Hardware for Hard Climbs

While bolts and crash pads have opened up previously inconceivable climbing opportunities, many of the world’s best routes still require clean pro. And seeing as how most of these gear-protected routes will never be equipped with bolts and are too tall to boulder, climbers will need to embrace the trad rack to sample these classics.

Here some top gear choices for anyone building a new rack or updating any existing gear.


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Black Diamond C3S

The C3s are one of the smoothest operating three-cam units available. Construction quality is top-notch and the range-of-sizes ensure solid placements in even the thinnest cracks. And with one of the narrowest head shapes, the C3s are ideal protection for small pods and pockets. While C3s are excellent units, climbers should remember that they are a U-shaped rather than single-stem cam. What this means is that they easily flex in horizontal placements, but like all U-shaped cams, might lever-out in bottoming vertical pods. Place them carefully and enjoy the peace of mind.


Helium Friends – $ 65-75
Wild Country

After 33-years in production, Wild Country is updating their camming units with the introduction of the new Helium Friends. For anyone keeping score, this is only the third time that Friends have been reworked. Thankfully for most climbers, the update has been worth the wait. The new Heliums are lighter, have smoother springs and a much better size overlap. The new stem features a much improved thumb-loop which simplifies placements and offers a short-clipping option. Climbers that have used any of the original Friends should check out the new Heliums. An excellent update to one of the most successful pieces of climbing pro.

Link Cams – $ 97-105
Omega Pacific

No other cam offers the expansion range available in the Link Cams. Their innovative construction increases the chances of climbers getting the right size for the placement on the fort try making the Link Cams the best panic-pieces available. The expansion range also makes the Link Cams more secure in flaring placements. When used as the manufacture suggest (the stem must rotate and align with the anticipated load), there is nothing better. Highly recommended.

Offset Master Cams -$ 60

When Metolius introduced the Master Cams, they re-set the performance bar for small four-cam units; Master Cams are highly flexible, offer exceptional holding power (thanks to a less aggressive cam angle) and have impeccable construction. The Offset Master Cams are built to the same standards, but by using two different-sized pairs of lobes, they provide protection in previously unprotectable flaring placements – think beat-out pin scars. A great addition to a free rack and mandatory for clean aid.

Totem Cams – $ 80

It’s somewhat ironic that the most innovative new cam in this review comes from a country most closely associated with bolted overhanging-limestone sport-routes. Made in Spain, the Totem cams are the most flexible camming unit available. And while this is enough reason for some climber to rush out get a full set, their real advantage exists in how the stem-assembly directly loads each individual cam lobe. This direct loading results in greater holding power and security as well as the option of using just two cams in shallow clean-aid situations. Finally, each Totem cams offers a massive expansion range (rivalling twin axle units) making them surprisingly secure in flares. Get some.


Astro Nut Free Set – $ 75

Made with silicon bronze and using the same innovative vertically-oriented curved shape found on the larger Metolius Curve nuts, the Astro nuts are perfect for thin cracks and clean aid. The shape is particularly useful in small pin scars while the addition of anodized colour-coded size-collars simplify identification. An excellent small nut for any rack.

Offset Micro Stoppers – $ 15
Black Diamond

With their unique offset shape, Black Diamond’s Offset Stoppers deliver plenty of protection opportunities in pin scars and thin flares. BD uses a copper/iron mix which provides solid grip and good durability.

Torque Nuts – $ 12 – 14.50

Available in four sizes, these versatile hexentric-style nuts offer unique protection opportunities. Placed in a constriction, Torque Nuts deliver secure wide-crack protection. With their asymmetric hexagonal shape, Torque Nuts also provide some camming action making then a viable protection-option for certain parallel-sided placements. DMM has wisely added built-in extendable slings which reduces the need to carry extra slings. Perhaps the most compelling reasons for climbers to use Torque Nuts is that they are lighter and less expensive than conventional cams. Climbers can carry more gear on long routes and not hesitate about leaving the odd piece behind to backup dodgy rappels.

Tri-Cams – $ 22-70

For decades, Tri-Cams have remained relatively unchanged for one simple reason – they work. Yes, Camp added some new smaller sizes a few years ago, but beyond that, the shape and versatility that made the original Tri-Cams popular is still there. Placed in a conventional constriction, they behave very much like a traditional nut, but where Tri-Cams truly excel is in narrow horizontal pockets. Cammed in these placements, they offer protection that no that gear can match. Perhaps this explains why they are still found on the racks of so many experienced climbers. Get the small to mid size units – they will not disappoint.

Wedgies – $ 7.50 – 9.20
Omega Pacific

These chunky double-taper nuts are a great foundation for any trad rack. While Omega offers 13 sizes colour-coded sizes, most free climbers will likely avoid the three smallest straight-sided nuts as they are less versatile than their larger curved brothers. Double up in the middle range and start climbing.