Back in their early days, climbing was a big part of what Alpkit did. Their bouldering mats were very well priced and, unsurprisingly, became many people’s first pads.
For a number of years Alpkit did their own rock shoes and worked with DMM to do Alpkit branded DMM krabs. They have also supported various climbers over the years, including ice/mixed specialist Ramon Marin who many of us know as a longtime provider of great advice on the UKC forums about all things icy. So Alpkit’s decision to import and sell Fixe hardware and Fixe-Roca ropes isn’t surprising, even if distributing other companies’ branded goods is not what most of us have come to associate with Alpkit over the last few years.
Alpkit’s reputation has mainly been built on their very competitively priced own-design kit, be that down jackets, tarps, tent pegs, dry bags or headtorches. There is no getting away from it, price has always been a big part of Alpkit’s appeal. By finding their own manufacturers in the far east (and now also sewing their own kit in the UK) and then selling directly to consumers, the company cut out various middle men and we all got lower prices as a result.
The Roca ropes and Fixe hardware Alpkit now sells is by no means expensive, but it doesn’t stand out on price quite as much as their own brand products do. I was asked to review the Roca “Free” rope; a general purpose, tough (and, by modern standards, relatively fat) single. Alpkit are selling them only in 60 mtrs lengths at a cost of £100. Looking around at a number of well known UK webshops, I would say that the Roca Free is, at that price, among the cheaper 60 mtr single ropes available at RRP, particularly considering it has a dry treatment, but shops are offering some single ropes for less. With do-it-all ropes being available for less than the Free, it has to be competitive on performance not just on price.
So, I’m glad to report that the Roca Free is a really nice rope that does perform well as well as not costing too much. It’s a very unflashy rope in many ways, right down to the grey with a red fleck colour that my test sample came in. Its sheath is dry-treated so Alpkit suggest it could be used on low grade winter climbs, although it is rather hefty – a stated weight is 72 grams per metre – and bulky, so it wouldn’t be my first choice for such roles (there are other ropes in the range more suited). Nevertheless, the dry treatment does set it apart from most of the cheaper singles available and of course that can be useful on sea cliffs, not just for winter climbing.
10.5mm - is that thick?
It is a long time since I’ve had a rope as thick as 10.5 mm and I think that width (and its related weight) helps define what the Free is best suited for: basically anywhere you want a tough-as-old-boots single cord. I’ve used mine for both sport and trad, indoors and outdoors, leading and top-roping. It has been abseiled down and prussiked up and so far, besides looking a bit grubbier, it is none the worse for it. There is something reassuring about the Free’s meatiness. Yes, my rational brain knows that a skinny 9mm single is plenty strong enough to stop my hurtling mass, but when my feet are above the bolt and my forearm strength rapidly fading the rational brain get shouted down by fear. I still don’t like falling off, but seeing that nice fat Free tied to my harness helps a little. In less subjective terms the Free is actually rated for 12 UIAA falls, which is more than any other single rope I noticed in my perusing of various websites. There maybe some ropes out there with a higher number of UIAA falls, but I suspect not many. The UIAA fall test is a rather specific test, it is not possible to say, for example, that a rope is “more durable” than one with lower fall rating but it does reflect that the Free is burly rope and I expect it to last well.
I’ve had a couple of Beal Edlingers over the last decade; Beal’s budget, 10.2 single rope. I’ve been happy with them, both have lasted well considering the battering they take and their cheap price, but they do go a bit soft with use. I haven’t used the Roca Free to the same extent but it is a much firmer feeling rope from the start and from the use I’ve given it so far I doubt it will soften to anything like my Edlingers. It has also ‘fluffed up’ very little so far, despite the inevitable abrasion that ropes face.
So any downsides to the Roca Free?
Overall, nothing that a savvy customer wouldn’t realise before buying. It IS a 10.5 mm rope - fatter than most now on the market. It works fine with my BD ATC Guide, DMM Pivot and Edelrid Megajul. It also works fine in my original Grigri. I have not had chance to try with a Grigri 2 - these are rated for use with ropes up to 11 mm but most people seem to say they work better with thinner ropes, so the Free might be a bit too fat for easy belaying with the Grigri 2. Secondly, with the rope coming only in a 60 metre length it is actually more than is needed for a lot of UK crag climbing and indoor walls. It is a lot of weight and superfluous rope to lug up to Stanage, for example. Equally some sport climbers might have favourite crags on the continent where they know that 60 meter ropes normally aren’t enough. Alpkit are selling different Roca ropes at different lengths, but your normal usage and needs are something to keep in mind when selecting.
The Roca Free is a meaty and tough single rope that should last well. Not in the slightest bit light and compact, but that’s not what it is about; this is a rope that should keep on truckin’ day after day, week after week, fall after fall.
What Alpkit Say:
Climbing is a diverse sport, each sub branch comes with a plethora of must have specialist paraphernalia. This makes shopping for a climber easy, but sometimes you just want to keep things simple.
Enter Free, Roca's jack-of-all-trades rope. Whether sport climbing, top-roping, big walling or getting involved in a pyramid session at the gym Free does it all. The rope sheath is treated with Roca's Long Life treatment to make the rope impermeable to water thus ensuring that the rope stays dry but also helps to protect the rope from other types of wear and so extending the lifespan.
This 60 m x 10.5 mm thick single rope is constructed to take a particularly high number of falls, well above the UIAA minimum, so is great for working any projects you may have in the UK or on the continent.
Made in Barcelona
MORE INFO: Alpkit Website