climbing gears

Choosing Climbing Equipment and Building a Climbing Rack

Author: TG Contributor
Date: 2020-01-18

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Choosing the correct climbing equipment is often confusing. This article offers advice on building a rack of climbing equipment for a variety of climbing styles.

1. Climbing Equipment and Rack for Seconding on a Climbing Wall

  • Climbing Harness – Go to a good climbing shop and try a few on and hang in them. The harness should be padded on the waist and legs and have a minimum of 5 gear loops if you intend climbing outside. The DMM Renegade is a good reference point.
  • Rock shoes – Again you need to go to a shop and ask for advice/try loads on. Rock shoes are a culture shock – your toes should touch the end of the shoe, they should be comfortably tight and if you twist the shoe your foot should twist as well without any slippage. Then once you have your perfect fit bear in mind that all shoes stretch ..buying shoes for the first time is difficult so take your time..The Red Chili Saucilito, Scarpa Vantage and Sportiva Cliff are good starting points
  • Belay Device – The DMM bug is good for all-round use, whilst the Petzl Verso and Reverso3 are class leaders.
  • Locking Carabiner for Belay Device – DMM Sentinel, Belay Master or Ultra O screwgate are all good
  • Chalk bag and Chalk – Down to you ….just make sure you can get your whole hand in …essential for sea cliff climbing. Carry it on 1.5mm of 5mm cord that can be used as an emergency prusic or abseil tat.

2. Climbing Equipment and Rack for Leading on a Climbing Wall

As above plus:

  • Quickdraws for the wall – Think ahead and buy draws that will serve you when you move outside as well.
  • Rope – Walls trash ropes so a lot of people go for a specific short (cheaper) rope for wall use. Mammut Promo in 30m or 40m lengths is a good choice plus it can be used for both leading and top-roping short routes outside

3. Climbing Equipment and Rack for Seconding Routes Outside

As 1. above plus:

  • Slings: 1 x 120cm and 1 x 60cm sling
  • Screwgates: One small screwgate and one larger mini HMS screwgate.
  • Nut key: A nut key plus a carabiner and short length of cord to carry it.
  • Rescue: Two prusic loops  generally these are formed from 1.5m lengths of 5mm cord tied into an open loop with a double fisherman's knot
  • Helmet – a matter of choice, but most people do these days.

4. Climbing Equipment and Rack for Starting to Lead Outside

As 1. above plus:

  • Quickdraws: A minimum of 6 quickdraws if you are climbing on short outcrop routes, but you will need 10 or more quickdraws for mountain routes. Quickdraws  around 18cm in length are perfect for trad with a couple of  shorter and longer draws.
  • A set of nuts – either DMM Wallnuts or WC Rocks 1 – 11
  • A set of large nuts – DMM Torque Nuts 1-4 or WC Rockcentrics 5-8
  • Slings: 2 x 120cm and 2 x 60cm slings – dyneema 11 or 12mm. Skinny dyneema slings (8-10mm) are great, but quite unforgiving of user error.
  • Screwgates: 3 x small screwgates and one larger mini HMS screwgate. DMM Phantoms and DMM Sentinel.
  • Individual Carabiners: 8 x individual carabiners for racking wires, connecting slings etc. I prefer keylock solid gates for racking wires and lightweight wire gates for connecting running belays…. but this is very personal and some people hate keylocks for racking….
  • Nut key: A nut key plus a carabiner and short length of cord to carry it.
  • Rescue: Two prusic loops  generally these are formed from 1.5m lengths of 5mm cord tied into an open loop with a double fisherman's knot
  • Helmet

Plus if possible a second set of nuts – of a different brand from our first set.

Then after that look at getting a small number of cams The key sizes when forming a rack are Wild Country/DMM 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 or BD Camalot 0.5, 1 and 2.

One of the biggest outlays at this stage will be deciding on what ropes to get i.e. a single rope or a half rope. The answer depends on what you want to do. If you plan to stay on the outcrops or go sport climbing I would go for a 60m x 9.8mm -10.0mm single rope – 60m because all UK climbers go abroad in the winter and 60m is mandatory in Europe plus a 60m rope lets you do 30m double rope pitches in the UK; also by getting a ‘thinnish’ single rope it can be used in a full length double rope system at a squeeze.

If trad climbing is going to be your thing then go for an 8.5mm x 50m half rope and find a partner with a similar rope. You can go for a 60m rope and the extra length is great for alpine/ice routes, but for most UK cragging you are just lugging around an extra 10m of useless rope most of the time.

Superdry treatments are not just for keeping the rope dry, indeed for most climbers the key advantage of dry treatments is that that increase durability and decrease drag.

5. Climbing Equipment and Rack for Advanced Leaders on Mountain Routes

At this point everything gets very personal and this is what I carry on most long routes.

  • Wires: 3 sets of wires 1-6, double sets 7-10 and one 11. Carried on 4 Shadow keylock screwgates. The wires are a balanced mix of DMM Wallnuts, WC Rocks and DMM Alloy Offsets.
  • Micro Wires: A bit OTT, but I carry about 20 micro wires on most big routes, based around the RP2/DMM Imp 2 and 3 and DMM Micro Wallnut 0.5 and 0.75. Carried on 2 Shadow keylocks.
  • Aliens: I always carry the Yellow and Green and often the Blue Aliens – awesome units, happily bought before their quality control went AWOL.
  • DMM 4CU’s: 1.0 to 3.0 including half sizes. I really like their lightweight and doubled sling which saves lots of quickdraws.
  • DMM Torque Nuts – 1-3. The best hexes out there.
  • Quickdraws: I carry up to 16 DMM Phantom quickdraws on skinny dyneema – 2 x 12cm, 8 x 18cm, 4 x 25cm and 2 x extendable quickdraws based on 8mm x 60cm slings
  • Slings:2 x 120cm and 2 x 60cm dyneema slings
  • Screwgates: 1 x DMM Sentinel and 3 x DMM Phantom Screwgates
  • Belay device: Petzl Verso or Reverso3.
  • Ropes: 2 x 8.5mm x 50m Mammut Genesis Superdry ropes.
  • Nut key: DMM Nutbuster
  • Prussics: 2 x short prussics on one Phantom SG

I won’t necessarily carry all this – I’ll always check out the route first to see if there is any kit I can leave behind or whether I’ll need to double up on some items or whether I can leave anything behind. There is no point in taking a large number of friends up a climb on a blank wall.

This way you can reduce the weight and bulk hanging from your waist – this will reduce the speed at which you get pumped, increase the difficulty at which you can climb and make it easier for you to find the gear on your harness.

Choosing the right rack for a route is a skill that improves over time. A good starting point, is to estimate the quantity of quickdraws you will need by taking the length of the route (i.e. 25m) and divide it by how often you expect to place protection i.e. every  2m. This will help you estimate how many quickdraws that you are likely to need.

It is worth remembering that not every placement will need extending i.e. DMM 4CU’sHealth Fitness Articles, slings and hexes.

Source: Free Articles from


Silvia Fitzpatrick runs the Rock Climbing Company and is a climbing instructor. The Rock Climbing Company offers adventure activity, climbing and scrambling instruction in Spain and the UK.

Written by Silvia Fitzpatrick

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