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Rack Equipment on Harness Gear Loops

How to Carry Climbing Equipment

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Ian Spencer-Green prepares to climb Crescent Crack on Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon, Colorado.

It's easy to rack your climbing gear on your harness gear loops. Arrange the cams from small to large and clip quickdraws on either the front or the back loops.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

A lot of climbers, myself included, do not like to climb with all the climbing gear, like cams and nuts, on a gear sling, which is carried over the shoulder. Instead, they prefer to carry the gear clipped onto their harness gear loops.

Gear Slings Can be Uncomfortable

While a gear sling is extremely useful and even necessary if you are climbing a long route or big wall that requires a lot of equipment or a crack climb, like the splitters at Indian Creek, that need big racks of cams, a gear sling often gets in the way while you are climbing. The gear sling swings from side to side; it hangs in front of you, obscuring your feet if you are on low angle terrain like a slab; and it can tilt you off-balance.

Rack Gear on Harness Gear Loops

The alternative to carrying your climbing rack on a gear sling or bandolier is to load it onto the gear loops on your harness. After all, gear loops are made to carry gear. Most harness have four gear loops, two on each side of the harness, along with a webbing haul loop on the back for dragging an extra rope. Harnesses usually have either rigid or flexible gear loops, although some have two of each. Rigid gear loops are a thin piece of cord inside rigid plastic tubing. Flexible gear loops have the plastic tubing only on the cord, with the ends freely attached to the harness waist loop. If you are carrying much gear, it is generally easier to rack it on the rigid gear loops. For more information read the article Parts of a Harness.

Most Trad Gear Fits on Gear Loops

You can fit most of the equipment you need for a three- or four-pitch trad climb on four gear loops. If you need big cams, like those bigger than a #4 Camalot or #4 Friend, then those can be carried on a gear sling rather than on your harness. Unless you need them on the pitch that you are leading, you will usually have the seconding climber carry the big gear gear rather than the leader.

How to Combat Harness Sag

The big disadvantage to carrying all your gear on your harness gear loops is simply that the weight of all that gear conspires with gravity to pull your harness down. Combat harness sag by keeping your waist belt tight and by racking extra gear on a shoulder sling to lessen the weight on the harness.

How to Rack Gear on Gear Loops

How do you carry the necessary equipment for your route on your gear loops? The short answer is: The same way you do on a gear sling. Rack the big stuff on carabiners in the back and the smaller pieces in front. Read Racking Gear for Trad Routes for all the beta on racking on a gear sling.

Rack for a 2-Pitch Trad Route

Here is a possible arrangement for a basic rack of gear for a two-pitch trad route:

  • Set of wired nuts like Stoppers or Rocks. Split the set in half and put each half on a separate carabiner and clip them on the left front gear loop.
  • Set of TCUs like Camalot C3s or Metolius Ultralight TCUs. Rack each TCU on its own carabiner and clip them on the right front gear loop.
  • Set of cams like Camalot C4s or Wild Country Helium Friends to 3 inches; this is usually 6 or 7 cams unless you need some extras, like a couple big cams, or bring doubles of a couple sizes. Rack each cam on its own carabiner and clip the smallest two cams behind the nuts on the left front gear loop. Distribute the other cams by splitting them onto the rear gear loops.
  • Quickdraws—10 or so should be plenty. You will use quickdraws on wired nuts and sometimes you will clip a quickdraw on the sewn loop on a cam to extend the rope away from the cam and to lessen rope drag. Rack the quickdraws by putting half at the front of each front gear loop. You can also put most of the quickdraws behind the cams on the rear gear loops since you often don't need to attach a draw to a cam after you've placed it. Figure which system works for you. Your choice.
  • Slings—usually you need 3 to 5 two-foot slings. Rack these on two carabiners or carry them over your shoulder and chest. Ditto for four-foot slings. Bring one or two, which are useful for building your belay anchor, and carry them over your shoulder. Thin, ultralight Dyneema or Spectra slings are perfect since they are easy to carry and less bulky than webbing slings.
  • Personal gear like a belay device on locking carabiner and a nut tool are best carried at the very back of the harness on one of the rear gear loops since you won’t need them while you are leading.

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