Our Selecting Protection Sizes tip shares a simple idea to help trad climbers select the right size protection piece for a particular placement. We hope you find it useful.
Trad leaders need to place protection, but the quicker and more efficiently you can do it the safer you will be and the more energy you’ll save. You’ll also enjoy your climbing more as no one wants to spend ages fiddling about with endless gear options.
That all said, it can be hard for newer leaders to efficiently judge the size they will need. You try a cam and it is too small. The next one you try is too big. Eventually the one you needed all along was the size in the middle! At worst it drains your energy and puts you in a vulnerable position for longer. At the least you’ve just spent five minutes on a job that could have taken two.
Over time you’ll get an eye for what size you need, but even then this simple tip can help make first time placements more likely. We’ve been placing protection for many years and yet still find it useful.
So, this tip is to work out what protection piece you need by using your body as a size guide. Depending on the crack size, simply use your arm, hand or finger as a size guide. It won’t work for every size placement such as small nuts, but you’ll be surprised how often it will help. We’ve shared a few common sizes that work for us below, but of course everyone has different size limbs. The trick is to work out what sizes match your own fingers or hands.\
Once you know the sizes, on lead you can place your limb into the crack first and then make your decision. You will then reach for that piece from your harness in the knowledge it will be the right size for the job. Sizing the placement before grabbing the piece may take a few extra seconds, but it is time well spent in the long run. It is certainly quicker than several reaches to you harness to try different sizes.
We really hope you find this Selecting Protection Sizes tip useful. Please check out our other climbing top tips. For example, there is one about equalising slings here and rope management at stances here.