When we check the WeighMyRack database for the most wanted and owned Ascenders by WeighMyRack users we find the top 3 models in each category are…

Most Wanted Hand Ascenders (Left and Right Models)

  1. Petzl Ascension
  2. Climbing Technology Quick Roll
  3. Kong Futura

Interestingly, the #1 most owned models of hand ascenders are the exact same as #1 most wanted (with the 3rd spot tied between the #2 and #3 most wanted). And unsurprisingly the #2 most owned spot is a model from Black Diamond.

Most Owned Hand Ascenders (Left and Right Models)

  1. Petzl Ascension
  2. Black Diamond Index
  3. Kong FuturaClimbing Technology Quick Roll (tied)

Below we dive into why these are the most wanted and owned ascenders from WeighMyRack users.

Petzl  Ascension – #1 Most Wanted and #1 Most Owned Hand Ascender

When it comes to hand ascenders, Petzl has been on the top of many lists for years. The fact that the Ascension is #1 for both WeighMyRack users Most Wanted and Most Owned lists is a testament to their performance and durability throughout their lifespan. Reviews all over the internet from bigwall climbers and photographers to routesetters and cavers all tout its durability, simple construction, and smooth operation.

The pressed and folded aluminum sheet that makes up the body is a single piece, which not only makes the Ascension very lightweight for a hand ascender (second only to the Kong Futura which has no frame to protect your knuckles) but also sturdy feeling in the hand. With one of the most comfortable rubberized grips out there, the Ascension is often a go-to recommendation for long days jugging and hauling on ropes.

Frogging with the Petzl Ascension
The ergonomic top of the Petzl Ascension makes it a lot more comfortable to pull down on when using a single hand ascender method.

Petzl has iterated and updated the Ascension over the years. Previous models had multiple smaller bottom holes for clipping into, but the current large lower hole allows for various combinations and styles of carabiners to be clipped in and out much easier. Petzl has also added a curved ergonomic plastic shoulder on top for a second hand to rest and pull down on, which makes it far more comfortable than before to jug a rope with a single ascender in ‘frog style’.

Where to buy the Petzl Ascension Ascender

Climbing Technology Quick Roll – #2 Most Wanted & Tied for #3 Most Owned Hand Ascender

When jugging a rope using a single hand ascender and a progress capture device (sometimes known as frog ascending) it is a common practice to redirect the rope above the climber using a carabiner (or if you’re really getting fancy, a carabiner with a pulley built into it) which makes the process much easier. So Climbing Technology asked the question, “What if the pulley was just built into the ascender?” and the Quick Roll was born.

CT Quick Roll
The Climbing Technology Quick Roll is currently the only hand ascender with a built in pulley for redirecting the rope

While there are a lot of options out there in the world of hand ascenders (currently 45 models total on WeighMyRack.com) they generally all function in the same way. So when an innovation like an integrated pulley comes along, it often gets noticed, and we think this is one reason why the Quick Roll is #2 Most Wanted hand ascender for WeighMyRack users.

Frogging using the Quick Roll
The integrated pulley of the Quick Roll ascender adds serious efficiency to jugging fixed lines using the frog method.

Buying Options for the Climbing Technology Quick Roll
Because Climbing Technology doesn’t sell nearly as much outside the EU, the Quick Roll is tough to find in climbing shops in the US and Canada. Because of the usefulness of the integrated pulley, it has gathered some attention from the tree hunting crowd and can sometimes be found on Am@z0n or hunting specific websites.

Kong Futura – #3 Most Wanted & Tied for #3 Most Owned Hand Ascender

The Futura from Kong is certainly an aptly named device, as it just looks like it comes from another time and place. The folks at Kong have taken a side step from literally every other hand ascender in the world and completely reimagined how we climb and grip rope. They have also managed to make the lightest hand ascender in the world in the process (40g lighter than the next lightest, in fact.)

Rather than design a handle that is attached to a rope clamp like everyone else, the engineers at Kong instead imagined a device that moves your hand in line with the rope, essentially putting the rope and clamp in your fist as you grip and climb. They say this creates an astounding 30% increase in efficiency when jugging a rope in a frogging or SRT setup, and though we can’t say exactly how they rate those numbers, it is pretty easy to visualize how standing and pulling very close to the rope as you jug would take less energy than hanging with your body away and below from a handle.

kong_futura_hand_right 1
The Futura from Kong is a futuristic approach to ascending rope by forgoing a frame and putting the rope directly inside your hand

Of course with an innovative design that cuts so much weight, you’re going to lose some features, and the most noticeable thing missing from the Futura is the knuckle protection. Because there is no stamped metal body for the handle to attach to the clamp, the Futura loses the benefit of something to cover your hands while you jug the rope. Depending on the amount of overhanging terrain you expect to jug, this might not be that big of a deal. But if you you are climbing ropes that are very often against the rock or running over edges, the lost of hand protection could spell some really uncomfortable situations.

Another notable difference is that there is no way to lock the ascender onto the rope. Usually hand ascenders have an upper hole for clipping a carabiner to prevent the rope from popping out of the body as you jug. This is obviously a design choice by Kong, who expects you to use the Futura along with other gear like chest ascenders and backups. Those looking to use the ultralight Futura as part of a slim, tight, toprope solo setup, should probably look for something that can lock to the rope.

The rad Yann Camus over at Bliss Climbing did a great review you can check out here to learn more.

Bottom line on the Futura, is that it is a quirky, new approach to something climbers have been doing for decades, so it of course catches eyes and turns heads. Couple that with the fact that it is currently $20 cheaper than the next most popular model AND it is the lightest hand ascender ever made, and its pretty easy to see why so many gear heads have either picked one up for themselves or are planning on it.

Buying Options for the Kong Futura

Like many smaller European brands, we don’t have a ton of options to buy Kong products online in North America. There are a few Euro sites that are US/CAN shipping friendly which you can find with a quick internet search or you can find them available from microstores on Am@zon.

Black Diamond Index – #2 Most Owned Hand Ascender

Black Diamond as a brand is often in the top of gear lists, and there are a few reasons for that. At least in North American markets, BD is often the most available and most searched when it comes to climbing gear. Because they make so many different types of gear, they often end up on the short list for what climbers see when they search out a new piece of kit.

Essentially, BD is known for making good stuff, so when you need an ascender it makes sense to see what they have on offer. And when you see it is highly rated and extremely available, the Black Diamond Index ends up on your list (and subsequently, this one).

The trigger hole of the BD Index
The trigger on the Black Diamond Index is designed to make opening and 'feathering' the ascender up and down the rope more ergonomic.

As far as functionality, the Index is a pretty straightforward ascender without any real bells or whistles, except for the feature that gives it its namesake. The release mechanism on the cam that grabs the rope as you ascend is a trigger loop for your index finger. Compared to other models that have a knob or catch to pull down on, the hole allows you to put your finger through to disengage the cam more easily when down-jugging or if you need to open the ascender to step it over a knot or piece of gear on the rope.

In actuality, this takes a bit of practice, and depending on the size of your fingers might be difficult to do. Many users of ascenders don’t often find the need to go down when they are ascending a rope, but in the worlds of bigwall climbing, routesetting, or rescue, down aiding and hauling often present challenges that require the ascender to be more mobile. This feature isn’t a make or break for many, but for those who have found an ascender to be ‘too grabby’, it might be a reason to choose it over another model.

Where to buy the Black Diamond Index ascender

Bottom Line

As we’ve mentioned in our previous article about the top 3 backup/rope grab/progress capture devices, you can’t talk about ascenders without expecting Petzl at the top. When it comes to clamping and grabbing onto ropes, Petzl has the most experience innovating in the industry, and it shows from the wide array of ascender types and models they make.

Those looking for something slightly cheaper that still stands as a durable name in climbing can never go wrong with Black Diamond. Kong’s innovative approach definitely makes for a curiosity at the lightest possible option, and if you’re a route setter, caver, or photographer who finds themselves operating the frog method more than not, a CT Quick Roll is probably burning a hole in your checkout cart as we speak.

Want to See All The Ascenders (over 80)?

At WeighMyRack, we list every ascender and give you filters for type (hand, chest, capture pulley, foot, etc), tooth type (toothed, ridged, smooth), number of holes and other features. You can also filter by on sale ascenders with discounts >20%.

Jeff Jaramillo

Jeff Jaramillo

Jeff currently lives in the Midwest and spends most of his free time answering questions nobody asked. When not plugging gear on moderate warmups and calling it a day, he can be found whining about whipping on bolts in the gym or at the local pub waxing poetic about climbing saving humanity and the planet.

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