Advanced Trad Gear
The first time I saw micro gear they scared the hell out of me. Tiny brass nuts hanging off a rack with an unbelievably small wire threaded through them. The idea of climbing anything that required them was terrifying, and falling on them…unimaginable.
As I progressed I slowly began to realise that I needed to get smaller gear, as the cracks narrowed and I found myself climbing many different types of rock. My first time on a slate route confirmed my suspicions; my rack needed an upgrade.
I wanted smaller and more specific gear. Without it, I didn’t feel safe pushing my grade.
This article will take you through some advanced trad gear that is going to prove vital as you begin to climb harder trad routes. Don’t think of this as equipment you're only going to use in desperate situations. It's amazing how useful they will be on more moderate climbs. Having a range of gear will give you far more options when protecting any route.
It’s always worth remembering when using smaller equipment that they are not rated as highly as their larger counterparts. A tiny micro cam has far more chance of ripping than a larger, mid range cam.
Nuts are the most basic and often most trusted form of protection. A small piece of metal that slots into a crack with a wire running through it. They are described as passive protection as they have no moving parts.
The smallest of these are ‘micro nuts’. There are generally two types; soldered and non-soldered. Soldered nuts are so small the wire needs to be soldered directed into he metal, increasing its strength.
“Small soldered nuts are generally stronger than the equivalent size of swaged nut because you can get a wider diameter wire into the head of the nut, not because soldering creates a stronger join or because it removes a tight bend as the wire goes around the top of the nut.” – DMM
A good choice in soldered nuts are the DMM Brass Offsets or Black Diamond Micro Stopper sets, made from brass or a copper/iron mix. This use of slightly softer metal allows them to bite into the rock better.
Non soldered nuts like the DMM Micro Wall Nuts have a different design. These look like a normal set of nuts, just in miniature. The wire runs inside the nut which helps to protect it from abrasion. The narrow profile of the nut means it fits brilliantly into thin cracks, however, they have a lower fall rating than that of an equivalent soldered nut.
On the face of it, micro cams look very similar to normal cams but there are some important distinctions, apart from the obvious size difference. The placement is often very shallow, so the stems of micro cams are flexible to prevent the cam from being twisted out of place during a fall. They also have a smaller head to fit in the narrowest of palces.
For years, the Black Diamond C3's were the reining champion in micro cams. They feature three caming heads on a U-stem, allowing the head angle to be incredibly narrow, although losing a bit of flexibility in the stem.