How to Build a Starter Climbing Rack

You are just getting into climbing and on a limited budget. Cams are many and all are expensive. What should you buy first?

Get cams that fit the most common-size placements. These are units in the 1- to 3-inch range, or fingers-to-hands size. Cams that fit micro or fist-sized cracks are useful, to be sure, and you’ll want them as your skills improve, but when you are starting out, they can be dead weight on your rack. If you can afford it, double up on the 1.5- to 2-inch range. Skip the half sizes if money is tight—whole sizes might (check the listed ranges) overlap enough from unit to unit to cover you, at least for now. A starter rack of this sort will cost about $550 for the cams, with another $100 for a full set of wired nuts to protect cracks smaller than 1 inch. The nuts are simple, light and inexpensive compared to cams and work perfectly well in all but parallel-sided placements, which are in any case the domain of the seasoned climber. You might save some money by purchasing your gear in packaged sets.