Buying A Rack Of Climbing Gear

The following article was first published on UKC in 2008 and has been revamped for 2011. It is based on text from the book Trad CLIMBING + published by Rockfax. This article version was written by Adrian Berry and Alan James.

A 'rack' is just a term for a collection of climbing equipment that makes climbing possible with some degree of safety. The items that make up a rack, and quantities needed, are very much determined by the style of climbs being attempted. Long, well-protected face climbs may need several sets of wires, lots of quickdraws and a few cams, whereas short gritstone routes can be protected by a few cams and a handful of wires. The aim is to have enough gear to never have to climb past a useful placement, but not so much that the weight of it is excessive.

A rack of gear
© Rockfax

To give an idea of how racks vary, here are some examples:

Seconding only

Harness - £35 to £60
Helmet - £45 to £60
Shoes - £25 to £80
Chalk bag - £6 to £20
Belay device - £10 to £20
Pear-shaped screw-gate - £10
Nut key and karabiner - £6 and £4
Prusik loops with screw-gate karabiner - £4 and £10

TOTAL - £141 to £264

Leading short pitches (20m or less)

All the above, plus:
5 x Short quickdraws - £40 to £90
5 x Long quickdraws - £50 to £90
2 x 120cm sling - £16 to £20
3 x Cams (1 - 3.5 Friend or equivalents) - £30 to £90
1 x Set of wires (1 - 10) - £65 to £80
4 x Hexes or very large wires (10+) - £15 to £25
2 x Screw-gate karabiners - £20
10 x Extra karabiners - £40 to £60

TOTAL - £276 (£417) to £475 (£739)

Leading long pitches (20 - 60m)

All the above, plus:
5 x Short quickdraws - £40 to £90
2 x Long quickdraws - £20 to £40
1 x Set of wires (1 - 10) - £65 to £80
3 x Cams (different sizes to first set) - £30 to £90

TOTAL - £155 (£572) to £300 (£1039)

For high grade routes (E1 and above)

As above, but add:
2 x Micro-cams (0 and 0.5 or equivalents) - £40 to £60
3 x Cams (duplicate mid sizes) - £30 to £90
1 x Set of microwires - £50 to £60

TOTAL - £120 (£692) to £210 (£1249)

Cost - As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap gear will not last as long and may not perform exactly as you want it to when in a position of extremis although all gear should have passed the relevant safety performance tests (be wary of ultra-cheap cams bought from Eastern European web sites though).

Second-hand gear - You should always be wary of buying second hand versions of anything you have to trust your life to. With climbing gear it is often essential to know the history of items like ropes - has it been used to tow a car, or stored in direct sunlight for 6 months? With other items it is less critical since most of the metal items like krabs and wires will show their wear. In general steer clear of buying second-hand soft gear like slings, ropes and harnesses.

Ropes - It is usual in trad climbing to use a pair of half ropes, and for each partner to supply one rope, though for routes under 25m, a single 50m half rope can simply be doubled-up. The price of a rope hasn't been included in the calculation below but you can expect to pay around £50 to £100 for a 60m half rope.

For more info on ropes read this: UKC Ropes Article

A rack of gear at Indian Creek, USA  © Jack Geldard
A rack of gear at Indian Creek, USA
© Jack Geldard


The Rockfax book Trad CLIMBING + covers all aspects of trad climbing from your very first route to the techniques required for serious leads and long multi-pitch expeditions. It has chapters on gear, protection and ropework, as well as more advanced aspects like tactics and the mind.

More information