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Ready to venture into big wall adventures, but not sure which is the best rock climbing pulley? Are you figuring out if you want an auto-locking pulley to self-belay or to use for simul-climbing, so that a fall from the lower climber will not pull the upper climber from the rock face?

There are many climbing pulleys on the market that could satisfy your pulley-related needs. It could range from simple to auto-locking or from lightweight to heavy duty. All these may seem a bit overwhelming, but we’re ready to help.

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we try to make gear-buying as simple possible. In the following article, we will outline the uses of a pulley and review which are the best rock climbing pulleys for different adventures.

For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out the Best Belay Devices

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Quick Answer - The Best Rock Climbing Pulleys

  1. Petzl Micro Traxion
  2. CAMP USA Sphinx
  3. Petzl Pro Traxion
  4. CAMP USA Tethys Pro Mobile
  5. Petzl Oscillante
  6. Black Diamond Pulley
  7. Petzl Ultralegere
  8. CAMP USA Janus Double
  9. Petzl Mobile
  10. Fusion Rescue

 

Comparison Table - Best Rock Climbing Pulley

PictureNameWeightRope DiameterBreaking StrengthAutolockPriceRating
-Petzl Micro Traxion85g8-11mm15kNYes$$4.8
-CAMP USA Sphinx93g<13mm24kNNo$N/A
Petzl Pro Traxion265g8-13mm22kNYes$$$5.0
CAMP USA Tethys Pro Mobile91g<13mm25kNNo$N/A
Petzl Oscillante72g7-11mm15kNNo$4.2
Black Diamond Pulley76g7.7-11mm17kNNo$3.5
Petzl Ultralegere10g7-13mm15kNNo$3.0
CAMP USA Janus Double425g<16mm42kNNo$$5.0
-Petzl Mobile75g7-13mm15kNNo$5.0
Fusion Rescue281g<14mm34kNNo$4.5
PictureNameWeightRope DiameterBreaking StrengthAutolockPriceRating

Reviews - The Best Pulleys for Rock Climbing

Petzl Micro Traxion

Specs
  • Autolock: Yes
  • Breaking Strength: 15kN
  • Rope Diameter: 8-11mm
  • Weight: 85g

BEST FOR: EVERYTHING, FROM HAULING TO SELF-BELAYING TO SIMUL-CLIMBING

PROS: Light-weight and versatile. Works well with dirty or icy ropes. Auto-locking feature means it has a myriad of climbing uses

CONS: Not as strong as other pulleys, and pricey

CAMP USA Sphinx

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 24kN
  • Rope Diameter: <13mm
  • Weight: 93g

BEST FOR: HAULING LOADS UP A WALL

PROS: Light and compact, with a higher breaking strength and broad range of rope compatibility

CONS: No auto-locking feature

Petzl Pro Traxion

Specs
  • Autolock: Yes
  • Breaking Strength: 22kN
  • Rope Diameter: 8-13mm
  • Weight: 265g

BEST FOR: EVERYTHING, FROM HAULING TO SELF-BELAYING TO SIMUL-CLIMBING

PROS: The heavy duty auto-locking pulley. Durable and perfect for heavier hauling loads. Auto-locking feature means it has a myriad of climbing uses

CONS: Heavy and pricey

CAMP USA Tethys Pro Mobile

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 25kN
  • Rope Diameter: <13mm
  • Weight: 91g

BEST FOR: HAULING LOADS UP A WALL

PROS: Light and compact, with a broad range of rope compatibility. Slightly lighter than the Sphinx, with a slightly higher breaking point

CONS: No auto-locking feature

Petzl Oscillante

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 15kN
  • Rope Diameter: 7-11mm
  • Weight: 72g

BEST FOR: HAULING LOADS UP A WALL

PROS: Easy to use, cheap and ultra-light

CONS: No auto-locking feature and a narrower range of rope compatibility

Black Diamond Pulley

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 17kN
  • Rope Diameter: 7.7-11mm
  • Weight: 76g

BEST FOR: HAULING LOADS UP A WALL

PROS: Easy to use, cheap and light, higher breaking force than many pulleys

CONS: No auto-locking feature and a narrower range of rope compatibility

Petzl Ultralegere

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 15kN
  • Rope Diameter: 7-13mm
  • Weight: 10g

BEST FOR: SIMPLE, LIGHT PULLEY TASKS

PROS: Super light and cheap

CONS: No auto-locking feature, small hole restricts the types of carabiners it can be used with

CAMP USA Janus Double

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 42kN
  • Rope Diameter: <16mm
  • Weight: 425g

BEST FOR: HAULING SUPER HEAVY LOADS

PROS: Very durable, double pulley for two ropes, can fit ropes of wide diameter

CONS: No auto-locking feature limits its use, heavy

Petzl Mobile

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 15kN
  • Rope Diameter: 7-13mm
  • Weight: 75g

BEST FOR: HAULING LOADS UP A WALL

PROS: Easy to use, cheap, small and light, and with a broad range of compatibility with ropes of different diameters.

CONS: No auto-locking feature limits its use

Fusion Rescue

Specs
  • Autolock: No
  • Breaking Strength: 34kN
  • Rope Diameter: <14mm
  • Weight: 281g

BEST FOR: HAULING SUPER HEAVY LOADS

PROS: Built for heavy loads with a single pulley that can accommodate ropes of wide diameter, cheap

CONS: No auto-locking feature limits its use, heavy

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST ROCK CLIMBING PULLEYS

USE

Pulleys have a variety of uses in rock climbing. The one you should choose will depend on what you want to climb. Most uses are for advanced forms of climbing, from self-belaying to hauling loads up a remote, alpine big wall.

If you’re a sport climber and wondering if you would need a pulley, know that you don’t need one. But if you’re a big wall adventurer or a simul-climber or a rope-soloist, then read on.

You may want a pulley for simple hauling or for more complicated hauling of super heavy bags up a 3,000-foot wall. You may want to use an auto-locking pulley to make simul-climbing safe. Do this by attaching one to a piece of protection that will catch the bottom climber’s fall without pulling the leader off of the wall.

You may want to use them to set up a “z-pulley” system to haul a heavier load or even pull a climber out of a crevasse. It can also be useful for a top-rope solo, a self-belay or a tyrolean traverse.

Deciding on the right pulley can make or break your climbing trip. Mistakes can result in serious injuries or even fatal consequences, so always refer to the pulley’s instruction manual to make sure you are using it properly. When hauling, always back up your systems.

 

STRENGTH

This is a biggie. Pulleys are rated to hold up specific weights. Some have a breaking strength of 15kN, which equates to roughly 3372 pounds. Others are rated up to 42kN or 9441 pounds. What you will want will depend on the intended use.

For small hauls, 15kN is more than enough force. For huge haul bags on big wall adventures, stronger pulleys are better.

Some models have a specific working load limit and breaking strength. The working load limit is the maximum load the pulley can take while it is in use. It is usually twice the maximum working load limit on one rope strand as the pulley usually holds two strands of a rope, which equates to double the force.

 

WEIGHT AND DURABILITY

As with any climbing gear, weight is an important factor. This is especially crucial if you’re planning to spend a long time on a route since minimizing the load is essential. The heavier the pulley, the stronger and more durable it tends to be. But after several days on a wall, you’ll be able to feel the benefits of a lighter pulley.

Lighter pulleys are generally made of plastic or nylon and not as durable or strong as heavier ones, which are made of metal. The pulleys used in this guide range from 42g to 425g.

 

CONSTRUCTION

The complexity of your pulley will depend on where you plan to use it. A simple, light, plastic pulley is great for glacial travel. Without side-plates though, the rope will be prone to fall off the pulley.

A pulley with side-plates will help prevent this. The type of side-plate is also a consideration. Some side-plates have curved edges to prevent a prusik from getting caught in the pulley.

A nylon pulley wheel will last longer than a plastic one, but not as durable as the kinds that are made of metal. Most of the metal in a pulley is heat-treated to make them last longer. Nylon and metal wheels are usually on self-lubricating bearings to ensure they run smoothly.

The size of the pulley wheel is also important. A larger pulley wheel will make hauling heavy loads up a wall easier, but this will also increase the weight.

 

ROPE COMPATIBILITY

Not all pulleys are created equal. Some are designed to work with ropes of smaller diameter, while others are for ones with larger measurements. The range in the pulleys in this article are from 7mm (a tag line) to 16mm (a heavy, but sturdy rope).

For most purposes, whether you’ll use the pulley to haul or belay with, you probably want one that can comfortably accommodate a rope of about 9-10mm diameter. For fatter ropes, which are used to haul enormous loads, a more specialized pulley may be needed.

 

SIMPLE OR AUTO-LOCKING

A simple pulley will reduce friction and make it easier to pull up a load than running the rope through a carabiner. They are great for light loads and for setting up 2:1, 3:1, or more rigging systems.

They are also cheaper than auto-locking pulleys. If you only need a pulley for basic tasks, choose a simple one.

Auto-locking pulleys are more versatile and typically have a camming device that bites the rope when weighted. This locks off the rope and only allows it to pass through the pulley in one direction. For hauling, it means you don’t have to hold the weight as you reset your position to start hauling again. You can just let the rope go and the auto-locking pulley will hold it still.

An auto-locking pulley also allows you to self-belay because the rope only goes through the pulley in one direction, capturing your upwards progress and preventing you from dropping down if you fall, let go or just sit on the rope.

For simul-climbers, an auto-locking device means the leader can run the rope through an auto-locking pulley and attach it to a piece of protection – either a bolt or trad protection such as a cam or a nut. If the follower falls, the auto-locking pulley will catch him or her without pulling the leader off the climb.

Auto-locking pulleys usually have a feature to disable the auto-locking mechanism, turning them into simple pulley wheels again. This makes them extremely versatile and popular. But, they tend to be heavier and more expensive than a simple pulley. They also tend to be more complex, so you should be doubly sure you are using them correctly.

 

 

READ MORE

For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

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About The Author

Climbing Junkie

Derek Cheng is a journalist and photographer whose work has appeared in publications in several countries, including the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the UK. Since he discovered climbing about ten years ago, he has worked as little as possible so he can travel widely, chasing rock faces in all corners of the world - from stalactite-blessed limestone in China, to the alpine granite of the Bugaboos and the Sierra Nevada, to quartzite giants in Morocco. His work can be viewed at dirtbagdispatches.com.

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