What do arborists and rock climbers have in common? While the two activities aren’t usually associated, arboriculture and rock climbing involve climbing high structures.  

Many arborists encounter climbing tasks as they care for and manage trees in various spaces or locations. Meanwhile, rock climbers perform this activity for leisure or sport and climb natural rock formations or artificial rock walls.  

Because of the differences in settings and the nature of each activity, arborists and rock climbers also use different climbing equipment. For instance, rock climbers can wear athletic gear when climbing outdoors. Meanwhile, tree cutters require chaps as personal protective equipment to avoid workplace safety hazards. 

Arborists and rock climbers also use different types of rope for climbing. While similar in appearance, climbing ropes can have vast differences in materials used, lengths and diameters, safety ratings, and specialty features.   

If you’re looking for the differences between arborist ropes and rock-climbing ropes, here are several points you’ll need to know:

Characteristics of arborist ropes 

An arborist rope is essential tree climbing equipment used for tree work. Arboriculture ropes should pass the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 requirements to be considered safe for professional and recreational use. The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) sets these requirements as the industry standard in the USA. 

Here are some of the main characteristics of arborist ropes: 

Most arborists use brightly-colored ropes both for practical and safety purposes. Since the ropes are primarily used around trees, their color should stand out from the surrounding objects, such as branches, tree trunks, and leaves, so they’ll be easily recognizable. This way, the cutters can avoid hitting them with saw blades while trimming trees. This mistake can be highly dangerous or even fatal in extreme circumstances. 

Meanwhile, bright colors also help climbers stay safe as they can see where the ropes are while making their way up the trees. By seeing the rope length, the climber can assess the distance between them and how much farther they’ll need to climb before reaching the target point.  

The thickest arborist rope comes at a half-inch size, while the thinnest is at 10 millimeters (mm). The length of the rope should be twice the size of the tree. The standard distance is 120 feet long, though some climbers prefer to start with 150-foot ropes for taller trees. Finally, arborist ropes are not designed to be stretchy or elastic, as they can make the climb more difficult and dangerous for the workers.

The two main weaves used for creating arborist ropes are braided and kernmantle weaves. Experts advise avoiding twisted weaves as they will make the climber spin. Spinning can be dangerous, especially while using cutting tools and other equipment for tree maintenance.

An arborist rope has a standard lifespan of up to 10 years, though it’s advisable to change ropes annually, depending on how often and heavy the ropes are used. Moreover, you should cut and discard a rope with any sign of damage immediately to prevent accidents.

Apart from this, the United States Department of Labor recognizes that arborists face specific work hazards due to the nature of their work. Hence, companies providing arboriculture services should comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) inspection guidelines for tree care and removal operations. By following OSHA’s guidelines, they can protect their workers’ safety and well-being.

Characteristics of rock-climbing ropes 

According to a 2022 study, the climbing gym market is expected to grow by USD$3.27 billion in 2025. This growth has been brought about by the increasing interest in health and fitness across countries, and with it comes the need for gym equipment, including rock-climbing ropes.  

If you’re thinking about purchasing one for your new hobby, the characteristics of the rock-climbing rope you need largely depend on the activity you’ll use it for. Here are some characteristics you should look for in a rock-climbing rope: 

There are three main types of rock-climbing rope. The first is the single rope, commonly used for sports and big wall climbing. This rope is meant to be used by itself and comes in various lengths and diameters. Meanwhile, half ropes and twin ropes are used chiefly for mountaineering, trad climbing, and ice climbing. 

Rock-climbing ropes have a diameter that ranges from seven up to 13 mm in thickness. Furthermore, the standard rock-climbing rope is 60 meters long, though this may vary depending on where the activity is set. Short ropes around 35 meters are commonly used for indoor wall climbing since the area has limited space. Meanwhile, outdoor climbing requires that the rope be at least twice as long as the area to be covered.  

Many climbers opt for dry-treated ropes as it’s less prone to moisture absorption. Ropes become heavier after absorbing water, which makes them more challenging to use when outdoor climbing. After dry treatment, the material can withstand moisture exposure without absorbing too much liquid. However, dry-treated ropes tend to be costlier, so you’ll also need to consider whether you need this feature.

Other rope features include markings and color codes. For instance, bicolor ropes have two colors for each of its halves, making it easier for the user to determine how much you’ve used each side used. Meanwhile, ropes with markings at the half and near the end also serve the same purpose for the user.

Many rock-climbing ropes bear the Union Internationale des Association d’Alpinisme (UIAA) certification tag. Also known as the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation, this organization was founded in 1932 and recognized worldwide for setting safety standards for climbing equipment, particularly climbing ropes.  

Hence, a rope bearing its seal is a good indicator of the quality of the product, although it’s still best to check if the product is registered in the UIAA database


Ensuring safety is essential in any climbing activity, whether for work, sports, or leisure. Hence, it’s critical to understand the characteristics of the climbing rope that you’ll use, including the thickness, length, color, construction, and other aspects. Finally, ensure that you’re using proper equipment as prescribed by experts to avoid safety hazards.