on what was the easiest model to transport; both short distances and long distances. We tested each contender carrying it on 30+ minute approaches, as well as compared how quickly we could pack up for short moves like when moving between climbing routes.

Short Distances
For short distances we wanted something that folded up quickly and easily so we could walk 20-50 ft to a nearby route without having to pack up the whole bag. This is where both the funnel style designs; the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Vortex really excelled. Just grab the four corners, give it a shake and move on to the next route. We often didn't even put the rope all the way inside, just part way and carried the set-up by its handles. We thought the Petzl Kab was the easiest to transport among the traditional burrito style designs and appreciated how easy the Black Diamond Super Slacker was to use due to its simple fold and walk design. The Kab's flat urethane bottom allowed it to stand open, similar to a bucket, making loading it up for quick moves a breeze.

Long Distances
We also tested the comfort of carrying each product for longer distances. This isn't as big of a deal for most climbers who, will likely transport their rope bag in a larger cragging pack for longer hikes. However, at some point most climbers will sling their rope bag over their shoulder and trudge along. It's no surprise that the two most comfortable contenders we tested for this review, both had backpack straps; the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Speedster. We felt like we could wear both of these on approaches of an hour or more. Most of the other contenders in our review had a single padded shoulder strap that most of our testers agreed was comfortable for around 25-35 minutes with a 70m rope (around 10 lbs, but got progressively worse after that).

Click to enlarge
Metolius Speedster is one of only a few models that can also be used for a short day of sport climbing. It is big enough to haul a rope, harness, shoes, water and a few extras and it has backpack straps for carrying.
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Click to enlarge
The Petzl Bolsa showing its versatility as it doubles as a cragging pack that can easily be used for half-day sport climbing forays or even all-day warmer-weather climbing adventures. In this photo the Bolsa has a 70m x 10.1 rope, shoes, chalk bag, harness and still has room for a little more. What impressed us even more at $40 the Bolsa is one of the best priced products in our review.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Using a Rope Bag as Your Primary Climbing Pack


Few designs can double as a cragging bag effectively, often becoming the perfect choice for afternoon sessions to sunny sport climbing destinations where not much gear is needed. This is where both the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Speedster preformed fatalistically. If you want a product that can occasionally be your only crag pack then these two are the OutdoorGearLab's top two picks on the market. Both can fit a rope, shoes, harness, chalk bag, draws plus a few extras, perfect for an afternoon of climbing.
Click to enlarge
Ian Nicholson testing in Coasta Blanca Spain. On this trip he brought only a rope bag as his cragging and travel pack.
Credit: Rebecca Schroeder

Compressibility and Packability


Because most climbers are going to carry their rope bag in their pack at least some of the time (or nearly all of the time), we compared how well each one packed down with a 70m cord. Designs that featured compression straps that went all the way around itself, cinched down the best. The most compressible were the Metolius Rope Ranger HC, Black Diamond Super Chute and the Metolius Vortex. The Petzl Kab cinched down fairly well, but because of all its features, burly fabric and super reinforced bottom it took a tiny bit more effort to force it into our pack. The Super Slacker compressed fairly well despite its size and because there's not as much shape to it, we found it easy to pack. The Metolius Speedster and the Petzl Bolsa were certainly the hardest to pack because they have no features for compression and their shoulder straps got hung up more regularly.
Click to enlarge
Compressibility is important to help fit the bag into your pack. Here Andy Dahlen and Ian Nicholson at Trout Creek with its 35+ minute approach using a review contender to keep their rope out of the Eastern Oregon desert sand.

Extra features


We compared what type of extra features each contender in this review had. The Petzl Kab is by far the most feature rich model. Not only did the Kab have the most features but they were also the most useful. The Kab sported two zippered pockets, one being an internal mesh zippered key pocket and multiple gear loops for draws among other things. We really appreciated its reinforced urethane bottom that also helped it to stand open like a bucket, giving us one more room to put things. One small feature of the Metolius Ropemaster HC that we thought was gimmicky at first but ended up really liking, was the rope window. While it doesn't seam like a big deal, it certainly saved us some time in our storage closet as we attempted to remember what rope we used last.
Click to enlarge
The Petzl Kab was the Cadillac of products tested and has several rad features that we loved. Some of those features include a small internal zippered key pocket, gear loops for draws, Urethane bottom (haul bag material) and removable tarp.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Bottom Line


All the contenders we included in this review are what we considered the best and most popular products on the market and we liked each one we tested for different reasons. Picking our overall favorite was challenging and certain key features could prove to be the difference for certain people. We loved the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Vortex for their quick and easy rope packing. For certain days just taking a Bolsa or a Metolius Speedster to the crag or to an exotic climbing destination make them the perfect choice. We think the Kab is the most user friendly burrito style bag and loved its extensive features, giant tarp, and toughness. The Black Diamond Super Chute and the Metolius Ropemaster HC are basic but ultra functional models that pack into larger cragging packs fantastically. Lastly, the Dirt Bag II is the best product we've used for under $39 and does a fabulous job at nailing the most basic requirements.
Click to enlarge
Testing while moving route-to-route along the base of El Cap. Here Ian Nicholson and Rebecca Schroeder on the Mega-Classic El Cap base route, Pine Line.


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice: Metolius Vortex


The Metolius Vortex was our overall OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice for several reasons. The first thing we loved is how easy it is to pack. The grab-and-shake the rope away system is pretty darn sweet and because of this it was often the bag we reached for post-review. Just as important is how much we appreciated the Vortex's biggest (in this review) tarp size along with a handful of small features like the smaller set of handles that made moving it route-to-route way more convenient. The Vortex didn't always pay out rope quite as nice as other more traditional burrito style bags but worked just fine almost all of the time. Instead of emptying the contents onto the tarp like with most rope bags, we would just leave the rope in the main bag like a rope bucket and it most often paid out wonderfully and we rarely had to re-flake it.
Click to enlarge
Our Editors' Choice Award Winner the Metolius Vortex.
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Click to enlarge
This series of photos shows the unique packing style of the Metolius Vortex. Simply lay the tarp out, flake the rope onto the tarp, lift the four corners, shake the rope fall into the bag, pack the tarp inside, walk to the next climb.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Top Pick: Petzl Kab


The Petzl Kab was our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick and very close to being our Editors' Choice overall pick because it rocked pretty much every testing category. The Kab features the largest tarp among all the burrito style bags we tested and had tons of other kick-ass features. We loved how nicely it stood up like a bucket, giving us one more place to set things down. We appreciated it's multiple zippered pockets, polyurethane re-enforced bottom and gear loops among other things. Again the Petzl Kab was nearly our Editors' Choice but was just barely edged out in our scoring by the Metolius Vortex; however, we think for a lot of people who don't want to deal with the potential tangle that the Vortex can create, then the Kab is our go-to.
Click to enlarge
Petzl Kab
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Top Pick Metolius Speedster


The Metolius Speedster was one of our OutdoorGearLab Top Picks because of its versatility and for its option to be used as a stand alone cragging pack.
Tester Ian Nicholson used the Speedster on a trip to Southern Spain and not only was it his only cragging pack, but his only backpack for the whole trip. If you want the convenience of a funnel style rope bag that can double as a half day cragging pack and a rope bag, make sure to check out the Petzl Bolsa which narrowly missed this award.
Click to enlarge
Metolius Speedser
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Best Buy Award Winner: Metolius Dirt bag II


The Metolius Dirt Bag II is our new OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award winner. We didn't give the old Dirt Bag the award because we really didn't like its tiny tarp, but now that the Dirt Bag II has a much larger tarp, it's a sweet no-frills option that gets the job done of protecting your rope and helping to keep it clean without any extras. The Dirt Bag is tough and as you likely guess from the name, only costs $30. If your looking for a good deal on a dope bag but maybe want a few other features for only $10 more we really like the Metolius Ropemaster HC because it has compression straps and is easier to roll up and the $40 Petzl Bolsa for its potential use as a half day cragging pack.
Click to enlarge
Metolius Dirt Bag
Credit: Metolius

Ian Nicholson
Helpful Buying Tips
Related Gear Reviews
Metolius Vortex

Metolius Vortex
$50
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award
Metolius Dirt Bag II

Metolius Dirt Bag II
$30
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Best Buy Award
Petzl Kab

Petzl Kab
$50
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Top Pick Award
Metolius Porta Cord

Metolius Porta Cord
$55
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Top Pick Award
Metolius Speedster

Metolius Speedster
$47
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Top Pick Award
Metolius Rope Ranger

Metolius Rope Ranger
$45
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Metolius Ropemaster

Metolius Ropemaster
$40
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Super Chute

Black Diamond Super Chute
$40
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Super Slacker

Black Diamond Super Slacker
$40
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Petzl Bolsa

Petzl Bolsa
$40
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Metolius Ropemaster HC

Metolius Ropemaster HC
$40
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Metolius Dirt Bag

Metolius Dirt Bag
$35
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5