A rope bag isn’t just a bag that you put your rope in.
Well, technically it is, but the point is, it’s not just any old bag.
You see, a good rope bag will feature a large tarp which unfolds as you unpack the rope.
The reason for that is simple. The tarp significantly extends the life of your rope by keeping it clean.
A dirty rope is a rope with more friction than it is designed to withstand. More friction means more wear, and with enough use, that extra friction will straight-up fray the living daylights out of your rope.
And that’s something we don’t want, as climbers who look after their gear, because, after all, our gear looks after us. It’s the stuff that saves our lives, so it would be foolish to neglect its condition like that.
A rope bag is a simple solution, and a darn effective one too. It’s also, you know, highly convenient way to carry your rope to the crag or to the gym, but you probably guessed that already.
A good rope bag will also make your rope far easier to unravel, because it’ll have a little loop on one of the corners of the tarp for you to tie one end of the rope to. Handy, eh?
So, when it comes to choosing a rope bag, there’s two things that are important to consider: the quality of the bag, and the quality of the tarp. The tarp is easily just as important as the bag itself, and for that very reason you’ll see bags with small or subpar tarps get heavily criticized.
With all this in mind, it’s pretty clear what the best choice is for a rope bag. Let’s take a look at it.
The Best Overall Rope Bag: The Petzl Kab
First of all, the bag itself is just so well designed. I really can’t fault it.
The messenger style makes it really comfortable to carry to the crag, but it can also be worn bandolier style because of an extra belt it has that’s concealable.
You can’t normally do this with a messenger bag. Well, you could try, but it’d be extremely uncomfortable because of how unstable it would be.
However, the bandolier belt on this bag makes it just as stable when worn bandolier style as when it’s worn messenger style. Take your pick. At this point, it’s down to personal preference which way you wear it.
That, and… how much other stuff you’re carrying over your shoulder already, like a stick clip or a hearty picnic.
That being said, you could probably fit a small picnic in this rope bag even while your rope is in it. It’s pretty roomy on the inside. You can just about cram a pair of double ropes and a single rope in there at the same time and still be able to close it.
It’s not designed for that, but it can be done, in case you were wondering.
Pockets and Gear Loops
This is a real advantage this bag has over the others.
Most rope bags have very poor extra storage options, but this one goes overboard in the other direction. There’s easily enough space for all your gear in this thing.
There’s two pockets on the Petzl Kab. There’s a zip one on the outside at the top, and a mesh one on the inside.
These pockets are perfect for storing anything that you can’t clip with a carabiner, like your phone, belaying glasses, water bottle, etc. They’re also really useful to keep your keys in if you don’t like having them on display.
The tarp is a trapezoidal shape, which I find to be so much better than the square shape that many other bags try to achieve.
I say “try to achieve,” because a square shape simply doesn’t work with a rope bag. The way they do it is by having a narrow area where the tarp comes out the bag, with the sides suddenly going to full width after that.
This leaves you with a tarp that’s just annoying to deal with. It doesn’t fold in properly unless you tuck the corners in with care, and it just rotates way too much from the lack of support from having the start of the tarp too narrow.
Instead, the Petzl Kab does away with all that nonsense, and goes with a canvas tarp that tapers outwards naturally.
The real show of how good the tarp’s design is?
The fact that the bag stays stood upright while the rope is in use.
The bag’s stability and low center of gravity, combined with the tarp’s smooth taper and chute-like opening is how it achieves this. No more dirt in your rope bag, and that of course means no more dirty ropes.
A rope bag that falls over or rubs against the ground too much from a lack of stability just ends up getting dirt and dust in it from where the opening stoops down to the ground. This bag provides complete protection against that kind of unwanted exposure to the ground.
Oh, and with that chute shape of the opening, which I just mentioned, it also serves the purpose of guiding your rope out of the bag and keeping it within the space the tarp covers.
Anyone who’s handled a climbing rope before knows how it can flick around when you unravel it. The usual way it goes, is as you try to get your rope out of your bag it seems to want to rub in as much dirt as it possibly can.
“Ugh,” you think, “it’s just impossible to keep the rope from getting dirty.”
Well, with the Petzl Kab, it’s automatic. That’s not just because of the shape of the tarp either. There’s another two key features of the tarp that I haven’t even mentioned yet.
First of all, it’s easily big enough to keep your rope protected. The stats for that which Petzl gives are as follows:
140 x 140 x 50 cm
Which means you’ve got a space of about 4 feet 7 inches across, and 4 feet 7 inches along for the main tarp area.
Secondly, you’ve got the corner loop which you tie one end of your rope to. This means you can easily unravel your rope by finding the other end. You don’t need to get your partner to hold one end for you, or for you to stand on one end to keep it still, getting it dirty and damaging it each time you unpack your rope.
Oh, and finally, there’s one more feature of the tarp that makes the bag even more versatile: it can be removed entirely.
“Why would you want to do that?” you ask.
Well, the reason is so it can do this:
It Also Doubles as a Gym Bag
With the tarp removed, the Petzl Kab becomes an extremely durable gym bag with plenty of space to keep your stuff in. A rope bag honestly doesn’t get more versatile than that. It’s an excellent bag in its own right, and it almost feels like the canvas tarp is a bonus on top of that, making it feel like some kind of two-in-one deal.
All in all, the Petzl Kab is an amazing bag, and an amazing rope bag. You can click here to check it out on Amazon.