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Everything You Need to Know About Gear Racking

Updated on September 18, 2015

For traditional climbing, the person in the lead climber position needs to place anchors which the second climber can then remove as they move up the cliff face. Generally, climbers tend to take turns leading and then placing the protection gear (a selection of cams and chocks, with carabiners and runners attached).

This collective gear, commonly referred to as a rack, is normally arranged on a gear sling that is then carried by the lead climber, who passes it back and forth during the course of the climb.

Petzl - Spirit Express Sling
Petzl - Spirit Express Sling

What gear do you need?

In terms of what equipment goes onto a gear rack, this will mostly depend on the routes and the area which is to be climbed. For instance, in areas where the cliff has a lot of tiny pockets and holes, smaller protective gear will be required. Cliffs that have cracks that are 'off width' will need much larger pieces.

Metolius - Ultralight TCU
Metolius - Ultralight TCU

How much gear is required?

Again, the volume of equipment you need to bring will very much depend on the climb; before heading off, make sure to do some research on the route that you would like to do. Many guidebooks for rock climbing locations will recommend specific cam or chock sizes; reading up on this before your climb will ensure that you don't bring unnecessary gear and end up weighing yourself down.

Rock Climbing at Centenial Glen
Rock Climbing at Centenial Glen

Getting to grips with gear rack organisation

When climbers choose to 'swing leads' - that is, take turns in following and leading, they will normally only carry one gear rack for the two of them and simply pass it back and forth. When swinging leads, it is especially important that the gear rack is well organised, as each piece of equipment on it needs to be easily accessible, but not so much that it interferes with the climb itself. It's a good idea to get a gear sling that is adjustable, so that it can quickly be resized for smaller or larger climbing partners.

In terms of arranging specific outdoor equipment on your gear rack, many climbers like to place larger hexes and camming devices towards the back of their gear sling and the free carabiners and smaller nuts towards the front. It's also best to attach the chock pick and extra runners to the side gear loops on the climbing harness. So as to be able to quickly identify different runner lengths, try to purchase each one in a different colour; for instance, you can purchase all twelve inch runners in red and all six inch ones in green. Runners should always be worn over the shoulder that is opposite to your gear sling and should ideally be separated by clipping on a carabiner to each one. This will ensure that they remain untangled so that you can pull one off at a time, as and when you need to. Longer runners should be doubled up and have two carabiners attached to them; the runners need to be kept short enough that they do not interfere with your ability to climb.

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