Whether you’re a new climber looking to buy your first pair of mens rock climbing shoes  or a seasoned veteran, learning how to properly use the various rock climbing holds is a critical skill.

From juggy ledges to tiny crimps, each type of hold requires unique techniques to grab and sustain body position.

In this complete guide, I’ll teach you tips and tricks for mastering slopes, pinches, pockets, and more.

With the right knowledge and practice, you’ll be ascending walls and rock faces with confidence and efficiency.

Assess the Size and Features of the Cracks You’ll Encounter

The first step is to consider the size and features of the cracks and crevices on the route you want to climb.

Examine photos and route descriptions to get a sense of what you’ll encounter.

  • For hairline cracks, you’ll want thin wired nuts that can wedge securely into the tiny spaces. Go with sizes like RP’s or DMM Peenuts.
  • For wider cracks a few centimeters across, tapered stoppers like Hexcentrics fit nicely. Have an assortment from small to large.
  • Beefy off-set nuts work well for flared cracks. DMM Wallnuts or Black Diamond Stoppers are ideal.
  • For even bigger cracks and holes, look for blocks and chocks like the Metolius Master Cams.

Consider the Rock Type and Surface Texture

The composition and texture of the rock you’re climbing will impact the gear that will grip best.

  • On granite, go for nuts and chocks with softer metal like copper that molds into crystals.
  • For slick limestone, look for rigid nuts that can wedge and hold even when the fit isn’t perfect.
  • Sandstone can be rough and irregular – flexible stems help chocks grip in flared cracks.
  • Gritstone is hard but coarse – beveled edges on nuts dig into the texture well.

Choose Doubles of Key Sizes

As you assemble your rack, get doubles of the sizes you anticipate using in key spots. It’s smart to have backup pieces in case one gets stuck or you need to extend an anchor.

On my last climb up the steep limestone cracks of Lost in Space in the Shawangunks, I brought extra #.3 and #.4 Black Diamond Stoppers since I knew they would be ideal for the crux sections. Having backups gave me peace of mind on the route.

Consider Weight and Bulk

Particularly on long multi-pitch climbs, you’ll want to keep your rack as light and compact as possible without compromising safety.

  • For short routes, bulkier chocks are fine and give you more options.
  • On big climbs, go for nuts rather than cams whenever possible – they are lighter and smaller.
  • Carry only what you truly need – perhaps heavier pieces just at stances for building anchors vs the full rack between.
men's best rock climbing shoes
men’s best rock climbing shoes

Inspect and Maintain Your Gear

Check over all of your protection before a big climb.

Make sure the cables and slings aren’t frayed, the pieces aren’t badly worn or damaged, and the action is smooth on cams and moving parts.

Remove anything questionable from your rack.

It’s also wise to regularly clean and lubricate your gear.

Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to keep nuts and cams working properly for seasons of reliable use. Replacing worn pieces annually is a good practice.

Consider Renting Options

When tackling a new type of climbing, you may find yourself needing specialized gear you don’t own yet.

Renting can allow you to test out different protection without fully investing until you know what you like.

Pro shops at many climbing areas offer rental racks with the latest and greatest products to try.

Practice Placing Gear Before You Climb

To gain confidence with new gear, find a safe place to practice placing it in cracks before relying on it hundreds of feet off the deck.

Place each piece, weight it gently, and remove to get a feel for how it sets and resets. This will help commit the right techniques to muscle memory.


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