Climbing rope bags are crucial pieces of equipment to ensure your climbing rope, your literal life line, stays clean, protected, and optimally effective for as long as possible. Different climbing rope bags perform different duties and are tailored for different types of climbs, environments, and climbers. Here are some tips for choosing the best rope bag to fit your needs.
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Table of Contents
- Things to Consider When Choosing Rope Bags
- Top 5 Best Rope Bag on the Market Review
Things to Consider When Choosing Rope Bags
A climbing rope bag’s primary job is protecting your rope from dirt, sand, and mud. This does more than just keep the rope clean — dirt, sand, and mud can abrade the fibers of your rope from the inside out. When fibers at the core of your rope are damaged, they can separate from the outer fibers of your rope and make it unsafe to climb on. Dirty rope also affects any gear that it passes through or contacts — so basically all of your gear. Dirt in your rope can abrade quick draws, belay devices, and anchor systems. Beyond that, dirt in your rope can denegrade gear and draws that have been bolted to routes, making the gear less effective for everyone who climbs after you.
For that reason, it’s imperative that your rope is protected both while it’s stored in the bag and while it’s in use at the base of the route. Different bags include different features that can help with keeping your rope protected such as built-in tarps of various sizes. Different climbing locales are dirtier than others — depending on the crags you frequent you might need a more protective rope bag.
While climbing rope bags often come with straps to be carried like a backpack or messenger bag, climbers often choose to pack rope bags inside larger 35-55 liter crag backpacks. If you’re one of those climbers, you will want to take storability into consideration.
Is the rope bag compact enough to fit into a larger crag backpack? Does it have a lot of external gear loops that might get caught on other gear inside your crag backpack? Was it designed with compression straps to pack the rope as tightly as possible and increase storability? Does the climbing rope bag come with any internal pockets or rope clips that would make it easier to keep the rope organized inside the bag? All these are factors to consider if you plan to store your rope bag inside a larger crag backpack.
At the end of a long day of climbing, you’ll want a rope bag that makes it as easy as possible to neatly pack your rope away. Climbing rope bags that include larger tarps make it easier to flake out your rope once all the climbing is done. Different types of bag openings also make it easier to pack your rope away — generally, the larger the bag opening the easier it is to pack a climbing rope. However, climbing rope bags with larger openings also tend to be the larger bags — larger in size, heavier to transport, and less compact for storing inside other bags. Depending on design preferences and the type of climbing, packability may be an important contributing factor in choosing a climbing rope bag.
Depending on the climbing trip and style, you might want a rope bag that can carry some additional gear. Some rope bags are designed to accommodate only your rope, relatively tightly wrapped. Other rope bags can hold a climbing rope and a few additional pieces of gear like some quick draws, your shoes, or a chalk bag. For a day-trip to the crag where you won’t need a lot of additional gear, a rope bag that can accommodate the rope, some draws, and shoes might be ideal — everything you need for a day at the crag in one bag. For longer climbing trips that require more gear, a smaller, more compact rope bag that fits only your rope but that also fits inside a larger crag backpack for the rest of your gear might be better suited for your needs.
Rope bags come in a variety of designs that impact transportability. Some rope bags are messenger style bags with a single strap and either a burrito opening or a flap opening. Other rope bags have two straps like backpacks and can be worn as such. The type of approaches to the crag you generally face as well as whether you’re climbing routes with a single base or multi-pitch routes will affect which carrier style might best fit your needs.
Backpack style rope bags can be difficult to wear while climbing. Messenger style rope bags can be clipped to a carabiner and hauled up the cliff face of a multi-pitch route. If the crag you often frequent is only accessible through a multiple-mile approach, a climbing rope bag that can be worn like a backpack will make it easier to carry along the hike. All rope bag carrier styles have pros and cons — assessing what type of climbs you do most often will help you determine which carrier style will make it easiest to transport your rope.
The size of the tarp that is either attached to your climbing rope bag or comes with your climbing rope bag can vary in size which will impact both its storability and its ability to protect your rope. Generally, the larger the tarp the more effectively it can cover dirt and rocks that your climbing rope would otherwise be sitting on. Some climbing rope bags don’t come with tarps — rather the bag itself opens up and lays flat to serve as a protective surface to keep between your rope and the ground. While this design of bag negates the need for a tarp, it can be harder to clean them out in the case that rocks, leaves, and dirt do get in the way — tarps are easier to shake out and store away than rope bags that serve as tarps themselves.
Top 5 Best Rope Bag on the Market Review
1. Petzl Bolsa
If you’re looking for a minimalist climbing rope bag that easily packs into larger crag packs or can be worn comfortably as a backpack, the Petzl Bolsa is the perfect option. With a built-in 4.6’ x 4.6’ tarp, the Bolsa is a compact bag that packs a big protective punch — this is one of the larger tarps that you’ll find integrated in climbing rope bags. The tarp also has handles on all four corners so you can easily wrap up your rope to either move between sections of wall or wrap up for the day. This is also one of those bags that comes with extra organizational features — two loops inside the bag help identify the rope’s two ends.
The Petzl Bolsa can easily accommodate an 80 meter rope, but that’s really the max capacity for this bag — if you’re using an 80 meter rope, you won’t have space in the bag for any additional gear. The backpack lacks external pockets or gear loops which makes it sleek and compact enough to be used as just a rope bag and be packed into a larger crag backpack. The backpack style design of this bag is great for longer approaches, but perhaps not too long of an approach as the straps are a little thin for a long trek with a lot of weight. Additionally, of the bags we reviewed, this one was relatively cheap.
2. Metolius Ropemaster HC
This bag is a newer version of one of the original rope bag designs. The messenger-style bag is spacious enough for a 70 meter rope — although it doesn’t leave much space for any additional gear, so this bag may not make the best climbing backpack. Unlike some of the other highly-rated climbing rope bags, the Metolius Ropemaster HC includes a drawstring closure and aluminum-buckled compression straps — pull the drawstring and tighten the straps to get the most compactly packed rope you can get for easy storage in larger crag packs.
The Metolius Ropemaster HC also features a nifty rope window design — the see-through patch allows you to see which rope you’re carrying without having to unpack it. The messenger-style design means this bag has a large opening that makes unpacking and packing the rope easier. The bag may only have one strap, but it’s well-padded. As far as organization goes, the bag does lack any additional internal or external pockets for storing smaller items or additional gear — you’ll need an additional pack for those types of belongings.
3. Black Diamond Super Chute
If you’re looking to haul a lot of gear, the Black Diamond Super Chute has the capacity for it. Climbers have said that weight becomes an issue well before the bag is truly full — so stuff it with a 70 meter rope, quick draws, shoes, and chalk to your heart’s content. The bag does include internal tie-off loops to keep the ends of your rope organized, but it does lack smaller internal organizational pockets.
The Black Diamond Super Chute comes with an easy-pack 4’ x 5’ tarp — just lift the tarp by its two corner loops and watch your rope slide neatly back into the burrito-style bag opening. This bag also includes compression straps to make it as compact as possible if you were to pack it into a larger crag backpack. But it’s also comfortable to carry in its own messenger bag-style form — padded straps mitigate some of the discomfort on your shoulders. This is one of the more expensive options out of the rope climbing bags.
4. Metolius Dirtbag — Sleekest
The Metolius Dirtbag is best known for its sleek design. This lightweight, compact climbing rope bag has a single strap to be carried as its own bag — but its design also lends very well to being packed into larger crag packs. The full-zippered opening means getting your rope out of the bag in the morning and packing it away at the end of a long day of climbing is as easy as can be — although some climbers have said the long zipper gets hard to open and close if you let a lot of dirt and grime get into it.
The Metolius Dirtbag doesn’t have the capacity to fit a ton of extra gear once you have your rope packed away, but since the single shoulder strap is only somewhat padded, you wouldn’t want to shove a ton of gear into this bag anyway. This bag also has one of the smallest tarps available across the different climbing rope bags at only 3’ x 3’. If you frequently climb somewhere dry with a lot of dirt and sand at the base of your routes you might want to consider buying an additional tarp or getting one of the bags with a larger option.
5. Petzl Kab — Highest Capacity
This Petzl rope bag is one of the burliest, most expensive climbing rope bags on the market. Planning to work through some rough terrain or drag your rope bag up the side of a cliff with you? This might be the best bag for your needs. It also features one of the larger tarps we’ve seen integrated into a rock climbing rope bag and includes additional usable design aspects like gear loops and a heavy duty construction.
The Petzl Kab also has the highest capacity of the climbing rope bags we looked at — it can fit a 110 meter rope and still have space for additional gear. The bag opens and fastens with aluminum buckles — but it doesn’t feature a ton of compressibility. If you plan to carry your rope bag inside a larger crag backpack one of the other bags might be better. As it is much larger, this rope backpack might not be the best option for crags that involve a lot of hiking.
Just like with most aspects of rock climbing, the gear you need really depends on your personal preferences, your climbing tendencies, and your next rock climbing trip. Regardless of how far or high you choose to go, this guide can help you find the best climbing rope bag for your needs.