The Best Yosemite Big Wall Climbing Rack and Gear List

Friday October 20, 2017
Below is Chris McNamara's choice for Ultimate Yosemite Big Wall Rack. We list top choice first followed sometimes by the Best Buy (BB) choice> For example, the La Sportiva Ganda is our top Yosemite shoe choice but costs $200+. The Five Ten Camp Four is $105 and will get the job done.

Updated June 2017
I just went through the entire list and updated it to my latest favorites and deleted discontinued items.

This rack has almost everything you may need for a typical Yosemite Valley big wall. But heck, it gets you up Zion walls, Baffin walls and Dubai skyscrapers as well. Depending on the climb you are going to do and your experience you can pick and choose what you need.

top left corner top right corner
Chris McNamara big wall climbing rack.
Chris McNamara big wall climbing rack.
Credit: Chris McNamara
bottom left corner bottom right corner

Rack for all clean routes
(For example: The Nose )

 1 set DMM Offset Nuts or ABC Huevos (BB)
 1 set DMM Peenuts
 1-2 sets DMM Brassoffse Offsets or Black Diamond Offset Micro Stopper
 1-2 sets Black Diamond Camalot X4s (#00-4)
 1 set Black Diamond Camalot X4 Offset (optional) (#00-4)
 2 sets Black Diamond Camalot C4s to (#0.5-4)
1-2 ea Moses Cam Hook
Ropes: 1 60m or 70m x 10.2mm and one 60m x 9mm static haul rope (8mm if traveling light, 10mm if hauling massive loads).
Quickdraws: 12 CAMP Photon Wire Express Dyneema quickdraw or CAMP Nano 22 Quickdraw to go ultralight
Carabiners: 50 extra Camp Photon Wire Straight or Mad Rock UltraLight Straight (BB) or CAMP Nano 22 to go ultralight
Locking Carabiners: 5 Petzl Attache or Mad Rock Super Tech Keylock Screw (BB)
Slings: 15 Mammut Contact Dyneema and a few 9/16" runners in case you need to leave them at rappels, Metolius Adjustable Gear Sling or just use a wide sling like the Black Diamond Nylon Runner
Cordelette: Mammut Pro Cord or just about any 8mm Spectra/Dyneema Cord
Harness: Metolius Waldo for ultra comfort. But I usually take Black Diamond Chaos or Petzl Corax (BB)
Belay Device: Petzl GriGri+ (for rapping two ropes, just about any "ATC or Reverso" style works.
Climbing Shoes: La Sportiva TC Pro or La Sportiva Tarantula (BB) usually worn a size too big with socks for comfort.
Helmet: Petzl Meteor or Black Diamond Half Dome (BB)
Nut Tool: Metolius Torque
Hauling Device: Petzl Micro Traxion for loads smaller than 80lb or Petzl Pro Traxion for loads 80-160lb
Ascender: Petzl Ascension
Aiders: Petzl Wall Step Etrier - But their discontinued so 2nd best are the Metolus 5-Step Aiders or the Metolius Alpine Aider if you're going faster and light.
Daisy Chains: Black Diamond Dynex Daisy (but just about any Spectra/Dyneema daisy is good as long as it's long enough.
Black Diamond Fifi hook
Approach Shoes: Five Ten Guide Tennie for serious aid wall. The Evolv Cruzer for one-day ascents, if you need something light on your harness.
Haul Bag: Metolius Half Dome Haul Bag or Metolius El Capitan Haul Bag
Gloves: Black Diamond Stone Glove or Black Diamond Transition Glove (for cleaning only) or some homemade fingerless climbing gloves
Gear Sling: I try to just use two shoulder length slings. On one side I put all the cams and gear and the other all the carabiners, quickdraws and slings. But if your rack is heavy, them bring a Metolius Adjustable Gear Sling.

Rack for mostly clean routes (Example: Zodiac)
Rack for all clean routes (above) Plus
Hooks: Black Diamond Cliffhanger, Black Diamond Talon, Black Diamond Grappling Hook
Keyhole Hangers: 4+ Moses Rivet Hangers
Wire Rivet Hangers: 4+
Beaks/Tomahawks: 2-4 Moses Tomahawks all sizes
1 set Black Diamond Lost Arrows
1-2 Black Diamond Angles
Gear Sling: Yates Big Wall Rack or Misty Mountain Double Gear Sling
Aiders: Yates Big Wall Ladder
Petzl Bongo Hammer or the lightest hammer I can find... since you barely ever use it on most routes

Big Wall Bivy Gear
Runout Customs Double Portaledge
Bivy Sack: Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy
Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35 or The North Face Cat's Meow
Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest
Stove: JetBoil Flash with JetBoil Hanging Kit and Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Poop Tube: Metolius Waste Case and Wag Bags or make your own poop tube (click on link then scroll down
Stuff Sacks: Metolius Big Wall Stuff Sacks
Duct Tape
Wet One's wipes
Solar Charger Panel (optional) - Anker PowerPort 21W
Climbing tape

Personal Gear
Headlamp: Black Diamond ReVolt
Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Helium II because it is the lightest jacket we know of that is still waterproof.
Fleece: Patagonia R1 because it comes with hand warmers and a built-in balaclava
Belay Jacket: Rab Xenon X
Trekking Poles (optional): Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z or Black Diamond Distance FLZ
Sun Hat
Sun Shirt - especially look for protection on the neck. Big wall gear slings can pull your shirt down and expose ares that you didn't apply sunscreen.
cell phone with a case to hold it
small knife: Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585
hydration: For the leader, a small plastic water bottle with tie off sting or a CamelBak Classic. Other water should be in 2-liter bottles or other bottles that are easy to tie off with string or clip biners to.

For a more in depth discussion of what gear we recommend and why, check out How To Big Wall Climb: SuperTopo

Visit on

10 Tips To Make Big Wall Climbing More Fun
How to Big Wall Climb
Clean Climbing and Fixed Gear - Tips for Keeping El Capitan Garbage Free

  Article Views: 108,110
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan — an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 100 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He is the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the boards of the ASCA and Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated website,, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business


Big Wall climber
Fort Collins Co
  Apr 20, 2011 - 04:53pm PT
Great idea and a great addition to super topos. Having a hit list of gear can trim weight down and assure that you don't need to depends.

  Aug 4, 2011 - 04:40am PT
New to the big wall side of thing so this article has been an absolutely great insight (along with the various post from the forums).

One question is that one of the recommended ropes is "Ropes: 1 60m or 70m x 9.2mm Maxim Glider". Is this supposed to be the 10.2mm Maxim Glider? Not finding any reference to 9.2mm for that rope from New England Ropes.

Trad climber
  Aug 4, 2011 - 09:54am PT
Not one mention of Fish Gear? His ecconomy haul bag? Porta ledges? Bigwall double gear sling?

What's up with that?


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Aug 4, 2011 - 09:57am PT
Bivvy Sheep with boots?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 4, 2013 - 01:08pm PT
I just updated this on 3.4.13. Please let me know if any links are broken or if there are any typos
Jon Rhoderick

  Mar 4, 2013 - 01:16pm PT
The transition glove in the hooks section might be a typo, Im not sure of you mean 4-6 medium & 4-6 large peckers or 4-6 TOTAL peckers sizes med and lrg.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 4, 2013 - 01:19pm PT
Did you do the Nose this Friday?

Ice climber
Bzn, mt
  Mar 4, 2013 - 01:36pm PT
Yes Jaybro bivvy Sheep.
Much like a normal sheep but more compact for those big climbs and just perfect for those cold nights waiting out a storm when you can not have your girl friend along.

I think the boots part was a typo is should be aproach shoes or climbing shoes you know the sheep has to climb as they really hate being stuffed in the haul bag.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 4, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
Yep, did The Nose on friday... temps felt like 70's on the wall! working on the trip report right now...

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Mar 4, 2013 - 03:22pm PT
and here I thought Chris Mac was an office jockey...way to prove me wrong chris.

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Mar 4, 2013 - 04:00pm PT
Cool thanks for posting this.

Is 9.2 really the big wall standard rope now??? Or is that supposed to say 10.2. I don't think I would go on a wall with <10mm

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Mar 4, 2013 - 04:14pm PT
When you reviewed the Black Diamond Talon hook you said:

I find that usually I reach for the Black Diamond Grappling Hook instead of this one. But, it is still good to have this.

But the grappling hook didn't make the list?
Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
  Mar 4, 2013 - 04:14pm PT
You can keep the bivy sheep, I need my teddy bear.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 4, 2013 - 04:19pm PT
I thought I was an office jockey too... thats why i had to break out!

Ooops, should have been 10.2 and not 9.2 lead rope. Corrected.

Yes, Grappling Hook should be in there. added in.

Thanks for catching my mistrakes.

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
  Mar 4, 2013 - 04:25pm PT
Mistrake should be mistake. You're welcome. ;)

It's kind of nice when I see gear lists like this now and say "Yeah, got all of that" instead of "The better half is going to get pissed again..."
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 4, 2013 - 05:17pm PT
Awesome! We saw you guys in the morning, but I wasn't sure it was you till one of my partners also said "I think it was Chris MaCnamara." lol We were the party going for Lurking Fear. Not a IAD ascent, but we topped out our first El Cap route!

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Mar 4, 2013 - 06:18pm PT
Nice job Vitaliy! My buddy and I were on the East Buttress that day. We all scored some awesome weather!

Trad climber
Sad the forum is gone =(
  Mar 4, 2013 - 07:37pm PT
Hey Chris I know at some point you were trying to get an el cap in a day (maybe specifically NIAD?) during every month of the year. You were a maybe 2 months away. Ever get done? Looking forward to trip report.

Vit - Great Job! Looking forward to TR sometime (or at least more details)
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 5, 2013 - 12:10pm PT
That is awesome that the three teams that were on El Cap that day are all on this thread! Way to send guys!

I wanted to climb el cap every month for a year... but then I found BASE jumping. But now that BASE is on the BACK BACK burner, maybe ill get back on that climb el cap every month in a year.

its a secret that ill entrust just with the internet... you can find summer-like daytime conditions every month of the year on a south facing wall. shhhh I wrote a trip report about the climb here

Gym climber
,Grand Rapids, MI
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:06pm PT
Wasn't there once a "Steamy Bivy Dating Service"? for everyone single I would think this should be on their list.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:43pm PT
We were also "on" El Cap. Making an attempt to Sickle for our first time. It's like a little reunion here on the Taco.

Met Briham89 and gave Vitaly's team a copy of our topo after bumping into his partner Alex on the way down.

Great day out there everyone.


Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Mar 5, 2013 - 06:08pm PT
Chris, I think you left the belay card out of your Big Wall Rack pix. I was truly a great day! Brian and Vit, glad to hear you were successful. Vit, hope the "how to big wall guide" was helpful.
Mark Collins

Trad climber
Chorley, Lancashire, England.
  Mar 8, 2013 - 06:47am PT

Please excuse my ignorance, I'm posting for the first time from the UK and therefore have a very tenuous grasp of what big wall climbing is about.

I was just wondering about the differences between the rack here and the one on another page:

There seems a lot less cams on the one on this page, what is the reason for this?

For example, the one on this page states offset cams as optional yet the other one says 1-2 sets up to number 5.

Trad climber
  Mar 8, 2013 - 10:56am PT
Interestingly I noticed a couple totem cams made it into the picture, but not on the list. After reading the many discussions on this forum I decided to pick up a set as I build my big wall rack. I am still learning and haven't made it on many walls yet, but they have become a go to piece for me.

Oakland, CA
  Mar 8, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
Cool thread. You've got a Gri Gri in your photo (which, hell yeah bring a Gri Gri on a wall), but not on your list.

Can the Mini-trax really do well up to 80 lbs? Love the idea of bringing that instead of a the big ol' Pro, but skeptical that it'd up to the task... Anyone got experience?

Edit: ah, Micro-trax, not Mini. Is the Micro stronger than the Mini? Could the Mini do it?

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Mar 8, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
The micro has a better pulley than the mini. The way the plates swing closed is also improved.

I've yet to haul more than a small bag, but it seems like hauling with the micro is better than the Mini-traxion.

Per the Rack above, in what world do you need 50 spare biners? Are you counting the biners on each cam in that number? Maybe 20 for your alpine draws. I dont usually have many true floaters...

Trad climber
  Mar 8, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
Yep...I want everything on that list, brand new please! How sweet would that be to go into a gear shop( or online) and just build that massive rack and head to the register. Just out of curiosity, anyone calculate the total cost if you bought everything new at retail value?

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Mar 8, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
For example, the one on this page states offset cams as optional yet the other one says 1-2 sets up to number 5.

You don't HAVE to have them. But for climbing walls in Yosemite I would never leave the ground without them. I have brought 1 set before and wished I had extras. Typically whenever I place them I back clean them because you will probably need them again. If you back clean one set is usually ok, depending on the route. Make sure to get offset nuts as well

Trad climber
  Mar 8, 2013 - 02:00pm PT
Can the Mini-trax really do well up to 80 lbs? Love the idea of bringing that instead of a the big ol' Pro, but skeptical that it'd up to the task... Anyone got experience?

Edit: ah, Micro-trax, not Mini. Is the Micro stronger than the Mini? Could the Mini do it?

The main difference between the micro and the mini is that the micro has sealed ball bearings instead of brushings.

The other thing that really stuck out to me is that the microtraxion is 91% efficient (meaning it takes about 109lbs to lift 100 lbs, ceterus parabus) compared to the 95% efficiency of the Pro Traxion (105lbs to lift 100lbs). For reference, the mini traxion is 74% efficient.

While the weight difference between the two isn't significant, it is still a few ounces that you will be climbing with.

And according to petzl, both the Micro and the Pro have the same working load (2.5kn) and breaking strength (4kn).
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Mar 8, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
Heck, if I need any new gear I just jug someone's fixed rope.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 8, 2013 - 09:44pm PT
Mark Collins, the two lists should be the same... i will sync them. and yes i carry a few Totem Cams ... ill add those in
Mark Collins

Trad climber
Chorley, Lancashire, England.
  Mar 15, 2013 - 10:03am PT
Brill. Thanks Chris.

Trad climber
Hamilton Ohio
  Feb 16, 2016 - 07:53am PT
I'm working on putting my gear together for a trip to El Cap hopefully fall of 2017. Training, planning, and purchasing till then. Looking at the list you have BD lost arrows. There's SO many out there with size and length. What would be a good set to put together to bring along with me?

Big Wall climber
  Feb 16, 2016 - 08:48am PT
As always, "it depends". For Zodiac a single #2 (short medium thickness) is all you need for lost arrows, and that is a hand placement on the Nipple pitch.

Pick your route, then get a more specific pin list. Otherwise #1-5, or only #2-5 and call it good. For almost every trade route these will sit in the haul bag as insurance. I've busted out the hammer maybe 5 times over 10 walls and a handful more failed attempts.

Trad climber
Hamilton Ohio
  Feb 16, 2016 - 02:00pm PT
Thanks Moof.
Still not sure exactly what route to be completely honest. I just want to have all the gear I may need when I head that way. I know things change in the blink of an eye and if one route is too busy and I need to find another climb if I have pieced my gear together correctly it will make the change less of a pain. If it sits in my bag or stays in the car I'm perfectly fine with that too. I've found eBay to be a great friend lately at building by gear base at a price I can afford. 1 or 2 pieces here and there is much easier to manage too. Lol.

Trad climber
Washington, DC
  Jun 26, 2017 - 05:21pm PT
Any thoughts on the Camalot Ultralights?
Related Guidebooks
Related Climbing Routes
El Capitan - The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Nose, 5.14a or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The Nose—the best rock climb in the world!
Washington Column - South Face C1 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
South Face, C1 5.8
Washington Column
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The South Face of Washington Column.