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.

DMM Brass Offsets


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.

DMM Brass Offsets Top View
The smallest sizes (usually 0-2 depending on the brand) were specifically designed for aid climbing, so body weight only. They can hold a fall, but it’s definitely not recommended.

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.

DMM Micro Wall Nuts
You can combine soldered and non-soldered nuts for a perfect set up. For example, a few sizes of the DMM Micro Wall nuts combined with some Black Diamond Stoppers would make an excellent set. This versatile setup will allow you to place gear in the tiniest of cracks, but really try not to fall on them.


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.

Micro Cams

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.

Black Diamond C3
Another brilliant option are the Totem cams, which have a very flexible stem and a lovely smooth trigger action. The cams lobes are very special, featuring a soft compound and diagonal teeth which means they grip the rock really well. The most impressive thing about the Totems are the way they fit into the rock, finding a home in the most unlikely of places. From tiny, slippery limestone cracks, to Peak district pin scars, the Totem fit where no other cam will. Also worth checking out are the Alien cams, which have a similar design to the Totems but are a bit older. It means you can usually grab them for a fantastic price.
Totem Cams
The Black Diamond X4’s are relatively new cams and feature some stunning engineering. They have a uniquely machined axle to give more expansion range per size than any other small four-cam unit on the market. The cam heads have an embedded spring to help narrow the head angle, and aluminium protection beads to protect the wire. These things are a work of art, and truly inspire confidence.
Black Diamond X4

Having a few extendable quickdraws on your rack is useful for when you need to increase the length of the sling. This may be because you want the rope to have a cleaner run over an overhang, or to minimize rope drag during a traverse. They are easy to make with a 60cm sling and two wire gate carabineers. The video below shows you how easy they are to make:


Check out the gear used in this video

Petzl Hirundos
71.99 € 89.90 €
La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoe
126.61 € 149.00 €
Petzl Arial 9.5mm
137.99 € 179.90 €
Petzl GRIGRI +
82.99 € 99.95 €
Wild Country Revo Belay Device
99.00 € 130.00 €

Buying two carabineers and a sling separately can be relatively expensive, but there are cheaper options. Mammut make a ready made extendable quickdraw that works out cheaper than buying the bits separately. It’s a good option.  

If you are carrying extra gear up a route then weight becomes an important factor. It might be worth investing in a set of lightweight quickdraws like the Ocun Kestrel draws or DMM Alpha Lites.

Buying Trad gear is always a bit of an investment, but it’s going to last you for years and give you the confidence to climb harder. Just remember to climb within your limits, as falling on micro gear is never advisable.

If this has inspired you to go for the smaller things in life, we have put together a more advanced gear selection here.



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