Edelrid Swift Eco Dry Review
Cons: Expensive, dry coating wears off sheath quickly, a tad stiff
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Our Analysis and Test Results
As mentioned above, this rope serves two different styles of climbing perfectly. We used an 80m version of it on a Spanish sport climbing trip, where we compared it side by side with a friend's 100m long Black Diamond 8.9mm rope (not reviewed by us). Despite being advertised as the same diameter, the Swift Eco Dry felt a little bit thicker and beefier, and was also slightly stiffer in a good way. By comparison the BD 8.9 felt a little squishy, quickly took on an ovular shape from running through quickdraws, and showed more sheath wear with less pitches than our Swift. Edelrid specifically says that this rope is not burly enough for working pitches or top-roping, and if you want it to last as long as possible, we would have to agree. However, while we mostly spent our trip onsighting, we took plenty of huge falls on widely spaced bolts, pulled back up, and worked sequences out, as one would on a normal sport rope, and after over 100 pitches, this rope feels like its only just starting to break in.
The other area of practical application for a thin single rope such as this one is alpine climbing. We will admit to not having tested it for this purpose (yet), yet see no reason the Swift Eco Dry should not be in the running. Saving weight while alpine climbing is a huge bonus, and the fact that it is so thin but rated as a single rope should make guides happy who like the versatility of switching up systems based on circumstances.
Besides the versatility that comes from being a single rope with a meager 8.9mm diameter, what really sets the Swift Eco Dry apart is the "Eco" part of its name. Edelrid incorporates three different production strategies that make this rope the friendliest on the environment that you can buy, a reason all by itself for choosing it (we will admit that this fact alone is what swayed us to purchase this rope before many other fine choices). First, it is Bluesign certified, which means that it has been proven to use significantly less energy and create less pollution during the production process compared to other ropes. Secondly, it is made of an amalgamation of left over yarns from the ends of spools, giving it its unique rainbow color, and ensuring these threads don't simply become wasted. Thirdly, the dry coating is PFC (Perflourinated Chemicals) — free, meaning it doesn't use the highly toxic substances that are used in virtually every other dry treatment, while still living up to the UIAA standard of <2% water absorption for water repellency. We applaud all companies working to introduce products built with higher environmental standards, and recommend this rope for these reasons, as well as its high performance — a double win!
While it may not be quite cool enough to be a deciding factor in your purchase, we also have to point out how awesome the "Lap Coil" system for Edelrid ropes is. Basically, one end comes out of a hole in the packaging, which you simply pull on as you flake the rope for the first time. This system works perfectly! It avoids the huge tedium of properly uncoiling a rope for the first time, ensuring that a rat's nest of knots and loops does not ensue.
This rope handles very nicely, although we didn't rate it quite as highly as the very best Mammut Infinity for this purpose. It starts out very slick, like most ropes, and the first few days we used it we noticed that the slickness combined with its thin diameter meant that belay devices such as the Trango Vergo that are rated to 8.9mm as their low end were allowing it to slip slightly. However, after a few days and around 25 pitches of use, much of the slickness wore away and it took on the texture of semi-rough used climbing rope, not unlike the feel of the Petzl Arial.
For such a thin cord, we love how easy this rope is to grab while clipping, pulling up after falling, or while trying to yard in slack while belaying. It has retained its circular shape very nicely, not flattening out into an ovular shape like some thinner ropes tend to do, which has the effect of focusing the sheath wear on one side of the rope. The Swift is supple and flexible, although not quite as soft and bendable as the Sterling Evolution Helix. We also lent the cord out for a number of days, and those testers agreed that it was a really nice handling rope.
This rope comes with three ratings, as a single rope, half rope, and twin rope, and the numbers for Impact force, static elongation, and dynamic elongation are listed in those orders in our specs table. Understandably, if you use it as a half or twin rope in conjunction with another cord, there will be lower impact forces when falling and less elongation, but we only used it as a single rope, and so will focus on those statistics. Its impact force rating of 8.8kN is right about average for our test ropes, as is the dynamic elongation percentage of 31%. The static elongation percentage of 9%, on the other hand, is a bit high compared to the competition, but that is certainly to be expected from a thinner rope.
The high-ish static elongation percentage would lead you to believe that there will be some significant stretch when top-roping with this rope, and we would have to agree. On the other hand, we felt that lead falls were pretty average, but if we had to call them harder or softer we would actually say they struck us as slightly firm. This is just a general impression. After multiple falls on the same pitch, we definitely wanted to switch ends of the rope for the next pitch, both for the sake of the catch and to limit wear on one end. We never had any issue taking falls on this rope, but don't think the catch is quite as soft or springy as with the Petzl Arial.
Along with the Sterling Fusion Nano IX, this rope bottoms out the charts in weight, coming in at a mere 52 g/m. This is slightly lighter than the 9.1mm thick Beal Joker, which weighs 53 g/m. This multiplies out to just under 7 lbs. for a 60m rope, or about 9.2 lbs. for an 80m.
Interesting to us is that this rope weighs the same as the slightly thicker Fusion Nano IX, meaning there are more fibers woven into a tighter package in the Swift Eco Dry. This may be one component of why we found the Swift to be the most durable of the skinny ropes that we tested.
As an 8.9mm single rope, you should not expect this one to last anywhere near as long as a workhorse such as our favorite Sterling Evolution Velocity at 9.8mm. In fact, you really need to be careful to only use it in low wear situations if you don't want to trash it right away. In the alpine that means being mindful of sharp edges and limiting the amount of jugging on it that you do. At the crag that means using it only for onsighting or redpoint burns, limiting the amount of working a route you use it for, and only top-roping on it if the rock is vertical or overhanging with nothing for it to rub against.
Despite its aversion to hard work, we did a lot of top-roping on it, as well as taking plenty of long whippers and subsequently working out the sequences we failed on — standard sport climbing practice. We were surprised by how well the sheath held up, better than our experiences while sport climbing on the Beal Joker, and also significantly better than the Black Diamond 8.9 that we compared it directly to. What didn't hold up, however, was the dry treatment on the sheath of the rope. The entire rope, including the core, is treated to not absorb water, but like many dry ropes that spend most of their life climbing rock, the sheath very quickly lost its slick, coated sheen and soon took on a rougher, more aged character.
This rope retails at $250 for a 60m, all the way up to $310 for an 80m cord, placing it firmly on the pricey end of the rope spectrum. We think it performs better than other skinny singles we have tested, and so presents a good value for those who can treat it right and know what to expect. For those who intend or expect to beat up their rope, we highly recommend spending less money on a thicker workhorse option.
The Edelrid Swift Eco Dry is an 8.9mm rope that comes in lengths between 60m and 80m, and is best used for situations where weight savings is mandatory. We loved our 80m for onsight attempts on 40m pitches at Chulilla and Montsant in Spain, and also laud Edelrid for taking the steps necessary to produce the most environmentally friendly climbing rope they could. While it isn't a highly affordable choice, it is certainly one that is worth the money.
— Andy Wellman