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Single-Strand Backpack Coil

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Tired of repetitively flaking out a backpack-style rope coil before starting each new pitch?

Here’s how to make a single-strand backpack coil that you can unwrap, drop, and then immediately start your lead. Instead of grabbing both ends of the rope to begin coiling, start your coil at one end. Coiling single-strand takes twice as long as the two-strand coil, but you’ll make up this time and more by not having to detangle the rope at the base of the climb.

1. It’s easiest to coil over your shoulders, especially if you have small hands or a long rope. Start with the end of the rope hanging at the desired length of your coils. Pass the single strand back and forth behind your neck to form even-length loops.

Coil until you have about 15 feet of rope free.


Now, take the coils off your shoulders and hang them on one wrist. Use your free hand to wrap the extra rope around the coils three or four times, securing the coil in an “8” shape. Push a loop through the top of the 8 and girth hitch.

Leave free a single strand of rope about 10 feet long.

3. To carry the rope on your back, position the coil so that the free strand is at the back of your neck. Feed this tail over your right shoulder, bring it down across your chest, then pass it under your left arm and behind your back. Wrap the slack around your body three to four times, keeping the rope snug but not too tight. The rope should not hang off your shoulder, but rather be held in place by the waist wraps.

Finally, take the tail of the rope, feed it under the strand passing across your chest, and then pass it back to the right side of your body. Tie an overhand knot in the end, and fasten the knot to your harness gear loop with a carabiner.

When you reach the base of your climb, unfasten the rope from your harness and undo the waist wraps, girth hitch, and finishing wraps, until you’re left with just the nice, even coils. Drop those into a loose pile, and put your leader on belay. The rope should feed smoothly right off the pile.Since you’ve cut the usual step of reflaking the rope before using it, keep your eye out for kinks as you belay. If coils get hooked up, spread them apart with your free hand or foot. A proper single-rope coil should feed like a cobra being charmed out of its basket. If you did a messy coiling job or rushed uncoiling the last few feet of rope, the snake will come back to bite you.


Before you tie in, wait until the leader has pulled up all the slack. Work any twists out of the rope, then tie in. This eliminates those annoying, spring-like coils at the bottom end of the rope.

On multi-pitch climbs, belay the second in autoblock mode, directly off the equalized anchor. This is less taxing on the arms than belaying directly off your belay loop or through a redirect, and allows you more freedom to keep the rope organized.

At small belay stances, “stack” the rope into a sling. As you take in slack after your lead, make big (10 feet or more) loops over your shoulders until the rope goes snug, then drop the loops into a shoulder-length sling and clip them out of the way. Use a second biner to fasten the sling closed, so you can quickly drop the rope out of the sling if it starts to snarl. Once the follower is on belay, feed additional slack directly from the autoblock into the sling, maintaining even loops.

When preparing to belay the second, anticipate the next lead. If the next pitch goes left off the anchor, stack the rope on the left side of the belay.

When lead belaying, always keep 10 feet of rope free from the stack so you can deal with snarls ahead of time and avoid short-roping the leader.