The Best Yosemite Climbing Rack and Gear List

Friday April 8, 2011
Below is our choice for Ultimate Yosemite Climbing Rack. We list top choice first followed sometimes by the Best Buy (BB) choice> For example, the La Sportiva TC Pro is our top Yosemite shoe choice but costs $170. The Mad Rock Flash is our Best Buy winner at only $75 and will get the job done.

This rack has almost everything you may need for a typical Yosemite Valley multi-pitch trad climb. Depending on the climb you are going to do and your experience you can pick and choose what you need from this Ultimate Yosemite Climbing Rack For a typical rack for a big wall climb, check out a typical El Capitan rack.

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Justin Lawrence on the Pitch 3 arete.
Justin Lawrence on the Pitch 3 arete.
Credit: Marshall Minobe
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Climbing Gear
 1 set DMM Offset Nuts or ABC Huevos (BB)
 1 set DMM Peenuts
 1 set DMM Brass Offsets (optional)
 1-2 sets Metolius Master Cams (#00-4)
 1 set Metolius Offset Master Cams (optional) (#00-4)
 2 sets Black Diamond Camalot C4s to (#0.5-4)
Ropes: 1 60m x 9.5mm Mammut Infinity or Maxim Equinox (BB) and one 60m x 8mm for double rope rappels
Quickdraws: 7 Wild Country Helium Quickdraw or Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw (BB) or CAMP Nano 23 Quickdraw to go ultralight
Carabiners: 20 extra Wild Country Helium or Mad Rock Ultra-Light Straight (BB) or CAMP Nano 23 to go ultralight
Locking Carabiners: 3 Petzl Attache 3D or Black Diamond Rocklock (BB)
Slings: 10 Mammut Contact Dyneema and a few 9/16" runners in case you need to leave them at rappels
Cordelette: Mammut Pro Cord
Harness: Black Diamond Chaos or Black Diamond Momentum
Belay Device: Petzl Reverso 3
Climbing Shoes: La Sportiva TC Pro or Mad Rock Flash (BB)
Helmet: Petzl Meteor III helmet or Petzl Elios
Metolius Adjustable Gear Sling
Nut Tool: Wild Country Pro Key

Non Climbing Gear
Approach Shoes: La Sportiva Ganda or Five Ten Guide Tennie (BB)
Headlamp: Petzl Tikka XP 2
Rain Jacket: Marmot PreCip
Poles: Black Diamond Trail Compact (optional)
Climbing Pack: Black Diamond Bullet or REI Flash 18 (BB)

Car Camping Gear
Tent: Black Diamond Mesa or REI Half Dome 2 (BB)
Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 or Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20 (BB)
Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus or Therm-A-Rest Z Lite (BB)
Stove: MSR Whisperlite (BB)

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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


Trad climber
Berkeley CA
  Apr 6, 2011 - 01:32pm PT
Great post. How much does that rack (in the picture) weigh?
looks like you've got some aliens in there too...

what about aiders?
Do you bring the mini-traxion on NIAD? are you hauling a small pack with it or using it for self belay? I would assume you use a gri-gri to short fix and have the second jug with a small pack so you don't have to haul.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Apr 6, 2011 - 01:41pm PT
what ever happened to a set of Stoppers, a set of Hexes, 6 tied 1" webbing slings and a pair of EBs?

what will that run you these days?
Auto-X Fil

Mountain climber
  Apr 6, 2011 - 01:51pm PT
I can see that kit being cool for NIAD, but isn't that sort of a funny rack? I mean, overkill for most people on most free climbs, but not enough for most peoole to big-wall with? It's just a poop-ton of cams!

Half Dome Village
  Apr 6, 2011 - 02:42pm PT
The biggest piece of gear on the "Ultimate Yosemite Rack" is a #4 Camalot?
the Fet

  Apr 6, 2011 - 02:54pm PT
Missing this:


Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Apr 6, 2011 - 05:01pm PT
Maybe fine rack for vertical cracks, but it looks light in the sling department. I much prefer dyneema slings and biners rigged as alpine draws (triple folded), and like to have ~12 on another single length runner over the shoulder (so can swing it around when different sides go into a crack).

I would never buy sport draws, but I frequently use them from others' racks.

And those mini brown and green biners take some getting used to, extra hand/finger coordination to manipulate the smaller stuff. Not versatile for use in a belay station (e.g. clove hitching to quick draws on a two-bolted station).

Missing double-length runners for keeping the rope running cleanly under roofs or on zig-zags.

Missing more tubular webbing for clip-in to harness & rap stations, and for backing up the ATC during a rap.

Missing a camera to take pics for trip reports and internet spewage.

And of course missing the big gear!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 6, 2011 - 04:58pm PT
echo what Bryan said above. lots of fist cracks in the valley would really benefit from a slightly bigger piece IMHO, but then again I'm a woose.

That and the pic doesn't reflect that text recommendation above, in that it shows 1 #4 in the pic, but says doubles below. no big tho, just being my usual nit picky self.

Social climber
  Apr 6, 2011 - 07:59pm PT
I would substitute a Fish Products gear sling... ocelot pattern :-)

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Apr 6, 2011 - 08:11pm PT
Seems weird to select an 'ideal' rack for Yosemite. Sure, I could buy 90 cams and be covered pretty well. But this idea is illogical to me to suggest an ideal rack.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Apr 7, 2011 - 12:03pm PT
Ooops, I see i created a little confusion. That photo I originally posted is not actually of the Yosemite Free rack i described above. It is about 90% accurate... I was just using it as a placeholder till I get the proper photo.

So for now I am removing the photo and just putting an action photo in.

Ill take a photo later once I assemble it all..

Thanks for all the comments

Trad climber
Berkeley CA
  Apr 7, 2011 - 01:35pm PT
According to the Reid book, you can do almost every climb in the valley with "gear to 3 inches" (3.5 inches for the really wide routes).

I feel like a fool for dragging around all that big gear for so long!
Auto-X Fil

Mountain climber
  Apr 7, 2011 - 01:40pm PT
It's still 30 cams if you bring everything you have listed. Maybe word it like this?

-Master Cams 00 to 4
-Optional: Either Offset Master Cams 00/0 to 4/5, or doubles of regular Master Cams
-BD C4 doubles 0.5 to 4 (are two #4s needed in the valley for many routes?)

That's a pretty solid kit, and if you get the extra small cams it's getting too heavy for my tastes.

FWIW, I've never climbed in the valley. I just assume moderately featured cracks protect the same on both coasts. I'd also carry a couple of the smaller C3s before doubling up on Master Cams, but that's nitpicking.

Social climber
Wilds of New Mexico
  Apr 7, 2011 - 02:14pm PT
Two posts second guessing the rack from someone that's never climbed in yos, classic supertopo! :)

I roll with double sets of cams through 3, one or sometimes two 4s. Big guns as necessary. Metolius in the small sizes and camalots in the bigger. One and a half sets of nuts (or thereabouts).

I also never bring enough slings or draws.
Auto-X Fil

Mountain climber
  Apr 7, 2011 - 03:27pm PT
I'm not second-guessing his rack, just saying that I don't think it reads the way he intends. I read it now as saying 1-3 sets of small cams. It seems like he probably really means to bring at least one set of small cams, and if you double up, maybe make the second set offsets.

The photo that was up made sense (doubles from tips to fists) If you pick up all the optional gear on the list, it doesn't.
the Fet

  Apr 7, 2011 - 06:15pm PT
This is the rack for a typical Yosemite Valley multi-pitch trad climb.

No wonder I see the noobs carrying a 20 pound rack on After Six!

I would say something more like "This rack has almost everything you may need for a typcial Yosemite Valley multi-pitch trad climb. Depending on the climb you are going to do and your experience you can pick and choose what you need from this Ultimate Yosemite Climbing Rack."

Social climber
  Apr 7, 2011 - 06:41pm PT
Depending on the climb you are going to do and your experience you can pick and choose from

That's the way I read it. And that's what I do.
the Fet

  Apr 7, 2011 - 07:04pm PT
I would probably also put 2 ropes for climbs that require 2 ropes to rap off, or to facilitate retreat.
Vic Klotz

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Apr 21, 2011 - 11:03am PT
Finally, a recommendation that doesn't include curved stoppers. Thanks Mac!

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Apr 27, 2011 - 11:27am PT
Chris & Company,

Thanks for spending the time to sort out what might be included in an "ideal rack". I often get asked by emerging trad climbers what they should buy. I can now point them to this list.

I like everything on this list but wanted to add some thoughts:

1. Nuts - The DMM Brass Offsets are appropriately listed as "optional". Unless you do a lot of aid climbing (or are lucky enough to climb in Yosemite a lot) you probably won't use them much.

2. Cams - I really like the Metolius Master Cams in the small sizes and they are probably the closest replacement we have for Aliens. I find the larger sizes of the Metolius Master Cams (4-red, 5-black and 6-green) to be a bit wobbly. The BD Camalots are great if you have the money. For a slightly more affordable option (and a bit lighter), you might want to trade the Camalots out for a set of Metolius Power Cams. The off-set Metolius cams would be nice, but probably not used that much outside of Yosemite or the aid climbing world.

3. Quickdraws - When I'm fiddling around with a tricky clip, I find it's harder to clip the rope with a wiregate quickdraws. I know it's a bit more weight, but I think it's worth having a solid, bent-gate, 'biner for the rope end. Also, consider a longer draw length like 17cm (instead of the typical 12cm) to reduce rope drag. Not much extra weight, but it will help with rope drag. I like the Petzl Spirit Express Quickdraw. Buy them in sets and think about getting 10 or 12 instead of 7. There are plenty of 10+ clip sport routes where you'll use them.

3.5. 'Biners - Those little baby Camp Nano 'biners might be really light (they look like toys!) but I find them really hard to clip. If you've got big paws like me, you might want to go with a larger 'biner.

4. Lockers - I love those Petzl Attache 3D biners. If you're missing the ones on your rack, it's probably because I accidentally borrowed them when we went climbing. I like the light weight and I like the way they grab the rope when you're tying in with a Clove Hitch at the belay. I would suggest getting at least 6 locking 'biners if you can.

5. Cordellete - The Mammut Cordellette that is shown in the link is 18'. I think that is a little short. Also, the thinner cord suggested(6mm) is not as strong or as durable as a fatter cord. I recommend buying 22' of 8mm cord. It's rated over 3,000 lbs. and is great for setting up trad anchors or slinging big trees or boulders. It's priced around 60 cents/foot and available by the foot at If you're worried about the bulk, drop down to 7mm and buy 20'. One last note on cordelletes - they take a beating if you use them for top roping. Be sure to inspect them and replace them on a regular basis. You can use the old one as a "full strength" do leash for your poodle.

6. Belay Device - I have used the BD Guide for quite awhile and really like it. I know the Reverso 3 accepts a small biner to allow for lowering. Find friends that already have them and ask to try them both out before you buy one. Or just ask a climber using one. You wouldn't be surprised to find out that climbers love to talk about their gear. Be sure to read the directions carefully before using in "guide mode"!

7. Helmet - All I can say about helmets, is use them! I see that Justin Lawrence (shown in the pic above the gear list) accidentally forgot to wear his. Maybe someone will one down to him. I've been climbing for over 30 years and been hit in the head with a decent sized rock about 4 times. I was really glad I had one on every time. If you climb long enough (or frequent places like Pinnacles), you will eventually get hit in the head with a rock. A helmet is cheaper than a trip to the emergency room.

8. Gear Sling - I have 2 Metolius Adjustable Gear slings and used them for many years till my friend gifted me the Metolius Multi-Loop Gear sling. It's only a few bucks more and really helps keep everything organized when you're fiddling around for that grey Alien that you know is back there somewhere.

9. Nut Tool - I have heard that the nut tools with the curly cords (like an old school telephone cord) get all tangled up. I have friend that connected his nut tool to one of those janitor style retractable key chains. Cool idea but I don't know if it's been battle tested yet. I have a plain, old BD Nut tool but would buy one of those nut tools that allow you to tighten loose bolts (like the Metolius Torque Nut Tool). Or maybe I'll just buy one with a bottle opener so I can stop smacking my beers open on the park service's wooden picnic tables.


Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Apr 26, 2011 - 09:30pm PT
I would probably also put 2 ropes for climbs that require 2 ropes to rap off, or to facilitate retreat.

30 cams on your free can afford to leave some behind to make a safe rap. ;)
stinky hippie

Trad climber
Oakland CA
  Apr 29, 2011 - 12:43pm PT
People keep doggin' on all the cams. Having doubles from .5 to 3 seems reasonable, and maybe a 4 from time to time. The smaller cams like the master cams or C3s are light, easy to manage on the rack, and arguably speed up placements and are easier to clean(when placed correctly). For most moderate climbs in the valley I will place maybe one nut on the whole pitch, unless it is thin the whole time, or the crack is shallow. I stopped taking the largest two nuts because I never place them. pin scars are the one place I have never been able to protect very well. I just picked up some offset nuts and am optimistic. I guess my point is the cams are great and nuts still have there place. I am sure there will be someone much older then me who will rant and rave about the days before cams, and how they climbed all the same routes without cams. That is great too.
Preston H

Trad climber
Ketchum, ID
  Oct 9, 2016 - 06:27am PT
why did everybody read the rack post if they already know exactly what to bring?