All posts by 3cohosting

Nut Key

A nut key is a tool used to remove nuts which have become stuck in the rock.  This can happen often, so a tool like the ones shown below is vital in saving you time whilst removing your protection, not to mention the cost of having to replace your stuck gear.

A Wild Country Nut Key

A selection of different sized Nuts.


Spring Loaded Camming Devices (or SLCD for short) usually consist of three of four cams mounted on an axle. They are designed so that once placed into a crack in the rock face, any force placed on pulling the SLCD (i.e. a fall) will force the cams to spread open further, essentially holding the climber in place.

SLCD’s have a trigger mechanism, which when pulled with a couple of fingers, closes the cams together and aligns them so that it can be placed into the crack easily. SLCD’s, like all other climbing protection, are made by a number of manufacturers all of whom give their SLCD’s a different name. Some of the most common include Friends, Camalots and Aliens.

A diagram detailing how a loaded cam works. 

As shown above, the more pressure placed on the cam, the wider it will attempt to open.


At first glance, most climbing harnesses look the same. They all consist of two leg loops and a waste loop connected together with a small fourth belay loop. This is not actually the case though. Some harnesses are made for regular rock climbing, some for alpine style climbing (with detachable leg loops), some harnesses have a lot of padding making them very comfortable to climb in all day long, while others (usually at the budget end of the scale) have considerably less. There are male and female specific designs available as well as many unisex ones. Some harnesses come with a large number of gear loops. These are usually plastic (although some are metal) “D shaped” rings which are attached to the side of the harness and used to clip your climbing gear onto when climbing.

A padded unisex climbing hanress with metal gear loops.


Before buying a harness it’s important to know if it feels comfortable. Many good climbing shops will have a harness hang facility, which allows you to put the harness on and suspend from a rope. This will give you the best indication of the comfort of the harness. As with climbing shoes, it is worth trying a few harnesses on to see which one feels the most comfortable. After all, you will be spending quite a bit of time in it, so it may as well feel comfortable.

An apline style harness
(notice the leg loops are not padded and can be quickly unclipped, making it easier to put on and off in alpine conditions or whilst wearing more padded clothing).


Chalk Bag

A chalk bag is used to contain climbing chalk.  There are many different versions available on the market today, however they all follow the same principle.  They’re usually a hand sized pouch which is attached to the climber and can be used to apply chalk whenever, wherever they are.   The chalk bag usually has a fleece lining which traps chalk dust and a draw string closure to stop the chalk from coming out during transit.  They’re available in different sizes, colours and designs, so take a look around at the shops and websites to find one that suits you.

A regular chalk bag.  Choosing which colour or pattern can be the hardest thing!

Chalk bags are often fastened around the waist on a thin belt or can be attached to a belt loop with a small karabiner.  Chalk buckets are also available for bouldering.  These are large communal chalk bags allowing a number of people to share the same chalk.  As most boulder problems are short, the re-application of chalk is not usually required and therefore boulderers often leave their chalk bags on the ground.

A large communal chalk bucket, ideal for bouldering.


Nuts are climbing protection, used predominantly when trad climbing. There are many varieties available from different manufacturers, however the basic format is a small wedge shaped block of metal with a loop of wire attached to it. The nut is placed into a narrowing crack in the rock face and wedged so that it will not be removed in the event of a fall. The climber will then attach a quickdraw to the loop and clip their rope through the other side of the quick draw. In the event of a fall, a well placed nut should hold fast and prevent the climber from falling any further.

Nuts are available in different sizes and are usually colour coded either by anodising the block or a small collar on the wire. The colour represents the size of the nut, which after a little time using them will help to speed up the process of which nut to select whilst climbing. Nuts are also known as wires or stoppers and although each manufacturer seems to have a different name for them, they all perform in roughly the same way.

Liquid Chalk

Liquid Chalk works similar to some brands of chalk, by using a drying agent to prevent the hands from becoming sweaty. Many climbers prefer liquid chalk as it doesn’t leave a white residue on the holds. One application also lasts a while, where as chalk can require frequent reapplication. Some climbers use liquid chalk as a “base layer” before using regular chalk. As is always the case, it boils down to personal preference.


Climbing chalk is a drying agent used for hands in climbing. It stops the hands from becoming sweaty which can decrease the amount of friction on the climbing hold. Most of the time climbers “chalk” is actually Magnesium Carbonate, which is also used by weight lifters and gymnasts. Many climbers do not like chalk because of the white marks that are left on the natural rock. Rock coloured chalk is available from some manufacturers, however, here at Climbing Explained we believe that using white chalk is fine and that a little responsible brushing of climbing holds before and after use goes a long way. Chalk is carried by climbers in a chalk bag and is commonly sold in the following different types:

Loose powder is relatively cheap and comes in a re-sealable plastic bag. The chalk powder can be poured into the chalk bag as and when required. Many indoor climbing walls do not allow the use of loose chalk as they believe it contributes to the dusty atmosphere that some indoor walls suffer from.

Chalk Balls.
Chalk balls are powdered chalk that has been compressed into a fabric gauze ball around the size of a tennis ball. By squeezing the chalk ball, a small amount of chalk is let through the gauze. This results (in theory) in less powder being spilt from the chalk bag. Chalk balls are also relatively inexpensive, but until they have been used for a while don’t seem to coat the hands in as much chalk as loose powder.

Chalk Blocks.
Chalk Blocks are chalk powder which has been compressed into blocks. Similar in many ways to chalk balls, the powder is released slowly as the climber moves the block between their hands (in a chalk bag). Chalk blocks are in many ways a middle ground compromise between loose chalk and chalk bags. Some manufacturers now supply loose chalk with small lumps of chalk block in them, which many climbers prefer.

Liquid Chalk.
Liquid Chalk works similar to some brands of chalk, by using a drying agent to prevent the hands from becoming sweaty. Many climbers prefer liquid chalk as it doesn’t leave a white residue on the holds. One application also lasts a while, where as chalk can require frequent reapplication. Some climbers use liquid chalk as a “base layer” before using regular chalk. As
 is always the case, it boils down to personal preference.

As you can see above, there are many different varieties and brands of chalk available in the market. Some contain added drying agents which climbers with sensitive skin may find too harsh. Others swear by them however, so a little trial and error with different products is recommended before settling on your favourite brand. At the end of the day chalk isn’t going to help you climb harder grades. It will however help a little to stop you from slipping of holds because your hands are sweating.


Hexes are similar to nuts and used in exactly the same way, however they come in much larger sizes. Rather than a solid piece of metal, Hexes are hollow which helps to reduce weight due to their size. Hexes are also colour coded to enable easy selection and sometimes have dyneema or cord loops attached rather than metal wires.  This is not always the case though as shown below.


Slings (also known as Webbing) are loops of strong material used frequently in outdoor climbing.  They tend to be made out of either non-elastic nylon or Dyneema.  Slings sold by reputable climbing shops are made to a very high standard and as such are incredibly strong (the strength rating of a sling is supplied when purchasing).  

Slings are available in a variety of different sizes (and colours) and have a number of uses when climbing outdoors.  They can be used to set up belays by building anchors, can be clipped into protection to extend the reach or simply be worn over the shoulder as a method of carrying gear on.  When you decide to climb outdoors and wish to purchase your own equipment, it is advised to buy at least a couple of each size of sling initially.


The crux of a climb refers to the most difficult move on the route or problem. Some routes are actually graded on the crux move rather than the whole experience. The crux may be a difficult obstacle that the climber must overcome, a small or dubious hold or maybe a combination of moves.