Buying a Climbing Rack....

4th Jun 2015

The question of what to include on a lead climbers rack comes up regularly on Learn to Lead and other climbing courses.  So, here’s some information to guide you if you are entering the murky world of climbing hardware…..

The first key bit of advice we’d give is to make sure you visit a reputable equipment shop. Well trained staff will know what you need and give you good advice (there are lots of quality shops around but if you are in the Peak District you’ll be hard pushed to beat Outside in Hathersage or Hitch and Hike in Bamford).  We’d also suggest experimenting with different types of equipment.   Try and use a few different friend’s racks to see what works for you.  

Anyway, time for the list.  We’ve separated it out into the various options for different aspects of the sport and we hope it makes sense. Of course, we are only at the end of an email in case you want to clarify or check anything. 

Climbing equipment for seconding on a climbing wall.....

Harness – Go to a good climbing shop and try several on. Bear in mind there are male and female models available. The harness should be padded on the waist and legs and have a minimum of 5 gear loops if you intend lead climbing outside. The DMM Renegade 2 (male) or DMM Puma 2 (female) are a good reference point for general use. 

Rock shoes – It is vital to go into a reputable shop, get quality advice and try loads on. When fitted your toes should touch the end of the shoe and when you twist the shoe your toes should twist too. All shoes stretch a little with wear (unlined shoes stretch more than lined models) but you don’t need to buy them too tight. 

Belay device and carabiner – The Petzl Verso, Wild Variable Rope Controller, Black Diamond ATC or DMM Bug are all excellent belay devices and the DMM Sentinel is a great belay carabiner option.

Chalk bag and chalk – The choice is down to you but don’t get one that’s too small and make sure it has a great pattern! Of course, Peak Mountaineering models are said to perform better than others! 

Additional equipment for leading on climbing walls.....

Quickdraws – Most walls have these already in place but check with the individual wall you are visiting. 

Rope – Walls are tough on ropes so a lot of people go for a cheaper option for wall use. As a general guide a 50 metre 10mm diameter rope will be perfect for use both at the wall and leading outside. For shorter walls and shorter single pitch crags you can often get away with something like a 30 metre rope but many indoor walls now have routes up to 25 metres in length which means, by the time you have lowered your partner down, you will need it to be 50 metres long. There are loads on the market but something like the Mammut Promo models are great value, handle well and last quite well. 

Additional equipment for seconding routes outside.....

Sling and carabiners – A 120cm sling and small screwgate carabiner is really useful for clipping in to belays. It is also handy to have one additional larger HMS screwgate carabiner such as the DMM Boa.

Nutkey - A nutkey plus a small carabiner to clip it to your harness.

Prussik loops - 2 prussik loops are really useful (but only if you know how and when to use them).

Helmet - Given how comfortable and effective modern helmets are surely you’d be crazy not too? 

Additional equipment for starting to lead outside.....

Quickdraws - 6 quickdraws will be enough for many short outcrop routes but you will need to increase the number for routes with a lot of nut placements or longer pitches. We prefer tripled 60cm slings for trad use as they are so versatile.

Nuts – For shorter routes a set of nuts (sometimes called wires) such as Wild Country Rocks or DMM Wallnuts are essential. It is cheaper to buy them in a set and the anodised colour coded versions make it easier to find the one you need.

Hexes – A set of DMM Torque Nuts or WC Rockcentrics size 5-8 are the gold standard for hexes.

Slings - 3 x 120cm Dyneema slings of around 10mm diameter or the newer Edelrid Aramid cord slings work well.

Screwgates - 2 x small screwgates like the DMM Shadow or similar.

Carabiners - 8 additional carabiners for racking wires, connecting slings and all the other little jobs. We prefer keylock solid gates for racking wires and lightweight wire gates for connecting running belays (but opinions vary!). 

That will be plenty to get you started but, as time goes on, you will want to make some additions..... 

More nuts - A second set of nuts (choose a different brand from your first set to give you more options). 

Cams – Although they take good judgement to place securely and are expensive, a small number of cams will add a lot of versatility to your rack. The key sizes when forming a rack are mid-size cams like, for example, Black Diamond Camalots size 0.5, 1, 2 and 3.  Additional sizes can be added gradually (the perfect birthday or Christmas present!?).

Hope that helps.  Happy climbing.

Posted by Paul