In Choosing Climbing Nuts, Paul offers some advice on what type to choose and how to rack them. We really hope you find it useful.
Nuts or wires, rocks or stoppers. Whatever you call them, these wedges of metal are a key element in every trad climber’s protection system. They are cheap, strong, durable and relatively easy to use. That being said, if you’re getting your first rack together you’ll find a pretty bewildering choice available.
Here’s some advice on the nuts I commonly use plus some ideas on racking them. Please bear in mind that this is nowhere near a definitive guide to everything available. It is simply a look at a few models I’ve tried and loved. I should also say that this is just a look at the standard sizes from 1 upwards. I’ll add some advice on micro nuts in a future article.
Wild Country Rocks
As climbing nuts, Wild Country Rocks are universally used and universally loved. It is a design so good it’s hardly changed since Adam and Eve. Rocks have a gentle curve which allows solid placements time after time.
You can choose Rocks in either shiny alloy or a colour coded anodised finish. Having nuts in different colours makes it easier to find the right size for the job. The coloured finish does scratch off over time but you’ll still be able to see the colour. You also pay a little more for the anodised option. The choice is yours.
Rocks are available in a wide size range between 1 and 14 and the larger sizes place just as well as the smaller ones. They are also quite light for their size. Having said that, I don’t tend to routinely carry sizes over 10 unless I’m pretty sure I’ll need them.
Wild Country also make Superlight rocks and Superlight Offset Rocks. Superlights are available in sizes 1-6 and Superlight Offsets in size 5-10. I love both of these models. They are essentially full sized Rocks cut in half. The smaller Superlights have a single length of wire swaged at the top loop.
Superlight Offsets have a standard double strand cable and combine the curve of Rocks with a side taper. Both types place brilliantly and the larger offsets work in so many sneaky placements. They are really light but they are weaker and less durable than normal Rocks.
Superlights are ideal when you’re travelling light on big mountain routes. They are also handy when you might need an extra set of wires on a long route. A really useful addition to your rack. Details on Superlight Rocks is available here.
There is really very little to choose between DMM Wallnuts and Rocks. Wallnuts are well designed, superbly made and brilliant to use. They are also available anodised in the same colours for each size as Rocks.
Wallnuts have a more shaped face profile that sometimes means they place better than Rocks. Of course, at other times Rocks place better. The main faces of Wallnuts are slightly spilt in two due to the central recess scoop. This can make them a little trickier to remove than the uniform curve of Rocks. On the other hand, it does allow them to seat better when only part of the nut is placed in shallow cracks.
You are probably getting the idea that I don’t think there is much to choose between these two brands. I routinely use them both and they both perform brilliantly. If I’m taking 2 sets of wires on a route I take a set of each. This gives me a great variety of placements and allows me to play to the strengths of each design.
If I’m only taking one set I tend to take Wallnuts. No particular reason but I do find I like the placements of these slightly more often than Rocks. They are both great though.
DMM also produce a superlight single stem version called Halfnuts and a range of Offsets. Halfnuts have similar features to Superlight Rocks and are available in 7 sizes. Their Alloy Offsets are designed to protect irregular and flared cracks that repel regular Wallnuts. Again, both models work really well.
Of course, there are lots of other types of nuts on the market. Many of the major manufacturers produce them and they all work well. All I’m doing in identifying Rocks and Wallnuts is to show the ones I use most often.
Every climber has their own nut racking techniques and reasons why it should be done in such and such a way. The truth is that whatever works for you is a good way. If you’re racking nuts efficiently and keep yourself safe, it’s all good. Having said that, here’s my racking system to give you one idea.
If I’m taking one set of wires I rack 1-6 on one crab and 7-10 on another. If I’m taking two sets I replicate this on 2 different carabiners. Some people would rightly argue that this is too many crabs and some would rightly say there are too many sizes on one crab. Oh well, it works for me.
My reasoning is that if I drop carabiner of wires I still have a good range of sizes left. Separating the different types also means I can choose the type and play to their relative strengths.
Choosing racking carabiners
That covers choosing climbing nuts, but what type of carabiner to use to rack them? Again, it is very much a matter of opinion and no method is right or wrong. It is finding a system that works for you. I like a clean nose D carabiner for what it’s worth. The D shape works for me although many climbers prefer an oval shape as the nuts will slide round the curved shape and not get caught up at the bottom. I also like the clean nose design (meaning there isn’t a ‘hook’ where the gate meets the nose). This means the nuts don’t keep getting caught on the hook as you’re trying to get them off. However, on the clean nose style the nuts are more prone to accidentally sliding off. For this reason some climbers like the hook on the gate. There are pros and cons to every choice. The only way to find out what works for you is to experiment for yourself.
You can get extremely small carabiners and these are a tempting choice due to their lightness. It is worth considering how easy the carabiner loaded with nuts will be to hold and manage with one hand. Smaller crabs are also harder to manage if wearing gloves.
If you’ve stuck with my Choosing Climbing Nuts advice this far, it’s time to share my top wire-racking tip. On multipitch climbs it’s handy to be able to get your wires re-racked quickly at the belays. So, all you need to do is to get several colours of electrician’s insulation tape and use a different colour on each set of wires and crab. So, green might mark rocks 1-6 and their respective crab. Red is for rocks 7-10 and their crab. I use this in addition to my normal gear markers designed to show they belong to me.
This system makes it easy to organise your crabs on a multi-pitch stance or when tidying up at the end of the day. All you need to do is rack according to colour rather than trying to search for individual types and sizes. It works really well.
So that’s it. I hope you find this Choosing Climbing Nuts advice useful. For more information on what type of carabiner to choose, our Choosing Carabiners (Part 1) might be useful reading. Also, to learn about the History of Climbing Nuts do have a read of our article here.