What’s in Your Rack?

Everyone’s got their favorite pieces.  Dude – all you need is a set of Alloy DMM offsets… Aliens or nothing, bro.  TCU is the best small cam hands down.  C3s fit in places nothing else will. Etc Etc. From ropes, to belay devices, to cams, to nuts – everyone has an opinion.  The truth is, most people will prefer the pieces they own because they will become accustomed to climbing with them.  I, for example, far prefer blue tcu or green alien for tips size pieces to anything else on the market (since I’ve had one of each ever since I bootied them years ago).  I am so fond of those pieces, and use them so often, that I often get blinders to any other size placements.  The result is that tips cracks often look to me as if they’ll take nothing but those two pieces – when the reality is more that I will place nothing but those two pieces.

That said, there are some no-brainers that everyone should have on their trad racks.  Take a look at the following breakdown, and if you see something you don’t have – consider investing.  Don’t worry – I won’t make a single penny whether you do or don’t.  This is just my two cents.

Cams: Everyone’s got ’em, but mine are the best.  Seriously though, this is the breakdown.

  • Aliens and offset aliens.  These have become synonymous with the utmost quality in small cracks.  In my experience, they are better than any other cams in poddy granite (especially good are offset aliens in tough placements).  A number of different companies are making these now, but Fixe is about to release an incredible new model that is lighter, stronger, and more durable than ever before.  Save your money for those.
  • Metolius TCU. If you haven’t tried these, try them.  My favorite sizes are blue and purple.  Purple TCUs in particular seem to be trucker in places where no other cam fits at all.  These can be a little more rigid than aliens, which sometimes helps in placing them properly in funky pinscars.
  • Metolius Offset Master Cams.  These are the jam anywhere you get flared cracks (think Yosemite, Squamish, Cochamo).  Not only good in small sizes, but big ones as well.  best sizes are blue/yellow, yellow/orange, and orange/red.  That said, I use the purple/blue a lot as well, and when you do place the red/black, you’re pretty durn psyched.
  • Totem Cams.  Okay, I don’t have any of these little units, but they look amazing.  They may be a touch heavy, but they can catch a fall on two lobes, which is pretty awesome.  The design is pretty rad, and the action is impressive when you play with them.
  • DMM Dragon.  For big sizes, this is the only cam that compares with Black Diamond C4s.  Lightweight, clean, and simple.  A bit more expensive, but very sexy.
  • Black Diamond Cams. Little introduction is required, but these are obviously great cams.  C4 should be your choice for anything bigger than an inch.  X4s are good units – though not as good as some of those listed previously.  C3s are not as versatile as other small cams, but sometimes they are the only thing that fits, and they can be a godsent then.  Their rigidity makes them really nice in the purple and gray (two smallest) sizes.

Nuts: A quick note on nuts – they are awesome.  While cams are more versatile, nuts and a rack of alpine draws is a hell of a lot lighter.  Nuts can be pretty trucker – even moreso than cams in the best placements.

  • DMM Alloy Offsets. A-mazing.  Nothing better.  If you’re going to go smaller, go with DMM brassie offsets.  DMM gear is the bomb, and these are no exception.  They cost a bit more, but are worth it.
  • Metolius Curve Nut Offset.  These are also really great.  Just be careful, the soft metal makes them a touch sticky, and they can often feel set in a good placement when they really aren’t.
  • RPs.  Any trad climber should have a set of RP (brassy) nuts.  It doesn’t really matter who makes them, especially in the smaller sizes.  Just get them, and if you can’t get both offset and regular, then get offsets.

Quickdraws/Slings: For years I fought against quickdraws because they are less versatile than slings; but I finally gave in.  They are so damn nice to have, and a ton of climbing these days has bolts on it anyway, so you might as well bring a rack of draws with you.  The nice light alpine ones are fine, and your slings should be lightweight as well, with light biners.  If you’re not climbing in Indian Creek or the Valley, just bring 6 of each.  It’s a no brainer.

Extras: Forget extras!  You got a rack of cams, a rack of nuts, and a rack of slings and draws.  What else do you need?  Bring cojones, and when you can’t get in pro, climb until you can.  Longer falls mean more rope is in play, which gives a softer catch anyway.  Try not to land on ledges, and have fun 🙂

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