Below are some recommended and optional components of a well-stocked rope kit. Note that both tops and bottoms are encouraged to have their own rope kits, though the contents may vary slightly depending on goals and partnerships.
For example, a bottom who ties often with a number of different people — including “pick-up play” — may not have much actual rope in their kit, but they may carry “personal rope” and every other item listed below so that they can be sure they have those items even if their tying partner does not. On the other hand, a bottom who primarily ties with a single dedicated partner may only have a few of the items below or may include those desired items in their partner’s rope kit.
For basic floor work, 4 to 6 hanks of 8m rope is usually enough. See Rope Selection & Care for details about pros/cons of various types.
Keep an emergency release option readily available–meaning within easy reach. An emergency release tool is useless if it’s in your rope bag halfway across the club. (We say: “If you don’t have it on you, then you don’t have it.”)
The three major types of emergency release tools that we see people using most often are safety shears, rescue hooks, and knives. There are many debates about which option is the better option. The likely answer is: the one that you’re most comfortable using (read more here). We recommend high-quality safety shears for most people. Be particularly careful with knives and rescue hooks as both can easily cause secondary injuries to both tops and bottoms!
In our experience, most people find that safety shears are typically the safest option and the one we recommend. Note that we specifically mean high-quality “utility” or emergency shears, not cheap/disposable EMT shears. Another benefit of safety shears is that anyone can pick them up and use them in a reasonably-safe way should an emergency happen and the top is unable to be the one doing the cutting.
Rescue hooks are easier to use one-handed, and are therefore popular with self-tiers. However, we have heard many stories of people using them incorrectly and also slicing off skin in the process, so the risk of serious secondary injuries is high. Rescue hooks also require the rope to be under strong tension in order to work, and they may not cut through multiple lines at once as well as other options.
Knives can be useful if they have a rounded end and smooth, non-cutting edge on one side, but they are probably the highest-risk option, particularly for those who don’t have lots and lots of experience using them for this purpose. They can easily cause secondary injuries to both the bottom and top, and they require some tension in the rope in order to cut well.
Whichever you choose, make sure it’s in good working order and easy to get to. Also, be sure to practice with it so that you know how to use it safely before you have to use it in an emergency!
Note on cutting rope: Remember that you can always buy more rope, but the safety of the people you tie with has no price tag and no limit in value. To help prepare for this, we urge you to practice cutting rope when there is no emergency. We also implore you: do not hesitate to cut rope or ask for rope to be cut! If you overreacted on the side of safety and some rope got cut, you can get more. If you were afraid of overreacting on the side of safety and someone got injured, that’s not so easily fixed. However we do say that, in most situations, it’s usually better to calmly untie than to cut rope except in cases of extreme emergency, because cutting rope can sometimes introduce new problems (like the full weight of the person suddenly having no support). This is particularly true for up-lines: except in extreme cases (a fire, rope is cutting off air supply, etc.), untying the up-lines and lowering the person to the ground is almost always the safest approach. Once on the ground, feel free to cut rope to relieve pressure in the area of concern more immediately.
If you have specific medical needs — like prescription drugs, an inhaler, an EpiPen — be sure to bring those along in your rope bag in case of emergencies.
Basic First Aid
It’s a good idea to keep some basic first aid supplies in your rope kit. Many of the pre-packaged kits will work fine, but if you’re making your own, here are a few items to consider including:
You don’t have to buy a kit, but having a small bag or case that can go into your rope kit and hold the essential items is highly recommended. Any serious rope-related emergencies will likely result in more than any basic first-aid kit can handle, but there are plenty of minor or “rope adjacent” accidents that we’ve been glad to have a first-aid kit on hand to address.
Related, we recommend having easy access to any essential medical information and/or emergency contact information. Many people now use the emergency option on their phones for this, but whatever you use, make sure your tying partner(s) knows how to access it in case of an emergency.
If you play with crotch rope, mouth rope, or activities that involve bodily fluids coming in contact with the rope, it’s recommended that you have rope designated for a particular person for those kinds of activities.
It’s usually easiest (and less likely to cause mix-ups) if the bottom keeps track of their own personal rope, particularly if they tie with multiple partners. However, if the top decides to take on this task, note that they don’t necessarily need a full kit per person, just dedicated pieces they use for each person. Don’t forget to keep those separated in some way and clearly marked!
Water & Snacks
Not only good to have, but sometimes essential for restoring hydration and blood sugar levels after intense tying sessions.
Especially if you tie in dark clubs and dungeons. A powerful little flashlight beats a phone.
A marlin spike can be handy for untying knots that are really stuck with less likelihood of high-stranding. Note: we only recommend using marlin spike’s after a tying session or in cases when the person in the rope is in no danger or distress. If a knot is stuck and the person needs to come out of the rope, just cut the rope!
You never know when you, or someone nearby, will need one. Also makes it easier to tie hair into the rope. And they’re cheap!
Cloth for Rope
You may have noticed that many people wrap their rope in a cloth of some type. There’s some dubious “traditional” lineage to this, but mostly it’s just practical: it keeps the rope together in your bag and separate from whatever other items are in there; and you can lay the cloth on the floor or mats, unbundle it to access your rope, and then re-bundle it when you’re done, thus keeping your rope clean and organized. A good size is at least 3 feet by 3 feet.
Lotions & Balms
Working with natural fiber rope, and particularly jute, can be rough on the hands and dry them out. A good hand cream can help with that. Also, arnica creams and gels can help relieve some of the aches and marks from intense rope sessions.
Mat / Blanket
While some places designed for rope play will have some type of mat or padding already available, having a personal mat or blanket to cover the “common use” options is usually a good idea, and can definitely be helpful when tying on hard surfaces that don’t already have padding options. Just be careful: mats and blankets can also add a tripping hazard to your work space …
Layers & Slippers
It’s normal for the body to experience a wide range of temperatures during and after rope, so having multiple layers to remove or put on can be helpful. Also, having some cheap slippers or flip-flops can help make quick runs to the bathroom easier.
Notebook / Pen
Whether the goal is practice or play, you’ll often learn something or generate an idea through your tying, so it’s handy to have a place to record those things. Some people use their phones for this, but having the ability to freely sketch out your ideas can often be more helpful for some people.
If you have particular aftercare needs — chocolate, a specific stuffed animal, etc. — make sure you (or your partner) has room for that in the kit!
Toys for Other Play
And of course, if you like to include other types of play with your rope, you’re gonna need that stuff, too!