Trad Climbing Gear Review: Passive Protection

After spending a month in the Arapiles, Australia doing almost everyday of trad climbing, I really learned to embrace nuts and wires. This is also known as passive protection.  Passive protection is the term used to describe leader placed protection that has no moving parts. This seems like a good time to share some knowledge and experience on the subject.  It really is an awesome way to climb!

 

Passive protection is generally the first type of pro (short for protection) a new climber will buy. It tends to be considerably cheaper than active protection (camming devices etc), and will give you numerous placement options. Before you head out and buy your first lot of passive pro, take some time to research the areas where you are intending on climbing, as different rock types will often suit some kit better than others.

Standard Nuts

The mainstay of the Trad climbers rack. Also known as wires, these are wedge shaped “nuts” on a wire. They fit in small, medium and largish sized cracks, and when well placed are bomber. Most, if not all, are colour coded by size and and are compatible with other brands. A set of these is generally one of the first things to buy when starting out. There are subtle differences between brands, like weight, shape etc, but they all share much the same characteristics and it’ll come down to personal choice and budget.

Micro Nuts

As small as protection gets. These provide marginal protection for tiny cracks and weaknesses. The strength ratings are far lower than standard nuts, so make sure you know their limits. These are something to add to your rack as you go along, and not something you’ll need straight away. Some micro nuts, like the DMM I.M.P (Immaculate Marginal Protection) are made from brass which can offer a little more bite when shock loaded.

Offset Nuts

Sometimes referred to as HB’s after Hugh Banner, the man who invented them. These are available in both standard and micro sizes. The offset shape of the nut means that they are particularly good in placements where a normal nut will simply not hold. Peg scars, tapered and flaring cracks are far easier to protect with an offset. You don’t have to start out with these, but they will give you loads more options to place good gear. Theres only five sizes and they compliment the bigger standard rock nuts very well.

Hexes & Torques

Very large nuts, originally designed by Yvon Chouinard of Black Diamond, for protecting large cracks. Generally one of the first things to buy when starting out, and a lot cheaper than cams. When carefully placed, so that the sling is slightly rotated towards the top of the unit, force exerted in the event of a fall will actually rotate the unit slightly and cam it into the rock, creating an even safer placement.

Tri-cams

These really belong in the cam family, but still have no moving parts as such. By rolling the head back so that it rests on the sling section and placing it into a crack, it will cam into the rock and become very stable when loaded. These are not something you need when starting out. They are excellent for use in the winter. Proper cam units become unsafe when placed in iced up cracks, but you can give a tri-cam a little love tap with your hammer and its far more likely to hold in the event of a fall. They can be a pain to get out though!

Nut Key

Totally essential if you want to come home with all your nuts! There quite a few to choose from , and generally it will come down to your budget and taste. Some things to look out for are, whether it has a hook or hooks to help release a stuborn cam trigger, someway to tighten a loose bolt, weight, and durability. Its often wise for the leader to carry their own nut key as well as the second, incase they need to retrieve a badly placed bit of gear.

So a good starter rack might include the following;

  • Standard rock nuts – one full set
  • Hexes or tourques – one full set
  • Nut Key – One

A few worthwhile additions might be;

  • Offsets – one full set
  • Standard nuts – Sizes 1-6 (or more)
  • Superlights (Wild Country) – One full set

​And for a little further down the road;

  • Brass offsets – One full set
  • Tri-cams – Various sizes
  • Peenuts (or simular) – 1-2 full sets

As mentioned at the start, this will vary based on what type of rock you climb, your grade, and personal preference.

Interested in trying trad climbing?  Contact us, and we can get you started on the journey to the freest form of safe outdoor climbing.  Trad climbing!

About Author

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Patrick
have been doing outdoor activities solo since my early adulthood. Usually when I get involved in a hobby or sport, I don’t let go until I achieve a high level and understanding of the sport. I got my scuba instructors in 2001. In 2006 I took up Kite surfing and am one level away from instructor on kite surfing. I have been doing trips into the wild, the off the beaten path trips for most of my life. I learned to repel and climb at a young age and have always enjoyed camping and backpacking. Over the 6+ years, I have gotten really involved in alpine style mountaineering. With certifications in mountaineering, and instructor certifications in lead climbing, and repelling (abseiling), I enjoy sharing or knowledge and teaching to those who have a passion for outdoors. Now I am working on completing the outdoor wilderness leadership program. People have always heard of my trips, and spoke with envy that they wanted to try such things but didn’t know how. This has inspired me to move to open this company. The Wildfire Expedition Company or “Wildfire Expeditions”

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