What type of rope should I buy? That is probably one of the questions I get asked the most from people starting off. If you want a very in-depth answer, I suggest you read this article at Crash Restraint. Make sure to read the notes on each one in the chart. Everyone is going to have personal preferences and there are some that should just plain be avoided especially if you are going to get into suspension like cotton.
My personal preference is natural fiber ropes like hemp and jute. They hold knots well so you can make less bulky knots and also the knots are less likely to come undone on their own but are easy for you to untie. They are also much less likely to give rope burn if you drag it across the skin quickly. When I first started going to rope classes I would use MFP rope and I just never got into it mainly because you had to focus on the knots a lot to get them to hold and the rope just didn’t have a good feel to me. It wasn’t until I was gifted some jute (and a lesson on intent and connection) that I really got into tying. Try various types of rope to see what you and your partner like best. One type that I would suggest avoiding in general is cotton. Because it is so soft, if a knot is pulled tight, it will be very difficult to impossible for you to untie without a marlin spike and you may have to cut it if you have to untie quickly. MFP and nylon have their place especially if you have grass allergies or want bright/bold colors. Just pay close attention to knots and how fast you pull it. A great rope for those that want a synthetic but like the look/feel of natural fiber rope is POSH. It is a spun polyester, breaks in really well, hold up for a VERY long time and is super strong. It is currently what I use for my suspension lines. For all of the ropes, a good starting diameter is 6mm or 1/4″. This allows you to make decently compact knots that hold well and the rope won’t be too stiff compared to thicker rope.
Another question about rope is how long it should be. The most common lengths are 7m (23ft), 8m (26.25ft) and 30ft. Any more than this and you’ll be spending a lot of time pulling rope. A good rule of thumb is to get rope that is about 5 times your height/arm span. Rope can easily be extended but it can’t easily be shortened. Some people have kits of all different lengths usually with different colors on the ends to mark what they are. Personally I like to have almost all of my ropes the same length so that when I grab a rope from my bag, I know what length it is. I have two half lengths and a few really short pieces in case I come up just a few inches to a foot short. They are very easy to tell apart from my main ropes so I never grab the wrong lengths. It lets me focus more on the person and the tie than digging through my ropes to find the right length.
One last consideration is what to do with the ends of the ropes. The two common methods are whipped ends or knotted ends. I personally do both. My suspension lines have whipped ends so that they pull fast and cleanly through and because I would never extend the rope of a suspension line. All my other ropes that go on the body have knotted ends so that I can easily extend rope or tuck ends and have them stay. Common stopper knots are an overhand knot, thistle knot or anything else that can tighten down securely and not be so bulky that it is hard to pull through tight spaces. One thing I don’t recommend for synthetic rope is melted ends as that can leave sharp plastic ends on the rope. Thistle knots are my favorite as they are compact and round. Here is how to tie them: tying and tightening.
Suggestions on where to get rope:
- Twisted Monk
- Agreeable Agony
- RWRope POSH rope
- Shibari Study/Studio Anatomie (UK but free shipping)
- Full worldwide list maintained by Taijya
A good starter kit would probably be 4 full length ropes (8m or 30′) and 2 half length ropes (4m or 15′) all in 6mm and a pair of safety sheers.