Climbing Ultimate gear guide

The Ultimate Climbing Gear Guide – Protection


We will be talking about the three main types of protection today, Cams, Nuts and Hexes.


Nuts, also called wires or chocks. Nuts are basically blocks of metal (aluminium alloy) on the end of a wire. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit into cracks and gaps in the rock, they have also now expanded into several different types of nuts.

Generally a standard set of nuts (1-11) ranges from just under 7mm all the way up to near 4cm big. They normally have one concave side and one convex side to allow for a solid three points of action and create lots of friction on the rock, although design changes dramatically between manufactures as show in the pictures below.

Climbing Nuts


Offsets such as the DMM Offset allow for even more placement opportunity because they are tapered so that they are thinner on one side. This makes them fit ino the more common cracks that get thinner as they get deeper, allowing for better contact and greater friction.

Offset Nuts


Micronuts are essential for harder climbs where gear placements are sparse and nothing else will fit. They are basically just small nuts starting from a tiny 3.2mm depth. Micronuts are weaker than standard nuts because of their size. They are often made from copper or brass and the wire that you clip into is soldered onto the head.

Micro Nuts


Hexes are basically just big lumps of metal on the end of a sling that you can just bang into a large crack or gap for a bomber (very good) placement.

Climbing Hex


Cams are spring loaded devices that expand and contract via a trigger to fit the gap you are putting them in. Upon release of the trigger they expand to fill the gap and the more weight that is put onto them, the more they push outwards creating friction on the rock, they are also very simple to get out in most cases.

Cam Climbing

They come in many different designs that have changed very much over the years. Most cams nowadays have a flexible stem (for horizontal placements), and have three or four ‘cams’ on them. Cams are unfortunately very expensive though so they are a bit of an investment but on some climbs(usually on certain types of rock they are the only bits of gear that will stay in the rock.

So what do you recommend?

For a basic set of nuts I would recommend The Wild country Rocks because they are cheap and practical, if you have a bit more cash to spend then the DMM nuts are a great buy because they do just tend to fit into the rock a bit better than the more simple design of the Wild Country’s. DMM offsets are an amazing buy if you have the money, they just fit everywhere. Micronuts are generally only needed on harder climbs and these tiny things are the only thing you can use, so unless you are climbing hard and are in need of them then I would leave them. A set of hexes are another vital buy because they just provide bomber protection, if you get one of these in then you  are happy as Larry, I would say either the DMM’s or the Wild countries are great, its the same as the nuts, the DMMS are more expensive but they sometimes tend to fit better and the Wild Country’s are cheaper but still very good.. Cams are great but expensive, If you can afford them then great. I personally love the DMM 4CU’s because they are a good price and I love the trigger action. The Dragon Cams and the Helium Cams are great also but more expensive, I believe that cams are more of a personal preference, they all work but I prefer to use the double stem on the 4CU’s as I just find it easier to use.

I hope this guide was helpful and If you have any questions then let us know in the comments…

Climbing Ultimate gear guide

The Ultimate Climbing Gear Guide – Ropes

The ropes we use nowadays are called Kernmantel ropes. Kernmantel ropes were invented around the 1950’s, the ropes are made up of two layers, a core and a sheath, the core provides the strength and elasticity of the rope and the sheath provides protection to the core. The core is made of nylon filaments which are spun together to make a strong yarn, the yarns are then coated with a protective layer. Around four to six yarns are combined to make braids that are twisted to create the core of the rope.

Types of ropes

Single ropes are the most common, they are marked with a 1 in a circle. They are generally around 9.4-11mm thick. They are most useful for pretty much any type of roped climbing and the only main disadvantages are if you are trad (placing protection yourself) climbing and the route is a bit all over the place then the rope going from side to side causes a lot of rope drag. The other thing is for abseiling, you can only abseil a distance of half the length of your rope (thats if you want your rope back!).

Single Rope

Half ropes are very common in winter climbing, trad climbing and multi-pitch routes. They are marked with ½ inside a circle and are about 8-9mm in thickness.  They allow for two separate ropes to be used on one climb, so you can clip one rope into runners on the right hand side and the other rope into runners on the left, this significantly reduces rope drag on zigzagging climbs. The other advantage is if you tie the two ropes together you can abseil twice the distance as one single rope. Two half ropes are bulkier and heavier than one single rope though.

Half Rope

Twin ropes are less popular but used often in winter climbing. They are marked with two overlapping circles inside a circle and are generally around 7.5-8.5mm thick. They must be clipped in to each runner together so they cannot be used to reduce rope drag but two twin ropes can be almost as light as one single rope. They can also be tied together for abseiling.

Twin Rope

Confidence ropes are just walking ropes really, they are much thinner and weaker and are marked with a 0 inside a circle. They are great for walking use as they are small and light. Never to be used for lead climbing

Confidence Rope

Static or low-stretch ropes are perfect for applications where stretch in the rope is not desirable such as abseiling and often rigging bottom ropes and for tyrolean traverses. Should never be used for lead climbing.

Static Rope

How long should my rope be?

This depends o what you are doing. For most UK single pitch climbing you can get away with a 50 metre rope but for  many bolted routes in the UK and around the world, and even lots of indoor climbing centres. You will need a 60 metre or above. Generally 60meters will cover you for most situations and unless you are going somewhere where you know you will need longer, that is what I would go for.

How long will my rope last

That is difficult to say and depends on a number of factors, if you are unsure of the safety of your rope then you should consult a professional or just ditch it. A rough lifespan and guide for when to ditch your rope is below (source: Mammut Ropes).

Frequency of User Approximate Life Span
Never used 10 years maximum
Rarely used: twice per year up to 7 years
Occasionally used: once per month up to 5 years
Regularly used: several times per month up to 3 years
Frequently used: each week up to 1 year
Constantly used: almost daily less than 1 year

Independent of frequency of use, a rope should be disposed of if:

  1. The rope came in contact with chemicals, particularly acids.
  2. The sheath is damaged and the core is visible.
  3. The sheath is extremely worn, or particularly fuzzy.
  4. The sheath has slipped noticeably.
  5. Strong deformations are present (stiffness, nicks, sponginess).
  6. The rope was subjected to extreme loads (e.g. heavy falls, clearly over fall factor 1).
  7. The rope is extremely dirty (grease, oil, tar).
  8. Heat, abrasion, or friction burns have caused damage.

This is only a guide about ropes in general, it is not intended to teach you how to use ropes safely, always consult manufacturers guidelines. Pictures from Mammut Ropes.

Climbing Ultimate gear guide

The Ultimate Climbing Gear Guide – Belay Devices

Belay devices are mechanical bits of equipment that enable belayers to hold a fall with minimal effort, so with the right device a smaller climber can safely hold a much bigger climbers fall safely. There are many types of belay devices around today and they all work on the same basic principle, they introduce friction into the system when needed to prevent more rope from being paid out to the climber, thus stopping them from hitting the ground.

The traditional stitch or through devices

These (pictured below) are the most simple of devices that just put a bend in the rope to create friction. Friction is by adding another bend into the on the way out of the device to hold a fall.

Black Diamond ATC

Advantages are that they are very light and can be used for many things like absailing. Disadvantages though is that they require a little bit of getting used to, to use safely and they don’t produce as much friction as other devices making it potentially harder to hold a fall.

Assisted locking devices

These work the same way as the traditional devices and look fairly similar, the difference is that they have ‘teeth’ on the device to create more friction on the rope and the system.

Wild Country VC PRO II

So the advantages of this is that it is even easier to hold a fall, it is still fairly light and also most can be used with the rope going the other way to make it into essentially a traditional device to reduce friction (sometimes useful for abseiling)(always check the devices manual).  The disadvantages are the same however, it requires getting used to the device and a great deal of supervision is needed when first learning to use the device.


Multi function devices

These devices are similar to the assisted locking devices except they have another feature added on, They can be used as ‘magic plates’ (don’t worry if you don’t know what that is, it is a slightly more advanced technique that can be used in certain situations). So these devices provide the ultimate in versatility, being able to do pretty much anything you could want them to do.

Petzl Reverso 3



Semi automatic devices

These devices are the easiest to use as they theoretically lock automatically when the rope is pulled sharply tight (like when a climber falls). Now this is a good thing because it further reduces the amount of effort required to hold a fall (creating less chance of the climber being dropped) BUT it also carries a false sense of security. Because it ‘locks automatically’ it is often wrongly believed to be completely safe and that you don’t need to hold onto the rope, this would be nice but as with everything mechanical, it is not 100% fool proof. Therefore care should be taken and the capabilities of the device should not be taken for granted.

That being said I think that devices like the Petzl GriGri (below) are great devices for beginners and groups to use.

Petzl Grigri 2


The Figure of 8 is primarily an abseil device but it can be used for belaying very effectively also.

Black Diamond Super 8


So I hope you now know more about all the Belay devices out there so you can make a decision on what you need to do what you want.

What do you recommend?

Gri Gri

Wildcountry ATC PRO


This is not a tutorial on how to belay, simply a tutorial on the many different types if devices out there and what they are good for, Stay tuned for a belaying tutorial in the near future by following us on facebook, twitter, email, or google…or RSS

Climbing Ultimate gear guide

The Ultimate Climbing Gear Guide – Slings/Webbing

What Are Slings?

Slings, Known in the USA as Webbing, are one of the most versatile and useful things in your climbing rack. They are basically a loop of extremely strong tape. They are made from either Dyneema or Nylon.

Nylon SlingDyneema Sling

Dyneema Slings vs Nylon Slings

Dyneema Slings, sometimes called Spectra slings, are made from Polyethylene.  They are rated normally at 22kn which is approximately 2.2 tons of force so they are very strong. In fact Dyneema has a strength to weight ratio higher than steel.

Nylon slings are made from polyamide. They are generally rated around the same strength of 22kn but it is heavier.

Dyneema Slings are almost completely static so they pretty much don’t stretch at all, this is both good and bad as we will explore later in the article. Whereas Nylon slings have just a little stretch in them, not so much that you would notice much if you pulled on both ends but when you put a force on it, the difference is apparent.

Dyneema Slings also have a significantly higher resistance to cutting(more durable on sharp rocks), and lower water absorption (important in winter and british weather), making it an ideal material for slings and quickdraws. It is also less venerable to ultra-violet rays and chemical attack than nylon.

So Why Use Nylon?

Nylon slings have a much higher melting point than Dyneema with Nylon being 245 degrees C and Dyneema being a mere 110 degrees C. This is important when you think about the uses of the sling. For instance if you were abseiling off a Dyneema sling then the heat generated by pulling the rope back through could be enough to cut through it(so don’t do that!). Also by tying a knot in it can weaken it because if you were fall on it then the heat generated by the knot tightening could break the sling. And another thing is that because Nylon is slightly stretchy, it can absorb impacts better so if you were to fall on it you would generate less force on you and your anchors, and have less chance of breaking.

This last Paragraph has basically been a summary of a report published by DMM which displays all these findings and explains why it happens, you can view the full report here

So which should I use?

That is a decision you should make for yourself depending on what you are using the slings for. Using the information above you should be able to make an informed decision, basically though the question you need to ask is will you be creating lots of friction (i.e. heat) on the sling that could damage a Dyneema sling. If not then Dyneema is generally a good option.


A quick note about buying slings is the difference in the way people describe the sling. A lot of climbers still refer to the size of slings in ‘old money’ so 4ft, 8ft and 16ft slings which is the length of the actual sling all the way round. More recently though slings are measured, for one in centre metres and also they measure the closed length of the sling. So a 4ft sling in old money is a 60cm sling in new money. This can be confusing if you are used to one way of describing slings, I know I have been caught out buying the wrong size slings online!

Any other things?

You can also get what are commonly referred to as ‘daisy chains’ , these are slings that are sewn every couple of inches so that you can clip into any part of it to effectively make the sling longer or shorter without having to tie knots or anything. Very useful on stances.

I nice fact is that you will notice on most slings that it is sewn together with about 8 or 9 bands of thread, in actual fact, you only need one or two of these bands to be as strong but because it looks stronger with more bands, its sells better!

Daisy Chain

If you have any questions or comments, let us know in the comments…

You should check manufacturers guidelines for strengths and important facts before using any product, this is only intended as a guide.


Climbing Ultimate gear guide

The Ultimate Climbing Gear Guide – Understanding Forces

I don’t need a physics degree to climb do I?

No but understanding the forces involved with climbing is very important. It is important for understanding the equipment we are using so we know when to use what, It is also important to be able to understand the technical manuals that come with your equipment so you know what the gear can do and when to retire it. And it will be useful so you know what I am on about when I talk about forces throughout the series.

Force is measured in Newtons, or for larger forces (like in Climbing), Kilonewtons(kN).  So if a climber had a mass of 100kg (Approx 15stone) then that climber hanging on a rope would be exerting 1 Kilonewton(kN) on the rope and anchor just through the earth’s gravity. If the climber were to ascend the rope, the force could go up to 2kN, the mass of the climber hasn’t changed but the force pulling down on the anchors has. A climber, top roping, would normally produce a maximum of 2-3kN if he or she was to fall. These farces aren’t that great in the world of climbing, the interesting and somewhat more important thing is what is called a fall factor.

What is a Fall Factor?

The fall factor is a number that you can work out to work out the force generated on your equipment during a fall. The maximum a fall factor can ever be is 2.

So how do I work this out?

The Fall Factor is determined by the length of the fall and the amount of rope paid out (amount of rope that the climber falls onto). The equation (don’t worry it’s not that bad!) is:

Length of fall / Rope paid out

So if you fell 10metres on to 10metres of rope your fall factor would be 1, this is still a pretty high fall factor and can cause serious injury and even gear failure.

A fall of 20metres on to 10metres of rope (falling down past the belayer) your fall factor would be 2, this is the maximum you should be able to get in a climbing environment. A fall factor of 2 is very serious, It can cause very serious internal injuries and has a large potential for gear failure and weakened rope.

Climbing Fall Factor 0.57Climbing Fall Factor 1Climbing Fall Factor 1.6Climbing Fall Factor 2

The fall factor equation does not allow for friction in the system (rope rubbing on carabiners and rock), or dynamic belaying so it can be a lot less than this simple maths determines. It can be worked out but it is not easy by any means.

How can I reduce the fall factor?

The fall factor can be reduced in many ways, the most important being by placing runners(bits of gear in the rock), this shortens your fall so as to reduce the fall factor. Even as soon as you leave a stance (where a belayer stands halfway up a cliff) you should place a bit of gear to stop the fall factor being two, at very least thread it through a bit of bomber(very good) gear on the stance.

Another way to make the fall factor smaller is to do something called dynamic belaying where the belayer attempts prolong the fall and making the climber come to a stop more slowly therefore reducing the force on the gear. This is a topic I hope to cover in the future.

So why does this matter?

This matters because if you understand the principle of fall factors then you can make an effort to reduce the fall factor when climbing using the techniques above, therefore hopefully preventing gear failure and injury.

What forces can my gear take?

Below is a table of the forces that typical climbing equipment can endure. Always check manufacturers guide.

Equipment Strength Dyneema Sling 22kN Typical Karabiner Gate Closed: 24kN Micro nut 2-4kN No.1 Nut 7kN No.9 Nut 10kN Cam 10-14kN Micro Cam 3-6kN Harness Must hold 15kN for 3 minutes

A typical climbing fall (less than Fall Factor 1) generally has a maximum force of 7kN and in most cases is no more than around 4-5kN, So apart from the micro gear, it will all hold your fall just fine. In a high impact fall (over FF1) of around 12kN some of the smaller gear could start to break. 12kN is the maximum amount of force that can happen on a dynamic climbing rope, this is because standards make manufacturers design their ropes so that they stretch enough to minimise the shock. (note: these standards are for a 80kg object, heavy climbers could increase the max force slightly). Another thing to bear in mind is that falls with force of 10kN and over will cause your body some serious damage.

So hopefully you see the importance of knowing what the gear you use can do and how to minimise it.