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Rack Cams & Carabiners to Save Weight

How to Carry Climbing Equipment


Dennis Jackson climbs at Sugarite State Park in New Mexico.

Carry your cams on a gear sling with each one racked on a separate carabiner for making quick placements.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

How you rack or carry climbing gear, including nuts, cams, and slings, depends on the type of route that you are climbing. If you are doing an easy climb, then you can afford to be sloppy in your rack order and management, but if you are doing a difficult climb or a multi-pitch route then you need to pay more attention to your rack’s order.

Organized Gear Sling Saves Energy

When you are leading, especially a difficult or tricky pitch, you need to be able to find gear on your rack quickly so you can efficiently place it. Sometimes you might be in a precarious or dangerous situation, maybe standing on a small foothold or hanging from an insecure fingerlock, and a fall could cause injury. You need to know where that #0.5 Camalot is on your rack so you can easily find it, remove it with one hand, and then place it in a crack and clip the rope. If you are wasting time and energy while hanging around trying to find the cam on your messy rack, then you just might take that bad fall.

Rack Cams with a Single Carabiner?

Should each of your cams be racked on a gear sling with its own carabiner or should you double them up on a single carabiner? On most trad climbs, especially if you’re not carrying a gigantic heavy rack, each cam should get its own carabiner. It is more efficient and you will do less fiddling around if you can just take the cam you need off the rack, plug it in a crack, and clip your rope into it. The main disadvantage of the one-carabiner method is that it does add to the overall bulk and weight of your rack.

Double Up Cams to Save Bulk and Weight

If you double up cams on a single carabiner, you lessen the rack’s bulk and weight. You do, however, have to carry extra free carabiners or quickdraws to clip into the carabiner-less cam after you place it. This method can be good when you’re carrying multiples of a single cam, say three #2 Friends. In this case you can double two of them up on a single biner and carry the other one on its own carabiner.

Which Direction Should Gear Carabiners Face?

Which direction should the carabiners face on your gear sling? Most climbers prefer to clip the carabiners attached to cams and nuts so the gate is on the inside, against their body. There are rebels though who clip them with the carabiners facing outward. So there is no right way or wrong way, there is just the direction that you want the carabiners to face so that it is easier for you to remove the piece from the gear sling. If you double up cams or nuts on a single carabiner, it is usually best to rack it on the gear sling with the gate facing out so you can remove a single piece of gear without taking the carabiner with it.

Big Climbs Need Big Racks

If you’re crack climbing at Indian Creek or maybe doing a big desert tower, then you will be carrying a big rack of cams and nuts. When you jam a sandstone crack, you always want to place plenty of gear, usually a body-length or six feet apart because cams can walk out of parallel-sided cracks or even pull out from the force of a fall. Some cracks might require as many as 20 cams to safely protect them—that’s a lot of gear and weight! Especially if you are a small person or a woman.

Use Ultralight Carabiners to Cut Weight

There are two ways to lower the overall weight of your rack—carry less gear or cut the weight of what you do carry. Usually you’re not going to cut the size of the rack; you’re going to need all that gear up there on the wall. So cut the weight. Rack cams with ultralight carabiners like the Mammut Moses Wire Gate Carabiner, which weigh only 27 grams or 0.95 ounces, or the Metolius Mini Biner, which comes in at 23 grams or 0.8 ounces each. Using ultralight carabiners shaves a lot of weight. Pick up a rack of 20 regular carabiners and one with 20 ultralights. Huge difference in weight. Also consider getting ultralight cams like the Metolius Fat Cams to cut more weight. If your rack still weighs too much—cut out the donuts!

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