Should You Add Climbing Rope to Your Adventure Gears?

Things you need to consider when taking or leaving a climbing rope, along with a few safety tips

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer, or just a weekend hiker… sooner or later you’ll ask yourself: “Do I need to take a rope with me?

This is a very common question that many outdoor adventurers struggle with. When  you first think about it, the “why not” is the first thing that comes into your mind, isn’t it?

But if you’ve taken a rope with you and had no use for it, you probably know what I’m talking about: The extra weight on your gear. 

That can be a dealbreaker! A good rope is heavy and the equipment needed to use a rope safely is even heavier!

There is not a rule saying “always take a rope when you go on your adventures”. It’s all up to you and your adventure location.

To make the choice a bit easier, here are some things you will need to consider on whether or not you should take a rope and a few safety reminders:

1. Climbing rope

It’s obvious that some situations will require you to take a climbing rope. If you’re going to climb something, or if you know you’ll be on some dangerous heights, a quality rope with professional safety equipment is paramount. But if you don’t have anything fancy in your plans and you’re sticking to a vertical walk, you can get by without a rope.

2. Dire situations

Ropes are very handy in dire situations, so unless you’re trying to pack very light, having a good rope around is still a pretty good idea

3. The weight of a rope

Carrying around a single rope may look like it’s no big deal, however when you add some carabiners, a harness and a descender or a belay device, you’re talking about several kilos. A good rope (both in quality and extension) weighs over 2kg (or 5 pounds). With the full equipment, depending on your plans that can get to 5kg… and the rope is not the only thing you’ll need to take with you.

4. Walking near a cliff

If you’re also going to walk alongside a cliff for instance, it is always good to carry a rope to help you get out of a bad situation, this is a no brainer. You can also use it to rescue other people, as well.

Just remember… if they’re bruised, depending on the severity of the injury, moving them can be worse. Usually it is best to go to the person and provide first aid while you wait for a professional to arrive. And if you don’t know your ways with a rope, chances are you’ll be putting yourself in danger while trying to help a stranger.

5. Flat terrains

If you’re only facing flat terrains then there’s no need to have the excess weight, you don’t need to think twice. Leave it at home.

6. Mountainous terrains

To get to the top of a mountain, where chances of falling are high, then the answer is also obvious: you should take your rope. It’s also good if you need to cross rivers or other natural obstacles.

7. Know your knots

Ropes are useful not only for you but to help and be helped by other people as well. But you need to know what you’re doing with ropes. If you do not know how to tie the right knot for each occasion, or pick and secure a good anchor point…don’t even bother carrying a rope around. It’s dead weight, and worse: it can get you in more trouble than save you from it. Until you take a professional course to deal with ropes, they can do more harm than good. 

8.  Taking a harness

If you do take your rope, be prepared to also bring a harness with you, it can be a four point harness for extra safety or a simpler model.. Make sure you also bring the right rope, a static rope for descending and/or a dynamic rope for climbing. Don’t switch them around, it’s best not to use it at all if it is not the appropriate kind of rope.

This is because when you’re climbing, you want the dynamic rope to take the force of the fall without snapping it back, as if you fell with a static rope, which is very tough and stiff with no give when you fall.

You also want to ensure that your carabiners are also safe. Get a figure-8 descender with a couple of good carabiners. Your carabiners must have a rating on them. It is normally opposite the gate, and you should mind the KN (kilo-newton) rate. It should be enough to take on your weight plus your gear and the force-g from a fall. 

1 KN means 225 pounds, you want at least 28 KN. That’s why cheap carabiners are not a good idea… Sometimes they snap only from a leaning, guess what would happen on a fall! It’s a certain snap and depending on where you are, such accidents can become potentially life threatening. 

9. Don't trust everyone

Bear in mind as well that you shouldn’t just trust anyone with a rope. There are so many people out there with ropes hanging around their gears, but actually no idea on how to use them. 

10. Leave it to the professionals

There is no situation bad enough that can’t get worse due to rope misusage! Most of the time, you will be more valuable looking for help, unless there is a very bad wound that needs stabilizing ASAP. But that’s also a situation that requires specific first-aid knowledge. 

If you do not know first aid, there is absolutely no reason to put yourself in danger. Don’t ever send people with no medical skills or that are clueless on how to handle a rope, instead send that person for help.

And if you notice the place where the emergency happens is too small, don’t go there either, or the rescuing team will lose valuable seconds (or even minutes) waiting for you to get out of the way before they can reach the place themselves.

There are many variables you need to consider on whether or not you should take a climbing rope! However if you do, make sure you are knowledgeable on how to use it safely for yourself, and also before attempting to help or save someone

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