How to Build Your First Trad Rack

How to Build Your First Trad Rack
Your Smith Rock Climbing Trip Starts Here

Choosing the Right Gear to Get You Climbing

Embarking on your journey into trad climbing is an exciting step, but it's crucial to have the right gear to ensure safety and success. A well-rounded climbing rack is the cornerstone of any trad climber's toolkit. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential gear you'll need for your first trad climbing rack, with an emphasis on quality, versatility, and affordability.

While we aren’t endorsing any particular brands over the others, there are many online retailers who offer quality, popular climbing gear to start building your first trad rack. Consider supporting your local climbing shops for hands-on instruction, expert advice, and the ability to try on gear for the perfect fit. At Smith Rock, these items can all be found at the Redpoint Climber Supply in Terrebonne, Oregon. A bonus for purchasing in Oregon is that there’s no sales tax on climbing gear, which comes in handy when building a trad rack from scratch. 

If you are assembling your first climbing rack, consider learning trad skills by hiring an AMGA-certified guide. Get hands-on, personalized experience to understand the essentials for starting out and how to expand your gear as you advance to multi-pitch climbing and discover your climbing style. After an awesome day of trad intro climbing, sampling, and discussing different gear options, you’ll be ready to confidently build yourself a climbing rack fit to your needs. 

The gear manufacturers listed below are not comprehensive but are time-tested, trusted brands available in the U.S.  

Essential Trad Gear

What You Need to Start Trad Climbing

1. Nuts (Stoppers)

Nuts, or stoppers, are essential passive protection devices that can be placed in constrictions and fissures within the rock. They come in various sizes to fit different cracks. Opt for a set of nuts that cover small (1/4”) to wide (1.25”) cracks.  

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

The price for a set of 10-12 nuts typically ranges from $60 - $160. Below are time-tested, trusted brands available in the United States:

2. Camming Devices (Cams, Friends)

Camming devices provide active protection by expanding in the rock when placed in a crack.  They tend to have a greater range of placement possibilities than nuts.  Consider investing in trusted brands like Black Diamond Camalots or Metolius Ultralight Master Cams. Sizes 0.3 to 3 or equivalent will suffice for a beginner's rack.

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

Camming devices typically cost between $60 - $100 each. Start with one of each key size from about 0.3 to 3 inches wide. A set of cams that cover this range will be adequate for a beginner rack. Below are popular cam options among climbers made by trusted U.S brands. 

3. Quickdraws

A single quickdraw set consists of a sewn sling or “dog bone” that is 5-7” with one non locking carabiner on one side and another wire gate or bent gate carabiner on the other.  Quickdraws are essential for efficiently connecting your rope to your protection points. A set of 10-12 should be adequate for most climbs.   

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

The cost for a set of 6 quickdraws typically costs between $80-150.  There are many different sets to choose from offered by these most common brands:  

4. Slings and Runners

Slings and runners are used to extend protection placements as alpine draws, reduce rope drag, and create anchors. Have a mix of shoulder-length (60cm) and double-length (120cm) slings in your kit. 

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

Slings and runners range anywhere from $6-$18 each, making them one of the most affordable tools in your trad rack. Common brands offering durable options include: 

5. Carabiners

Invest in a selection of extra locking and non-locking carabiners (4-6). Locking carabiners are essential for belaying, building anchors, and attaching yourself to the anchor.  HMS style carabiners, or “pear-shaped” carabiners are the most versatile and excellent for belay use. Consider Edelrid, Petzl, Black Diamond, Metolius, Camp, DMM. 

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

The general cost for locking carabiners is around $10-$18 each while non-locking carabiners range from around $6-$12 each.  Popular brands include:  

6. Belay/Rappel Device

A versatile belay device is crucial for lead belaying. There are tube style devices like the classic Black Diamond ATC that is used for belaying your partner up and as a rappel device for descending. For belaying a lead climber, you should consider an assisted braking device, like the  Petzl Gri Gri, the most common belay device for belaying a lead climber.  It is critical that the rope is attached the correct way.   If you choose to be belay with a Gri Gri you will also need to have a rappel device on your rack for descent.

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

You can expect to spend between $18-$30 for a tube style belay device and $75- $150 on an assisted braking belay device. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the usage and safety procedures of your chosen device. 

Popular choices include the Black Diamond ATC or Petzl GriGri. Consider a belay assist-rappel combo devices such as the Edelrid Jul, BD ATC Guide, or Petzl Reverso. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the usage and safety procedures of your chosen device.

7. Cordelette

Cordelettes are invaluable for building anchors, equalizing protection points, and climber safety. About 7mm or 8mm thick and 5-6 meters long, they are a standard, essential piece of gear for every climber. Often used in trad climbing for belaying and rappelling on multi-pitch routes, cordelettes are essential for safety, efficiency, and adjustability while climbing. 

Pricing & Recommended Brands:

Look for strong, durable options such as the Sterling PowerCord or BlueWater Accessory Cord priced at approximately $15 - $20 for 21 feet. 

8. Personal Gear

Don't forget about your personal climbing gear. A comfortable and well-fitting harness is essential. A harness with 4 gear loops is ideal for trad climbing and is typically around $49-$100.  You should also invest in a quality, well-fitting climbing helmet that meets UIAA testing standards. There are many models to choose from.

Building a beginner's trad rack is an exciting step towards becoming a proficient trad climber. By choosing reliable and versatile gear from reputable brands, you'll be well-equipped to tackle a wide range of climbs. It is also invaluable to invest in quality instruction and mentorship to complement your gear with solid instruction on best safety practices, gear placement, anchor building, local ethics and climbing techniques. Chockstone Climbing Guides offers Intro to Traditional Gear and Intro to Climbing Courses for those looking to develop their trad skills. Now, gear up and conquer those routes!

Visit our Instagram Page

Chockstone Climbing Logo
Our AMGA Accreditation helps assure our clients receive the highest professional standards in our industry.
Our AMGA Accreditation helps assure our clients receive the highest professional standards in our industry.