Since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for the wilderness and adventure. I’ve learned my trade everywhere, from the rock faces of the Himalaya to the wilds of South America and Europe. My vision is simple, to connect more people to the awesome power of the great outdoors.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: December 22, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Do you want to scale walls, trees, or rock quickly and easily? If so, you’ll need to get the best ascender. It will allow you to climb using your rope while giving you the highest levels of safety. As push them up the rope, you’ll be able to pull yourself up with either the handles or a pulley system.
The problem with ascenders is that there are so many different types available. That’s why we want to make it as simple as possible for you. We’ve compared top-rated models available on the market to give you all the information you need.
What makes the best rope ascender? We took a close look at which rope diameter you can use with it, the weight limit, what type of climbing it was made for, and other key specifications, such as weight and dimensions. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to pick a suitable rope ascender for you. Let’s go!
"An impressive model is a spring-operated cam with a sliding lock. It features a compact and versatile design.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope.4 kN weight limit.Best suited for work, rope climbing, maneuvers, rescue situations."
"For those looking for an affordable option, we recommend this ascender made from forged anodized aluminum.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope diameter.220 lbs. weight limit.Best suited for caving, upwards climbing, and more."
"This premium product boasts over-molded dual-density grips, a wide supportive base, and an ergonomic upper part.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope diameter.4 kN weight limit.Suited for all climbing activities."
"A fantastic set of two ascenders made of aluminum alloy. They have comfortable handles and come with a 2-year warranty.Suitable for 8-12 mm rope.4 kN weight limit.Best suited for rock climbing, tree climbing, arborists, and more."
"This toothed aluminum ascender is incredibly convenient to use with gloves.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope.225 lbs. weight limit.Best suited for mountaineering, ice climbing, rope access, fire brigades, and more."
"For a challenging environment, this is a great option with an ergonomic dual-density grip and trigger-finger release.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope.Large carabiner clip hole.Best suited for hard-to-clean pitches, wild conditions, long-day use."
"A wonderful chest ascender with thick body plates and a secure opening mechanism.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope.110 lbs. weight limit (as locking pulley).Best suited for mountaineering, rock-climbing, and more."
"A remarkable product with forged side plates and stainless steel cam that works well with Linesman’s belt.Suitable for 8-13 mm rope.15 kN weight limit.Best suited for self-rescue, cliff rescue, mountaineering, crag activities."
For those looking for a small and versatile ascender, this would be ideal for you. It’s suitable for rope sizes between 8-13mm and can handle 4kN of force to keep you safe. You get that with it having a very low weight of a little under 3oz. It’s a spring-operated cam and can be used in many different situations, including rescue and rope climbing maneuvers. It makes it a perfect piece of gear to carry with you.
Why is it special? This ascender has a lot of quality in such a small package. It makes it very easy to carry with you and has the added benefit of being easy to use. It also represents exceptional value for money.
What are the flaws? While this ascender can do a lot of things, it is not suitable for side loads. That’s only a small issue as this is otherwise a very impressive device.
Lixada is another company that has been able to make a compact ascender, which is perfect for carrying with you as a part of your gear. The rope diameter allowed is between 8-13mm, and it has a weight limit of 100kg. It features an impressive level of usability and is ideal for the likes of caving and upwards climbing. It’s another lightweight ascender that is convenient to use.
Why are we impressed? The gliding action on this model is very smooth, and it makes it very easy to use. It’s great for the likes of saddle hunting, but it can also be used in more challenging scenarios. You’ll definitely want to use this ascender time and time again.
What negatives must you be aware of? This is a budget model, which can be a great positive, but it does feel a little cheap. It still holds up well, but you might have questions about the long-term durability.
You know you’re going to get a high level of quality with any Petzl ascender, and this model is no exception. It’s a handheld ascender that is going to be suitable for all types of climbing. It has a wide availability for rope diameters and can also take a huge amount of weight. The build quality is impressive, and it weighs a little below 6oz.
What makes it special? The movement on this ascender is highly efficient and needs minimal effort. The handle feels great, and you can even use it with gloves on. It has a thoughtful design, which you can see by the carabiner attachment points.
What cons did we find? This is a fantastic ascender, but it’s worth noting that it is bigger than other types. That makes it a little bulkier and harder to carry with you along with all your other gear.
If you want to get both a right and left-handed ascender, then this is going to be the perfect set. Their weight limit is extremely high, which makes it great for arborists, rock climbing, and other types of climbing. They are made from high-quality aluminum, which gives them a relatively low weight while still having that impressive strength.
What do we love it for? The build quality is exceptional, which is shown by their low weight despite them being quite large. They work perfectly with simple sliding allowing you to climb easily. On top of that, you can just buy a left or right model if required.
What were we disappointed with? There is very little to be disappointed with these ascenders. Still, the rope compatibility isn’t the highest, so it may not be the best fit if you want to use a thicker rope.
This KONG ascender is another example of a high-quality model. It has a good weight limit, which allows it to be used for the likes of ice climbing and mountaineering. Next, it accepts rope diameters from 8-13mm and weighs a little less than 8oz. It has a smooth action, and you can be confident in the overall level of build quality.
What makes it special? The rope ascender is able to give you a good grip without damaging the rope, and it will feel highly secure. The overall performance is fantastic, which is seen by the two carabiner holes for simple attachments. Also, it is quite convenient to use with gloves.
What cons did we find? While the metal used on the ascender is very good, the handle material isn’t the best. It’s made of plastic and doesn’t have the same quality as other models.
Hand ascenders usually have a very similar shape, and you want to ensure that the materials and features suit your needs. This model is great for both indoor and outdoor climbing and has an impressive weight limit. It doesn’t fit for the widest rope diameter but has many features that help to make it very easy to use.
Why is it special? A range of color options isn’t available on all ascenders, but you get a good selection here. The aggressive teeth will bite into your rope for a highly secure fit, while the handle is going to give you a smooth and comfortable grip.
What are the flaws? While the attachment is very secure, it can be a little hard to release. If you’re not careful, then you can get some jarring on your thumb.
For those looking for the best foot ascender, this model can be ideal. The climbing ascender works on a wide variety of different ropes and can take a lot of weight. The foot ascender is the easiest way to climb for many people and is easily adjustable to get a secure fit. Despite having more of a set-up, it’s also extremely light at just 3oz, making it very easy to carry with the rest of your gear.
Why did it make our list? The fact it is lightweight and compact makes it very versatile and an important part of your kit. The action is fairly smooth, and you won’t have to worry about reaching down and unsnagging it mid-climb. It makes it perfect for quick ascents and various types of climbing.
What is not ideal about it? While the adjustability is good, you can slip out of position at times. You want to make sure that you have it firmly in place before you start your climb.
With a Black Diamond ascender, you know you’re going to be getting a high level of quality. This device can cope with even the most challenging environments effortlessly. It’s very simple to use, and you’ll find no problems with its operation. It’ll work perfectly every time and remains quite light for its size.
What stands out? This ascender can hold on to the rope very tightly but is also able to release that rope very quickly. The dual-density grip gives you the perfect blend of comfort and control, and the whole ascender is simple to use.
What cons did we manage to find? While the rapid release system is great, the system can jar your thumb if you’re not careful. It’s not a huge issue but something to be aware of.
For those looking for a chest ascender, this would be a wonderful choice. It works well in a system for the likes of rock climbing, industrial use, and rescues. It’s a fairly compact model that weighs just 3.9oz. It’s simple to use, and the thick metal body plates aren’t going to let you down. It works well with a wide range of ropes and can easily be used with gloves.
What stands out? The first thing that you notice with this ascender is that it has a very high level of quality. Because it is easy to carry, it could well become an essential part of your gear. The action is smooth, and you’ll have no worries getting this up the rope.
What cons did we manage to find? While the quality is very high, the teeth can wear after a while. It will still last for a certain period, but this is something you’ll want to keep your eye on.
The first thing that you will notice about this model is its aggressive teeth. It will bite hard into the rope and will give you a solid hold. Its qualities make it ideal for a Linesman’s belt along with being suitable for rescue and crag activities. It doesn’t weigh very much at all but has a seriously high weight limit, allowing you to always put your trust in it.
What makes it stand out? Due to its smaller size, this ascender can be used for a wide variety of different activities. You can easily use the device with one hand, which makes using it simple but also allows it to excel in emergency situations.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? We mentioned how sharp those teeth are, and that may be a bad thing. It’s very tough on the rope, and it will start to make it fray over time.
Things to Consider
As you’ve seen, there are a few different types of ascenders, and they are all perfect for slightly different tasks. It’s vital that you get the model most suited to your needs. That could be a hand ascender or a more compact model. Due to these differences, we thought it was best to create a buying guide to give you all the information that you need. We’ll go through all the key features and see how they apply to you while also answering any questions. We hope that by the end, you won’t be left with any doubts.
Things to consider before getting an ascender
There is plenty to consider before getting an ascender. The key aspect is knowing what type of system you want to be climbing with. After that, other key features, such as ease of use, dimensions, and weight limit, play their part. We also know that your budget is also going to play a key role in your decision. Here, we’ll go through those key features to help you develop a clear idea of what ascender suits your needs the most.
There are a few different types of ascenders. Foot models can be ideal for those who want to use their legs’ power but can be a bit ticker to use at the same time. Other ascenders, such as chest models, are great in a pulley system and can be very useful for emergencies.
Apart from that, you can find smaller models that you’ll push up in a system or handheld versions with large handles. Both are highly effective, and the best one for you will come down to personal preference in your preferred climbing method.
Left vs. right-handed
With handheld models, you will have the choice of either left-handed, right-handed, or both. Again this can come down to the type of climbing you’ll be doing. If you’re pairing it with a grigri, for example, you may prefer to feed it with your dominant hand, and therefore, you’ll want your ascender to be on the side of your non-dominant hand.
If you’re not using a grigri, you may prefer one on your more dominant hand. This will depend on your set-up, and some prefer to use two ascenders together on both hands. With smaller ascenders, this isn’t something you need to worry about.
Suitable rope diameter
Before buying an ascender, you need to know what type of rope diameter you’re going to be using. Not all ascenders are compatible with different ropes. There are, however, standard sizes, and these are usually in the 8-13mm range.
You don’t want to get to your climb only to find out that your rope doesn’t fit the ascender.
Weight limit and breaking strength
As with any type of climbing gear, you want to know that it’s going to be able to keep you safe. The weight limit plays an important role in that as you want to know how much it’s going to be able to hold.
The breaking strength is shown in kilonewtons (kN), such as the 4kN on the Climbing Technology RollnLock Pulley, but other times you’ll come across a more specific weight figure, such as the 225lbs on the KONG Ascender Climbing Lift. All of these ascenders will be ideal for almost everyone, but if you’re especially heavy, it’s good to double-check that.
What activities is it designed for?
There are many different types of climbing activities, and some ascenders are more suited for them than others. The Climbing Technology RollnLock Pulley, for example, is ideal for the likes of rope climbing maneuvers, rescue, and self-rescue situations.
If you want an ascender for cliff rescue, mountaineering, and crag activities, then the Wild Country RopeMan MK2 Forged Ascender would be perfect. It’s all about matching up the right ascender to the task.
Ease of use
You want all of your climbing equipment to be easy to use, and with ascenders, that means being able to open them effortlessly, releasing them quickly, and also gliding smoothly on the rope. If they don’t tick those boxes, it can be very frustrating.
The proper way to use an ascender will depend on the type of climbing that you are doing. There are several different ways they can be used. Some people like to use a pulley system, whereas others may prefer to push up with their legs. All these ascenders will come with instruction manuals, which will show you the correct way to use one. If you are unsure, then it’s best to consult with a more experienced climber who will be able to walk you through the steps required.
You can use ascenders for tree climbing freely, and for many people, this is their preferred method of using this gear. An SRT kit (single rope tree climbing) is often preferred, and this involves using a chest, foot, and hand ascender together. Other gear you’ll need includes a harness, carabiners, tethers, and, of course, your rope. This makes scaling a tree very simple and allows you to get down quickly too. This method can also be very good for those who love saddle hunting.
The wear and tear on the rope when using a high-quality ascender is going to be minimal. These tools are going to have an effect, but the rope you should be using will be more than good enough to take it. That being said, some are going to provide more wear than others. Due to this, some climbers don’t like to use ascenders where the teeth are too pronounced. This will be down to personal choice as others prefer to have a higher level of security a toothed ascender can give you.
All the ascenders that we’ve looked at here are brilliant, but the one that stood out the most was the Climbing Technology RollnLock Pulley. It is light and compact, and you’ll end up relying on it a lot while climbing.
While those three are great, the other seven options on our list are also very impressive. It’s important to know which type you need, and then you will be able to get the best ascender to match that. Once you do, you’ll soon find your climbing adventures to be easier than ever.