It's well known in the climbing industry that Petzl outsources their rope manufacturing and that their partner changed in 2014. So, if you tried a Petzl rope a few years ago and didn't like it (which happened to us), their current rope offerings seem much improved. We tested the Petzl Arial and were pleasantly surprised about many aspects of it: the handling, catch, and weight per gram are all great! The only thing we are concerned about is the durability — this rope is showing quite a lot of wear, with sheath fuzz and some "glazed" sections of the sheath, which ultimately make it stiffer. The Beal Booster III is a little less expensive than this line but held up a little better, and won our Best Buy Award.
Petzl Arial Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, good handling, and soft catches.
Cons: Not very durable, expensive.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Petzl Arial is a 9.5 mm rope that weighs 58 g/m. It comes in one color option (Petzl orange!), and has an 8.8 kN impact force rating. And it comes double stacked! Most ropes arrive still in a spool configuration, which is a hassle to unwind and can add tons of kinks to your rope that are difficult to remove. Petzl solves that problem for you, and we have to say that we didn't notice too many kinks when using it.
It feels a little stiff and slippery when brand new, but quickly softens up a bit and is one of our favorite ropes for quick clipping and belaying. In fact, we like the way this rope handles just as much as our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Infinity. When it comes to smooth handling though, nothing compares to the Maxim Pinnacle, our Top Pick for Sport Climbing, which has silky smooth handling with fast clips and belay action. We should also note that all three of the above ropes are 9.5 mm in diameter, and may not be appropriate for newer climbers. Skinnier ropes can be more challenging to hold on to when arresting a fall, so if you haven't had much experience climbing you'll be better off sticking with a 9.8 - 9.9 mm rope at first.
We took some whippers on the rope, and felt like we got a soft catch every time. We also didn't feel like the catches got significantly harder when working a route and falling repeatedly at the same spot. Some ropes, like the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro, felt really hard after the first fall, but this one didn't seem to lose too much stretch. It also feels fine when top roping.
This is one of the lightest ropes in our review, which we'd expect from a thinner rope. It weighs 58 g/m, which is 6 grams less than some of the 9.9 mm ropes in this review, like the Black Diamond 9.9mm. What does that add up to though? We did the math for you, and for a 60 or 70m rope that's the difference of a little under 1 pound. If your approaches are short and your pitches even shorter, you might not notice the difference, but over longer hikes and pitches, those ounces add up. For an even lighter option, check out the 9.1 mm Beal Joker (53 g/m).
We are a little disappointed with the durability of this rope. We tried to use all of the different models equally, keeping a rope log and noting the number of falls we took, and if there was any particular rough edges that they encountered. The Arial did get a couple more days than some of the ropes (after a while we couldn't get our testers to keep climbing on the Edelweiss Curve Unicore Supereverdry because of its poor handling). Everyone liked this rope, but it ended up with the same number of pitches as the Mammut Infinity and Edelrid Boa Pro Dry (about 80) and looks much worse than those two. There is extensive sheath fuzzing and also some areas where it looks like the sheath has glazed a little.
Petzl states that the Arial is made for experienced climbers for high-end climbing, and we agree with this designation. It handles well and provides a soft catch, but it's probably not the line you want to use when dogging your project. In that case, look for something like the Sterling Evolution Velocity, our Top Pick for a Workhorse Rope.
This rope retails for $230 in a 60m and comes with a dry treatment. That puts it on the higher end of the price spectrum, and there isn't a non-dry version for those looking to save a bit. It's still $50 less than the Mammut Infinity though, but if you're looking to save some money, the Black Diamond 9.9mm is only $150.
There was a lot to like about the Petzl Arial, and if it had withstood the abuses of our climbing a little bit better, it could have been an award winner. As it stands, this is still a great option, and we like the new direction of the Petzl rope line.
— Cam McKenzie Ring