The next stop on your trad journey, is, of course, the kit. All of that lovely shiny expensive climbing gear that clinks so nicely at the local crag. The trad climbers metal skirt. But what is it all? What are those dangly, noisy items trad climbers seem to treasure so much?
On your first trad-outing, you’ll probably be presented with a handful of seemingly random metal objects and informed of their utmost importance to your safety. Sounds like fun, right? Not at all overwhelming? But before you head out, I hope this basic gear overview will help you feel more comfortable and informed.
There is an absolute plethora of gear out there available to trad climbers. Here are a few basic items in every trad climber’s cupboard:
Once you have chosen your favourite colour (or, for women specific helmets, pick your favourite shade of purple or pink…) and have a helmet and have adorned it with your favourite stickers, please don’t forget to wear it! When belaying, loose rocks from climbers can shower down, and its better to scuff up your new helmet than get an injury. When climbing, sometimes the rock surprises you and you bash your head as you look around (this has happened to me more than I care to admit), or, if you fall, it will protect you from bashing your head off the wall / floor.
A screw gate (or carabiner) is a D or oval shaped piece of metal with a spring-loaded gate which can be screwed shut for safety. These are necessary pieces of equipment for belay devices, setting up anchors, and so on. Make sure you screw it up (but don’t screw it up (puns make climbing articles better, right?)).
Two gates (without the screw-close feature) connected by a piece of semi-rigid webbing. One gate is for clipping to the protection (loose in the webbing), one gate is for clipping to the rope (fixed in the webbing). It is important to use the right gate and be consistent! When clipping the rope through, make sure the climber-end of the rope is coming out the quickdraw away from the rock – otherwise this is called back clipping and is dangerous!
Tied or sewn loop of webbing material, these have so many uses! They can be wrapped around sections of rock, hitched to other gear, used to extend gear placements, to build anchors, extend anchors, reduce rope drag. They are amazing, and worth having a variety of different sizes.
Basically, a hunk of metal threaded on a wire. The wire has a loop at the end for clipping the quickdraw into. These can be placed in cracks any-which-way they fit. There are so many types and sizes of nuts, it’s endless really.
‘Spring-loaded camming device’ doesn’t quite roll of the tongue. Cams (or ‘friends’ if you’re North American) are active (meaning they move) pieces of protection that you place in parallel or slightly upward flared cracks or pockets. Cams have a sling attached to the stem for attaching the quickdraw to. Things to look out for: over-camming (when the cam has been placed at its smallest possible size in the rock it can get stuck there forever no matter how hard you try to get it out again) and walking (when the cam is moving in its placement when you wiggle the quickdraw attached to it). These are both bad (dangerous!) placements.
This list is just some key items, of which there is a large variety to choose from! Once you’ve been out a handful of times and feel more comfortable handling the gear, you can decide how to start building your own rack. And shortly afterwards, be prepared to transform any storage cupboard you have into an aesthetic gear cupboard.