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Black Diamond 9.4 Dry Review

A satisfactory climbing rope that does little to set itself apart from the competition
Black Diamond 9.4 Dry
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $270 List | $249.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Reasonable price, decent all-around performance
Cons:  Subpar handling, middle mark wears quickly, no bi-pattern option
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 24, 2021
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 13
  • Handling - 35% 6
  • Durability - 25% 6
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Catch - 20% 8

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond 9.4 Dry climbing rope comes at a tempting diameter and a reasonable price. It’s representative of the new generation of cragging ropes that are thinner and lighter than the standard 9.8mm cords of the past. Our testers appreciated the combination of soft lead falls yet tight top-rope belays that it offered. However, they were disappointed with the feel of its coarse 1x1 sheath. We are also concerned about some fraying we observed on the sheath that seemed premature and suggests subpar durability. The Black Diamond 9.4 Dry Rope is certainly a suitable climbing rope but it’s far from our top choice in the field of everyday cragging lines.

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Black Diamond 9.4 Dry
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Price $249.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
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$310 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Reasonable price, decent all-around performanceDurable sheath, supple feel, soft catches, saves some weight over thicker workhorsesLight, durable, super soft and supple handleEco friendly, nice handle, super light, triple rated, uncoils perfectly from the bagSoft catches, low impact force rating, durable
Cons Subpar handling, middle mark wears quickly, no bi-pattern optionMiddle marker wears out quickly, still heavier than thinner ropesNot durable enough for heavy duty sport climbing, a lot of stretch when secondingExpensive, dry coating wears off sheath quickly, a tad stiffA little too stretchy for top roping, stiff
Bottom Line A satisfactory climbing rope that does little to set itself apart from the competitionThis rope is a winner due to its superior handling, durability, and excellent catchesThe perfect light and skinny rope for climbing high above the groundOur favorite option among the skinny lines we have tested for an extended sport climbing tripNot the best handling but excellent overall performance
Rating Categories Black Diamond 9.4 Dry Mammut 9.5 Crag Cla... Petzl Volta Edelrid Swift Eco Dry Beal Booster III
Handling (35%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (25%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
Weight (20%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
10.0
5.0
Catch (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Black Diamond 9.4 Dry Mammut 9.5 Crag Cla... Petzl Volta Edelrid Swift Eco Dry Beal Booster III
Diameter 9.4 mm 9.5 mm 9.2 mm 8.9 mm 9.7 mm
Weight (g/m) 58 g/m 59 g/m 55 g/m 52 g/m 61 g/m
Lengths Available 35m, 40m, 60m, 70m 60m, 70m, 80m 50m, 60m, 70m, 80m 60m, 70m, 80m 60m, 70m
Dry Coating Option Dry Cover Mammut Dry Treatment Duratec Dry Eco Dry Dry Cover
Middle Mark or Bi-Pattern Option Middle mark Middle mark Middle Mark Middle mark Middle mark
Certified Use Single Single Single, Half and Twin Single, Half and Twin Single
UIAA Fall Rating 6 7 6 7 (single), 22 (half/twin) 8
Impact Force 7.9 kN 8.8 kN 8.6 kN 8.8 (single), 6.7 (half), 10.4 kN (twin) 7.3 kN
Static Elongation % (in use) 6.4 8 7.5 9 (single), 8.6 (half), 5.3 (twin) 9.7
Dynamic Elongation % (first fall) 37 33 33 31 (single), 28 (half), 26 (twin) 38
Sheath Proportion % 36 40 42 34 42
Calculated Weight of Sheath 21 g/m 24 g/m 23 g/m 18 g/m 26 g/m

Our Analysis and Test Results

Black Diamond introduced their 9.4 Dry rope in the spring of 2018 and it has become one of their most popular. This rope's diameter resides in a tempting middle-ground among models rated for single rope systems — skinny enough to reduce weight, but thick enough to preserve some durability. Be aware, however, that the original Black Diamond 9.4 Dry rope was made with a 2x2 weave on the sheath. At some point, Black Diamond switched the construction to a 1x1 sheath. This change significantly affected the handling but it was not reflected with a product name change. Be sure to check the type of weave for this model when you're shopping. We tested the latest 1x1 weave version.

Performance Comparison


Big walls are especially hard on climbing ropes. We noticed some...
Big walls are especially hard on climbing ropes. We noticed some fraying in a few spots on this rope after one El Cap route.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Handling


This rope feels slightly thicker than its listed 9.4mm diameter. The 1x1 weave on its sheath is less common for a climbing rope — most models feature a 2x2 weave. In hand, this sheath feels rougher than the smooth 1x1 sheaths seen on some Maxim climbing ropes. It's also a little less supple than some other ropes, making tying knots a bit more unpleasant.

Sheaths with a 1x1 weave are often considered to be tighter and...
Sheaths with a 1x1 weave are often considered to be tighter and softer than their 2x2 weave counterparts. However, found the 1x1 weave on this rope to be rather loose and rough.
Photo: Jack Cramer

We also noticed that the sheath is somewhat loose and squishy compared to other ropes. Under tension, the squishiness can cause the rope to deform into an oval rather than circular shape. We're mildly concerned that this deformation could concentrate wear on certain sides of the rope.

Catch


The packaging for the 9.4 Dry Climbing Rope reports an interesting blend of rope characteristics. The static elongation of 6.4% is among the least for ropes in this review. In contrast, the 37% dynamic elongation is among the highest. In the field, we found these specs to be perceptible. Dynamic lead falls felt slightly longer and softer. Top-rope falls in contrast felt slightly firmer and shorter. This is a nice combination of characteristics that our testers really appreciated.

Our testers were surprised that this rope was able to provide soft...
Our testers were surprised that this rope was able to provide soft lead fall catches yet tight top-ropes falls with minimal stretch.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weight


A 70-meter Black Diamond 9.4 Dry tipped our scale at 9.0 lbs. That equates to 58 g/m, which is near average for a rope of its diameter. Compared to the lightest ropes this amounts to roughly an extra pound. At the same time, it's about a pound less than the most thicker ropes that we would classify as workhorses. These weight figures could be an improvement consideration for crags with long approaches or alpine objectives, but it probably shouldn't be a be factor for most climbers.

Durability


Any rope spun at 9.4mm is going to sacrifice some durability for performance. That's simply the tradeoff you should expect to enjoy the lightweight benefits of a thinner line. However, many ropes at this diameter have still impressed us with well-built ropes that lasted beyond a year.

This rope comes new with a trio of black strips to identify the...
This rope comes new with a trio of black strips to identify the middle (top photo). After 20 pitches, it had started to fade (bottom photo).
Photo: Jack Cramer

Unfortunately, the Black Diamond 9.4 Dry could not quite match the durability of other similarly sized ropes in our tests. The soft sheath deformed the rope into an oval rather than circle shape and this seemed to concentrate wear in areas on the sheath. We observed fuzzy spots and sheath fraying earlier on that seemed premature. On low friction rock types, this may be less of a concern, but climbers who visit areas with coarse rock should probably look for a sturdier model.

Although our testers didn't prefer the feel of the rather squishy...
Although our testers didn't prefer the feel of the rather squishy sheath, it seemed to catch reliably in a GriGri from day one.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


This rope is priced a little lower than other performance ropes in the low-9mm range. Although its catch and weight certainly are on par with these competitors, its durability was not. The middle mark quickly disappeared and the loose sheath showed signs of wear faster than expected. What's even more concerning, is that several online customer reviews describe similar issues. For these reasons, we don't consider it a great value.

Conclusion


The 9.4 Dry Climbing Rope offers decent performance at a tempting diameter. We enjoyed its combination of soft lead falls but tight top-rope catches. Our testers, however, were disappointed with its handling and durability. This rope could be a worthy choice if you can find it on sale, but there are better performing ropes if you're paying full price.

Jack Cramer

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