Buying your first climbing rope is typically a pretty big milestone in every climber’s journey. In this day and age there are a lot of different climbing ropes to choose from. All of these choices can be quite confusing or overwhelming to a lot of climbers looking to get their first rope. Unfortunately, most of these ropes can be pretty dang expensive and some of them are not worth the price for beginners.
Hopefully this article will help you make an informed decision on what rope(s) may be the best for you without breaking your wallet.
Below are the best budget climbing ropes for beginners.
- Indoor Gym Climbing Rope – Petzl Contact Wall 9.8mm Dynamic Climbing Rope
- Outdoor Climbing Rope – Mammut 9.5 Crag Dry Rope
- Indoor/Outdoor Climbing Rope – Sterling VR9 9.8 mm Dry-Core Rope
Different climbing environments (i.e. outside vs indoors) will favor various rope characteristics. Using a climbing rope designed for outdoor climbing primarily in a gym setting will typically wear it out quickly and make your hard earned money better spent elsewhere. This article details the different features you should look for in outdoor vs gym ropes and gives recommendations on which I believe to be the best ones for climbers on a budget.
Key Qualities For A Beginner Budget Climbing Rope
Although the environment in which the rope is planned to be primarily used in largely dictates what type of rope you want, there are certain qualities that beginners should look for in a climbing rope no matter the setting they are planning to use it in.
Ideal Climbing Rope Type For Beginners
Climbing ropes can be broken out into one of the four following categories:
Single ropes. The vast majority of beginner climbers will want their first rope to be a single rope. Single ropes are the standard rope type for climbing and are what most people think of when they imagine what climbing looks like. Climbers use these for pretty much all climbing disciplines including top roping, sport climbing, trad climbing, speed climbing, and even big wall climbing.
Static ropes. These are not meant to take a fall on (because they do not stretch/elongate) and should not be used for top roping or sport climbing. They are typically used for hauling gear and rescue work.
Twin and half ropes. These are used in more complex two-rope systems. Twin and half ropes are commonly used for multi-pitch trad climbing, mountaineering, and/or ice climbing.
Ideal Climbing Rope Safety Standards For Beginners
The International Climbing and Mountaineering Foundation (UIAA) has created safety standards that all climbing ropes must meet to be considered “safe” for climbing. All beginners (and climbers in general) should use a UIAA certified rope to ensure that they are taking the necessary safety precautions.
The UIAA safety standards cover 4 basic categories:
- Fall Rating – how many falls the rope can take before failing. All single ropes must sustain 5 lab tested falls of an 80kg weight. A higher fall rating typically means the rope will last longer than ropes with lower fall ratings.
- Static Elongation – how much the rope stretches with a weight hanging from it. All single ropes cannot stretch more than 10% of their total length to meet the standard. Ropes with lower static elongations are more efficient and are better at hauling gear and top roping.
- Dynamic Elongation – how much the rope stretches during the first tested UIAA fall. All single ropes cannot stretch longer than 40% of their total length to meet the standard. Ropes with lower dynamic elongation are typically safer (climbers will not fall as far) but will have higher impact forces and be rougher on the climber and their gear.
- Impact Force – how much force the climber and their gear experience during the first tested UIAA fall. Ropes with lower impact forces will catch climbers more softly and will be easier on their gear. Low impact force ropes are better suited for sport climbing than top roping due to their increased stretch.
Beginners will want to keep these safety ratings in mind when choosing a climbing rope. Ropes with high fall ratings will be favored for gym settings where climbers will be breaking them out and falling on them often. Ropes with greater elongation (lower impact forces) will be best suited for sport climbing and overhanging routes with little danger of falling on a ledge. Lower elongation (higher impact forces) will be better suited for top roping.
Best Budget Outdoor Climbing Rope For Beginners
Outdoor climbing typically requires a bit of a different style rope than indoor gym climbing. Most outside climbing routes will be much longer than indoor routes. A standard outdoor climbing rope length is typically 60 meters. Some of the longer pitches/routes may require 70 meter ropes; however, this is not common.
As 70 meter ropes are more expensive than their 60 meter counterparts, they may not be worth the extra cost as a 60 meter rope should be sufficient for the majority of routes. If you live nearby a crag that you plan to frequent, I recommend asking fellow climbers what rope length is good for that specific area or going on Mountain Project to check the route lengths in the area.
Climbing outside introduces a lot of environmental factors that you will need to be aware of for your rope. Your climbing rope will be subject to getting wet, full of dirt, and rub against the rock. Certain ropes have been “dry treated” to help mitigate the effects of the environment on the rope and increase their lifespan. Dry treated ropes are more expensive than non-dry ropes; however, the extra durability provided by the treatment is more than worth it.
The thickness of an outdoor rope can be a huge factor for more experienced and advanced climbers. Thicker ropes are a lot stronger and more durable but also much more heavy than thinner ropes. This really comes into play when you are trad climbing (and even really hard sport climbing) when every ounce matters.
Most beginners will be top roping and single pitch sport climbing as they make the transition to outdoor climbing. Therefore, they will not need to worry too much about the weight of the rope. Due to this, beginners should opt for a slightly thicker outdoor rope. This will allow their rope to be more durable and last longer than some of the thinner options out there with very little drawback at all.
Therefore, the best outdoor climbing ropes for beginners are dry-treated, moderately thick (9.5mm to 9.8mm), and standard length (60m).
The best budget outdoor climbing rope I have found fitting this criteria is the Mammut 9.5 Crag Dry Rope. It is heralded as a fantastic beginner rope for a good reason. It is very affordable and one of the best ropes on the market for all day crag climbing. While it is slightly heavier than the thinner ropes used for multi-pitch trad climbing, it provides climbers with an excellent balance of durability and performance.
See just how great of a deal this rope is by checking out its current price on Amazon. If you are interested in doing more top roping than sport climbing, you may want to opt for the Mammut 9.8 Crag Dry Rope instead as it will be a little bit more durable and has a lower elongation than the 9.5 making it more efficient for top roping.
Best Budget Indoor Climbing Rope For Beginners
The wall height of climbing gyms is typically lower than the height of most pitches outside. Therefore, shorter ropes (about 40 to 50 meters in length) are typically used in climbing gyms. If you are looking to get your own gym rope, I recommend reaching out to the climbing gym staff at your local gym to see how high their walls are and what rope length they recommend.
You should also ask the climbing gym staff about their policies regarding bringing your own rope. Some climbing gyms may not allow this and require you to use ropes they provide due to liability reasons. There is no point in buying a gym rope if you will not be allowed to use it at the gym.
Although gym ropes are a bit shorter, they tend to be thicker and more durable than outdoor climbing ropes. This is because gym ropes are designed for heavy use in a single spot. Therefore, weight does not matter as much for them and they are able to be made thicker (typically between 9.8 and 10.5mm). This thickness allows them to stand the test of many hard gym sessions.
In addition to this, climbing gyms provide a controlled atmosphere and climbers do not need to worry about their ropes getting wet, full of dirt, or scraping up against sharp rocks. As such, gym ropes do not need to undergo a dry treatment to protect them against adverse weather conditions like outdoor ropes.
Therefore, the best indoor gym climbing ropes for beginners are non-dry, thick (9.8mm to 10.5mm), and short (40m to 50m).
The best climbing rope I have found for climbers on a budget fitting this criteria is the Petzl Contact Wall 9.8mm Dynamic Climbing Rope. This rope is available at a few different lengths (including 40m) and provides climbers with a thick, strong, and durable rope option at an incredible price.
This rope is a perfect gym rope for beginning climbers on a budget and will handle the beating it is bound to take like a champ. See just how great of a deal this rope is by checking out its current price on Amazon.
Best Budget Indoor/Outdoor Climbing Rope For Beginners
The heading of this section may be misleading. If you are truly trying to get bang for your buck, it is best to have one rope for gym climbing and one for outdoor climbing. Using a rope designed for climbing outdoors frequently in the gym will cause it to wear out very quickly and will not put your money to its best use. (assuming of course your climbing gym does not prohibit climbers from bringing their own rope).
You will essentially be paying extra for a longer rope that has been dry treated when you could have gotten by with a much shorter and cheaper indoor rope that would last much longer. Having one of each will allow you to get the most out of your money as you will not be wasting the lifespan of your more expensive outdoor rope at the gym.
That said, I understand that having two different ropes is not a luxury that all climbers have. If you are looking for a climbing rope that allows you to climb outdoors as well as in the gym then I recommend getting a more “in-between rope”
The best indoor/outdoor ropes for beginners are dry treated, 60 meters in length and approximately 9.8mm thick. These features will allow the rope to be used on the majority of outdoor routes as well as hold up decently well during gym sessions.
The best budget climbing rope fitting this criteria I have found is the Sterling VR9 9.8 mm Dry-Core Rope. This rope is the definition of a great hybrid option that won’t break the bank. While it is not the best indoor rope or the best outdoor rope, it provides climbers with the most important features of each for an extremely reasonable price.
See just how great of a deal this rope is by checking out its current price on Amazon.