Nikwax Rope Proof

9th Oct 2015


rope proof 2


Call in to your local climbing shop and you’ll find there are a huge range of climbing ropes available.  Different diameters, different stretch ratings and nowadays, more then ever, with different models specifically tailored to particular branches of the sport.

Along with all that, you have a choice of whether the rope is dry treated and, within that, whether it is dry treated on just the sheath (the outer cover) or on the sheath and core (the inner strands).  Of course dry treatment isn’t for everyone -it adds cost and, depending on what you plan to use your rope for, it may not be an essential feature.  If you are only going to climb on blue sky days you may not bother (although do bear in mind that dry treating also helps with durability), but for mountaineering in all weather and winter climbing then dry treatments are definitely worth the cost.

For years there was no universal system for categorising rope treatments but, after a decade of research, the UIAA announced a new standard in 2014.  To reach the requirements of this standard, the amount of water a rope absorbs must not exceed more than 5% of the rope’s weight.  This compares to a typical  absorption rate of around 50% for non treated ropes and even some ropes marked as dry treated have been demonstrated to absorb between 20% and 40%.  Only ropes with both a treated sheath and core can meet this standard.  Full details on the standard are available on the UIAA website here

Besides wet ropes being heavier there are a lot of  other advantages to dry treated ropes.  On the information we received with a recent Mammut dry rope they pointed out that the dry treatment helps prevent freezing, helps maintain the ropes ability to hold falls (‘even after being soaked in water for 15 minutes, a DRY rope achieves 80% of its specified number of standard falls’), demonstrates 50% better abrasion resistance, helps protects the rope from dirt, improves abrasion resistance and, of course, gives water repellency.

So, while dry treatments really work, there doesn’t seem to be any data available on how these coatings degrade with use.  Even without reliable data it is reasonable to conclude that, while the core coating will be fairly long lasting as they are protected by the sheath, general abrasion and wear on the sheath will progressively degrade the surface coatings (just as they do on any treated garments).

If you have a non treated rope that you now wish to treat or if you want to refresh the dry treatment, you can proof the rope with an aftercare product.  Until this week we had never tried any rope treatment products but, as we had been given some by Nikwax, we decided to give their Rope Proof product a go.

We selected a fairly well used rope that gets used for general mountaineering and winter activities.  It is a dry treated rope but I had noticed that when it got wet earlier in the week it seemed to have soaked up a lot of water compared to a newer dry treated rope we were using alongside it.  It was perfect for a trial.

Using Rope Proof is quite simple.  After making sure the rope is clean you simply pop it in a bucket with a mixture of a litre of Rope Proof and some warm water.  You then leave it soaking for a couple of hours before washing it in the washing machine and tumble drying it for an hour on a low heat.  Finally, it needs to be left to dry thoroughly before use.  Like all Nikwax products,  care has been taken to make sure Rope Proof is safe both to the rope and to the environment.

We can’t yet speak for how effective the product has been or on how long the treatment lasts, but it does have the Nikwax pedigree of quality products to back it up - we are hopeful it will make a significant difference and will keep posting back with updates.

Posted by Cal

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