Rope For Backpacking & Hiking – A Complete Guide

Backpacking’s foundation is rope. Everything from tents and shelters to cooking tripods and furnishings contains it.

In this article, we’ll go over what rope can be used for, the best lightweight ropes suited for a backpacker, how much rope is needed for hanging food, and factors to consider when choosing rope.

Here’s how much rope to bring backpacking and hiking

A length of about 18 – 25 meters is a decent length to carry; much less, and it may not be useful depending on the type of hike you are going for. Always ensure that the rope is securely sealed to prevent fraying at the end.


What rope can be used for when backpacking / hiking

Rope can be used in a surprising number of ways and is certain to make your hiking or other adventure more convenient. Here are some of the ways rope can be used.

As a clothesline

If you’re going on a multi-day hike, you’ll probably need to wash your clothes at least once. Simply attach both ends of the line to tree trunks or branches to safely hang anything and everything to dry.

For towing equipment

You can gain more force and manpower by having numerous individuals at the end of a rope than by trying to lift it. Simply tie a secure knot (typically a slipknot in this case) around the object and pull in the desired direction.

For shelter assistance

When you need shelter, a piece of rope and an old tarp will typically suffice. They are really simple to construct an A-frame shelter using. Simply attach the rope between two sturdy objects at the desired roof level and cover it with the tarp.

Lay boulders at the spot where the tarp meets the ground to hold the bottom and keep the temporary shelter taut.

Travel aid

If you have a rope, you can safely descend by lowering your group and potentially saving a long detour around the cliff. This may be the best option if a bad weather front is approaching, and further time on the mountain may put your group in jeopardy.

Rescue line

At some point along your path, you may come upon a stretch that you can climb without much difficulty but is a little above the level of the individuals you’re climbing with.

If this is the case, you could ascend first and then put up a belay for the rest of the group once you reach the top of the section. This could be a fixed belay around an item like a boulder or tree or a body belay around yourself while tied into a proper anchor.

You may occasionally come across another group in need of assistance and the use of your rope.

For hammock making

A hammock can come in handy if insects, snakes, or other undesirables crawl around on the ground.

See related: Warbonnet Blackbird vs Hennessy Hammock

Flotation device

Making a raft or flotation device out of floatable rope and other items can stay afloat when pressure from human weight or objects is applied.

For hanging food

Many hikers keep their food or other supplies that aren’t stored in the tent in a bag held up high by rope and a tree branch. Animals will have a more difficult time gaining access to the provisions and wrecking a good hiking experience.

See related: Does bear spray work on black bears?

Abseiling/rappelling down precipitous cliffs

You may come upon a portion that you cannot safely climb but can abseil off. This should only be tried by those duly trained in rappelling and have the right outfit and rope strength.

In a medical emergency

When out in the wilderness, injuries such as a sprained ankle, a cut, or a more severe injury might occur. When combined with a pair of sticks, a sling, or as a technique to hold down and apply pressure with bandages, the rope can be used to construct a splint.

A tourniquet can be made in extreme circumstances where there is no way to receive professional medical care fast.

Other uses include

  • Tying down your things to protect them from severe winds.
  • Using rope as a makeshift belt.
  • Starting a fire with a rope bow drill to create friction.

How much rope for hanging food?

Forty feet to fifty feet is about right. Usually, 50ft is to have more flexibility when hanging, or if you need a small amount of rope to do/fix something or when you can’t find a perfect branch and need to utilize an advanced branch, you’ll need a small redundant rope.

See related: How long unused water filters last

The best lightweight rope

The best lightweight rope should be wear-resistant, dry-treated, durable, light, and have a low impact force.

There are three types of lightweight ropes, i.e., single ropes, double/half ropes, and multi-use ropes. These three are used differently depending on the type of hike and activities to be engaged in.

Let’s look at each of them.

Single ropes

It is ideal for 25 to 30 meter high routes, with a minimum recommended length of 60 meters and a maximum diameter of 10.5mm.

Examples include:

1. Sterling Evolution Velocity 9.8 mm

It is designed for rock, mixed, and ice climbing, with a fantastic combination of performance and weight and one of the greatest quality/durability/price ratios.

It is a high-quality rope with a dry core treatment, little impact, very light, and a high fall rating.

2. Petzl Arial 9.5 mm

It is very light. It is a thin rope with a diameter of only 9.5mm, and it has an excellent balance of performance and weight, great longevity, and a fair price-to-quality ratio.

It is extremely water, mud, and abrasion-resistant.

This is the rope recommended to experienced climbers seeking a versatile, lightweight, and resistant rope.

3. Petzl Contact 9.8 mm

This is a rope with a perfect blend of lightweight and durability for increased versatility.

It is highly recommended for first-time buyers or someone who wants to own only a single rope.

4. 9.7 mm Bluewater Lightning Pro Double Dry

It’s quite light, with a low impact force and a very good fall rating.

The Lightning Pro is simple to use and clip. Because of its excellent performance, this rope has recently gained popularity.

5. Edelrid Eagle Light Pro 9.5 mm

For experienced climbers, this rope is light and compact. Despite being rather thin for an all-purpose rope, it is extremely robust and resilient.

Double/ Half ropes

Half ropes typically have a diameter of 8-9mm. Half ropes are a set. The joining of two halves forms a whole. The climber is connected onto and belayed on both ropes while using a Half Rope arrangement.

As the climber ascends, each rope will be clipped into a different piece of gear.

It is frequently done in an alternating pattern (every-other-one). That is, each piece of equipment will only have one rope running through it at a time.

This includes:

  • Edelrid Skimmer 7.1mm
  • BD 7.9mm Dry Rope
  • Petzl Tango 8.5 mm

Multi-use ropes

Many ropes are now made to meet various categorization specifications. These ropes can be employed in a variety of systems and terrains when used according to their requirements. They include;

Sterling Marathon Pro 10.1 mm

With a diameter of 10.1mm, it is small enough to be useful in virtually any setting. It weighs 63 g/m, which is extremely light for this type of rope.

This is the rope for individuals who want to feel more confident in difficult situations, for beginners, or anyone searching for a very sturdy and tough rope.

Others include:

  • Edelrid Canary 8.6mm
  • Mammut Serenity 8.7mm
  • Beal Opera 8.5 mm

How to choose rope for backpacking

There are numerous characteristics of rope that you may not be aware of. These are four essential features to consider i.e.;

  • The type of rope.
  • Diameter and length.
  • Particular features: these not only increase your rope’s use but also help you understand it better.
  • Safety ratings

The type of rope

Static ropes are designed to be used on their own. Because they have less give than dynamic topes, they are unsuitable for top-roping or lead climbing.

On the other hand, dynamic ropes are designed to stretch to absorb the force of a falling climber. They are available in single, half, twin, and multi-use ropes.

Single ropes can be utilized in a variety of climbing situations. You can identify a single rope by a “1,” which is usually on each end. They are the easiest to use and highly recommended for beginners.

However, they are less suitable for particular sorts of mountaineering or ice climbing.

For the half rope, two ropes are used, which are clipped together for safety. The circular 1/2 at each end distinguishes them.
The benefits are:

  • It decreases the length of the drag rope.
  • You rappel faster with two ropes than with a single rope.
  • If one rope becomes damaged, you’ll still have a backup to save you from falling.

The disadvantages are:

  • More time and expertise is required than a single rope
  • Combined weight is significantly heavier than single ropes.
  • When using half ropes, utilize matching pairs; mixing sizes and brands can have disastrous results.

An infinity sign at each end identifies the twin ropes. The difference between twin and half ropes is that twin ropes are always clipped together.

Diameter and length

Diameter and length affect weight, durability, and which activity you will engage in.
Length should be anywhere between 60 – 70 ft. In terms of density;

Single ropes with a diameter of up to 9.4 mm:

These are the smallest climbing ropes; this type of rope is incredibly light and is ideal for long climbs with multiple pitches.

However, a thin rope is not designed to withstand as many falls as a heavier rope and isn’t ideal for sport climbing or top-roping.

Single ropes with a diameter of 10 mm or greater:

They are ideal for gym climbing, sport routes, large wall climbing, and frequent top-roping. Because of their greater thickness, they are more resilient for these types of events.

Twin ropes and half ropes:

Half ropes are normally 8 to 9 mm in diameter, while twin ropes are often 7 to 8 mm.

Particular features such as:

Dry treatment

Ropes are slightly porous; they can become cumbersome when wet. Moisture practically renders them incapable of withstanding the forces associated with a fall, and climbing in freezing temperatures might exacerbate this.

As a result, many ropes are now dry-treated to prevent this from happening. However, this raises the price of the ropes.

Middle mark

A simple mark, generally done with black dye, to designate the precise center of the rope. This is necessary for those rappelling so that they know how much rope they have left.

End warning marks

Usually, black dye or thread is used to indicate that you’ve come to the end of your rope. This can come in handy when rappelling or lowering a climber to the ground.

These characteristics are intended for safety and should be taken into account. Hikers who are serious about their climbing should invest in the more expensive options, especially if they plan on hiking regularly in difficult terrain.

Safety ratings

These ratings will assist you in determining the optimum rope for the type of hiking you will be doing.

  • The amount of falls a rope can withstand before it completely fails is referred to as its fall rating. Any rope that meets or exceeds these minimums is safe to use for climbing.
  • Working elongation is another word for static elongation. The value represents the amount of stretch a specific dynamic rope has with an 80 kg weight tied to one end.
  • Dynamic elongation: the amount the rope stretches during the initial test fall. Lower numbers are desirable since they indicate that a falling climber will not touch the ground or a ledge.

Tying it all together

For hiking/backpacking, you need a rope of about 18-25 meters in length. You will want a decent length to avoid any deficit, right? You’d rather carry more than less; the rope is a lifesaver!

Choosing the suitable rope for your hiking is essential. Purchasing the proper rope for your project will be a much more streamlined process once you grasp the diversity and adaptability of rope accessible to you.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your rope can also help you problem-solve in the event of an unforeseen situation.

A Rope Kit for Backpacking