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Sterling Evolution Velocity Review

Sterling Evolution Velocity
Top Pick Award
Price:   $234 List | $208.05 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Light for the diameter, smooth handling.
Cons:  Expensive.
Bottom line:  A great rope for taking a lot of abuse.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Sterling Rope

Our Verdict

The Sterling Evolution Velocity is a 9.8mm rope that weighs 62 grams per meter. This puts it on the cusp of our classification categories, making it a lighter workhorse rope, or a heavy all-around rope. As such, it 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. We also really liked the Black Diamond 9.9mm, our Top Pick for Top Roping. What's the difference? The Evolution Velocity is a little lighter and slightly more durable, thanks to its dry coating option. If you're looking for a lighter and thinner all-around performer, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Infinity.

Like the Velocity but looking for a bi-pattern rope?
Sterling Evolution Velocity Bi-Color
The Sterling Evolution Velocity Bi-Color has a different pattern on each half of the rope, making finding the middle a whole lot easier. This specialized braiding technique will add $40 to the cost of the rope in a 60 m length, but if you climb a lot of multi-routes that require you to rappel down them afterward, it may just be worth the extra money. Most middle markers fade over time, or the rope gets so dirty that you can no longer see them, but the bi-color gives you the added safety of always knowing where your middle marker is.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Rock Climbing Rope


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Cam McKenzie Ring
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
September 11, 2017

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We've given the 9.8 mm Sterling Evolution Velocity our Top Pick for a Workhorse Rope award. The fact that we are now calling a 9.8 mm line a "workhorse" model does make us chuckle a little, particularly since we started climbing in the days when anything under 10 mm was seen as dental floss and not trustworthy. Now though, with the updates in rope technology (and belay devices), we wouldn't climb with anything but (unless we were doing an aid route up El Cap, but that's a whole other ballpark). Even though belay devices like the GriGri 2 are supposed to be able to handle up to 10.3 mm ropes, that thickness just does not feed well or smoothly through them in our opinion, and once you've gone "skinny" it's hard to go back. If you're a brand new climber, there is still some benefit to a thicker rope — they are easier to hold on to when arresting a fall, and they'll last longer, especially as you learn about minimizing sheath damage from rough edges or poor belaying stances.

Performance Comparison


The Wards climbing in Ten Sleep on our Top Pick for a Workhorse Rope. This 9.8 mm is a great all-around rope  and is an excellent choice for those that want a durable rope for a variety of styles.
The Wards climbing in Ten Sleep on our Top Pick for a Workhorse Rope. This 9.8 mm is a great all-around rope, and is an excellent choice for those that want a durable rope for a variety of styles.

Handling


For a "thicker" rope, the Evolution Velocity handles well. It is smooth and not cumbersome, and clips easily.


The sheath is tightly woven, and this allows it to slide through belay devices and over rough rock surfaces with ease. When compared to the Edelweiss Curve Unicore Supereverdry, this rope is a dream to handle. The Edelweiss line is much too stiff and does not run through belay devices smoothly. However, compared to the Maxim Pinnacle, this line feels a little more cumbersome to feed out slack quickly or clip lighting fast.

This 9.8 mm line handles well and is not too thick for using with a GriGri 2.
This 9.8 mm line handles well and is not too thick for using with a GriGri 2.

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 ropes, such as the Mammut Infinity and Petzl Arial, come already flaked out in a butterfly coil, which is much easier to unwind initially. We didn't dock ropes any points for this, but it is worth mentioning the slight inconvenience of a factory coil.

It pays to take the time to uncoil your rope initially so that it doesn't kink up permanently.
It pays to take the time to uncoil your rope initially so that it doesn't kink up permanently.

Catch


This rope is rated to an 8.8 kN impact force, with 8.6% static elongation and 26.4% dynamic elongation. We liked the combination of soft-enough catch but not too spongy for top roping feel, and gave this rope an 8/10 for catch.


Rating the catch of a rope was one of the most subjective endeavors we've taken on, as there are so many factors that determine how "soft" a fall is beyond the stats of the rope itself. And, in the field we experienced very hard falls on the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro, which by the specs alone should have been very soft. What we can state about this rope after both our testing period (and our personal use of this exact model for the last three years), is that it won't stretch as much or feel as bouncy as some of the "stretchier" lines in this review, like the Beal Booster III or Trango Lotus, but it won't feel like a noodle when top roping either. So, if you tend to do a lot of leading and top roping, this rope is a great choice.

Not a good place to fall! But when you do fall on the first bolt  a line with a shorter elongation  like this one  might prevent you from hitting the ground  or your belayer's head.
Not a good place to fall! But when you do fall on the first bolt, a line with a shorter elongation, like this one, might prevent you from hitting the ground, or your belayer's head.

Weight


This rope weighs 62 g/m, and is 9.8 mm in diameter. That makes it slightly lighter than the Black Diamond 9.9mm (64 g/m), but significantly heavier than some of the 9.5 models in this review that were only 58 g/m, like the Petzl Arial and the Mammut Infinity. The extra grams add up to about a half a pound more weight over the length of a 60 m rope.


As we discuss in our Buying Advice article, the diameter of a rope can be misleading, and what people are actually 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 at the weight of a rope instead of the diameter. For example, the Maxim Pinnacle is a 9.5 mm rope but weighs 61 g/m, almost the same as this one. 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 10.3 and up workhorse ropes that begin to be a burden to lug around.

When you're lugging your gear an hour or more up the trail  a few less ounces is always welcome. This rope is light for the diameter  and won't weigh you down too much.
When you're lugging your gear an hour or more up the trail, a few less ounces is always welcome. This rope is light for the diameter, and won't weigh you down too much.

Durability


This rope has impressed during our testing and also during our personal use, and we've given it an 8/10 for durability.


This rope has a tightly woven sheath that makes up 35% of the weight of the rope. This is actually a low number compared to some of the other ropes in this review, like the 42% seen on the Mammut Infinity. However, it's hard to compare these numbers in ropes of different weights and thicknesses against one another, as thicker ropes tend to last longer regardless of sheath percentage. 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 it can take a fair amount of hard use before needing to be retired.

This rope is holding up well. After 70 pitches there is only minimal sheath fuzz  and it didn't get as dirty as some of the other ropes - though it could still use a bath!
This rope is holding up well. After 70 pitches there is only minimal sheath fuzz, and it didn't get as dirty as some of the other ropes - though it could still use a bath!

Best Applications


The best feature about the Sterling Evolution Velocity is its versatility. Though not quite as versatile as 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 multi-pitch climbing, 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.

This rope held up well on rough limestone  and is a great line for heavy use.
This rope held up well on rough limestone, and is a great line for heavy use.

Value


At around $230 for a standard 60 meter and $270 for a 60 meter bi-pattern, this rope rings in as one of the more expensive lines in our review. Considering its durability and versatility, it is a great line for those looking for a workhorse rope or who don't want to buy multiple lines. We did slightly prefer the $210 Beal Booster III, our Best Buy winner, so if you're looking to save a bit check out that rope instead.

Conclusion


After closely comparing all ten ropes in our test group, we came away feeling that the Sterling Evolution Velocity was the one we were most likely to take out on projecting days or when friends who don't really climb come visiting. 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.
Cam McKenzie Ring

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Most recent review: September 11, 2017
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