Kit and racking for traditional climbing
How to organise and maximise your protection for short route or multi-pitch climbs using harnesses and bandoliers.

Kit and racking for traditional climbing

Racking is the art of providing easy access to your protection tools, like wires, cams, etc. Get this wrong and life becomes a nightmare of tangled fumbling, grabbing what you don't want and dropping what you do. Here are a few hints on ways to improve racking and help you maximise the usefulness of your protection.


There are two main schools of thought when it comes to racking your wires. Commonly, wires are bunched onto two or three karabiners of similar sizes, with small (00 to 4) medium (5 to 7) and large (8 to 10) nuts being placed into each karabiner. This system reduces confusion and it is much easier to find the correct nut in extreme circumstance. Micro wires, like Swedges and RPs, are usually placed on separate karabiners. On longer climbs some prefer to rack wires in complete single sets (1 to 10, 00 to 7 etc). Then, if you drop a karabiner of wires, you don't loose all your wires of a certain size.

Camming devices

Generally, these are individually attached to your harness gear loops via their own karabiner. Rack them so that the smallest unit is at the front and the largest unit is at the rear. This will keep the front of your harness free and uncluttered, allowing you to see your feet. Very large camming devices are best clipped to a sling or bandolier, so that you can move them from one side of your body to the other to keep them out of the way.

Know your system
RackingKnow your system

Whatever system works for you, stick to it. Then, if things start getting tough you'll instinctively know where to reach for the appropriate piece of protection.

A common system is to have:

1 All your wires on one side of your body, clipped to the front gear loop (on the right side if you're right handed and vice versa), Most of your cams on the other front loop.
2 Less frequently used protection goes on the front of the secondary loops (pieces like larger camming devices, hexentrics, etc.).
3 Extenders go next, clipped to the secondary loops on either side to equalise the weight.
4 The last items at the rear of the harness are usually your belay device, a few screwgates and nut tool.


A harness generally has four or five gear loops, and for most occasions these are sufficient. Occasionally on some routes, more protection may be required. A bandolier can extend your racking capacity. This can either be a dedicated padded model or simply a shoulder length sling allowing the climber to take some of the weight off the harness.

A bandolier is useful to make swapping gear faster at belays on multi pitch routes; it allows the climber to move gear around their body when squirming up cracks or chimneys.


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