When I first heard there was going to be a UIAA Water Repellent standard I was stoked. Particularly while categorizing ropes on WeighMyRack, I’ve had the nagging question, “what does each company consider ‘dry’?” And perhaps more importantly, “which of the treatments are worth the extra $30-$100?”

After spending a large chunk of time researching the UIAA Water Repellent test and speaking to the companies involved in developing and conforming to the new standard, I like the overall idea but I do have complaints about the details. But first I should explain the test procedure and the new standard before stating my grievances. If you only want to read my opinion, scroll down to the “Gear Nerd Rant” above the conclusion.

Note: You can filter on UIAA Dry ropes on weighmyrack.com. Click here to see all the UIAA Certified Dry ropes.

The UIAA Water Repellency Test

To pass the UIAA Dry test, a rope must absorb less than 5% of its weight in water following a specific UIAA procedure.

UIAA Water Repellent

To qualify for the new standard, a rope sample is subjected to light abrasion over its entire surface, equivalent to a few days of use. The rope is then soaked for 15 minutes following a precise procedure. – The UIAA

It’s worth noting that all testing is performed in-house by each manufacturer, which could affect accuracy. I’m not implying devious intent, only a potential lack of consistency given the large number of individuals and organizations responsible for executing the tests.

Here, Edelrid explains the full process succinctly:

For a visual demonstration of the test, Mammut walks through the test (without commentary) using one of their DRY-line ropes (sheath + core treated):

Official Testing Equipment and Procedure

Sources: the official UIAA press release and procedure document.

  1. A rope is passed through an apparatus that simulates wear. 
    • The device is modified from the sheath slippage testing equipment.
    • A 1.5m long rope sample is used and the middle 1 meter is abraded:
    • The rope is pulled by hand 30 times (15 forward, 15 back) in succession through the apparatus at a rate of .5 m/s. (I have no idea how they ensure the proper speed.)
    • The rope is then cut (and the ends welded) with a hot knife to take the middle 50cm of the abraded rope.
    • The sample is weighed to 0.1 grams. This is the weight used as the “dry” benchmark.

     

    Modified rope wearing surface
    An example of the rope abrading apparatus. Drawing courtesy of the UIAA
  2. The rope is positioned on a table, and then soaked with water.
    • The rope is fixed onto a zinc-coated table at three points, the beginning, middle, and end, to ensure the entire rope is contacting the table.
    • The table is tilted at a 30 degree angle and the rope is angled at 30 degrees relative to the horizontal plane of the table.
    • Water flows through a fixed 16mm tube. This tube is parallel to the rope sample, 10mm away from the upper end of the rope.
    • Within 15 seconds of starting, the water flow is adjusted to 2 liters per minute using a flow meter.
    • After 15 minutes of flow at 2 liters per minute, the water is stopped. Drainage must begin within 30 seconds of stopping water flow.
      UIAA Water Table
      The table for water absorption. Drawing courtesy of the UIAA.
  3. Draining
    • The rope is held against the table on one end. The other end is dropped on a dry part of the table from a height that makes a 30 degree angle. After each drop, the rope is rotated 45 degrees and dropped again for 3 drops.
    • The rope is flipped around and while holding the other end, the 3 drops and rotations are repeated, for a total of 6 drops.
  4. Weighing
    • The rope is weighed to the nearest 0.1 gram.
    • Drainage must be complete and weight must be recorded within 60 seconds of water flow being stopped.
  5. Calculations are made
    • The percentage difference is determined from the original “dry” weight and the new “wet” weight.
    • For the official measurement, this entire test is completed 3 times with 3 separate rope samples and the average value is calculated.
    • If the abraded/wet rope weight has absorbed less than 5% of its dry weight, the rope is considered to pass the UIAA Water Repellent standard. Otherwise, the rope is not certified.

What have the results been like so far?

Sources close to the UIAA shared that non-treated ropes typically absorb about 50% of their weight in water. By late 2014, testing showed a majority of ropes marketed as “Dry” often absorb 20-40% of their weight in water. At first this seems crazy, but it makes sense from the perspective that most rope brands have been calling ropes “Dry” as a way to say sheath-treated. They’ve often used the term “Double Dry” to represent sheath + core treatments. This is consistent with testing data that is now being released by a handful of manufacturers.

Mammut gains my full respect for posting transparent results of their Water Repellent tests on their website. Their testing results are as follows:

DRY linesheath + core1% absorbed
PROTECT linesheath-only36% absorbed
CLASSIC lineno treatment46% absorbed

As a gear nerd, I find it far more helpful to know each rope’s “percentage absorbed” (or percentage dry) versus the 5% pass/fail standard. I see a massive difference between a rope that absorbs 6% it’s weight in water and one that absorbs 60%, yet this standard lumps those ropes together.

Which climbers benefit most from the test?

Since the standard only recognizes ropes that are in the highest echelon of dry (sheath + core treated), climbers who use their ropes in very wet environments, such as ice climbing, alpine climbing, and mountaineering/glacier travel, will benefit the most from the new standard.

The pass/fail nature of the standard does not help the majority of climbers who climb at dry crags as the standard pays no head to the non-water-based benefits of dry treatments, such as reduced abrasion.

Ropes certified “Dry” by the UIAA

When the test was first released, a small handful of companies were able to prove their sheath + core treated ropes passed the dry standard set by the UIAA. However, if you are looking for a Dry rope, know that not all manufacturers have had the time or resources to test their ropes yet. Nor have they all prioritized updating their marketing materials. So before tossing out all ropes that do not have the UIAA Water Repellent certification, it’s beneficial to understand who has/has not had the time and resources to build the testing equipment and complete the tests. Hopefully this will become less confusing over time as more and more companies carry out the testing.

When I spoke with Maxim (aka New England Ropes) in November, 2014, they said: We’re all for the new standard. 100% of all Maxim ropes have a dry treated core. Our 2X Dry ropes are also treated a 2nd time after the rope has been made. We’re going for the certification now and I’m very confident that the majority of our ropes have always qualified for it.

A year later, Maxim followed up staying: We are 100% confident that our ropes will pass, however we are still working through building a device to perform the UIAA test.

Examples of UIAA certified dry ropes

All of this information comes from the manufacturers websites. Note: You can filter on UIAA Dry ropes on weighmyrack.com. Click here to see all the UIAA Certified Dry ropes.

Beal’s GoldenDry ropes

Beal-uiaa-golden dryBeal’s marketing states their ropes absorb less than 2%, although the Beal’s individual rope pages pads that as a 3% guarantee.

Black Diamond FullDry ropes

Black Diamond FullDryBlack Diamond uses the FullDry logo to show that the sheath and core are treated and pass the UIAA Dry test. This comes standard on their alpine ropes but is not an option for their gym rope line.

Edelrid Pro Dry ropes

Edelrid-pro-dry-uiaaAll ropes marked as Pro Dry made in 2016 and onward comply with the UIAA standards coming in at 1-2%.

Edelweiss SuperEverDry ropes

edelweiss-uiaa-dryEdelweiss’ website says, “The results obtained by the SUPEREVERDRY treated ropes are 0.8 to 1.4% (average 1.1%)”

Mammut’s Dry ropes

Mammut-dry-logoWatch a video: Mammut has re-arranged their rope line to match the UIAA standard and make it easier to tell what’s officially dry and where the prices are coming from. Mammut’s Dry ropes absorb 1%.

Maxim Endura 2x Dry Ropes

MAXIM® Endura 2x-DRY ropes have both a dry core and a specially treated dry cover. Those ropes fulfill the requirements of UIAA water-repellency.


Petzl Guide Ropes

Petzl Guide UIAA DryPetzl’s Guide line is certified UIAA Dry. This includes the Volta Guide and Pasos Guide. Read the Petzl Press Release.

Roca’s Ropes

Ropes rated with FULL Dry are compliant with the Water Repellent UIAA regulations.


Sterling DryXP Ropes

Sterling DryXP LogoThe Fusion Photon and Fusion Nano IX will come standard with the DryXP treatment. Other ropes will have a DryXP option including the Fusion Ion R, Evolution Aero, Evolution Helix, Evolution Velocity, and Evolution Duetto. Read more on Sterling’s website.

Tendon’s Ropes

Tendon informed us that all ropes that are sheath + core treated are also passing the UIAA test but we have not seen an official certification yet.

A Gear Nerd Rant

The UIAA has been debating a dry test for many years, so I would like to give credit to all the folks trying to figure this out and attempting to dispel the mystery of, “What is dry?” In this post, I’m not debating whether the new standard is a good method to test ropes nor am I questioning the choice to have the testing done in-house. I’m glad there have been steps taken to provide information that wasn’t previously available.

However, just like rope elongation, it would be significantly more helpful to have a dryness percentage or water absorbed percentage to compare between ropes. The biggest problem I see with the new standard is the black and white, go/no-go, pass/fail labeling of “Dry.” The results would be far more fair and useful to the consumer (and manufacturers) to list a percentage for every rope. This would provide a means of true comparison across all climbing ropes.

Without a percentage comparison, this certification can create false assumptions when climbers compare ropes. For example, Mammut re-arranged their own rope line to ensure they no longer say their sheath-only treated ropes have a “dry treatment.” Now, their marketing materials call out all other manufacturers’ sheath-only treated ropes that continue to use the traditional “dry treatment” verbiage.

UIAA Marketing by Mammut

This statement hurts all the ropes that have yet to go through or pass the (optional) UIAA Dry certification process.

In addition, the UIAA Dry test infers there are no benefits of a sheath-only treatment. Consumers might assume that if the rope is not certified “UIAA Water Repellent” it is not treated at all or assume the rope has no water-based benefits.

So why shouldn’t we see the actual test results for each rope? I don’t know. The UIAA has certifications for reporting variable test results for fall ratings, sheath slippage, and elongation, why not here? If done, climbers could make more informed decisions about the level or degree of water repellency versus the other aspects that are considered while making a purchase, such as price or grams per meter.

We reached out to the UIAA multiple times over the last year to comment on the Water Repellent standard and their choice to have a pass/fail standard. They have yet to respond to our inquiries. If/when they do, we will update our post to include their perspective.

Worth Noting

A rope that is subjected to high abrasion (ie. running over sharp rock edges) will rub off a dry-coating much faster than a rope that is used solely for snow/ice climbing. So, if you use dry treated ropes specifically for their water repellency, it is a good idea to dedicate these ropes to wet endeavors exclusively. This will increase longevity of the water repellent qualities.

The UIAA Water Repellent rating won’t help rock climbers who, understandably, choose to climb only in dry conditions. There are benefits to buying dry-treated ropes that do not meet the UIAA Water Repellent certification; this is especially true when the sheath is coated. Sheath treatments can significantly help resist abrasion as the rope slides over rocks and can also help seal out dirt, increasing the lifespan of the rope. The UIAA dry test will not help to inform climbers if a rope has a sheath-only treatment, as sheath-only treated ropes will not pass the test.

Mammut Rope Lines compared Classic Protect Dry
See a video showing the sharp edge test in Mammut’s facilities on YouTube

In Conclusion

If you often head into cold, damp, wet and snowy conditions, the UIAA standard starts to provide insight into which ropes should perform the best in nasty conditions. The test has an admirable goal: to shed light on a subject that was previously subjective and often left to marketing hype to tell the difference.

For now, the Water Repellent test is so new (and costly/time consuming) that not all manufacturers have tested their ropes. It is possible that ropes produced today will not have the UIAA certified mark even though they absorb less than 5% their weight in water. This extends to ropes that are sold before the testing was done or new marketing materials were created. This will become less of an issue as more companies complete the testing.

Ideally, all tested ropes would report the percentage of weight absorbed (or percentage dry), even though this information is not required by the UIAA. For greater transparency and consumer understanding, this should happen for all the rope lines. This reporting would also reduce the confusion around sheath-only or core-only treatments when it comes to the amount of dryness.


Compare every climbing rope and filter by dry treatment at 
WeighMyRack.com/rope

Or check to see if any ropes are on-sale that have your preferred level of dry treatment:

Ropes-On-Sale-RIght-Now

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Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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