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Beal Booster III Review
Cons: A little too stretchy for top roping, stiff.
Bottom line: Not the best handling but fine to fall on.
The Beal Booster has been around for as long as we've been climbing. It was one of our tester's first ropes that she ever purchased, and she started climbing almost 25 years ago! The current version, the Booster III, is definitely an update on years past, so if you remember the old one and didn't have fond memories of it (it was a serious bungee cord), the latest iteration is a big improvement. The handling was a little stiff at first but loosened up with use, and the catches felt great. In fact, it has the lowest impact force rating of any rope in this review (7.3 kN), making it a good choice for harder trad climbs with marginal gear, and while there is a lot of elongation compared to some other ropes, we didn't get that old bungee feel when top roping. It's also lightweight for the diameter, and very durable. We didn't notice any sheath fuzz even after over 70 pitches on it. Overall, our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Infinity, handled better than this rope, and therefore scored slightly higher in the end. We also preferred the clipping action on the Maxim Pinnacle, our Top Pick for Sport Climbing. The Beal Booster III is a great line though, and you'll save quite a bit compared to those other two ropes. Combined with its excellent durability, it really stood out and is our Best Buy winner.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Beal Booster III 9.7 mm weighs 61 g/m. It has a low impact force rating (7.3 kN) and a high static and dynamic elongation (9.7% and 38 %). This rope is available in Classic, Dry, and the "Golden Dry" finishes (less than 1% water absorption), as well as with a "Unicore" weave, where the sheath and core are bonded together to prevent sheath slippage. We tested the Dry version for this review.
As we just mentioned, we weren't in love with the handling of this line when new. The chart below shows how it compared to the other ropes for handling.
It was very stiff out of the bag, and didn't feed smoothly through our hands when belaying. It did soften up quite a bit by the end of our testing period and clipping felt a lot smoother.
It wasn't a particularly kinky rope — some of the lines that we tested seemed to kink up if we even looked at them the wrong way — though it is possible to put kinks in any line via lowering or top roping. We did prefer the handling of our Top Pick for Sport Climbing, the Maxim Pinnacle, over this model, but the Pinnacle has a unique feel that not everyone might like.
We did like the catch on this line, and it received a high score for this category.
With a 38% dynamic elongation we expected a soft catch from this rope, and we got it. It did feel a little spongy when top roping but not nearly as bad as the Edelweiss Curve Unicore Supereverdry. This is a little weird, as they have virtually the same ratings. This just confirmed to us though that you have to take the numbers on the bag with a grain of salt. These ropes are tested in extremely controlled conditions that don't always translate to real world experience.
Speaking of numbers, this rope does have the lowest impact force rating of any rope in the review, 7.3 kN. This rating comes from a very specific test, whereby an 80 Kg solid mass takes a 1.77 (factor) fall on a fixed point. The maximum force allowed is 12 kN, as this was determined to be the maximum amount of deceleration the human body can withstand. The reality is that a "real" fall with a human (instead of a mass) and a belayer (instead of a fixed point) will never result in those types of forces, but ropes are engineered with worst case scenarios in mind, which we appreciate!
So, what can we take from this lower number? Assuming that ropes behave similarly in real world scenarios as they do in drop tests, this rope might have a lower impact force in a real world fall than a rope like the Maxim Pinnacle, who's max rating was 10.3 kN. This is something to consider if you're traditional climbing and want to minimize the impact on your gear.
We gave the Booster a 7/10 rating for weight.
This rope weighs 61 g/m, which is on the lighter side for a 9.7 mm rope. To put it into a "what am I carrying in my pack" perspective, this rope in a 60 m length should weigh about 8 pounds. This makes it slightly heavier than some of the 9.5 models in this review, like the Petzl Arial and Mammut Infinity, but the 1/3 of a pound might hardly be noticeable in your pack or while you're climbing.
This rope impressed us most of all with its durability, and it topped our ratings for this category.
After more than half a dozen of days on this rope and over 70 pitches, we're not seeing too many signs of wear. There's little to no fuzz on the sheath, and we didn't have any noticeable wear spots. The rope does look a little dirty (the downside to a light colored rope), and the middle marker is mostly faded and/or easily mistaken for a dirty section.
Like the Mammut Infinity, this rope has a 42% sheath proportion, and they both showed little sign of wear. Typically, a rope gets retired from too much sheath damage, so, the more sheath, the better. However, this is not the only indication of durability, as the Maxim Pinnacle seemed fined with only 36% sheath proportion. On the other hand, the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro also has only a 36% sheath proportion and it showed a lot of wear. Ultimately, if you know you are hard on your ropes, you can use this number to try and help you decide which one to get, but don't assume that a lower percentage of sheath with automatically be less durable, or vice versa.
We liked the catch on this line, and it's great for taking whippers on when working your sport project. The low impact force rating also make this rope a good choice for traditional climbing where you want to minimize the amount of force applied to your gear, particularly if you have marginal placements or friable rock. The only thing we weren't wild about doing with this rope was top roping, as it was a little too stretchy for that.
This rope retails for $210 in the 60 m Dry version (prices vary higher for the Golden Dry treatment and also for 70 m lengths, and lower for the Classic version). Considering that it handled almost as well as the very pricey Mammut Infinity ($280) and the Maxim Pinnacle ($265), we think this line is a great value. Also, it seemed to hold up really well during our testing and promises to be a durable and long-lasting line, increasing its value even more. For these reasons, it was an easy choice to be our Best Buy winner.
While we weren't a huge fan of the Booster circa 1995, we do like current 2017 version. The Beal Booster III is a solid line that performs well in a variety of climbing styles and environments, except for excessive top roping. It's durable and not too expensive, and was an easy pick for our Best Buy Award.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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