Can You Use a Dynamic Rope for Canyoneering?
A person wearing a while helmet using a dynamic rope for canyoneering.

Getting ready to go on another one of your outdoor adventures, but don’t know whether this time you can use a dynamic rope for canyoneering? If that’s so, you’ve come to the right place. That’s because we’ve written a whole article about the subject and we’ll gladly share the info we found with you!

Okay, so what’s the deal here? Why’s this question so popular? In other words: why should we make the focal point of this text? Needless to say, you’re just a couple of minutes away from finding out. Bear with us!

Using a dynamic climbing rope for canyoneering isn’t recommended. That’s because it will most likely get sandy and wet. Once it starts to stretch (and that’s its favorite activity), the sand will nest between the fibers. Needless to say, it can act as a saw and put your safety in jeopardy.

You can’t count solely on the preview, regardless of the author’s ability to nicely sum up a difficult topic (sorry for bragging). Anyway, read the whole thing!

What is the difference between a canyoneering rope and a dynamic climbing rope?

Before we venture deeper into the text, let’s consider why dynamic climbing ropes are different than their canyoneering siblings. If there’s any difference between them in the first place, that is. First things first, let’s answer the most obvious of questions: is there such a thing as a canyoneering rope at all?

You’ll be happy to know that there’s no confusion here, canyoneering ropes are definitely different from other climbing ropes (and here’s if you’re still able to use them for canyoneering). Here’s the thing: they’re designed to fit the conditions one might stumble upon while canyoneering (or canyoning). Therefore, you could say that they’re made to battle sandy, muddy, wet, and abrasive conditions without much hassle. Also, they’re mostly narrowed in diameter than other climbing ropes since canyoneers will have to carry them for good periods of time to and from the canyon, often in not-so-pleasant conditions we’ve already mentioned.

Furthermore, canyoneering ropes possess a thicker sheath (usually made from polyester for increased lightness) and tighter weave than ordinary climbing ropes. Also, their cores are mostly created from polyester, polypropylene, or Dyneema. All of this makes canyoneering ropes very low stretch.

Speaking of climbing ropes in general, here’s how you’ll break in them.

Okay, how does that make them different from dynamic climbing ropes?

First of all, let’s say that there are two main types of climbing ropes: static and dynamic. Let’s focus on what’s so special about the latter: dynamic ropes are cleverly designed to stretch in order to absorb the impact a falling climber makes. The ability to stretch is possibly its defining characteristic. Also, if you’re curious whether this makes static ropes stiff, click on the highlighted area.

Here’s the main part of this section: since we’ve said that canyoneering ropes are something you’d call very low stretch (some say that they’re even less stretchy than regular static ropes), the main difference between the two types of rope lies in their stretchiness levels. That’s about it!

Now that we’ve got that covered, it’s time we take a closer look and consider our main topic for today: can you use a dynamic rope for canyoneering?

A group of people canyoneering, surronded by large rocks.

Can you use a dynamic rope for canyoneering?

Okay, folks, here we go. The thing is: if you were to ask most expert climbers what their opinion on this subject was, they’d probably tell you to avoid using a dynamic rope for canyoneering. Here’s why that’s so:

  • As we’ve already mentioned, while you’re canyoneering you’re surrounded by certain conditions that won’t do a good thing to your regular climbing rope. It will most probably get dunked into the sand and also get wet (if you’re tackling a wet canyon). One thing leads to another and your dynamic climbing rope’s full of sand between fibers. Once it stretches (the thing it does best), the sand between the fibers will act as something of a saw), which, of course, can’t be a good thing. 

Yup, as they say, you’re better off safe than sorry. By using a dynamic rope for your adventures in canyoneering, you’ll put your safety in jeopardy. Because? Well, just because you’ll definitely ruin one of the most important pieces of your climbing gear and possibly put your own life at serious risk.

So, yeah, now you know what kind of rope to avoid when going canyoneering. However, it would be a darn shame if we didn’t show what kind of rope you should opt for before tackling them canyons.

PS. Here’s an article about whether you can use a dynamic rope for ascending!

What do you need in a canyoneering rope?

Okay, so what does a person look for in a canyoneering rope? You’re about to find out! We’ve divided this segment into categories for greater clarity.

#1 Length

This could probably be the most crucial thing that you’ll need to find out about your rope: its length. Usually, you’ll find ropes of the following lengths: 60ft, 100ft, 200ft, or even 300ft. Of course, sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to opt for a custom length. Anyway, when buying a rope of a certain length, you’ll need to take into consideration the fact that ropes tend to shrink a bit once they’ve gotten wet. Some brands take that into account, so they provide you with an additional couple of feet.

Also, if the rappel says 90ft, you’ll want a 100ft of canyoneering rope if you’re utilizing a pull cord. Of course, estimates like these aren’t something you’d call ideal since the distance of the anchor from the cliff’s edge might vary.

#2 Weight

Your canyoneering rope’s, without any doubt, the heaviest piece of equipment you’ll have to carry (especially once you’ve soaked it well). Anyway, you’ll want to keep both eyes open and pay good attention to the weight per 100ft of the rope ratio. Also, keep in mind that lighter is almost always better. Probably, your best bet is opting for hydrophobic ropes since they’ll, obviously, absorb less water.

#3 Thickness (diameter)

Another important factor here is your canyoneering rope’s thickness. Anyway, you’ll want to know that a solid 9-mm rope’s a good all-around option. It’s something most climbers would recognize as a good place to start. However, if you’re totally new to climbing, we’d recommend you use a 10-mm rope since it’s a bit easier to handle. There’s usually no need to go above that thickness.

Also, expert canyoneers “enjoy the luxury” of dropping down to the 8-mm level. Still, they’ll need to pay good attention to protecting their rope at sharp edges.

#4 Material

You’d be surprised to hear how many choices one has when it comes to picking out the material for a canyoneering rope. Each rope-manufacturing brand has the tendency to use the same palette of materials for different ropes. We’re talking: polyester, nylon, polypropylene, Dyneema, and Technora. Also, you’ll want to know that the sheath and core of the canyoneering rope are typically made from different materials.

#5 Strength

The next thing you’ll have to consider when choosing a canyoneering rope is its strength. However, bear in mind that this isn’t so important since most of them you’ll find on today’s market have a strength rating of 4-6k lbf (pounds of force). The differences between individual canyoneering ropes are very small when it comes to strength. 

#6 Durability

Ropes get their durability mostly from their sheath. We’re, of course, talking about the woven thing that goes around the core. Needless to say, the core represents the rope’s strength. Anyway, you’ll want to avoid buying the cheaper ropes since they’re more prone to abrasion and their more expensive counterparts that possess a really tight weave that makes ’em last longer. For other reasons why climbing ropes tend to be a bit expensive, click right here.

#7 Waterproofness

Is there even such a word as waterproofness? Well, it actually doesn’t matter since we all understand what’s the deal here. Anyway, what matters is that some ropes have different forms of water treatment. For instance, the so-called hydrophobic ropes don’t absorb water. That will, of course, make the lightweight even once you’re done with a waterfall rappel. So, yeah, it’s undoubtedly our recommendation that you opt for a hydrophobic canyoneering rope. 

If you’re wondering where to look for a quality canyoneering rope (and other equipment), consider visiting Canyoneering USA.

Bonus round: How long do canyoneering ropes usually last?

A standard canyoneering rope will probably last you up to a decade if you’re not going canyoneering every other weekend or something. However, canyoneering ropes are usually damaged by serious abrasions that result from sharp rocks on the rappel’s edges. Luckily, folks are able to cut off those bad rope sections and make something of what’s left of it. Still, keep in mind that an improper climbing technique can ruin a proper canyoneering rope.

The bottom of the canyon

Alright, folks, so we’ve reached the bottom margin of this article. Unfortunately, that was all on the subject of dynamic rope usage in the world of canyoneering. Now you’re well aware that it’s not completely fine to use a dynamic rope for canyoneering. Anyhow, we’re hoping you’ve had a fun read. For more tips on the amazing activity known as canyoneering (or canyoning, as some call it), you’ll want to follow this link.

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