The Best Rope Bags for Climbing

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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 $40 - $50
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $40 - $50
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Varies $32 - $40
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Varies $32 - $40
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Varies $32 - $45
Compare at 7 sellers
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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 re-movable tarp, love that it stands up like a rope bucketEasy to roll up rope, big tarp, compressible.Rope is quick and easy to pack away, Works as a crag pack on it sown, Tarp feels like on 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 rope bags we testedNo smaller pockets, not as nice to carry for long distances.Rope isn't as easy to take out as other models, Rope doesn't always pay out as nicely once its taken back outNo small pockets
Best Uses Sport Climbing, CraggingSport Climbing, CraggingSport climbing, cragging.Sport 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 29, 2014Nov 10, 2014Nov 11, 2014Nov 10, 2014Nov 29, 2014
Keeping The Rope Clean - 25%
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Ease Of Packing The Rope - 20%
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Ease Of Unpacking The Rope - 15%
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Packability - 15%
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Ease Of Transportation - 10%
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Extra Features And Useability - 15%
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Product Specs Metolius Vortex Petzl Kab Metolius Ropemaster HC Petzl Bolsa Black Diamond Super Chute

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Metolius Vortex
$50
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Metolius Dirt Bag II
$30
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Petzl Kab
$50
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Metolius Speedster
$47
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Metolius Rope Ranger
$45
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Metolius Ropemaster
$40
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Black Diamond Super Chute
$40
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Black Diamond Super Slacker
$40
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Petzl Bolsa
$40
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Metolius Ropemaster HC
$40
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Metolius Dirt Bag
$35
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Rope Bag review
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Why You Should Use One
A rope bag is essentially a must-buy for any crag climber. One bag 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 with in $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 no 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 rope bags we tested featured multiple color coded loops to help keep track of where both ends are.

Criteria for Evaluation

Keeping Your Rope Clean
The most important function of any rope bag is protecting your rope. We defined protecting your rope as keeping it off the ground, and out of the dirt and sand. With this in mind we felt that rope bags 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 the rope through the chains, and made pre-climb rope flaking easier.
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Metolius Speedster
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Metolius Vortex features the biggest tarp at 57 x 57". On top of the 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 suprsingly flat, in real world testing we couldn't 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 bags 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 in by 4 snaps, while we never used the bag itself on its own, we did use the just the tarp on several occasions.
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Comparing the different sizes and shapes of rope bags during our side-by-side testing for our 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 rope bag was to pack up a rope. For this test we used a 70m x 10.1 rope. The easiest rope bag to pack was by 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 rope bags 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 rope bag with its fold and zip system.

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

Unpacking a rope
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 rope bags 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 it's bucket. The Bolsa took a little more effort, the rope often didn't like to feed out of it's 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.

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Ian Nicholson rolling up a 10.1 x 70m rope in a Metolius Rope Ranger during our side-by-side comparison. We had three different people roll up each rope bag 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 rope bag to transport; both short distances and long distances. We tested each bag carrying it on 30+ minute approaches, as well as compared how quickly we could pack-up for short moves climbing more route-to-route.

Short Distances
For short distances we wanted something that folded up quickly and easily so we could walk 20-50ft to a near-bye route without having to pack up the whole bag. This is where both the funnel style bags; 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 the bag, just part way and carry the set-up by its handles. We thought the Petzl Kab was the easiest to transport among the traditional burrito style bags and appreciated how easy the Black Diamond Super Slacker was for 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 rope bag 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. No surprise that the two most comfortable rope bags both had backpack straps; the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Speedster. We felt like we could wear both of these rope bags on approaches of an hour or more. Most of the other rope bags 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 10lbs0, but got progressively worse after that.

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Metolius Speedster is one of only a few rope bags 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
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The Petzl Bolsa showing its versatility when this rope bag 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 rope bags in our review.
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Using a Rope Bag as your primary climbing pack
Few rope bags can double as a cragging effectively, often becoming the perfect choice for afternoon sessions to sunny sport climbing destinations where not much gear is needed. This is where the both the Petzl Bolsa and the Metolius Speedster preformed fatalistically. If you want a rope bag that 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.
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Ian Nicholson testing a rope bag 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 rope bag packed down with a 70m cord. Rope bags that featured compression straps that went all-the-way around the rope bag cinched down the best. The most compressible bags are 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 rope bags to pack because they have no features for compression and their shoulder straps got hung up more regularly.
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Compressibility is important to help fit the rope bag into your pack. Here Andy Dahlen and Ian Nicholson at Trout Creek with its 35+ minute approach using a rope bag to keep their rope out of the eastern Oregon desert sand.

Extra features
We compared what type of extra features each rope bag had. The Petzl Kab is by far the most feature rich rope bag. Not only did the Kab have the most features but it also had the most useful features. The Kab sported two zippered pockets, one being an internal mesh zippered key pocket, 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 place 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.
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The Petzl Kab was the Cadillac of rope bags and 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 rope bags we included in our review are what we considered the best and most popular rope bags on the market and we liked each of the rope bags 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 rope bags that pack into larger cragging packs fantastically. Lastly the Dirt Bag II is the best rope bag we've used for under $39 and does a fabulous job at a rope bags most basic requirements.
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Testing rope bags 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.


OutdoorGear Lab Editors Choice: Metolius Vortex
The Metolius Vortex was our overall OutdoorGearLab Editor's Choice for several reasons. The first we loved how easy it is to pack, the grab-and-shake the rope away is pretty darn sweet and because of this is was often the bag we reached for post-review. Just as important is how much we appreciated the Vortex's biggest in-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 rope bag onto the tarp like with most rope bags we would just leave the rope in the main bag like a rope bucket and it post often paid out wonderfully and we rarely had to re-flake it.
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Our Editor's Choice Award Winner the Metolius Vortex rope bag.
Credit: Ian Nicholson
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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 the bag you, 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 Editor's Choice over-all 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, gear loops among other things. Again the Petzl Kab was nearly our editors choice but was just barely edge 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.
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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 half day cragging pack and a rope bag make sure to check out the Petzl Bolsa which narrowly missed this award.
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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, its a sweet no-frills rope bag 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.
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Metolius Dirt Bag
Credit: Metolius

Ian Nicholson
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