What to buy as your first climbing trad gear and complete your climbing rack? In this post, I will write shortly about important equipment for traditionally protected climbs.
Trad climbing requires a selection of equipment for safeguarding falls and belays. If you’re starting out with pitches of less than 20m you can get away with less, especially if you’re not going to try anything harder than VI (HVS). For multi-pitch climbs with long pitches, you will need to double some of the climbing trad gear.
Don’t buy second-hand gear unless you’re sure of its history, and never buy a second-hand rope.
Although you can climb trad routes using a single rope, double aka”half” ropes are better for arranging the gear, reduce drag and improve safety. They also allow for easier abseil descents. Buy something between 8mm and 9mm in diameter which is compatible with your belay device. I would recommend getting 60m ropes, you will have more option in choosing a route.
Nuts are metal chocks, assembled on a wire loop, that can be fitted into cracks and sometimes pockets. There are many brands so it is better to make a choice and keep to it, to have a rack entirely of Rocks or Walnuts etc. You get used to their characteristics easier. They come in sizes from 1 to 12 or larger, and a normal climbing rack for a wide range of trad routes would have two of each up to about number 8, then one each of the larger ones up to size 12. You could amend the amount of your climbing trad gear for short pitches or those with a restricted type of protection. I use DMM nuts called Wallnuts.
Microwires. Size 1 nuts are pretty small, but some cracks are even thinner, so microwires are options for these thin cracks. Although microwires look nice, they are limited in their holding potential! This is a pro climber gear.
Hexes usually come in an asymmetric hexagonal shape, sometimes with curved surfaces, mounted with a sewn sling. They are light and fit well in near parallel sided wider cracks, and are particularly suitable for certain rocks types (e.g. gritstone, granite) However, a camming device is usually a quicker and more secure option hexes are much cheaper than cams, so a mixture of the two to cover a wide range of large crack sizes may be an option. I rarely used hexes now, sometimes in winter climbing, this climbing trad gear provides good alternatives in icy gaps.
Cams ( aka Friends) are devices revolutionised climbing when they first appeared. Generally, they are quick and easy to place and remove and they provide multi-directional security but they are expensive. It consists of two, three, or four cams mounted on a common axle or two adjacent axles so that pulling on the axle forces the cams to spread farther apart. This is then attached to a sling and carabiner at the end of the stem. A pull on the rope, such as that generated by a climber falling, will cause a properly placed cam to convert the pulling force along the stem of the unit into outwards pressure on the rock, generating massive amounts of friction and hopefully holding your fall :). There are several manufacturers, all producing units that work in a similar manner in principle. As with nuts, therefore, it’s best to decide on a manufacturer and buy one type for your rack. At the beginning 3-4 cams (friends) will be a good start. As with nuts, there are microcams available which can be very useful but they become less reliable as size diminishes! I bought Black Diamonds cams long time ago and I trust them 🙂
Specialist and alternative items
There are others climbing trad gear units, for example, tricams, off-set micronuts, skyhooks, pegs. This is again a pro climber gear and not necessary to have at the beginning.
Slings and quickdraws
It’s a good idea to have a selection of short and longer quickdraws, and several 120 cm slings, clipped across a chest with snapgate. An average rack might include 4 each of short and 4 of the longer quickdraws and 4 slings. It might be a good idea to have one 240 cm sling to arrange a belay.
Belay device – this should be a modern device and I recommend to buy the one with an option to belay in guide mode (of the anchor point). It goes without saying that it should be compatible with your ropes diameters. Check this! It’s not always obvious. You should have at least 2 screw and 4 snapgate binners.
Nut tool is an essential aid to removing climbing trad gear and perhaps cleaning out thin cracks for wires when on lead.
Disclaimer: All climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions. If any of the technique, skills or advice presented on my blog are not clear to you, seek professional advice and instruction before applying them.
Want to learn to place climbing trad gear safely? Sing up for my trad climbing courses in Poland and I can teach you all that in person!