Superlight Offset Rocks Review
'They are just Wild Country Rocks chopped in half' my friend said dismissively as I clipped these onto my harness. I wasn't really paying too much attention because, as far as I know, he last bought a piece of gear in about 1983 (his rack still sports a rigid stemmed Friend!) and he always has some scathing comment to make whenever I pull out a new piece of equipment (which I admit is fairly often!).
He was right to some extent though. The new Wild Country Superlight Offset Rocks are indeed like cut down Rocks. My understanding is that Wild Country's Richie Patterson came up with the idea and his initial prototypes were indeed cut down Rocks. However, the design has matured considerably since then and there is so much more to them than that. They certainly have the well loved Rock curve and the sizes match the size of their full size counterparts, but Wild Country have also created an offset shape that opens up a host of placement possibilities beyond the scope of normal Rocks.
At first I had my doubts and questioned when I'd carry them. I could see the benefit for lightweight ascents in the mountains where minimising weight was useful, but how would they be useful for cragging? If I am carrying 2 sets of wires I normally take a set of Rocks and a set of DMM Wallnuts. Do I take these as well or replace the Rocks with them? For a while I took them as well because I lacked the confidence to trust them completely. I knew all I needed about placing normal Rocks, but these would take some getting used to.
Fortunately, as time has gone on, I've learnt to love these and the selection of wires I now take reflects my growing confidence in them. For flared cracks and shallow cracks they are fantastic. They also work really well in old pin scars or for shallow cracks where the placements have been worn by lots of use. Each size has a broad range of placement options and, although fully understanding their possibilities takes a while (and I'm still discovering ways to use them), it is well worth persevering. In time I'm sure you'll think they are great too. So far I have used them mostly on gritstone, Peak limestone and they've had some action in the Lakes and Wales. They really excel on grit and limestone and performed very competently on mountain crags in the other areas.
A big bonus, besides the variety of placement options for each size, is their weight and compactness. A set of 5-10 Superlights weighs 162.9gms compared to 256gms for the equivalent size 5-10 normal Rock option. There is also about half as much metal so they rack well and hang compactly on your harness.
I was interested to see if they would be as easy to take out as they are to place because some offsets I've used in the past were prone to getting jammed. So far these have proved to be as easy to remove as the full size Rocks and that's not just my opinion - various seconds who have followed me up routes have said the same.
There are some trade offs of course. One is possibly durability. I can't really comment much about this at this stage as I've only been using them for a few months, but they certainly aren't showing undue signs of wear and tear at the moment. It should, however, be noted that the wire cable used is thinner and so this is likely to impact on how long they last. I have been a big fan of Superlight Rocks for years (I understand Wild Country have stopped making these now) but, good as they are, their single strand cable did make them less long lasting - especially if your seconds were from the 'grab and yank' school of nut removal.
The other trade off is strength. They certainly aren't as strong as normal Rocks which feels strange when you will often be placing them in the same size cracks. The size 9 normal Rock is, for example, rated at 10Kn and yet you can be placing the size 9 Superlight Offset in the same crack and yet it's only rated to 7Kn. So, it is important to understand their strength limitations just like you need to with any protection and you'd be best advised to research these differences and the forces generated in different load situations before deciding whether they are for you. The Wild Country website has loads of useful information here.
So, these little wonders are a very worthwhile addition to a trad climbers arsenal and they have become a staple of my rack. I have no hesitation in recommending them but please ensure you fully understand their limitations. Superlight Offsets RRP is £55 for a set of sizes 5-10 (or individually at £10 each).
Posted by Paul