Which rope is best to use while spelunking?
Spelunking would practically be impossible if you didn’t have some caving rope. Next to the proper boots and a helmet, the rope is only one of the few critical elements to prevent disaster or save your life.
With so much importance on your underground gear, you must ensure that you use the correct rope from a trusted brand. When your life hangs in the balance, the Singing Rock R44 NFPA Static Rope is an excellent choice for spelunking.
What to know before you buy a rope for spelunking
Rope type is important
Before you hit the caves, there are generally two types of rope to choose from. A dynamic caving rope (sometimes called rock climbing rope) has a bit of stretch to absorb the shock if you lose your footing. It works perfectly well but isn’t the best suited for cramped or narrow spaces. On the other hand, a static rope has very little elasticity, which prevents you from smashing into cave walls or rocks underneath you. And since it doesn’t stretch, you reduce the chances of the rope getting damaged on sharp rocks when elongated.
The diameter of your spelunking rope contributes to the overall weight and adds durability. However, a thinner rope is more prone to damage if it comes in regular contact with sharp edges or the cave floor. This makes a thicker option the best choice. While not a significant factor, a thicker rope can handle more weight as it has a higher Safety Load rating, measured in pound-force. A typical 3/8-inch rope can comfortably accommodate up to 270 pounds-force.
Moisture and water won’t degrade the caving rope’s durability but adds more weight. Ropes are relatively hefty, so they become harder to control. Consider where you are caving and if there are any water pools or trickles down the walls. The best option is to get a rope with dry treatment on the core and sheath. This chemical substance, similar to waterproofing, ensures the outside and the rope’s core remain as dry as possible.
What to look for in a quality rope for spelunking
Handling and softness
Other than touching and holding onto a lot of rock, you will also handle a lot of rope, whether belaying or descending. Various diameters can handle differently, so you must be comfortable with how it feels. Some cavers prefer to wear gloves when spelunking, but a well-made caving rope feels softer than others. They are easier to work with and often the most desired by beginners.
Bicolor for the middle point
You might know how long your rope is when you bought it, but you often have no visual cue of how much is left when caving. That is where the ingenious bicolor or bi-pattern comes in. The rope you choose should have an easily recognizable pattern that switches direction after the middle point. This is a handy way of knowing when you only have half the rope available to you. If it doesn’t have a pattern, it should have another visual indicator.
While elongation and diameter are important, a caving rope’s critical aspect is its durability. The best ropes have more strands in the threaded sheath, preventing them from snagging on sharp edges. But keep in mind that durability increases the rope’s weight.
How much you can expect to spend on a rope for spelunking
The average price of spelunking rope depends on the type, manufacturer, length and diameter. Thinner rope of about 155 feet costs $90-$140, while longer, more durable options cost $300-$400.
Rope for spelunking FAQ
What’s the difference between caving and rock climbing rope?
A. When both types of rope are essentially the same, the biggest difference is that caving rope typically doesn’t have any stretch. But, on the other hand, you need some stretch on a rock climbing rope to prevent whiplash and absorb the shock.
Does spelunking rope float in water?
A. While there is a good chance that you’ll find water in a cave, spelunking rope doesn’t float on water. In most cases, the rope sinks to the bottom, making dry treatment much more important.
What’s the best rope for spelunking to buy?
Top rope for spelunking
What you need to know: An excellent static rope, it uses Singing Rock’s patented Route 44 blending technology, which makes thinner ropes more durable.
What you’ll love: This 200-foot low-stretch kernmantle static rope has a diameter of 7/16 of an inch, making it perfect for caving. It weighs 5 pounds per 100 feet of rope and has a safety-load rating of 7,845 pounds-force. This makes it one of the thinnest ropes with the highest safety load, as it only has a 3.2% stretch.
What you should consider: While it is available in four bright colors, it doesn’t have a middle-point marker.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top rope for spelunking for the money
What you need to know: Available in lengths from 114 feet to 230 feet, it uses a 2-by-2 weave construction for the sheath.
What you’ll love: With a medium stiffness and easy handling, the rope has a diameter of 0.39 inches. The overall color of the rope is blue, but there is a black section to indicate the middle point.
What you should consider: It is a dynamic rope, so there will be some stretch when caving.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: While perfectly suited for caving, this rope is a favorite for tactical teams in the military and police.
What you’ll love: This excellent rope features a double twist cabled polyester sheath with a double twist cabled nylon core. It has a safety load rating of 7,935 pounds-force and weighs 6.64 pounds per 100 feet. The diameter of 7/16 of an inch stretches 7.4% under 1,000 pound-force.
What you should consider: It doesn’t have a dry treatment, and the sheath makes up 53% of the overall mass.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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