Climbing is an inherently dirty activity, and that grime on a microscopic level can gradually damage life-saving softgoods like harnesses, quickdraws, runners, and ropes. Dirt can contain tiny crystals that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and these sharp particles can work into and slash fibers.
In addition to periodically washing the rope, the best way to help prevent dirt and damage is to keep it off the ground in the first place. Rope bags can do this and more.
The Best Climbing Rope Bags Best for Hauling the Entire Kit: KAVU Shapiro Pack ($75)
The Shapiro rope bag is more than just the typical bag and tarp. The 600-denier polyester bag operates like a regular rope bag. The rope is folded and rolled up in the 45 x 45-inch tarp, goes into the bag, and is compressed by a drawcord and four compression straps. But what’s different is that the 30 L of capacity comes with shoulder straps and a padded back panel.
The Shapiro held shoes, a chalk bag, a harness, a dozen quickdraws, snacks, water, and an extra layer in addition to a sub-10mm 70m cord. There isn’t a suspension system or hip belt, but the pack was manageable for loads appropriate for an afternoon or after-work session at the local sport crag.
The tarp has two tie-in loops and a webbing handle on all four sides. A zipper secures the gear inside. This zipper made the tarp and everything on it independent of the pack when desired, which proved handy both at the cliff and gym.
The bag has a pair of full-length daisy chains, a flat zippered top pocket, and a buckled shoulder strap. Additionally, the foam back pad is removable for use as a seat.
The Shapiro Rope Bag almost always drew comments on how “cool” it was and looked; it was visibly more than a regular rope bag and much more straightforward than a typical crag pack. I found it ideal for the “escape kit” to always leave in the car for the impromptu urban crag or gym session.
Verified weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces
Best Budget Rope Bag: Metolius Rope Tarp ($20)
Protecting the lifeline is still a priority even when funds are limited. Dirtbags can rejoice — the aptly named Metolius Rope Tarp is a simple 58 x 53-inch oval tarp with a rope pocket and tie-in loops that kept ropes out of the muck for $20.
The tarp was just big enough and the right shape to provide enough area to flake out a 70m cord loosely. When done for the day, the rope dropped into the pocket, and the bag rolled up burrito-style, smaller and lighter than traditional rope tarps with attached bags, or even square-shaped tarps alone.
Metolius doesn’t charge for a closure system because there isn’t one; there are loops for a quickdraw that held the rolled package closed.
The Metolius Rope Tarp is a minimalist solution that gets the job done.
Verified weight: 9.4 ounces
Most Durable Rope Bag: Metolius Ropemaster HC ($40)
Metolius debuted the first rope bag with a tarp in 1991, the original Ropemaster. The Ropemaster HC is a high-capacity version. It’s a fundamental rope bag; a 52 x 58-inch tarp with the bag connected to a side, both 600-denier polyester. A drawcord opening on the bag and two exterior webbing straps with aluminum buckles secure and compress the unit.
This simple design has proven durable over the decades, and the Rope Master HC is no different. The generous tarp dimensions made for a clean place to keep other gear from laying in the dirt and provided a spot to shoe up. And the bag had enough capacity for 80m ropes or 70m ropes and some equipment.
A nice touch is the transparent window that allowed seeing the rope inside the bag when stowed and easy identification when loading up at home. A pair of rope tie-in points and an adjustable shoulder strap round out the rope bag with the most established history and an affordable price.
Verified weight: 1 pound 4 ounces
Best Bag for Long Ropes: Black Diamond Equipment Super Chute ($50)
The Super Chute’s nylon 4 x 5-foot tarp was large enough for loose flaking of an 80m cord with space left over for shoeing up or other gear. Two tie-in loops kept helped manage the rope, and the tarp’s tapered shape and curled edges made it easy to funnel the line into the bag. The traditional fold and roll method was also practical.
The nylon bag was by far the largest of the burrito-style models in this roundup. It was large enough to house a dozen draws, harness, belay device, and shoes with a 70m cord. Two compression straps with metal buckles and a drawcord opening compressed the load into a tight package, and an adjustable and padded shoulder strap rounded out the Super Chute.
Verified weight: 1 pound 2 ounces
Best for Cramped Quarters: Edelrid Spring Bag ($45)
Easily the most unique “rope bag” of the group, the Edelrid Spring Bag 30 is more of an elongated bucket. Rope buckets are not new; uber-thrifty climbers have been using IKEA shopping bags for years. But the Edelrid unit uses a wire frame to keep the bucket walls upright while in use, and it folds flat into its case for packing.
The 30L bucket measures 9 inches tall, 19 inches long, and 10 inches wide. It did take more diligence when restacking the rope into the bucket to ensure a smooth belay afterward. And it took an extra step to pack up, as stowing the cord in or on a backpack required recoiling.
There are two mesh pockets inside the bucket for storing smaller accessories and a pair of tie-in loops. Opposing handles made for easy transport and served as a clipping point to hang the Spring Bag 30.
At crowded sport crags with limited space, or when belaying on a ledge, the Spring Bag 30’s small footprint kept the peace. The bucket-style Spring Bag 30 also prevented the rope from slithering away on sloped ground and made it a viable option for rope hauling during vertical access work, tree work, or route development.
The Spring Bag 30 also presented a stashable solution for multipitch climbing when the rope cannot hang below the belay, as on sea cliffs.
When it was time to go, a quick twist (identical motion used for wireframed auto sunshades) collapsed the Spring Bag 30 into an 8-inch-diameter flat circle held taut by a buckled webbing strap.
Verified weight: 12 ounces (including storage bag)
Best Gym Rope Bag: Petzl Kab ($80)
Another unique entry into this roundup is the Petzl Kab. Although not suitable for most outdoor climbing, it’s sharply focused on the needs of the urban gym climber.
The Kab is essentially a 20L messenger bag with padded laptop sleeve, expandable to 26 L by way of a zipped gusset. It has a 55 x 55 x 20-inch removable triangular rope tarp. The tarp has handles on each corner that also act as tie-in points.
The interior of the bag has a laptop sleeve and zipped pocket for small items. The closure flap has a bigger zipped pocket. A single adjustable shoulder strap rounds out the stylish bag.
Although the tarp was large enough for a tightly flaked 70m rope, the volume and shape of the bag are less than ideal, especially with gym climbing essentials and a computer (my 15-inch barely fit). But with a 35m cord typical for gyms, the Kab felt perfect for remote work-to-gym missions.
The triangular tarp has less surface area than the usual square tarp. Still, it was plenty generous for a 35m gym rope and provided enough room to stand on the tarp to belay, which was preferable when belaying barefoot in the gym. Switching routes involved grabbing two corner handles and funneling the rope into the bag, shoving the tarp in, then grabbing two internal handles to shuttle to the next route.
The Petzl Kab is a one-trick pony. It isn’t suitable for outdoor climbing unless the crag is a very short hop from the parking lot, the required rope is 35 or 60 m at most, and there isn’t a need for extra gear. But for the urban gym-goer, it reigns supreme, even for those who are fashion forward.
Verified weight: 1 pound 13 ounces
How to Choose a Climbing Rope Bag
Before picking a rope bag, there are a handful of points to consider. First, will the rope bag solely contain the rope, the cord, and a few items? Or will it need to haul an entire climbing kit? If the latter, how long is the usual approach?
More factors to consider are the length of the rope and if climbing will be primarily at the gym or outdoors. And, lastly, you need to determine a tolerable price range.
Answering these questions will help you decide what kind of bag you need. You should consider the structure of the bag (backpack style, burrito-style, etc.). Then, consider how much built-in carrying comfort you need.
Also think about tarp size and how much you need the pack to compress. Pricing concerns may rule all. If that’s the case, remember that every rope bag here performed its primary function — keeping the rope out of the dirt — well. The rest is bells and whistles.
Have a favorite rope bag we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.
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