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It's obviously true that a piece of gear is only as good as the rock you place it in, but for those of us who have been climbing trad for decades, we know there is often a subtle difference between seemingly similar bits of kit. So which of the current crop of nuts / wires / stoppers did we prefer?
All of the nuts we tested were fit for purpose, all of them wedged in cracks and would hold a fall, but we did find some that fitted in more cracks than others, some that matched well with other brands, some that were strongest, and some that went in easy but were just tough to get out. Below is the full low-down on each product we tested, and then at the base of the article is a quick reference table with a scoring system.
Note: We have used the Wild Country Rocks and DMM Wallnuts as a size/shape reference point when comparing other nuts, as after asking many UK climbers which nut shape they were familiar with, WC Rocks and DMM Wallnuts were the most well known.
Black Diamond are renowned for their excellent quality gear, and their stoppers are no exception. They feel well made, are well finished and look strong and sturdy.
We liked the shape, the normal orientation (curved face touching the rock) seated well, and they gave reassuring placements. When turned sideways they are actually quite a bit wider than most of the other models we tested, which gives a a sort of double sizing option, which is nice but takes some getting used to if you are used to other models, as they don't match up with the other brands. The Stoppers are colour coded for ease of recognition and this works well, but again doesn't match up with the other brands of nuts we tested.
The finish of the metal on the stoppers themselves seemed quite tough, they were damage resistant (obviously the colours get scratched, but deep gouges didn't happen that easily), whilst this may prolong the life of the nuts, it did mean that they didn't 'bite' as well as some of the other models who, we guess, use a slightly softer metal.
When looking at the strength ratings, the larger BD Stoppers were rated at 10kn, and the smallest (size 1) was rated at 2kn. Size 2 and 3 were up to 5kn and the size 4 (which is roughly equivalent to a Wild Country Rock 1) is 6kn. Overall these were quite strong for the size, but a couple of kn off being the strongest in the test.
One thing we did note with the larger sizes of the BD Stoppers is that they seem a little heavy for the wire to hold them upright properly. They aren't unusable in their waggly nature, but are not as firmly upright as we would have liked. The head of the nut does stay firmly at the top of the wire though, even when waggled furiously, which is an essential feature.
Overall we liked the Black Diamond Stoppers, and they would make a good stand-alone set for someone who wants just one set of nuts. They go down pretty damn small (no need for additional micro wires for most climbing) and you get 13 in a set, which is enough for short trad routes for sure. If we were going for the 'double set of wires' approach (often the choice of UK tradsters on long sea cliff and mountain routes) then we might go for another brand so we could have more similar colour and sizing matches.
Strength-wise, the smallest size rated to 4kn (a few kn less than many counterparts of a similar size) and the larger nuts to 10kn, which matches the Black Diamond strength, but is less than some of the other brands.
The Pro Nuts have a very aggressive curvature to them, and we found this meant that they are a little less intuitive to place than some of the other nuts on test, it's almost as if the rear facing side is a little too curved, so the top of the nut is not its widest point. They are also quite narrow depth-wise, meaning when placed sideways they don't seem to have such a confidence giving placement.
On the waggle test, we did find the larger sizes to be a little on the floppy side, but the heads don't slide down the wire, which is good.
Putting any niggles aside, we put the Pro Nuts in cracks, they stayed where they should, and we lobbed off on them, and they held - they do the job they are supposed to do, but perhaps could be refined slightly more. However one of the best features of the CAMP Pro Nuts is the price. They are priced at around £50 per set, and given that they cover quite a range of crack sizes with only 7 sizes of nut, then these slightly cheaper nuts would be suited to climbers on a tight budget, and for many people out there, this is of high consideration.
The shape of the nuts is a curved wedge with parallel sides like BD Stoppers and WC Rocks but, unlike these two, it has a short groove carved in the concave face. This, combined with the slightly less agressive curvature, gives extra secure placements which does make the nuts hard to remove if 'welded' in by a nervous leader. In our testing they performed particularly well in conventional placements although they did scratch up quite quickly.
On the waggle test, the nuts remained solidly pointing upwards and the heads don't slide down the wire, which is good.
These are really good wires that compliment the other better-known wires on the market. They have a slightly different size range to some of the other brands, effectively adding half sizes to exisitng ranges, and making them and excellent compliment to someone who already has a rack. At £70 they are very good value for a set of 11 nuts but for a starter range, you may want to get an additional larger nut than the biggest size 11 and the smallest three sizes are probably too marginal for beginners to consider using.
At £48 for a set of nine wires they are in the lower priced end of the market and fill a niche there. With a tweak to the size of the holes in the nut, or even better a stiffer (thicker?) wire, then they would be a really good lower priced option.
Kouba's take on the much-loved offset wire, the Vector's are very similar in appearance to the DMM Offsets. Kouba make the Vector wires in 5 sizes ranging from a rock / wallnut 4 through to a rock / wallnut 8, the same as DMM.
They unfortunately also suffer under the wiggle test being both slightly floppy and also having the same issue as the Alus in that the nut slips down the wire.
Apart from the unique shape, which actually goes in the rock very well (can be slightly tricky to remove), the other feature of these nuts that sets them aside is the ends of the wire. Instead of looping the wire around the base of the nut, the wires are soldered in to the ends of the nut. They are of a similar strength to other nuts, but what this does give is a very neat finish, and up near the carabiner end it means there is no swage, which means racking these nuts is neater, and takes up slightly less room on your 'biner.
Metolius say that this manufacturing process means the nuts are '30% lighter' than the competition, and whilst we didn't find them to be much different in weight to other high end brands, we did like the neatness. One point is that you can't slide the nut down the wire to loop the end over a bolt head or similar - which is something us dodgy Brits do quite often.
When it came to the waggle test, the Metolius Curve Nuts were nice and stiff, making long reach placements easy to do.
All in all, well put together, top quality nuts that are colour-coded (they don't match other brands) and great to use. The unique shape is good, and fits in a lot of placements. Worth a look as an alternative to the usual rack, but they are expensive.
Wild Country Rocks
Wild Country Rocks have long been a staple in the diet of the UK based trad climber. A simple curved shape that has been tweaked over the last couple of decades, colour-coded nuts that match the DMM Wallnuts in size and colour, and high strength ratings (10kn for size 2 upwards, 7kn for a size 1) have ensured their popularity.
Available in sizes 1 through to a whopping 14, most climbers we know that use them carry a set from size 1-10, but for winter climbers or those who like big nuts(!) the larger sizes are a good addition and a cheaper alternative to camming devices for those on a tight budget.
The wire stiffness is good, they passed all the waggle tests and stand up nice and straight.
One thing about these nuts is that the colours actually match up to their equivilent size in the Wild Country Friends, which is a nice touch.
Overall, these were some of the best nuts we tested for shape, ease of use and strength, we liked them a lot.
Wild Country Superlight Rocks
This means that the head of the nut is very slim, and will fit in places that other nuts won't.
These wires aren't quite a strong as the normal Rocks (4 or 6kn depending on size), so they are more akin to micro wires than normal wires in terms of strength, however it is their placement versatility that shines through.
Available is 6 sizes, these Superlights are a brilliant addition to a standard set of Rocks, but not really used as a stand alone product.
NOTE: Additionally, Wild Country are launching their new Superlight Offset Rocks in 2015. We hope to have some on test before they hit the shops.
|Price||Coloured?||Strength||Ease Of Use||Overall Rating||Summary|
Black Diamond Stoppers
Good, well built and come in a range of sizes. Heads on largest pieces a tiny bit heavy for the wire.
CAMP Pro Nuts
A slightly odd shape, but does work in certain cracks. An inexpensive choice.
Climbing Technology Carved Chocks
Excellent good value set that includes some extra small micros.
A brilliant nut, with an excellent shape, can be a bit wiggly to get out. All round very good piece.
DMM Alloy Offsets
Good additions to a standard rack. Can get a bit stuck. Will fit where normal nuts won't.
Strong, simple nuts. Not colour coded,. Very good value. Heads wiggle down the wire which makes them awkward to use.
Again, good value nuts, a good addition to a standard rack, but the heads wiggle down the wire.
Metolius Curve Nuts
Good nuts, unusual shape, but works very well. Well made. Don't match other colour schemes. Head is fixed in place. Expensive.
Wild Country Rocks
Brilliant nuts, the shape works extremely well and they are strong. Match the DMM in colour.
Wild Country Superlight Rocks
A good light weight addition to a rack, these single strand nuts are not as strong as some others, but will fit where nothing else will.
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