Knowledge Base > A Peak District Trad Rack
A Peak District Trad Rack
16/03/2019 · Joe Brown

It’s approaching your birthday. You’ve already tried our Beginner Outdoor Rock Climbing Course (Christmas gift voucher from your nan). You own a harness, screwgate and belay device and are thinking, what next?

The cost of climbing hardware can quickly add up, but the good news is a relatively simple rack is all you need to get started on rock in The Peak.

The bad news is walking into the rock room of your local shop can be a rather bewildering affair, with talk of nuts, camming angles and 3 sigma ratings.

Well, dear reader, worry no more and allow us to help with our simple guide to assembling your first trad rack. It describes a typical rack used by us for running courses on the gritstone.

This could involve bottom roping for beginners or, for smaller groups on our Intermediate Outdoor Rock Climbing Course, seconding routes and practising leading on a top rope, so it is important our rack is versatile.

A note of caution, however. Every Peak District local has a story about a climber turning up at the crag with beautiful, shiny new gear and no idea how to use it - shortly followed by an act of blissfully unaware trouser filling incompetence.

Don’t be that person.

Self-taught from the internet and armed with your new rack, you’ll know just enough to get into real trouble - especially if you aspire to lead routes. Instead, try our Advanced Outdoor Rock Climbing Course for starters, then consolidate your skills by serving a proper apprenticeship and working your way up through the grades.

And remember the BMC Participation Statement.

The Rack

Take the following list into a shop, chat to the staff and make your choice. As ever, there will be cheaper and more expensive options depending on your budget, and rather than buying everything at once you may choose to build up your rack over time. Sharing the cost with future climbing partners can work too, but remember the pre-nup.

Wires and Nut Key

A generic term. Sometimes known as nuts or stoppers. Wires are a form of passive protection, which means they have no moving parts. A set of 1-10 is a good starting point, bunched together on a snapgate (see below). And spare those nearby the inevitable torrent of foul language that would make a navvy blush by not forgetting a nut key.


Again, a generic term and many types available. Cams are a form of active protection as they have moving parts. Newer generations are excellent, combining light weight, double axels (greater caming range) and forged machined cam lobes. Go for small, medium and large. Bunch on a snapgate.


Another generic term. Hexcentrics, Rockcentrics and Torque Nuts are the 3 main types. Useful for wider breaks and cracks found on easier grit routes. Get 4, ideally in sizes bigger than a rock 10, and bunch on a snapgate.


Also know as sewn or round slings. Useful for loads of things. 2 x 120cm and 1 x  240cm is a good starting point for lengths. Available in Dyneema/Spectra (lighter and thinner) or nylon (more elasticity and higher melting point), and a variety of thicknesses. 12mm Dyneema is an excellent all round choice.

Locking Carabiners

Screwgates are the most common type of locking carabiner. Pay close attention to shape; 3 x D-shaped for connecting to anchors and 2 x HMS/pear shaped for hitching to anchor ropes or clipping a bottom rope into is ok for starters. Locking carabiners are one thing you’ll never seem to have enough of!

Snapgate Carabiners

Carabiners in which the gate opens but does not lock. Available with wire gates (lighter) or solid gates (either straight or bent for ease of clipping). Size and shape are important - you will be clipping and unclipping these a lot so figure out which type suits your hands and is easiest to work with. Try a few. Keylock types can make unclipping from bolts easier (no notch in the nose to snag), but if you decide to rack your wires on them be careful they don’t slide out and drop to the ground when selecting a size.


Now you’ve discovered which snapgate you like, ideally choose quickdraws which incorporate the same. Again, there are a multitude of options when it comes to the connecting sling. 12mm Dyneema is a good all round choice, so let's consider numbers and lengths. Go for:

  • 2 x 60cm extendable alpine quickdraws

  • 3 x 12cm short quickdraws

  • 1 x multibuy ‘trad’ pack (5 in 3 different lengths)

Useful Optional Extras

  • A 20/25m length of static rope for rigging belays

  • Rope protectors (alternatively use coats/bags)

  • Prussic loops (don’t know how to make and use them? Book a course)

And that’s it… for now.

Inevitably, as you embrace lead climbing, travel to new areas and experience climbing on different rock the amount of gear required will always correspond to the following formula:

Gear required = n+1 (where n is your existing rack)

Within our training centre, we have a climbing equipment shop stocking Ocun and Singing Rock brands. Take a look at our range - and pre order goods to be collected on your course.
The Author : Joe Brown
Joe is a climbing instructor and primary school teacher, originally from Cleethorpes. He began climbing in 1990 and has visited many areas throughout the UK and Europe. After studying archaeology, working in outdoor retail and spending three winters snowboarding in The Alps, he qualified as a teacher in 2005. Joe now spends most of the year instructing in The Peak District and teaching in schools during the winter. He lives in Sheffield with his dog, Billy.
Joe Brown