Building a Rack

So What's a Rack Anyway?
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A rack refers to the gear you carry with you on your harness (and eventually all the extra stuff you leave in your pack, too) to make a roped rock climb safe. Your rack is your hip-side preparedness pack, which includes the protection you put in the rock, your belay devices, spare carabiners, and extra slings. In theory, it includes everything you need to cover all possible scenarios, from a safe climb to a hasty retreat or rescue.

Buying In
It's easy to drop a few thousand dollars on new climbing gear—most sufficient climbing racks are worth at least that much—but don't think you have to put up all that cash at once. Start with the basics—passive protection of a variety of shapes and sizes—that are substantially cheaper. Then pair up with partners whose gear compliments your own and share your way to big-wall preparedness. Just make sure you mark your gear with a personal tag like colored tape, as climbers are particularly apt to"trade" items from time to time.

My only disclaimer states the obvious: there's no sense spending tons of money on high-tech gear if you don't know how to use it. Placing gear in traditional climbing is an art form in itself, and no gee-wiz, brand new $75 camming device is going to save your hide if you put it in the rock incorrectly. Learn the ropes of traditional climbing under the tutelage of a more experienced friend. When you follow a route, pay attention to the gear placements you remove, and consider what makes them work. Once you gain a better understanding of the dynamics of traditional climbing gear you'll have a better understanding of what you need to buy for your own rack.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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