Rigging rope vs climbing rope: What are the differences?

July 24, 2023

Ever wondered why arborists don’t use the same ropes for climbing and rigging? If you’re new to the industry or curious about the work tree surgeons do, this is a logical question to ask. They do look similar at first glance, but in reality, climbing and rigging rope is constructed quite differently. 

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the differences between climbing and rigging rope. But before we do that, let’s look at why arborists need two different types of rope. 

Why the need for two different styles of rope?

Climbing rope is intended to aid the arborist as they ascend and descend a tree, keeping them safe and supporting their body weight at all times. Because arborists tend to make small movements and need to be able to precisely and gradually lower and raise their bodies to reach different branches, their climbing ropes need to be quite rigid. Arborist climbing ropes will typically be between 11 and 13mm diameter to keep the weight to a minimum and give the perfect balance of friction for efficient climbing. Too much friction and climbing becomes very hard work; too little friction and devices would slip, causing a much-too-rapid descent!

By contrast, rigging rope is used exclusively for lowering tree branches to the ground. Timber can be extraordinarily heavy, and rigging rope will typically have a degree of ‘stretchiness’ in order to take up the slack – and reduce the load on the rigging system as a whole. Rigging ropes will also often have a much bigger diameter – up to 22mm – as they need to be a lot stronger than a climbing rope.

The technical differences

Climbing and rigging rope tend to look similar because they can come in not dissimilar diameters and feature the same, friction-resistant outer layers. However, the rope’s core differs significantly.

Climbing rope is what’s known as ‘static rope.’ As we touched on earlier, predictability and precision is key here, so static rope is favoured. It doesn’t stretch much at all, keeping the arborist in full control of their ascent and descent.

Static rope also reduces the energy needed to climb, as the user isn’t having to fight against the stretchiness of the rope. This reduces fatigue and makes the day-to-day climb that much easier. 

Rigging rope, on the other hand, is designed to handle dynamic loading. It behaves in a noticeably more ‘springy’ way, which allows the arborist to lower tree pieces to the ground quickly without  placing unnecessary load on their rigging system. A good rigging rope, or bullrope, should work well with pulleys and other devices, maintain its flexibility even after extended wear, and have a good strength-to-diameter ratio, so that you can get the maximum capability from your rope without having to go overboard on diameter.

Order your rope online today

Looking to invest in your own climbing and rigging ropes? We have a variety of diameters, lengths and colours available here at Harkie. Browse our full range and get yours online today!