BlueWater Icon 9.1
- Good durability
- Effective bipattern color scheme
- Many features and options
- Stiff handling
- Got dirty quicker than other ropes
- Only certified as a single rope
The BlueWater Icon is a 9.1mm dynamic climbing rope that is the only rope in this group certified solely for use as a single rope. Available in a number of iterations, including standard or dry treatments or bicolor patterns, the Icon proved to be durable though testers found it to be a stiff handling rope that was prone to kinking. The dry treatment proved effective for ice climbing but over time the rope picked up dirt and was considered less versatile than the top rope in this group.
The BlueWater Icon was a stiffer handling rope and didn’t score as well with testers compared to the top performing ropes in this group. The initial handling of the rope was okay and the stiffness wasn’t as noticeable but with increased use the stiffness became more noticeable and the rope started to kink and twist. Because of the stiffness it was harder to tie knots and insert into a belay device. The tight braid used on the sheath of the Icon does allow the Icon to move smoothly through gear. But, testers repeatedly commented on the stiffness and kinking, particularly when used in a multi-pitch setting where those kinks would build up in the rope and couldn’t be removed without untying.
Resistance to Dirt
The Icon was the lowest scoring rope in this group of ropes tested when it came to its resistance to dirt. The dry treated version of this rope is designed to keep the rope cleaner but as with any dry treatment, it can wear off and prove to be less effective. The dry treatment of the Icon proved to be rather average and as the rope was subjected to repeated use and abuse it picked up more dirt compared to the other ropes tested.
The Icon was close to being the top performing rope in this group, scoring slightly behind the Maxim Airliner and Metolius Monster and well ahead of the Sterling Fusion Nano. BlueWater built the Icon with a 35% sheath mass which is significantly greater than the Nano which has a 29% sheath mass. The effect of this construction is a skinny rope that is more durable than many may expect. During in field testing the Icon showed wear on the sheath in the form of fuzz but didn’t suffer any other noticeable damage despite the use and abuse in a variety of settings. During in house testing the sheath showed slightly more wear in the form of fuzz during the abrasion test than the top performing ropes. Additionally, during the sharp edge test, the core was slightly more exposed than the most durable ropes tested in this group but it was well ahead of the lowest scoring rope, the Sterling Fusion Nano.
The version of the Icon we tested was a bicolor pattern that proved effective for finding the halfway point when setting rappels and working with the rope. The bicolor pattern was average in its effectiveness for finding the middle, meaning it wasn’t the best or the worst compared to the many bicolor ropes we’ve tested. It’s also available as a single color. The Icon is available as a standard rope for rock climbing or with a BlueWater Double-Dry treatment. When new, the dry treated version of the Icon we tested was effective at repelling water and kept the rope from freezing up during long days of ice climbing. As the rope was used more extensively that dry treatment eventually lost its effectiveness and it fared average compared to other dry treated ropes. One feature that may appeal to some users is the 35% sheath mass the Icon is built with, giving it greater durability than other skinny ropes such as the Sterling Fusion Nano which has a 29% sheath mass. The Icon is the only skinny rope tested that is only certified as a single rope compared to other ropes that are dual or triple certified as a single, half and twin rope. Finally, the Icon is available in four different color choices.
The Icon drew mixed reviews in terms of versatility compared to the other skinny ropes tested. For climbers such as trad climbers looking for a durable yet skinny rope, the Icon can be a good option. The dry treatment was effective, making the Icon a good choice for ice climbers. But, the stiff handling and kinking made the rope less appealing to climbers looking for a lightweight rope for multi-pitch climbs. Being the only rope in this group certified as a single only, makes it less versatile for alpine climbers who may want a rope that they can use as a twin or half rope. For sport climbers, some may find an appeal in the Icon as a lightweight but durable rope but the stiff handling is a deterrent.
How We Tested It
The ropes in this test were used for a minimum of 25 climbing days each while sport and trad climbing, both single and multi-pitch, in Western Colorado on limestone, granite, quartzite, and a variety of sandstones. They were also used on objectives farther afield such as the Utah desert, Zion National Park, and more. They were also used for single and multi-pitch ice climbing. In addition to field testing, a 2 meter section of new rope was used for comparison if its resistance to dirt and durability. That section of rope was also put through an isolated durability test with a sharp edge and an abrasive edge and a 50 pound weighted haul bag.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our Best Climbing Ropes of 2017 (9.3-9.5mm), Best Workhorse Ropes of 2017 (9.7-9.9mm), along with our Crag Pack tests, Climbing Harness tests, as well as other related climbing gear tests.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
About the Author
Mike Schneiter is an AMGA-trained alpine and rock guide, founder of Glenwood Climbing Guides and longtime climbing and outdoor educator with Colorado Mountain Colorado, based in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
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- Lengths Available: 60, 70 and 80 meter lengths
- Colors Available: blue/green, sprout, rainbow, pink/silver
- UIAA Falls: 5
- Impact Force (kN): 8.8 kN
- Working/Static Elongation (%): 7.2
- Dynamic Elongation (%): 32.7
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