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How to Choose a Climbing Rope Bag

How to Choose a Climbing Rope Bag
This photo is used to show the sizes and the usability of the Rope bags we tested. On the bottom is a Metolius Rope Ranger (Same tarp as a Rope Master) then a Black Diamond Super Chute then a Black Diamond Super Slacker on top of that and a Metolius Porta
Credit: Ian Nicholson
By Steven Tata ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday September 30, 2019

As climbing increases in popularity, gear manufacturers are producing a variety of rope bags suited for different genres of the sport. Regardless of what type of climbing you prefer, a rope bag is critical to protecting your rope from dirt, sand, sunlight, chemicals, and oils, all of which can compromise the safety of your rope. Protecting your rope is crucial because it is one of the few non-redundant components that you trust your life to while climbing. From oily parking lots to sandy belay spots, many things can decrease the lifespan of a rope. If you own a rope, it's an easy decision to get a rope bag, but choosing which one to get can be more difficult. Let us help.

Indoor Climbing or Cragging?

The first decision to make regarding your rope bag purchase revolves around where you plan to climb. If you primarily climb indoors, then a simple rope bag will be adequate, as you'll be carrying it for short distances and won't need to pack nearly as many items as you would for climbing outside.

For those who want a bag that can be used outside, we recommend getting a larger bag with plenty of space for a rope and some extra gear. If you want a rope bag that can be packed a larger backpack, then it's best to get the lightest and most compact bag that you can find.

Consider Packing and Unpacking the Rope Bag

After deciding between a rope bag for outdoor climbing or one for gym climbing, we recommend considering what other gear you want to be able to fit in your rope bag. We prefer larger packs for cragging because some can easily fit a rope, shoes, harness, and quickdraws. The best rope bags for outdoor climbing feature compression straps that can also be used for carrying miscellaneous gear that doesn't fit into the pack.

rope bag - draw strings are convenient and simple but we prefer models with...
Draw strings are convenient and simple but we prefer models with zippered closures.
Credit: Steven Tata

Gym-specific models tend to be less spacious, and some have features for carrying around everyday items in addition to climbing gear. Because you'll only need to pack a harness, shoes, and chalk for the average gym session, you won't need a ton of extra space in the main bag. One model in our review even has a padded laptop sleeve, which is helpful for urban use if you stop by the gym on your commute.

How Long is the Approach?

If you use a rope bag as your sole cragging pack, you'll appreciate having one that is comfortable to carry on long approaches. We recommend getting a bag with two backpack straps if you plan to carry it for more than half an hour. Most burrito-style bags only have a single carrying strap, which works well for short approaches but can be annoying if you fill the bag with gear in addition to a rope.

rope bag - backpack straps make long approaches much more enjoyable.
Backpack straps make long approaches much more enjoyable.
Credit: Steven Tata

Carrying comfort matters less for indoor climbing since most gym approaches entail a short walk across a parking lot. If you bike or take public transportation to the climbing gym, it can be nice to have a messenger-style rope bag with extra space for books or a laptop.

Keeping Your Rope Safe

The primary function of a rope bag is to protect your rope. Most models feature two components to do this, a pack for transportation, and a tarp to protect the rope from the ground. We recommend considering where you spend most of your time climbing and the size of your rope. Every bag that we tested can fit at least a 70-meter, 9.8-millimeter rope, and most have plenty of space for longer ropes. Some indoor-specific models will feel very full with a 60-meter rope and are better suited for shorter gym ropes. If you mostly climb indoors with a 35-meter rope, a small tarp will be adequate for keeping it off the gym floor while not taking up too much space in the pack. A large tarp is great for climbing outdoors, especially if you have a rope that is longer than 60 meters.

rope bag - large tarps are great for long ropes and help to cover uneven ground.
Large tarps are great for long ropes and help to cover uneven ground.
Credit: Steven Tata

Convenience and Innovative Features

Most rope bags are very simple to use, but some have features that make them even more convenient. These range from clever closure systems to small zippered pouches to removable tarps. If you plan to use your rope bag as a cragging pack, it can be nice to have one with a zippered pocket to ensure that you won't lose your keys at the base of a climb.

rope bag - being able to remove the tarp makes it easier to move your rope...
Being able to remove the tarp makes it easier to move your rope between climbs.
Credit: Steven Tata

It is worth considering what type of closure system you prefer on other packs. This often comes down to personal preference, but our testers found that models with zippers or roll closures were the fastest to pack and unpack. Drawstring closures are often featured on more budget-oriented models and are not as convenient to open and close.

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