After learning to climb indoors on top rope and learning to lead sport climbs outdoors I will be progressing into Trad climbing by taking an instruction course as well as climbing with other experienced trad climbers. The areas being climbed are listed below in order of frequency:

  1. Rattlesnake Point/Mt. Nemo - Limestone - 2-3 times a week
  2. Red River Gorge - SandStone - once every couple months
  3. Sqaumish - Granite - once or twice a year

My question is being a minimalist and a cost conscious individual, what would I be looking at in terms of "must have" on my rack for day 1. Furthermore what would I be looking at acquiring throughout time, in what order and for what reason?

PS. Safety trumps minimalist and cost conscious any day so if a full set of everything is what's required to be safe then that is what will be purchased. I also appreciate the understanding that all the protection in the world can't keep me safe if it is not used/placed correctly.

If further information is required please let me know.

  • 1
    A friend once told me that you shouldn't buy any gear until you know what climb you're doing, then buy the gear for that climb. (As a starter, a set of nuts costs little more than a single cam. So I just bought a set of nuts.) Dec 11, 2013 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


You don't need a trad rack of your own in order to follow. If you're climbing with experienced trad leaders who have their own racks, then you also don't need to bring your own rack. If you're going to lead, you just borrow their gear. In your situation, there is really no advantage to buying a lot of trad gear before you try following on trad climbs at all.

But anyway, to answer your question...

You already have a sport setup, so I'm not going to list stuff like helmet, ATC, etc., that you already have.

You need some passive and/or active pieces. How many and what kind are going to depend a lot on what you climb, and you will get a better idea of this once you've done some climbs and seen what fits in various situations.

You probably want about 10-12 alpine draws for extending your protection. Depending on the climb, it may also be possible to use quickdraws (which you presumably already own) to replace some or all of these, but quickdraws are more of a sport climbing thing, and when you take your course, they'll show you how a rigid quickdraw can pop your protection out of a crack in some situations.

You need materials for building anchors. 1 double-length sling, 1 quad-length sling, 4 locking biners, 10 m (30') of 14 mm (9/16") webbing, some rap rings. Some kind of lightweight knife or scissors.

If you're not already familiar with safety backups for rappels, get some instruction in that, and carry whatever gear you need for the backup, e.g., a prusik.

It's a really good idea to carry a Texas prusik system for use in ascending the rope when you're following on a route that you can't get up.

Nut tool. (And if you don't have one already by the first time you go follow on a trad climb, make sure to ask your leader to lend you one before the climb.)

It's a good idea to at least have a pair of gloves available for when you're belaying a leader. Compared to sport climbing, there is more potential in trad for the leader to take a long fall because something went wrong (pieces pulled out, no good placements for a long stretch,...)

Radios can be handy for situations where communication is difficult. One of the most common causes of accidents is a miscommunication between the climber and the belayer.

  • Thanks for providing all this information especially for including the small items like the Nut Tool. Thanks Again!
    – AM_Hawk
    Dec 17, 2013 at 14:38
  • What is a "Texas prusik system?" I was taught how to use a Purcell Prusik for a foot loop along with a short waist Prusik. How is this similar or different?
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 5, 2014 at 13:20
  • @Mr.Wizard: There's a description of it in Freedom of the Hills. It's a system for ascending a rope.
    – user2169
    Feb 6, 2014 at 16:44

One thing I think that's missing from Ben's answer is a half rope.

If your climbing on a trad route that moves about a lot you'll want to use two half ropes rather than a standard single rope.

The idea behind a half/double rope is that it reduces drag, if you have two anchors that are far apart on the same route, this can produce a Z in the rope which cause significant rope drag, you get a few of these and your rope will become unusable quickly.

Here's a good explanation of how and why

Double ropes come into their own on multi-pitch climbs or more complex longer single pitches that weave around.

As Lou traverses away from the belay she's placed a high runner on the blue rope (her right hand rope).

When she pulls into the strenuous corner she wants a runner quickly and already knows she'll clip this on red. She'll carry on clipping the red rope until she's high enough to be back in line above the early runner on blue so it won't give her any rope drag.

Much higher up the pitch now you can see Lou has managed to keep the two ropes separate and both running smoothly. She has placed plenty of runners but has avoided creating any rope drag.

  • Thanks! I have seen this in several videos, good to know!
    – AM_Hawk
    Dec 17, 2013 at 14:19

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