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Hands-on Gear Review
Sterling Evolution Velocity Review
Cons: Worse handling than skinnier options
The Evolution Velocity, at 9.8mm and 62 grams per meter, is a lighter workhorse rope. Or, you could think of it as a heavy all-around rope. It sits on the cusp of our classification categories and therefore fills a certain niche. While not the lightweight choice of alpinists aiming to go fast and light, this is a rope that has wide overall appeal to many climbers, and it can take a little more abuse than the average rope. The closest competitor to the Evolution Velocity is the New England Alex Honnold Signature Glider, but there was never really any question as to which of these would take home the Best Buy award. Though the AH Glider is indeed less expensive, but it is heavier, thicker, and much less pleasant to handle. The Evolution Velocity wins.
Read about other lighter weight ropes or beefier workhorse ropes in our Best Climbing Rope Review.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
A 9.8mm rope, the Sterling Evolution Velocity is on the lighter end of our workhorse spectrum, and in fact is lightweight for its diameter. This allows it to be quite versatile while maintaining an awesome durability rating. It earns our Best Buy award for this balance of low weight, long lifespan, and low cost. While the New England Alex Honnold Signature Glider falls in a similar size range at 9.9mm and is less expensive, it is one gram per meter heavier and handles poorly. We don't think the Glider provides much competition for the Evolution Velocity, and would choose the Sterling model over the Glider every time.
As we have mentioned in our Buying Advice article, the diameter of a rope can be misleading, and what people are really looking for when they search out a small diameter rope is light weight. Not all ropes of the same diameter are created equal, so we recommend looking more closely a the weight of a rope instead of the diameter.
A 9.8 mm rope, the Evolution Velocity weighs 62 g/m. The even thicker 10.1mm Sterling Marathon Pro weighs only 1 gram per meter more. This doesn't make it seem like the Evolution Velocity is a particularly lightweight rope, and instead makes the Marathon Pro look impressive. But when you consider that the thinner 9.5mm Edelrid Eagle Light weighs exactly the same per meter, the Evolution Velocity shines in a whole new light. It is also lighter weight than the 9.9mm New England Alex Honnold Glider (63 g/m), which is the closest competition to the Evolution Velocity. Over the course of a 70 meter rope, the Glider will be 2.5 ounces more, which doesn't seem like much, but can make a difference when you are pulling the rope up to clip the anchor at the end of a long, difficult pitch.
Overall, we think the Evolution Velocity is lightweight for a rope in its size class, making it more pleasurable to carry than some of the other workhorse ropes that begin to be a burden to lug around.
This rope is rated to an 8.8 kN impact force, which is on the upper end of our perceived sweet spot for catch. All of our award winning ropes coincidentally have impact force ratings between 8.5kN - 8.8 kN, and we think this shows that our testers prefer a catch in this realm. We find the catch to feel safe and solid but not too hard, though keep in mind that many other factors play into the feeling of the catch, such as how much rope is out when a fall is taken or how closely your belayer is paying attention to your Elvis Leg.
For a thicker rope, the Evolution Velocity handles well. It is smooth and not cumbersome, and stiff enough to clip easily. The sheath is tightly woven, though not as tightly as on Sterling's Fusion series, and this allows it to slide through belay devices and over rough rock surfaces with ease. When compared to the New England Glider, the Evolution Velocity is a dream to handle. The Alex Honnold Glider is much too stiff, and does not run through belay devices smoothly. Instead the belayer needs to forcefully pull the rope through a Gri-Gri or and ATC. Especially when used in auto-block mode from above, the Glider is particularly painful to use. The Evolution Velocity presents no such issues.
As a minor side note, this rope comes factory drum coiled, which, if not uncoiled properly from the outset, can become a major nightmare to untangle. And if improperly flaked, the rope can be extra kinky for the first couple of days. Other brands, such as Mammut and Petzl, sell their ropes lap coiled, which is much easier to unwind. We don't dock ropes any points for this, but it is worth mentioning the slight inconvenience of a factory coil.
The Evolution Velocity has a tightly woven sheath that makes up 35% of the weight of the rope. While this seems like a large percentage dedicated to sheath, it is interesting to note that this the second lowest percentage in our review after the super thin Sterling Fusion Nano IX at 27%. However, it is difficult to compare these numbers in ropes of different weights against one another. When compared to the Editors' Choice winning Mammut Infinity, which has 40% sheath in a smaller diameter rope, the Evolution Velocity's lower proportion may be indicative of slightly less sheath durability. Since sheath durability is what most often causes people to retire a rope, we think that the burliness of the sheath matters.
Our user experience tells us that this rope is quite durable, runs smoothly over rough rock, and resists abrasion adequately. The thicker diameter lends life to this rope, and we noticed it lasting much longer than the super skinny models in our test. We think that the Evolution Velocity will have a long lifespan and can take a fair amount of hard use before needing to be retired.
The best feature about the Evolution Velocity is its versatility. Though not quite as versatile a thinner all-around rope, it is on the lighter end of the workhorse rope classification, which we think makes it pleasurable to use while still being strong, durable, and reliable. It is at home while big walling, hang-dog sport projecting, and teaching someone to climb via an intense top-rope session. Due to its weight and thickness, it may not be the best choice for long approaches or long days alpine climbing, but this is an excellent choice for the climber who only wants to own one rope or who is making their first climbing rope purchase. It will last a while and serve you well.
At around $240 for a standard 70 meter and $310 for a 70 meter bi-pattern, the Evolution Velocity rings in as one of the least expensive in our test, though we think it is the best value in the non-bi-pattern version. The Alex Honnold Glider is cheaper at only $244 for a 70 meter bi-pattern, but that rope handles like a wire and is difficult to use in an atuoblock-style ATC when belaying from above. We would much prefer the smoother Evolution Velocity for just a bit more. For a rope that can do almost anything, the price is right.
After closely comparing all nine ropes in our test, we came away feeling that the Evolution Velocity hit the mark for value. At a versatile diameter and weight that leans more towards durability and toughness, this rope will last longer than skinnier cords but isn't too costly at the outset. It will perform well for any climbing discipline and could be the trusty choice for a climber who doesn't want or need a quiver of ropes. We give it our Best Buy Award for the rope that presents the best value for the money.
Other Versions and Accessories
Evolution Velocity Dry Rope
Evolution Velocity Bicolor
— McKenzie Long
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