New or Innovative Products
Recent or innovative climbing gear that has come to my attention, and
worthy of highlighting. Some items I've used, other's I've just heard
about. Gear addicts beware! Feel free to drop me an
email, if you can
think of a product that deserves mention.
Cams – Italy’s answer to affordable spring loaded protection (By Neil
First impressions are of a simple, yet rugged design – with a beefy
single stem of similar design to the specialist Aliens brand camming
devices. These seem better made – with a more ‘commercial’ finish to the
overall package. The design is very basic – little in the way of moving
parts and the most basic level of nuts and bolts holding the device
together. This simplistic approach means that day to day wear and tear and
subsequent repairs should be easy to manage. The build quality is good -
metal is polished and without any manufacturing imperfections. The only
glaring new feature to these Italian made camming devices is their cheap
price - $79.95 (all sizes are the same price) – this is around two thirds
of the cost of similar big name brand cam.
sizes all have solid cams with reverse-strength lobes milled in. The larger
ones also have the milled cam stops but also have weight-saving sections cut
out of the cams. They come in 10 sizes covering expansion ranges from 10mm
to 100mm. Each cam is coloured for easy identification.
In practice these
cams work well. I found the placements were stable and reliable - certainly
an improvement over some of other cheaper cams on the market. The tightness
of the springs in a cam themselves make for a more reliable placement. These
Kong cams were tight and had a good smooth trigger action. The devices
overall length is about 20% longer than the equivalent Camalot size - which
allows you to place them deeper into cracks. I found their length to be a
little cumbersome when racked with other cams due to them hanging lower on
my harness. The narrow two finger trigger bar is small and awkward for big
hands. I found my fingers slipping off the edges when they were sweating up.
Distance between thump loop and trigger bar is longer than usual – and felt
stretched in my hands. I think this would be a real problem for climbers
with smaller hands – most girls would have serious issues with co-ordinating
this cam into place without additional strain. Guys with big hands won’t
notice any dramas.
the stem is restricted because of the larger diameter central cable. This
was not a major drawback as in my opinion the stronger the cable the safer
the unit as I have personally snapped two Wild Country cams in the past! The
cam has a large clipping loop which can accept many carabineers
simultaneously (very handy for clusterf**ck aid shenanigans). Also included
is a very useful double stitched sling that can be extended to eliminate the
use of a quickdraw. This saves the pain of having to drag up a cam and a
bulky quickdraw for every placement.
These appear to
be a well built and solid camming device suitable for a first timers basic
rack – or as an excellent second set of cams for the climber who is
expanding into longer trad routes and endurance cracks. I was surprised that
Kong, a well respected and long time climbing gear manufacturer, had not
brought out their own cams earlier.
Mad Rock Shoes
So what makes this particular line of shoes any better than the flock
of other new shoes on the market each year? Well that kind of remains to
be seen. They're available from December 2002, so I'm still waiting to
hear enough first hand accounts. However there is certainly a lot of talk
about them. A new technology in sticky rubber that varies in hardness
(harder on the edges, softer in the centre) and shape, combined with a low
price seems to have people excited on the forums. See Mad
Rock's web site for complete details. Also check this
thread over on Rockclimbing.com, and this
thread on rec.climbing.
A lightweight day pack for multi-pitch climbing with gear loops on the
shoulder and waist straps for clipping extra equipment, and a system for
holding a water bladder (not included), in the Camel Back style. It's big
enough to hold a rain coat, food, water, descent shoes, etc, but not too
bulky and it sits high enough not to interfere with the harness. I'd
personally just recently shelled out for a traditional camel back with day
pack when I caught sight of this little beauty from Grivel, which made me
wish I'd spotted it sooner. Now I'm wondering if I can sew gear loops into my
Camel Back's pack. They seem to be going for about $100 AUD. See Grivel's page
for more details. There's also a bit of talk about it on this
thread of a UK climbing forum and this
thread over on the mountain community forum.
A single rope, auto-locking belay device. Slightly lighter than a Gri
Gri, but bigger, this device performs much the same operation. It's a
little more complicated to use, requiring the unscrewing and re-screwing
of a permanently attached bolt, before belaying can commence. As with the
GriGri is takes some practice to pay out slack correctly, without short
roping your leader. See also the review
from Planet Fear web site.
Wild Country "Zero"
Rock Hardware - Camming Devices)
Heralded as the smallest cams on the market, Wild Country, the makers
of the original friends (active caming device), have introduced 6 units in
their "zero" range. Available in April 2002, the smallest cam will fit
into a 0.22 inch crack. Note, the bottom few sizes of the range are only for aid, not free climbing. They use a patented, flexible stem/axel system
that reduces the likelihood of the cam leveraging out of it's placement. I
haven't had a chance to even see any yet, but there's a bit of talk over
Caff" on UKClimbing.com. People are saying that the larger two or
three units of the new "zero" cam range matches in size with the
smallest existing Wild Country technical friends, but the tech friends
have a higher strength rating. On the other hand, other posters are
saying, the new "zero" cams use a super flexible stem, are
lighter, and have a narrower profile. Things to consider if you're buying.
Splitter Gear's 2-Cam
They claim it "achieves the narrowest profile of any camming
device" and "having the cams directly opposed eliminates
walking”. Sounds interesting. I have no personal experience with them,
but comments from rec.climbing are saying things like:
"The crack has to be of uniform width to maximize contact with the
"Great for AID placements"
"I've placed them in flares that wouldn't take Aliens"
"Be very careful of full retraction.... cut-outs on the lobes promote
"I can imagine situations where a Splitter would be ideal, but so far
I have not run into one on the rocks".
See Splitter Gear's web site
for more information, read the review
from rockclimbing.com, and check this
thread on rec.climbing.
Petzl Calidris Harness
Hardware - Harnesses)
A harness is a harness, and they're all pretty much the same
right? Well maybe, but Petzl are renowned for great harnesses and their
recent addition of the Calidris model is worth mentioning. A friend of mine
bought one, and ever since I'd been eyeing the thing off, until I finally
caved got one too. All buckles are self doubling back, so you don't need to bother remembering
to do this yourself. The gear loops slope forward so the gear falls into
reach. There's a clip at the back so you can hang a bog in a hurry without
undoing the whole thing. Even the leg loops are cool. Petzl says they "create
an even weight distribution across the entire area of contact with the
thighs". It's way more comfy that my old harness. I've used a bit of
spectra to form a fifth gear loop to the back of mine. If I had any gripe,
it would be that the gear loops are a tad small and could have come
forward a little more. See Petzl's
page on their site for more info, or check out the review over on Rock
and Ice magazine.
Hardware - Karabiners)
This might seem like an incredibly simple thing, but think about the
advantages. An aluminium locking carabiner that won't cross load. No
more potentially dangerous loading over the gate, where the carabiner's
strength is greatly reduced. The black plastic sleeve keeps the rope where
it should be, loading the carabiner along it's spine. Also DMM says they
have added an "extra safety feature by making it impossible to shut
the catch unless the gate is fully screwed up". It's got a 25kN
strength rating and weighs in at 100 grams. I've not used one, but
comments on rec.climbing,
unfortunately seem to be fairly negative, though some recommend it for
single pitch, single rope belaying. Read the review by The Deadpoint
web site, or surf straight to DMM's
BelayMaster page to check this puppy out.
Five-Ten's Guide Almighty
A rock shoe for both hiking and climbing. All day comfort (as opposed
to high performance). It has Treaded Stealth C4 soles and a technical toe
rand for climbing, but also lots of cushioning and ankle support for
hiking. I can see this shoe being good for long and lazy multi-pitch
climbs, and difficult approaches/descents where you wish you were wearing
your climbing shoes, but want the comfort of your hike boots. I've got the
Five-Ten "ascents", which I use for all day multi-pitches where
comfort is more important than performance. This shoe looks like two steps
closer again towards the comfort end (and away from the performance end)
of the scale. See climbing magazine's review,
and the Five-Ten web site for more
Rock Hardware - Belay Devices)
What's this I'm hearing about the new Petzl "Reverso" belay
device? Is it worth getting one? Basically its a belay/abseil device that
offers an auto locking mechanism for belaying a second or two seconds simultaneously.
When belaying a leader its not auto locking and acts just like a regular
ATC style device. People seem to be divided on its usefulness. My opinion
is, if you want the security of a mechanically auto-locking device for
belaying a second and don't want to carry the weight of, say, a GriGri for
this purpose then the reverso would be a good buy. However I have heard
that it can be hard (or impossible?), to lower the second once they have
fallen and locked the device. For this reason I have avoided my usual
"gear freak" instinct in rushing out to buy one, though I
recently saw this comment on rec.climbing:
"Some people have commented that it can be hard to give slack once
the device has locked, but if you read the instructions, there is a
relatively easy way (albeit non-intuitive) to give slack". Check out the Reverso
at the Petzl website, and read Dawn's FAQ
for more info. Also check out this page,
from the US Mountain Guides web site, for a good review and details on how to lower the second while in
auto-lock mode. Chockstone forum comments are
(& Zipka) (See:
Hardware - Head Lamps)
The new, super small and light LED headlamp from Petzl. Something like 150
hours of light from three AAA batteries. The beam is diffuse rather than
directional and only extends a short distance, but is very bright. Not
good if you want to spot distant outcrops on an epic descent, but the
thing is so small you could tuck it into a pocket, for "just in
case" climbs, and almost forget it's there. It would also be great for
camp cooking & snowbound tent reading. You can pick the Tikka users
from a group of head-lamped climbers pretty quickly due to the bright,
slightly blue-ish light. If someone shines the light in your eyes, you'll
know about it. Check out Petzl's Tikka
page and read Dawn's FAQ
for more info. They also have the "Zipka",
which is basically the Tikka but with a roll up strap system, making it
even smaller & lighter again.
Hardware - Ascenders)
A tiny, light weight device that grabs the rope like an ascender. Can be
used to ascend the rope (though I've never tried it for this purpose due
to its sharp looking teeth), or can be used in rigging a hauling system.
The later use I have tried (see: Hauling Systems) a
few times, and can attest that it does the job well, at least for me, and
didn't shred my 10.5mm dynamic rope. For the purpose of hauling a second
past the crux using an unassisted hoist, it proved to be quicker to rig
and smoother to work with than a prusik. Check out Petzl's
page on the Tibloc and the review
over on GearReview.com. Also see "What
are petzl tiblocs good for" over on Dawn's FAQ.
The original "screamers" came out over 10 years ago, but
Yates have recently introduced their new "shorty" and
"zipper" models (pictured right). Screamers are a shock absorbing sling designed to reduce peak loads in any climbing system.
Basically you use them instead of a quick draw on dicy or questionable
trad/ice placements, such as micro nuts. During a lead fall the screamer
should sequentially tear its stitching (until it becomes a normal sling),
thus reducing force on the piece (and the rope, etc), hopefully rather
than the piece popping out of the rock. Yates say peak loads will be
reduced by 3 or 4 kN. The new "shorty" is just a more compact
version of the original, and the "zipper" model is for long
falls. Screamers activate at 2kN. See Yates
page on screamers. See also the tech
tip from Climbing Magazine on using them.
Industries Silent Partner
This device came out back in 1999. It's a self belay device primarily for lead soloing though it can be used
for top rope soloing as well. Wren Industries says it is a "speed
sensitive device that will automatically feed out rope while the climber
advances, but quickly lock in any kind of fall". They claim no chest
harness is required. It works via use of a clove hitch around the central
wheel. I've no personal experience with this device having never had the
stomach for lead soloing (though I've done a little top rope soloing using
a GriGri and backups). The Silent Partner has been used successfully to
lead solo several big walls. Check out Hans
Florin's article over on Mountain Zone's web site where he uses the
device to do two big walls, Half Dome and El Cap Yosemite, in under 24
hours. It's a fairly expensive device (approx $450 AUD), but if you're mad
keen enough to solo I'd imagine you'd not want to do it on the cheap. See Wren
Industries web page for more info, or just head straight for the
Silent Partner user
manual in PDF format. Also see a comparison of other
self belay devices from Dr Gary Storrick's web site. Also check out this
web page for how to rig the thing correctly.
"Self feeding, yup, it certainly does that, but it doesn't do it terribly well
with a fat fuzzy rope but with a thin 9.1mm rope it rocks. I ended up paying
about $650 AUD for mine when the current exchange rate was factored in so it
certainly is not a device for the faint hearted" - Phil Box.
Diamond's Micro Camalots
Rock Hardware - Camming Devices)
The .1, .2, .3, .4 and reworked .5 & .75 were introduced back in
2000 I think, but they are still a fairly new item. I
couldn't resist and bought the four smallest to complete my full set of
camalots. I'm very happy with them. I also have the 5 smallest aliens and
it's interesting comparing situations where I'll deploy one verses the
other. The stem of the alien is more flexible but the BD micro cams
have the passive lock. See the BD web
site for more information. Also see Climber Online's comparison
review of BD Micro Camalots and CCH Aliens.
Wild Country Offset Friends
Rock Hardware - Camming Devices)
Four head cams with two heads smaller than the other two allowing
placements in flared cracks. These have actually been around for a while
now, and several other cam manufacturers (For example CCH Aliens) also produce a similar design.
However, when they first came out, the concept of offset cams was pretty
intriguing to many a climber hell bent on climbing a specific route that
could not be protected naturally with any other device. For a beginner to
intermediate climber, I'd say these are unnecessary. Even advanced
climbers probably only take them on specific routes where flared cracks
are the norm. Some people think there total overkill unless you're aiding.
I've personally never placed one, but that's probably only
because I can't justify the cost vs use on the rock I generally climb. See
Country web site page for more info. And check "Which
cams should I buy" and Should
I Add Hybrid Aliens To My Rack, on Dawns FAQ.
Petzl Gri Gri
Rock Hardware - Belay Devices)
An auto locking belay device that has become very popular for top
roping and sport climbing. There are pros and cons, but I admit to loving
mine, especially for bringing up the second, where you can convert to hauling
them past the crux in few seconds.
- When used correctly, it's very handy for top
roping, sport leading, and even (if you know what you're doing), trad
leading with additional uses like hauling.
- Auto locking, so even if the belayer is hit by rock fall and knocked
unconscious the leader is still on belay.
- Handy for big walls where you might be
belaying a leader for hours on end.
- Handy for abseiling where you need to lock off and stop a lot. (eg, to
- Converts from belaying the second to hauling them very quickly.
- Beginners might learn a lack of vigilant belaying.
- The danger of threading it backwards exists.
- A single rope device, so can not abseil on two ropes without a little
- Not recommend (by Petzl) for belaying a trad leader using dicey
placements, because the fall is caught more abruptly than an ATC/plate
device, where it's expected the rope will slip through the belayer's
fingers a little, offering a more dynamic belay.
- Without practice it's easy to short rope your leader.
Note, the GriGri is no substitute for an educated
and vigilant belayer. I've heard stories (which may not be true), about
grit getting in the cam and causing it to fail, user's holding the cam
open during a fall, someone sliding down a slab too slow to make the cam
engage, etc - I suggest you read up and really understand the device
before using it. That said, I love the GriGri and use it often. See Petzl's
page for more details, and check this page on Dawn's FAQ for how
a GriGri can fail.
Trango Big Bros
Protection for wide off-width cracks. The inner tube unscrews from the
outer tube to expand to the appropriate size of your crack, offering a
considerable expansion range. The biggest one expands from 20cm to
30cm! I wish I could afford one. As well as free climbing
pro, they are also handy to keep the rope from being swallowed by the
crack when top roping or belaying from above. When set right they are
bomber, you can even stand up on them. See Trango's
Gear Reviews -
Reviews of climbing gear from gearreview.com.
Reviews - Their page on user submitted reviews of climbing and
The Deadpoint -
Their page of gear reviews by the editor.
From Climbing Magazine in the US.
From Rock & Ice Magazine in the US.
Gear Reviews -
From the Trail Space web site. Mainly tents, backpacks, etc.
- Forum dedicated to climbing gear on UKClimbing.com web site.
Gear Critic - Open forum for gear discussion.
Planet Fear -
UK climbing site's review page.
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