Looking to purchase the best climbing slings for your next multi-pitch trad adventure, ice climbing holiday, big wall, or alpine dream route? We are here to help. We conducted research on over 30 different slings available on the market today and selected 10 of the best for this review. Our expert testers took these slings on big walls in Yosemite and long free routes in Red Rocks, as well as on trad classics in Eldorado Canyon and Smith Rock. While climbing slings are relatively simple, there are nuances worth considering when you make a purchase.
The Best Climbing Slings and Runners
|Price||$6.95 at Backcountry|
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|$13.00 at Backcountry||$6.95 at Backcountry|
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|$10.95 at Backcountry||$5.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Low weight, very thin, handles great, affordable||Very light, low bulk, easy to manipulate, very small bar tack||Light weight, low bulk, knots untie relatively easily, affordable||Covered sewn bar tack, thin and light||Low price, light weight despite width, small bar tack|
|Cons||Weighted knots harder to untie than thicker slings||High price, harder than some to untie knots||Not as soft a handle as other top scorers||Expensive, rubberized covering adds weight and feels weird sliding through hands||Abrasive edges, wide for the weight|
|Bottom Line||The best climbing sling due to its great handle and low weight and width.||A top-notch sling at a top-shelf price||A fantastic lightweight flat sling that is also affordable||A great sling that costs more than it seems like it should||A solid sling at a fantastic price|
|Rating Categories||Mammut Contact Dyneema||Petzl Pur'Anneau Sling||Black Diamond Dynex Runner||Sterling Dyneema Sling||Trango Low Bulk 11mm Sling|
|Knot Test (25%)|
|Alpine Quickdraw Test (20%)|
|Specs||Mammut Contact...||Petzl Pur'Anneau...||Black Diamond...||Sterling Dyneema...||Trango Low Bulk...|
|Type of Fiber||Dyneema||High-Modulus Polyethalene||Dynex||Dyneema||Dyneema|
|Widths Available||8mm||10mm||10mm||10mm; 12mm||11mm|
|Lengths Available||60cm; 120cm||60cm; 120cm; 180cm||30cm; 60cm; 120cm; 240cm||10"; 24"; 30"; 48"||30cm; 60cm; 120cm|
Best Overall Climbing Sling
Mammut Contact Dyneema
The Mammut Contact Sling is our Editors' Choice award winner as the best overall climbing sling because it combines a winning combination of super light weight, low bulk, easy deployment, and comfortable handle. It is made of Dyneema, known for being the strongest fiber on earth, pound for pound significantly stronger than steel. It is made of tubular rather than flat webbing, allowing it to be a mere 8mm wide for the same 22kN strength rating, compared to the second thinnest sling checking in at 10mm of flat webbing, and is also the lightest sling in this review, weighing a mere 19 grams. Due to its super low profile, we find that it slides through carabiners easier than any other sling, allowing us to triple it up into an alpine quickdraw with the least amount of hassle, aided in part by the superior method of stitching together the two ends to make the sling.
Of course, we discovered a few downsides to this low-profile sling as well. Because it is so incredibly thin, we find that figure-eight knots tied into the sling have a propensity to weld themselves together very tightly when weighted, making them quite hard to untie quickly. Like all Dyneema slings, tying knots in the sling greatly reduces its strength. Dyneema is also non-elastic, meaning that a climber has to be extra careful not to load the sling statically or the forces generated may be stronger than the piece of protection it is attached to can hold. These are minor concerns, however, easily mitigated by attentive use, and the benefits of Dyneema far outweigh its detractions. Since climbing is a game of getting you (and your stuff) up tall cliffs and mountains, having the lightest, smallest, and best performing gear can only make that task easier and more enjoyable. That's why we recommend the Mammut Contact Sling as the best choice.
Read review: Mammut Contact Sling
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Nylon Sewn Runner
In the debate between whether Nylon or Dyneema is the best material for climbing slings, Nylon has a few distinct advantages. The most obvious is the fact that it is far more affordable than Dyneema, allowing us to recognize the Black Diamond Nylon Sewn Runner as our Best Bang for the Buck Award winner. This sling retails for less than half the price of some of the others in this review, and if you are forking over the cash to purchase a selection of slings that will get you to the top of a route in the Red Rocks or Yosemite (8-14!), then the cash saved could be significant (or at least enough for pizza and beer after your successful climb). The other main advantage Nylon has is that it dynamically stretches up to 30% when weighted in a fall. This can help reduce the impact of a high factor fall close to the belay, and while the rope does most of this work regardless of which type of fibers make up your climbing slings, it never hurts to have more shock absorption built into your climbing systems. This elasticity also makes Nylon a safer choice for use in anchors, while aid climbing or climbing a via ferrata, or any situation where the potential to fall directly onto a piece without a rope to absorb the impact is present.
Of course, Nylon has its downsides as well, or we would have never seen such a preponderance of Dyneema slings flood the market. The main ones are that in order to meet the minimum strength requirements for slings (22kN), a lot more Nylon is needed than the much stronger Dyneema. So Nylon slings are wider, bulkier, and especially heavier than their counterparts. These attributes compound when it comes to performance, because with more material, there is more friction when passing slings through biners, making Nylon slings slightly harder to triple up into alpine quickdraws, and untie once knots have been weighted. These negatives do matter, but only you can decide by how much when considering the price savings. After all, climbers have been climbing far radder objectives than you or me for at least the last 50 years using Nylon slings (and a lot of other antiquated equipment). For the average climber, a few Nylon slings on the rack to compliment a larger amount of Dyneema ones can only add versatility, while a budget conscious climber should be just fine going with only Nylon.
Read review: Black Diamond Nylon Sewn Runner
Top Pick for Building Anchors
Metolius Open Loop Sling
While double-length slings are most commonly used to extend pieces of protection while on lead to reduce rope drag, quadruple or even longer slings are commonly used to help equalize multiple protection pieces into safe anchors. On a multi-pitch climb, it's common for each climber to carry 1-2 extra long slings for this purpose, and from our testing, we think the Metolius Open Loop Sling offers the best attributes to be an ideal anchor sling. While all Dyneema slings are joined with a small amount of Nylon on the edges to give it color and suppleness, the Open Loop Sling features a more equal balance of the two, affording some elastic stretch while still featuring the strength-to-weight ratio of Dyneema. It comes in a wide selection of different widths and lengths, making it easier to choose exactly what size sling you prefer for building your anchors. We tested the 11mm wide, 120cm long version, and thought it was one of the very best performers when it comes to easily tying and especially untying knots that have been weighted, a very critical consideration for an anchor building sling.
There are a few downsides to this sling, mainly that tying knots in a sling, which is quite common when building equalized anchors, reduces the strength of the sling. However, considering that the sling is rated to forces of 22kN, equal to 4,945lbs., it is extremely hard to conceive of a situation where a sling of even slightly reduced strength would be compromised, so this complaint is tiny. Other small downsides are the fact that it is a bit thicker than other slings we tested that are also 11mm wide, making it slightly bulkier, and it also has a slightly rougher edge to it than the tubular design of the BlueWater Titan Sling, another solid choice for anchor building. In the end, however, these concerns are far outweighed by the ease of untying knots and the myriad of choices, not to mention the very reasonable price, making this the ideal choice for your anchor building needs.
Read review: Metolius Open Loop Sling
Why You Should Trust Us
This expert tested review is led by Andy Wellman, a climber of over 22 years. He has been a senior review editor at OutdoorGearLab for the last five years, and used to own and run Greener Grass Publishing, where he produced and wrote rock climbing and bouldering guidebooks to the Southeast, including Stone Fort Bouldering. He has a wealth of climbing knowledge gained from hard-earned experience in every discipline of climbing, including red-pointing 5.13 sport and traditional routes, ascents of long free routes up to 5.12 in North and South America, many big wall aid climbs, both with partners and solo, including eight trips up the Big Stone in Yosemite, a couple of seasons spent climbing large alpine mixed and ice routes in Peru, and years of chasing perfect temps around the most famous bouldering areas in the U.S. He has experienced first hand the style, ethics, local community, and excellent stone at the vast majority of famous climbing areas in this country, as well as a few abroad, choosing to home base at different periods in the climbing meccas of Boulder, Rifle, Chattanooga, Ouray, and now Terrebonne, OR, a stone's throw from Smith Rock. It's safe to say that he has used and abused a whole lot of climbing gear over that time! Adding to his knowledge is that of Chris McNamara, owner and founder of OutdoorGearLab and SuperTopo Guidebooks, who became famous for climbing countless frightening aid routes on El Cap before he was even old enough for college.
Building on previous years reviews where slings were tested primarily in the High Sierras of California, including in Yosemite National Park, we tested them most recently on a couple of winter climbing trips with friend and longtime climbing partner Stefan Griebel, owner of numerous speed climbing records in the Boulder area, including a remarkable sub-25 minute roundtrip time on The Naked Edge, who shared his wealth of techniques and ideas for moving faster and lighter (which certainly requires lots of slings) on large free routes, and also added to the opinions formed about these slings. These trips were to Eldorado Canyon, CO, and Red Rocks, NV, where we raged on long classics, testing slings side-by-side as we went. The rest of the testing took place on the traditional classics of Smith Rock, OR.
Related: How We Tested Climbing Slings
Analysis and Test Results
Climbing slings are loops of webbing that are sewn together using a special bar tacking machine, and are rated to a minimum force of 22kN (or 4,945 lbs.). Slings are generally made out of two different material fibers — Nylon, which was the most common until the late 1990's, and Dyneema, a modern thermoplastic fiber made of polyethylene that is among the strongest known to man. Dyneema is a brand name, and while there are numerous other fiber types with different names also included in this test (i.e. Spectra, Dynex), they are all extremely similar in characteristics and are all made with high-molecular-weight polyethylene. Sometimes we will simply refer to all of these different fiber types as Dyneema. While slings used to commonly be tied together at the ends, they are now most commonly sewn, which is safer and lower profile. All of the slings tested here are sewn. They come in many different lengths for different purposes. The most commonly used length is 60cm (or 24"), referred to as "double-length" or "shoulder-length," most frequently used to extend a piece of climbing protection to reduce rope drag on the leader. Another popular length is 120cm (48"), a "quadruple-length" sling that is most frequently used for equalizing multiple pieces of protection in an anchor. While these are the most common uses for slings, only your creativity can limit how many potential uses they have while climbing.
Related: Buying Advice for Climbing Slings
For this review, we tested the majority of the slings in double-length, while a couple that seemed to have characteristics that would flourish for anchor building we tested in 120cm length. We tested and rated each sling for five different metrics that affect a sling's performance: Handle, the Knot Test, the Alpine Quickdraw Test, Weight, and Bulk. Each of these metrics, including why they matter, how we tested for them, and which slings were the top performers, are described in greater detail below. All slings were given a grade of 1-10 for each metric, and each metric was weighted based upon its significance as a percentage, to come up with a product's overall score. In all cases, slings were rated compared to the competition, so if a sling received a low score, it doesn't mean that it is not capable of that function, but rather that it performed worse than the others we compared it against. To get the most out of this review, we encourage you to look beyond the overall scores, and identify which attributes are most important to you and your goals and objectives.
One thing that we do not rate each product for is value, but this is another key component in choosing the right sling for you. Value is a function of how well a product performs, but also how much it costs. The most valuable products offer amazing performance at the best price.
Handle is a term that is often used to describe the feel of a climbing rope in ones hands, and we use it here to assess slings with pretty much the same meaning. Think of handle as how comfortable or friendly a sling feels as it slides between your fingers, as well as whether it is soft and pliable or rather stiff and cord-like. While this criteria is mildly subjective, we can surely all agree that what feels softer and more comfortable to hold in ones hands is more enjoyable to use on a daily basis or in repetitive situations than something that is abrasive, rough, or stiff. Handle, then, is an assessment of which slings feel the best as we are using them.
Most of our assessment for handle came from using this slings repeatedly on long multi-pitch rock climbs, noticing along the way which ones were the most enjoyable, and which ones struck us as less friendly to use. We also compared them side-by-side on the ground, taking notes about how they feel as the slide through the hands, whether they have abrasive or smooth edges, and how smooth and low profile the bar tacking is.
In the end, three slings simply feel nicer than the rest, although the scores for all of these products ended up fairly bunched together as it was hard to definitively declare some slings far superior to others. The Mammut Contact Sling, our Editors' Choice winner, was the lone Dyneema fiber sling that we felt was friendlier than the others. However, both of the Nylon slings we tested — the Black Diamond Nylon Sewn Runner as well as the Sterling Nylon Sewn Runner — also scored at the top for handle. Nylon is just softer, more slippery and comforting in the hands, without any rough edges, and is also supremely supple, making these slings a top choice if handle is a priority. As one of the more important characteristics to the performance of a sling, we weighted it as 25% of a product's final score.
In the majority of climbing situations a sling will be left un-knotted to slide freely through a carabiner. However, there are also countless other situations, especially when building and equalizing anchors, that it is best to add a knot to a sling. But when it comes to knots, and especially untying them, not all slings perform the same. Compared to climbing ropes, slings have a propensity to become "welded" after being weighted, which essentially means they cinch up so tight that you can't get them untied. To assess and describe how easy it is to tie and untie knots in a particular sling, we performed some knot tests.
The three most common knots that climbers tie in their slings are the figure-eight on a bight, the clove hitch, and the girth hitch. We tied each of these slings into these knots on the same carabiner, then weighted them, to see how tight they got and assess their relative ease of untying. As relatively simple knots, both the girth hitch and the clove hitch rarely presented any sort of problem to loosen and untie — simply wiggling them back and forth a few times is enough to loosen them so they can be untied. The figure-eight, however, is a whole different story. As any climber who has even taken a lead fall on a climbing rope knows, this knot has the ability to cinch up very tight, and with so much friction built in, can be very hard to untie. How easy this knot was to untie became the predominant factor in a sling's score for this metric.
Our testing reveals that the thickest Nylon slings, as well as the very thinnest Mammut Contact Sling, present the most difficulty once a knot had been weighted. If you are in a hurry to move on from your belay when it's your turn, be sure to think carefully before you incorporate figure-eights tied into these types of slings. On the other hand, there is a sweet spot among the medium width Dyneema slings, allowing them to be tied into knots and untied easier than those just described. The easiest slings for this are the Metolius Open Loop Sling and the Camp USA 11mm Express Dyneema Runner, making them excellent choices for use at anchors. These two slings are stiffer and flatter than many of the others, preventing them from welding so tightly together, and allowing for much quicker untying upon leaving the belay. The Knot Test accounts for 25% of a product's overall score.
Alpine Quickdraw Test
Climbing slings are long and dangly and present a bit of a problem when it comes to carrying a bunch of them without allowing them to get caught up in all your other gear. Draping them over one shoulder and around the neck is a common solution to this problem, but even more popular is the Alpine Quickdraw. An alpine quickdraw is a double-length sling that has been tripled up with a carabiner on each end so that it is roughly the same length, and functions in the same way, as your average quickdraw. It also allows slings to be easily racked on a gear loop on the harness, which can be easier to access and deploy quickly mid-lead than unslinging one that is around your neck and shoulder. By removing the carabiner from the free hanging end, then re-clipping it into only one strand of the tripled sling and pulling, you very quickly switch from alpine quickdraw into a full-length runner ready to clip to the rope, so this method has the added versatility of being usable at two different lengths.
For this test, we took each sling and repeatedly tripled them up into alpine quickdraws, then released them again into full-length slings, and rated them based on how well they performed this task. We deducted points for any hang-ups or issues we encountered. There are two main factors that dictate how easy it is to form or extend an alpine quickdraw. First is the width and bulk of the sling. Wider slings are more likely to overlap each other when tripled up in the crotch of a carabiner, creating friction and often preventing the sling from equalizing its length when forming the quickdraw. The second is the length of the bar tacking, which varies from sling to sling, despite equal strength requirements. Longer and bulkier bar tacking has a greater propensity to hang up on one of the two carabiners, once again preventing the sling from equalizing itself when pulled taut into an alpine quickdraw.
It should come as no surprise that the top performers for this category are the thinnest slings that have the lowest profile bar tacking. Once again, the Mammut Contact Sling, at a mere 8mm of width and featuring an innovative bar tacking pattern that is the lowest profile of all those tested, is the top performer. The very light and narrow Petzl Pur-Anneau Sling and the Sterling Dyneema Sling, which includes a small bar tack covered in a rubberized plastic cover to eliminate sewn tabs that can hang up on carabiners, are the second highest performers in this category. This test accounts for 20% of a product's overall score.
Slings are simply single loops of thin webbing, so as you would expect, they are very light pieces of gear. Compared to the weight of a pair of shoes, a cam (or a whole rack of cams), or even a locking carabiner, slings present what may seem to be an insignificant cost in weight while climbing a route. However, it is our belief that no opportunity to cut weight while not compromising on performance should be overlooked, especially when climbing, as every single thing on your body has to be held by your fingers. Since you can buy lighter slings that are equally as strong as heavier ones, why wouldn't you?
Let's be real, though, and admit that we don't think the weight of your slings is going to be the deciding factor between sending a big route or not. In fact, in order to be able to tell the difference between these slings most precisely, we had to weigh them in grams rather than ounces. At times there was only a difference of 1g between different slings, and even if you multiplied this difference by 10 (for the number of slings you are carrying on your route), 10g in the best case, or 190g if comparing the lightest to the heaviest (19g x 10 slings), is still only a difference of .35oz to 3.17oz, depending on which slings you choose to buy. Worth pointing out is that weight is one of the key advantages of choosing a Dyneema sling over a Nylon one, as Dyneema is significantly stronger at the same weight, meaning for a comparable strength sling, they can be far lighter and thinner than Nylon.
To determine a sling's weight, we ignored what the manufacturers published on their websites and instead weighed each sling on our independent scale immediately upon receipt, before we used them and any dirt had a chance to impact the results. We found the Mammut Contact Sling to be the lightest at a mere 19g, although this was a fair bit heavier than the 14g figure quoted on Mammut's website, a discrepancy that we don't understand. Also weighing in at 19g is the Petzl Pur-Annueau Sling, while the Black Diamond Dynex Runner and the Trango Low Bulk 11 Sling are only 1g heavier, weighing in at 20g. The heaviest sling is the BlueWater Titan Runner, weighing 42g. Weight accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
Due to differences in fiber and the pattern of the weave, different slings come in different weights, thicknesses, and shapes, despite the fact that they are all of equal strength. The width of the slings that we tested ranges from 8mm on the small end, up to 18mm on the larger end. Some slings are made of a flat piece of webbing, while others are tubular in shape, which means they are thicker. Both of these considerations factor into their bulk, which basically assesses for how small and compact a sling can be.
Bulk is similar to weight when it comes to deciding how important it really is. On the one hand, the difference between a fat sling and a very thin sling, even when you multiply it out by an entire rack of 10 or so slings, is not very significant, simply because we are talking about thin strips of webbing here. But on the other hand, if you consider the differences in terms of percentage, then a Nylon 18mm wide sling is well over 200% as bulky as a super thin Dyneema sling, and if you have the opportunity to purchase something that is less bulky without compromising on performance, then why wouldn't you? Less bulky slings will pack down smaller in your approach pack, take up less space racked together on your harness, and also slide over carabiners easier as you deploy them.
To assess for bulk, we started by comparing the widths of each sling, and then also factored in their thicknesses, which often has to do with whether they are of flat or tubular design. Less bulky slings score higher for this metric. Once again, the Mammut Contact Sling is the least bulky, as its 8mm width is two millimeters slimmer than the next closest competitor, despite the fact that it is of tubular design, which almost negates the differences. The Black Diamond Dynex Sewn Runner and the Petzl Pur'Anneau Sling are very close seconds when it comes to bulk, and received the second most points. The bulkiest slings are the two Nylon options tested, which need to be around 17mm wide to be equally as strong as the much thinner Dyneema options. Bulk accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
Climbing slings are an essential part of every climber's rack, and come in a surprising amount of different choices considering how simple a piece of gear they are. While any sling that you choose to buy will perform the job well, we feel there is no reason not to select the very highest performing ones if you have the chance. We hope that we have helped make your sling purchase easier and lead you towards the best product for you, and wish you happy climbing!
Related: Buying Advice for Climbing Slings
— Andy Wellman