DIY Upcycle Projects For Old Climbing Ropes

It bothers me when climbing ropes need to be retired, especially when it still looks like it’s in great shape. It seems like such a waste to cut up a rope and send it to the dump.

For safety reasons at my school, we retire our climbing equipment after five years of use, regardless of whether they’ve only been lightly used or if they still look new. This is especially true for our ropes and harnesses, which work the hardest for us during our climbing/abseiling activities.

But what you really going to do with 80m of disused rope? Lashings or tying stuff around the house are great ways to recycle ropes but let’s up the ante a little bit with the following DIY projects.

Project 1: Suspension Exercise Equipment (A copycat of TRX)

How the handles attach.
How the handles attach.
Side view.
Side view. (And my friend who’s being a good sport.)
Front view.
Front view.

What you need:

  • 6 x metres of dynamic climbing rope
  • 2 x 1-metre lengths of rope
  • 2 x carabiners
  • 2 x 10-cm pvc pipes (approx. 2.5cm in diameter).

What you need to know:

  • Alpine Butterfly knot
  • Square/Reef knot


  • Double Fisherman’s knot
  • Figure-of-8 on bight

Instructions: For a symmetrical device, tie 3 alpine butterfly knots from each end of the rope. Make sure they are evenly spaced, about 30cm apart. Don’t worry, you can adjust them later. If you find that the rope is too long, you can either shuffle the knots on one side closer to the middle and cut off the excess rope or tie extra alpine butterflies.

Take one of the smaller pieces of rope, thread it through the pvc pipe and tie either a double fisherman or square knot to make a loop. This will be the handle. Repeat with the other short length of rope and pvc pipe. Clip a carabiner to both loops and now your handles can be connected to any 3 sets of alpine butterfly loops of the larger rope for adjustable difficulty. Now you just need an overhead bar for a great workout!

For an asymmetrical device, tie a figure-of-8 on a bight at one end of the rope. Tie a series (maybe 5) alpine butterflies starting from the other end. For the handles, do as the instructions above. For this setup, one handle is always attached to the end with the figure-of-8. The other handle can be moved between the alpine butterflies to vary the length of rope.

Project 2: Adjustable Agility Ladder

What happens if you store the velcro all scrunched up.
What happens if you store the velcro all scrunched up.

What you need:

  • Appox. 20m of rope
  • Large roll of velcro

Instructions: Make a loop by tying the ends of the rope together using any knot you want. Hold onto the knot and drag/untangle the loop until you have what looks like parallel ropes. The knot will be the beginning of the ladder. Size up your desired width of the ladder by spreading apart the rope. It helps to get a friend to hold onto the other end of the loop.

Cut out sections of velcro that will end up being ‘rungs’ of the ladder. Make sure the ends can overlap the rope and protrude by about 3cm. Simply sandwich the rope between the velcro strip on each end and continue until you run out of rope at the end of the loop. Voila, instant agility ladder.

You may want to store all of the components disassembled. The velcro strips get wrinkly if you jumble them up in a pile and they end up not lying flat. If not having the rungs lie flat is not an issue for you, store the ladder however you want.

Project 3: Gadget Flotation Device (So you don’t lose your valuables in the lake!)

You can try melting the ends together but I feel overlapping is better.
You can try melting the ends together but I feel overlapping is better.

What you need:

  • Approx 20-30cm of rope
  • Sewing machine (or needle) and thread
  • Foam tubes that kids use to learn how to swim, preferable the ones with a hole through the middle
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Lighter (and candle)

What you need to know:

  • Basic sewing skills

Instructions: Remove the kern (inside) or the rope, leaving only the sheath. Smooth out the sheath and sewing a line of stitching down the middle of the sheath of rope. This process makes the sheath flat. I used a zig-zag stitch because it allows for more stretch. Melt each end of the sheath with the lighter/candle so it doesn’t fray. You’ll need to hold it there for at least 15 seconds. It’s going to smell bad. I personally like to press the melty bits flat with the bottom of the lighter so it’s neater.

Cut a 5cm chunk off of the foam tube. If it does not have a hole through the centre, cut out with a knife. Thread the sheath through the hole in the foam.

This is where it gets interesting. You need to overlap the end of the sheath to make a loop and sew the ends securely. I sewed up and down the overlap 3-4 times to ensure it’s not going to unravel. After the loop is done, just attach a key ring or carabiner and the foam piece can be clipped to anything. There’s a whole bunch of ways to do this so it’s up to you. I did a loop but you can also make a flat attachment.

It’s possible to do it without a sewing machine I think but you’ll need super strong fingers 😉

Project 4: Lanyard

Key ring goes into the loop on the left side. Hence Mobius formation.
Key ring goes into the loop on the left side. Hence Mobius Strip formation.

What you need:

  • 60-70cm of rope
  • Sewing machine
  • Key ring

What you need to know:

  • Basic sewing skills

Instructions: Similar to the project above, you need to remove the kern of the rope. Sew a line of stitching down the middle the leftover sheath to make it flat. Thread the key ring through one end. Form a loop with the two ends, making sure to flip over one of the ends before sewing the overlap together. What you will have created is essentially a Mobius strip with a key ring. This arrangement makes the lanyard drape around your neck better.

Sew the lanyard together just above where the key ring sits. This makes a loop for the key ring and it won’t move all over the place. It’ll look nice if you adjust the overlapping bit behind. If you don’t mind the key ring moving about, you can simply omit this step.

These are the projects I found the most entertaining but there are lots of possibilities for used rope. Recycle and have fun!

– J


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