Loading Notifications...

How do I build a trad rack?

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
 Bee.C_2006 13 Jan 2021

Hi, I'm looking to start doing trad climbing later this year and I was wondering how to build a proper gear rack. I don't really want to spend hundreds of pounds on it but from what I read elsewhere, I don't think I have a choice...

 beardy mike 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

What have you already got and what experience do you have, and do you climb with aregular partner? Start with quickdraws, maybe 10 and locking biners, 2 HMS and 2-4 offset d, and some slings, 60cm open 2-4 off, and 120cm 2-4 off. Then get 2 sets of nuts on 2-4 racking biners depending on how you like to rack. Then either hexes or cams or both, and those will depend on what you like to climb and how hard. Up to vs you can probably happily climb with just hexes, beyond that cams are faster to place and sometimes more secure. If you have a partner, split the cost by buying individual sections of the rack....

 tspoon1981 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Unfortunately, unless you know a kind old trad climber that will donate a rack, you'll have to spend the money.

Before you commit, I'd look to join a club or find someone to take you out climbing. The basic elements of a climbing rack tend to be universal, but you'll end up liking some bits if kit more than others.

If you look at beardy Mike's list it will give you a good starting point. But the kit you use will evolve as you climb more. Personally I wouldn't use hexes in summer at all, winters another story, but other people love them. I really like rabbit runners, one of my partners hates them. 

 tjdodd 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Having just done exactly this I can sympathise as it’s quite a daunting prospect financially.

 Borrowing/sharing kit would have been an option at a time when you were allowed near folk but that’s much harder at the moment of course.

 We started off trying to be ‘cheap’ buying secondhand with a view to refurbing/reslinging cams etc till it was pointed out that most bits of trad kit can end up being safety critical in the right/wrong situation so cutting corners could have serious consequences. Also with care they can last a long time so the return on investment is high as it were.

 Having said that we did find some good deals on brand new kit on eBay especially if you can wait for exactly what you want and can buy sets rather than individual pieces.

 The links to various ‘starter’ lists are useful but it does seem to vary a wee bit depending where/on what you climb. Eg for us in Scotland we are placing small/micro cams a lot more than larger ones so far, and see very few horizontal breaks or pockets that would suit tri-cams etc

I guess that’s where getting local advice can really help.

 Hope that helps.

 waitout 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Start with a big wall rack and soon you will have lost enough through mates pilfering, dropping, leaving behind & damage to be down to a trad rack made of all the bits you and your mates never use. Good to go.

In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Don't fall for the old "hexes instead of cams" line. Unless you live in Cornwall you'll just end up buying cams when you realise you've wasted your money. 

 raussmf 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

I started off with 3 WC friends (£140)

and 1-8 WC rocks (£50ish?)

I had quickdraws etc already but thsi was enough to get me up a few single pitch routes especially when combined with my mates.

 Cake 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

You are in Sheffield, so you will probably start on grit for while, right? This is good, because you will need less kit as the routes are short. Here are some ideas:


One set of nuts. 8 quickdraws. One or two 60 cm slings required. For a large number of anchors, you will want a big sling to go round a boulder at the top, but the rope can be arranged to do it often. Green, red and gold cams are very useful (expensive bit, but don't bother with hexes on grit). Also, a bunch of screwgate carabiners. This small rack would get you up a very large number of classic routes up to about 15 metres (all the routes at Burbage, for example).

All this will get you a good way to a full rack for other rock types too, and hopefully you can assume that your partner will have some to contribute there too.

In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Put a post on here asking if anyone’s got any old gear lying around that they’re willing to part with. 

It won’t be shiny, but if it’s not being used then most climbers would rather help someone get started than have it sitting in a bag. You might even find a partner to take you through an apprenticeship.

 nniff 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Lesson No 1 - you do not need something to fit in everything.

British rock generally has a wealth of features that accommodate gear - whilst a feature might obviously take a large cam, a small wire might also go in nearby.

A set of wires, a few cams, some quick draws and a couple of slings will do you for a while.  

 mrmann007 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

You also don’t have to buy it all at once to help spread the cost, especially if you are looking to start later on in the year. 

I have to travel to London for work every so often and our office is near a costswold outdoors. So every time I went up I would pick up a piece of gear like a carabiner or a sling. That way it didn’t feel like it was hitting my wallet quite so hard.

 Andy Hardy 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Assuming your profile is up to date, are there any jobs going in your area? (I know it's tough atm) but you're going to require money.

I would then get stuff over a period of time, rather than in one hit. In order, and assuming you have boots, harness, belay plate/HMS, and chalkbag

  1. Nutkey + crab
  2. Slings 2x4', 1x8' plus screwgates
  3. Quickdraws 
  4. Set of nuts
  5. #2 cam
  6. #1 cam
  7. #3 cam

But don't buy it all at once. Look for deals and check out DMM cosmetic seconds

 SteveX 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Bit by bit.
I would suggest you do not buy Cams at first, just Nuts and a nut key, and learn how to place them. An issue with using cams is they can make you lazy when about placing nuts.


In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Good morning to you, 

What a great project to be starting. A few years ago I was in the same position. I was lucky enough that my much more experienced (and much better) climbing partner and friend was able to give me some advice.  

I would like to caveat the list below though by saying that I was lucky enough to climb with someone who was able to explain to me WHY they suggested these particular bits of kit, as well as how this gear might match my current climbing as well as my future climbing ambitions.

This was really important and helpful to me as it enabled me to develop a better general understanding of the gear that I would be using, as well as giving me space to think about where I would like my climbing to lead.  

I'm sure that people would be more than willing to explain to you why they use what they do, perhaps when things are looking a bit brighter and climbing can resume you will have to opportunity to try different bits of kit and make up your own mind. 

Anyway, I've listed below what I purchased, of course, it is a personal thing and of course subject to budget. 
I'm assuming belay plate and carabiner. 

- Quickdraw (6 pack) 
- Nuts (size 1-11) 1.5 set 
- 4 HMS carabiners 
- 2 x 120cm slings 
- 3 x oval carabiners (for racking wires) 
- 3 x Rockcentrics/hexes (I forget which sizes) 

I hope that this helps.

Post edited at 09:28
 gravy 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

That's not entirely true.

I use them all the time in the Peak despite having ample cams and there is simply nothing more reassuring than a well placed hex.

I often leave the larger ones on the ground though unless I think I'll need them - exactly the same decision making goes for the cams I carry.

 MischaHY 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

I think the only thing I bought new when building my first rack was quickdraws, slings and wires - the rest I got from ebay either 'new' or lightly used. I consistently found the older generation of Friends available new for really low prices, and even found a set of 3 helium cams new for £75. After some time I ended up with doubles or triples in most sizes up to no.4 and probably spent around £200 total. After a few years when I moved to Germany and started putting together a newer rack I advertised these not expecting much and was immediately offered 500€ for 16 cams that had seen some good use 🥵 Turns out trad gear doesn't come on the second hand market in Germany very often. 

With this in mind I really recommend taking your time and putting the rack together slowly. I managed to lead 20m routes up to E2 on just my original 7 quickdraws and single set of wires so it's not like you can't do a lot with little kit. 

 GrahamD 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

I guess you have already noticed that what constitutes an ideal rack is personal.

If you already have shoes, a harness, a belay device, a rope and a few quick draws (that is a minimal sport climbing rack), there is a lot you can climb in the peak with just a set of wires.

If you are trad climbing, presumably you must be climbing with someone.  If so its normal to talk it through with them and start with bits of gear that complement what they have.  My first piece of gear was a pair of cams for that reason

 PaulJepson 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

It really depends on what rock you're going to be climbing. For grit I mostly place cams but on limestone you can often go several pitches without placing any. 

What you definitely need either way is: 

Nuts 1-10

Nut key, belay device & HMS, 2 small locking krabs, 1 locking krab that will take a couple of clove hitches (e.g. DMM Phantom HMS, Petzl Attache are popular models) 

5 quickdraws (grit)/ 10 quickdraws (limestone). I wouldn't bother with any short 'sport-style' draws, these are no good for trad. A mix of 18cm and 25cm will be fine for grit, you will want some extendable 'alpine' draws if you are climbing limestone (https://www.epictv.com/article/climbing/how-make-alpine-quickdraw). You want 8mm 60cm dyneema slings for these. These are important for extending gear when it's a bit off route and for threads, tying off pegs and trees/roots, etc. 

Selection of slings - 120cm sling (x2 for limestone), 60cm sling (not necessary if you have extendable 60cm quickdraws as above) and I like to carry a 240cm, though this isn't essential and lots of people don't. For grit I like to carry a fat nylon 240cm sling for chucking round boulders at the top. Just makes life a bit easier than trying to measure out the right amount of rope to run around with and less likely to get stuck than skinny dyneema. For limestone I like a 240cm dyneema sling for anchor equalising (easier to deal with than bulky nylon and less faff to carry). 

For grit I would get 0.75, 1, 2, 3 cams (or equivalent non-black diamond sizes) to start. For limestone I would get offset nuts and hexes instead. Hexes can be picked up quite cheap on ebay and cheaply rethreaded with cord, if you're on a tight budget. Now isn't really the time, as people are after them for winter racks but come the spring they tend to be forgotten about so you can find bargains. 

Metalwork you can often pick up quite cheap secondhand. I would suggest buying anything soft new (you can often get cams re-slung by the manufacturer but check first if this will actually save you anything vs buying them new). Quickdraw slings and your longer slings I would never say are worth getting secondhand. 

You tend to pay a premium for the manufacturers that are in fashion. You will pay a lot more for Petzl and Dmm kit than you would for the equivalent Ocun or Camp yet there is very little functional difference between a DMM Phantom (£9) and an Ocun Kestrel (£5) for example.   

 C Witter 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

From your profile, it looks like you're still a teenager? Well, youf, things are on your side. Look out for opportunties to do stuff cheap because you're a kid, e.g.:

BMC courses: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/climb-outside-how-to-start-rock-climbing-outdoors?s=2

Alps: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/jonathan-conville-memorial-trust-courses

If you go to university, get involved with the mountaineering/climbing club. Most of them have (a lot of) kit to lend and subsidised trips.

There are also loads of climbing clubs and climbing walls often have youth-centred programmes.

Borrowing gear - from friends or clubs - is how most people start. The first gear to buy is personal stuff: shoes, harness, helmet, belay device, a HMS, nutkey and perhaps a 120cm sling.

If you're dead set on gear, think about the sort of routes you're planning to lead/what sort of crags you're likely to visit. A short grit route and a long multipitch route have different requirments. A rope is the most essential thing - unless your partner has one. A set of DMM wallnuts, 8 quickdraws, 3x120cm slings and a green, red and yellow DMM (or equivalent) cam will get you up a lot of shorter/easier routes. Wait for deals and do your research/ask advice.

Many people jump straight into buying fancy, shiny gear, without thinking about all the other far more important things, e.g. who they are going to climb with, where, how they'll get there, and whether they actually know how to use the gear they're buying.

 raussmf 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

I'd like to add that even when feling skint its amazing where money for trad gear magically begins to appear once you get out a couple times. Similar to money for the pub or gigs I really want to go to.

 mrmann007 13 Jan 2021
In reply to raussmf:

And as I haven’t been able to go and spend money at the pub, my rack has somewhat grown.

 stewart murray 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

Buy a set of classic rocks (not colour coded) which are a fair bit cheaper than normal rocks but no difference functionally


When you get to the point where you need a second set then either walnuts (very similar but slightly different shape so may fit certain placements better) or super light offset rocks - basically a rock cut in half so lighter and again, having a different profile, may fit a different range of placements.

 MattL80 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

I started climbing through a club so there were always people to borrow off, but that aside, I'd say priority should be

1) Nut key (even if you're just seconding, they won't forgive you if you can't get their gear back)

2) Slings and screwgates (again, even if just following, you need to be able to make yourself safe at belays etc. ideally without borrowing gear). Slings are also very versatile/useful as protection during a lead (including for extending etc.) so given their relative cheapness, they're worth invesing in

3) Quickdraws - mainly because if you want to do sport too, they will allow this. Eventually you'll end up with sport draws and trad draws, but during the early days you can get away with one set. I live on the south coast when I first started I assumed I'd do more sport than trad (being closest to Portland/Swanage etc.) so bought sport draws first - that wasn't the case - ended up doing more trad, but for the first year or so used my 'sport' draws for trad - there's little difference apart from the weight, and over time you can replace with more trad/sport focused ones

4) Full set of nuts. If you're climbing with others who have a rack, you'll almost certainly be borrowing certain things until you've got a full rack. Cams/bigger gear e.g. hexes are expensive, and on a lot of climbs won't be unused. Nuts are (imo) the most versatile and relatively cheapest gear you can buy, so if you want to get into using 'your own rack', they're a good place to start

5) Set of hexes (when you can find them on offer cheapish), or a couple of cams (again, when you can find them at a good price).

6) More cams. I now have cams covering more or less the full size range that you'd require (without getting into horrible wide offwidth territory), but they're a complete mixture of different brands, due to buying one or two at a time when they're on offer. Build it up over time, it doesn't matter if they're all different types.

Generally though, climb with people you can borrow/steal gear from during the early days, and compliment your developing rack with other people's gear where you can, until you have everything you need. Then start thinking about buying your own ropes...

 JefB 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

You can get wires and cams second hand on the Facebook gear exchange sites. Personally I wouldn't buy anything where you cannot replace the tapes and fabric parts, as you don't know their age and if the have been abused. Metal gear such as wires,cams, and Krabs are a  safe bet though.

 mutt 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

My advice based on recent experience is to pair up with a strong climbers and climb some of the swanage classics e2's. Take a nut key,a very large hex (old ones are better) and spend some time extracting abandoned gear. It's likely that you will get at least two wires and a cam on each route. It probably works well on other sea cliffs where abbing for gear is a bit tricky. Boulder ruckle and guillemot at littered with stuck gear. Once upon a time  I took a double set of wires out of heidelberg creature but that was an exception. You'll be doing us all a favour but do learn how to abseil safely and stay covid safe.

 BuzyG 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

An great Topic.

I have been slowly. Building a modern rack for the past 18 months.  I'm interested why.  A helmet, harness,  belay device are not listed. Guess it depends on your start point.

I have come from bouldering, so all were required. Before I could even top rope out doors.

Throughout this period I have done a number of UKC ready to rock courses.  Great value for money and thoroughly recommended.  Choosing and placing gear is part of the course.

Next phase was prussic, nut key, three carabiners and short sling, meaning I could then second trad climbs and abseil safely. (if there is such a thing)

Next I bought a rope. plus a selection of slings and carabiners. Specifically ready to second a climb up Bossiney (Commando) Ridge, last summer. That was fun.

Latest phase was a DMM wall nut set 1 to 11. My Christmas present to myself.  Next will be a selection of Quick draws and I'm ready for Cornish Granite this summer.

The Cams can wait until I have led some more and get a feel for what I use from my partners set.

Hope that helps. Enjoy the journey I know I am.

 C Witter 15 Jan 2021
In reply to stewart murray:

> Buy a set of classic rocks (not colour coded) which are a fair bit cheaper than normal rocks but no difference functionally

I think these are square rather than tapered on the sideways placement profile. I find that makes them a lot trickier to seat well in some placements and they generally give less options than wallnuts or even the "anodised" rocks. Looking at various sets, there are a couple of small differences that aren't flagged up in the product description.

Of course, they're still completely useable. But, I'd prefer a nearly new set of Wallnuts off ebay for £30 than a set of these so-called classic rocks.

 GrahamD 15 Jan 2021
In reply to C Witter:

I don't think the unanodised rocks I have are square sided.

 AndyMusgrove 15 Jan 2021
In reply to C Witter:

The Classic Rocks were my one of my first purchases when I started building my rack up about 10 years ago and they were/are tapered on all profiles, so I'd be surprised if they have squared them off now. 

I used to climb with someone who had a full rack, but found it useful to take these when bouldering and just spend a bit of time practicing placing them at low level at the end of the day (although you can do that with the Wallnuts too, which i then added to the collection).

Post edited at 09:49
 PaulJepson 15 Jan 2021
In reply to C Witter:

> I think these are square rather than tapered on the sideways placement profile. I find that makes them a lot trickier to seat well in some placements and they generally give less options than wallnuts or even the "anodised" rocks. Looking at various sets, there are a couple of small differences that aren't flagged up in the product description.

That is false. I think the only difference to normal rocks is that they are all silver and slightly heavier. The profile is identical. 

I started with WC classic rocks and I got on fine with them not being coloured as you get used to eye-balling a crack size and matching it with the corresponding nut size. The problem comes in when you start to use coloured nuts because then you start to associate sizes with colours and once that is learned, it is a lot harder to unlearn. 

Rocks vs Wallnuts is personal preference and also depends on rock type. The profiles are very similar in the smaller sizes but get quite different towards the larger end of the scale (rocks are long and thin where wallnuts get fatter). While I think wallnuts are better for all-round climbing, I find the simpler profile of rocks better on the rounded grit. 

 C Witter 15 Jan 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

It isn't simply "false" so don't make such blanket statements - especially if you're going to follow it with "I think...", because it's quite frustrating talking to people who deny a basic and observable reality, especially if they only do so to supplant it with their opinion.

The unanodised classic rocks I have, if you look at them from "above" have 90' angles on all corners and no taper between the curved sides when placed "sideways" (i.e. not with the curved faces into the rock). Apologies that it's quite hard to describe without an agreed lexicon!

Some of the bigger rocks are square or almost so; the smaller ones are rectangular viewed from above. I've actually got anodised Rocks that are also slightly different to both the unanodised Rocks and to each other - most notably, in that the corners of some have been rounded and some haven't. They've either used slightly different moulds at various points, or else decided to skip some part of the process.

If you look at the photo on Rock + Run, I'm pretty sure you can actually see what I'm talking about (https://rockrun.com/products/wild-country-classic-rock-set).

Of course, none of this affects an ideal placement, but I think they're harder to seat at times - especially if placed "sideways". So, I prefer the more expensive anodised rocks over the "classic" ones - not because of the colour, but because of the nut shape.

Also, the colours don't affect your ability to eyeball a placement or to use unanodised rocks. That's just an excuse for either failing to eyeball a placement or for feeling superior about having bought cheaper gear.

Post edited at 11:00
 PaulJepson 15 Jan 2021
In reply to C Witter:

I have Classic Rocks. You're either describing what you are trying to say badly or you're incorrect. Are you saying when placed wide-ways they are rectangle? As in the width of the nut at the top is the same as at the bottom? This isn't true. 

They are tapered for much of a muchness the same as the anodised rocks:



I said 'I think' in relation to any other differences between them (because I'm not sure if the ratings are identical throughout). I know for a fact that they aren't rectangles in any placement orientation. 

 C Witter 15 Jan 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

Yes, I also have Classic Rocks. I'm perhaps describing it badly - but it's not easy to describe. So... let's not go saying "this isn't true" when it's more a case of "you're not describing this clearly enough".

When placed width ways, yes it tapers from top to bottom. But, it doesn't taper from front to back. I.e. the no.8 -4 in that Olympus link you posted of anodised rocks: the side facing us is narrower than the side on the desk. The 3 - 1, the side facing is wider than the one facing the desk.

In other words, my anodised rocks taper in more ways than my classic rocks.

Post edited at 11:22
 PaulJepson 15 Jan 2021
In reply to C Witter:

Ah I see what you are saying now, I should have re-read your post this morning. I have a couple of anodised rocks in the larger size and they do slightly taper front-to-back in a side-on placement. I thought you meant top-top-bottom in a side-on placement. I can't say I've ever noticed a difference when placing them. 

 C Witter 15 Jan 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

Phew! ;) Sorry to labour such a small detail. The last nut I placed was an unanodised rock and the bugger wouldn't seat well, even though I felt really sure it should have. It made me look at it carefully and I still have a grudge against it, obviously! :D

 jkarran 15 Jan 2021
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

> Hi, I'm looking to start doing trad climbing later this year and I was wondering how to build a proper gear rack. I don't really want to spend hundreds of pounds on it but from what I read elsewhere, I don't think I have a choice...

If you're buying new and need to be the one in a partnership providing the kit then it does add up.

What have you already got? Where are you based and planning to climb? What are your realistic year one grade aspirations? Will you be climbing with experienced climbers supplementing their gear or do you expect to have to provide it all?


 tallsteve 12:07 Tue
In reply to Bee.C_2006:

If you're on a budget check this stuff on Amazon.  I have a fab set of Kouba cams (my first full cam set in 30 years of climbing!).  Superb and way cheaper than the competition and manufactured in the EU:

The seller is UK based near Oxford https://www.amazon.co.uk/sp?_encoding=UTF8&seller=A14YS03ZSZ38BP

I only had 2 cams for years, you can start with just nuts and tapes and quick draws to save the pennies.  The allu Kouba nuts on the above link look like walnut lookalikes and if they're as good quality as the cams you can't go wrong.  I also bought second hand nuts when I started.  Check the wires aren't frayed, rusted or kinked.  Avoid second hand rope and check second hand cams carefully for wear and tear.  Get the medium size cam, and choose cams that cover a wide crack range.

Clip gates are cheapest when bought as 5 quick draws, look for offers they vary massively in price and avoid the fancy stuff for now.  Wire gates are the lightest, but not by much.  You'll need more screw gates than you think for belays and general safety on the rock.  5 minimum.

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.