As the backbone of every climbing rack, the humble nut has probably protected more routes and caught more falls than any other form of climbing pro. Over the years, the design has evolved from small pebbles wedged in cracks and slung with cord, to hex-head machine nuts and eventually the lightweight metallurgical marvels used today. Throughout these advancements, the placement and protection concepts remained the same – these are all simply glorified wedges and in the right constriction, provide bulletproof protection.
The appeal of nuts and other forms of passive pro is obvious: they are light, inexpensive, reusable, simple to use, and the security of placements is easily evaluated. Cams, pitons and bolts can’t claim these benefits. No wonder even after all the advancements in alternative pro, nuts are the first piece of trad gear climbers buy for their racks.
Climbers should consider adding three basic sizes of passive pro and nuts to their rack: mid-size nuts, micro nuts and hex style pieces. This range offers protection possibilities for almost any route and is a solid foundation for complementing with cams.
Larger nuts and passive pro receive higher strength ratings because they are slung with thicker cable, but the true strength of a nut is often more dependent on rock quality.
For maximum strength, use the largest piece that securely fits the crack and place in the best available rock.
None of these sets are heavy, but during serious alpine style ascents where speed is safety or on routes requiring massive racks, shaving some weight with lighter nuts is worth considering.
Nuts are now anodized for easier identification but after a few seasons of use much of the colouring gets worn off and climbers resort to choosing the right piece by size rather than colour.
These mid-size rigs are used more than any other nut size and protect cracks from tips to hand size cracks. Double up and place frequently.
Alloy Offsets- $16
Climbers spending time on pin-scarred routes will love the Alloy Offsets. Based on the no-longer available HB Offset design, Alloy Offsets offer the same security and versatility in flares with less weight. These are mandatory for aid climbing or a good secondary nut set for routes with difficult-to-protect cracks.
These well-made colour-coded nuts are available in eight sizes and deliver solid protection in a variety of cracks. Cassin uses a supple cable which minimizes the risk of nuts dislodging due to rope movement drag. A solid no-nonsense design.
With their massive 14 unit size range, Rocks cover crack sizes from tips all the way up to thin hands. Wild Country tweaked the geometry allowing for secure placements in slight flares and thinned out the side walls for reduced weight. These are excellent lightweight nuts suitable for any climbing situation.
These stubby square shaped nuts comes in 13 colour-coded sizes. The mid-size and larger nuts are mandatory for most routes but the three smallest straight-sided pieces are best saved for aid climbing. For added versatility, Stoppers are tapered along their short axis for solid placements in slightly flaring cracks. A classic nut that’s probably opened up the majority of difficult trad lines in the US.
Superlight Rocks -$14
A specialty nut, the Superlight Rocks are literally a regular Rock cut in half and slung on a single cable. Sure, the design reduces weight, but the real advantage is in shallow placements where conventional nuts are simply too wide to fit. A brilliant innovation and a useful addition to any climber’s rack.
Ultralight Curve Nut-$14.50
These rigs put a new twist in nut design. Rather than using a traditional lengthwise curve, Ultralight Curve Nuts are curved side-to-side. The result is surprising stability and security in otherwise difficult-to-protect placements. Metolius also eschews traditional swages and attaches the cable directly into the nut for a 30 percent decrease in weight. These outstanding nuts are secure, lightweight and perfect for any climbing situation.
The original Wallnuts had sophisticated sculpted shapes which improved placements in irregular rock and made them popular with limestone climbers. Unfortunately, manufacturing these complex shapes was difficult and DMM switched over to a more conventional design. Wallnuts still place well and the shallow scoop occasionally helps with difficult cracks but anyone climbing on limestone or other irregular rock may long for the earlier versions.
Similar in shape and size to Stoppers, it’s no surprise that Wedgies deliver identical performance. Solidly made and well finished, Wedgies are a good choice for climbers with limited budgets.
Smaller than conventional nuts, these units are perfect for the tiny cracks often found on aid routes. The smaller units’ miniscule size and slim cables may not hold lead falls and are best used only for direct aid.
Built with copper-infiltrated iron, Micro Stoppers deliver a solid blend of bite and durability when placed in tiny cracks. The six sizes have a subtle curve for extra security in parallel-sided cracks and the trapezoidal flare opens up placement opportunities in flares.
With the Astro Nuts, Metolius takes their innovative Curve Nut design into aid climbing terrain. Available in 10 sizes and built with a durable and sticky silicon-bronze material, Astro Nuts are ideal for pin scars and non-existent cracks.
Hex Style Nuts
These are the biggest nuts on the market and before the invention of camming units, the only way to cleanly protect larger cracks. Thanks to the ingenious design, hex style nuts work as simple wedges (passive pro) or as basic camming devices. This versatility and their low weight and minimal cost make hex style units a staple on easy alpine routes where moving fast is important and the gear may need to be left behind as rappel anchors.
The proven, flat-sided Hex works beautifully in widening cracks and constrictions, and in these instances offers greater security than cams at a significantly lower price. When placed properly, few pieces inspire as much confidence as the Hex.
Alpine Curve Hex Set -$69
The curved faces on the Alpine Curve Hex offer improved placement opportunities over the conventional flat sided shapes. Metolius exploits this protection’s low weight even further by adding a sewn Dyneema sling to the wire cable minimizing the need for quickdraw extensions. This is a solid incremental improvement on previous hex designs.
As the oldest curved hex design, Rockcentrics have a proven track record of delivering stable, versatile protection with low weight. Weight is further shed with the sewn Dyneema slings which also minimize walking from rope movement.
The Carvex Hex offers a solid and secure curved hex design while giving climbers the option of swaged cable or sewn Dyneema slings. Climbers wanting flexibility over edges and less risk of gear walking should choose Dyneema while the swaged cables simplify racking and eliminate tangles with other gear. -GA