Scrambling: What Rack to Take?

So you've got to grips with grade 1's, and now you're keen to start tackling some harder grade scrambles. But what kit do you take? Harness, helmet, rope etc these are all quite simple decisions, but deciding what rack to take can seem a bit overwhelming and confusing. Take too much and you feel encumbered, it'll be heavy, and it'll slow you down. Take to little and you'll have a nice light rack, but come that tricky crux you may end up wishing you had some extra pieces of gear! So to help you decide we've put together this article on what would make a good rack for grade 2 and 3 scrambles.

The rack below shouldn't be seen as the definitive scrambling rack for every scramble in the UK. As the exact rack you'll take will vary depending on your ability, the intended scramble, the rock type, and the current mountain conditions. The rack below is just a guideline- a good starting point- and one that can be tweaked, by adding or removing items, depending on the adventure you have planned. For example on grade 2 scrambles then I'll probably get rid of a few pieces of kit. As you tackle more and more scrambles then you'll find it easier and easier to decide what to take and what to leave behind.

The Rack

Personal Kit for both the Leader and the Second

  • A belay plate, and a suitable screwgate carabiner that is compatible with it.

The Scrambling Rack

  • Screwgate carabiner x6 (2 for setting up belays and 4 to go with each sling)
  • HMS Screw gate carabiner x2
  • Wiregate carabiner x 14 (1 for the nuts, 1 for your prussiks, 2 for the hexes, 2 for the cams, and 8 to make four extendable quickdraws)
  • A Half Set of Nuts
  • Hexes x 2
  • Camming Devices x2
  • 60cm sling x 4 (for making extendable quickdraws, often called slingdraws)
  • 120cm Slings x3
  • 240cm sling x1
  • Nutkey
  • Prussiks x2, Knife and Tat
A typical scrambling rack

A typical scrambling rack


The Rack Explained

Below is a bit more information about each of the items on the rack.

Belay Plate

Any belay plate with two slots will work as this will enable you to use it with half ropes as well if need be. It’s important to check that the belay device you get is compatible with the diameter of ropes you intend to use it with. It’s worth getting a dedicated carabiner that works well with your belay device. A HMS or Pear Shaped screwgate will work, but personally I use an Oval and this works well for me.

Screwgate Carabiners

Belay Plate with an Oval carabiner, Blue HMS carabiner and D-Shaped carabiner, and a nutkey

Belay Plate with an Oval carabiner, Blue HMS carabiner and D-Shaped carabiner, and a nutkey

There’s a whole host of options out there, personally I would avoid the autolocking type as they can be a lot faffier to operate, especially whilst you’re getting to grips with the basics. Shape wise then you’ll want one HMS for popping your clove hitches in when tying of your anchors at the top of a climb or for using with Italian hitches. Several smaller and lighter d-shaped screwgates are good to have with each sling plus a spare one for attaching you to your anchors.

Nut Key

One nutkey in the team is definitley essential, however it can be handy to have one each. That way you don't have to keep remembering to pass it over when your swinging leads. Plus it can be handy to remove any stuck nuts that you might place and need to tweak whilst leading and they can be used to clear out muddy/vegetated cracks so that gear can be placed- Do ensure you don't damage any rare or unique vegetation!


Half Set of Nuts

A Half set of nuts (even sizes)

A Half set of nuts (even sizes)

On a lot of scrambling routes you'll often be using natural anchors where possible, as there's often a lot of them plus they're very quick and simple to use. Therefore a whole set of nuts is rarely called for. As such I tend to just take a half set of nuts- either all of the even sizes or all of the odd sizes. This will ensure that if you require them you should be able to protect a good range of crack sizes. Personally I think the DMM wallnuts are great for this, especially as there designed so that placed sideways they'll match up to a nut two sizes bigger which is handy if you've already used that size.


Hexes

DMM Torque Nuts- Size 3 and 4 

DMM Torque Nuts- Size 3 and 4 

A couple of Hexes can be handy to cover the larger crack sizes. I personally think the DMM Torque nuts are best as they fit most cracks well and have a sewn sling which can be extended therefore an additional quickdraw isn't always needed. Depending on the route and rock type then I generally either take size 3 and 4 or I take size 2 and size 3 and each is carried on its own wiregate carabiner.


Camming Devices + Wiregate Carabiners

DMM Dragon cams- size 3 & 4

DMM Dragon cams- size 3 & 4

A couple of cams can be handy to enable you to protect or build a belay where there are only parallel cracks present. Personally I'd go for DMM Dragon cams as they're a great cam, they have an extendable sling, and they cover a wide range (per unit).. Most of the time I take size 3 and 4 as this coupled with the hexes enables me to cover a good spread of larger crack sizes. I also rack these cams on the same colour wiregate carabiners as that makes identification on your harness a lot easier, and quicker.


Slings

3 120cm Aramid slings and one 240cm dyneema sling

3 120cm Aramid slings and one 240cm dyneema sling

Three 120cm Slings, each with there own d-shaped screwgate carabiner, will enable you to take advantage of any threads or spikes whilst leading or setting up a quick belay. An additional 240cm sling can be handy for setting up a belay around a large spike, block, or thread. Slings can be made from different materials: nylon, dynema, aramid etc. Any of these will do and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Personally for scrambling I would go for dynema, or aramid, as these are slightly lighter than nylon and less bulky when racked up on your harness or around your body.


Quickdraws

quickdraws

Scrambling routes often wander left and right a lot and through complex terrain with lots of changes of angles. So extendable quickdraws (aka slingdraws) are great, as they're ideal for using on pieces of gear that are quite a way off to one side or underneath any bulges as they help to keep your rope/s running straight, which in turn reduces rope drag and the likelihood of the gear lifting out. Plus if you've not used all of them then they can easily be disassembled and used in making a belay. 4 of theses is usually enough for most routes. Personally I use DMM revolver wiregates on a couple of them as this can help further reduce rope drag on wandering pitches.


Prussiks & Knife

Prussiks, knife, and a length of 6mm 'tat'

Prussiks, knife, and a length of 6mm 'tat'

These are short knotted loops of 5mm or 6mm climbing cord. A Prussik is only as good as the person using it, therefore there only worth carrying if you know what to do with them. They are often used to back up a belay plate when abseiling and they have a whole range of uses when in comes to performing various self rescue techniques. If you don’t know how to use them then it can be worth getting some Instruction. Also for scrambling I often carry a small knife which can be useful for cutting tat for abseils etc, and it lives on the carabiner that has my prussiks so I can't forget it

Tat

This just a length of climbing cord or rope. Any climbing cord that's at least 5mm or thicker will work. Personally I quite like 7mm cord as this is just a bit thicker and more re-assuring to use on the rougher rock types. I usually carry around a 4m length, and depending on the nature of the intended route then I might take a slightly longer length.