Trad Climbing Gear > Nuts

This 'Climbing Nuts' article is part of the book - Trad Climbing Basics.

VDiff learn to trad climb e-book book

How to place climbing nuts rock climbing nuts stoppers

Nuts are an essential for every trad climber. They are made of a flexible wire which is threaded through a hard 'nut' of metal. They are cheap, light and durable.

Climbing nuts exert very little outwards force on the rock, unlike cams. Most of the force is transferred in the direction it is being pulled (in most cases, down and slightly outwards from the rock).

It's for this reason that they should be placed in tapered cracks and constrictions, where the crack becomes smaller further down. When weighted (if you fall), the nut becomes wedged further into the crack.

Rock climbing nut forces

How To Place Climbing Nuts

Step 1

When you spot a suitable constriction, grab your rack of nuts and try a few that are most likely to fit. Assess the taper and curve of the crack and the quality of the rock.

How to place climbing nuts

Step 2

Once you've found the best fit, give it a gentle downwards tug to seat it in place.

This will stop the rope lifting it out when you climb past.

How to place climbing nuts in a crack

Step 3

Remove the nut from the carabiner, extend it with a quickdraw or sling and then clip it to your rope.

How to place climbing nuts trad climbing

VDiff trad climbing book

Placing Climbing Nuts - Tips


Climbing nuts are generally non-symmetrical, being wider at one side and also curved. This means they can be placed in four possible orientations.

If your nut isn’t quite perfect, try placing it in a different orientation.

How to place climbing nuts when trad climbing

Surface Contact

You should select the size and orientation of nut which has as much surface contact with the rock as possible.

More surface contact means more 'grip'. A nut with more grip is more likely to stay exactly where you placed it as you climb above.

Rock climbing nuts


Place nuts fully inside the crack, but not so far that you can't see them.

How to use rock climbing nuts

Remember that your partner must be able to reach with their nut tool to remove them.

How to use rock climbing wires


Nuts are most reliable in tapered constrictions that they fit neatly into.

Nuts in very flared constrictions could fall out due to insufficient surface contact. Nuts in parallel-sided cracks will not work.

Rock climbing nuts placed in a crack in different orientations

Diagonal Cracks

Nuts work best in vertical constrictions, but they can also be placed in diagonal cracks.

Nuts are generally less reliable in diagonal cracks because they are not pulled directly into the constriction when weighted.

Pay attention to which way the nut would be pulled in the event of a fall. If it could be pulled out, try a better placement.

How to use rock climbing nuts

Horizontal Slots

Nuts can also be placed in horizontal constrictions as shown.

How to use climbing nuts

Threading Nuts

Nuts can also be used as a thread. This works best with large nuts. Poke the wire loop through the hole, then clip a quickdraw to it.

However, holes like this usually suggest poor rock quality. Slings are softer on the rock than nuts so try using a sling as a thread in this situation, or look for something else more solid.

How to thread climbing nuts

Opposing Nuts

Nuts can oppose each other to create a multidirectional piece.

This old-school technique is rarely used nowadays because there is usually something else better and quicker to place, especially if you have some offset cams. However, it could help you out if no other gear exists.

Step 1
Place two opposing nuts so the carabiners are close together but not overlapping.

Step 2
Clip a sling into one of the carabiners and pass both strands of the sling through the other carabiner.

opposing climbing nuts

Step 3
Pass the end of the sling through the two strands and also through the carabiner as shown.

opposed climbing nuts

Step 4
Cinch the knot tight to create tension between the nuts. Then clip the sling to the rope.

opposing nuts climbing

Removing Climbing Nuts

To be removed from a crack, a nut will need to reverse the way it went in.

Often, a little wiggle will unseat the nut, enabling it to be pushed up and out.

If this doesn't work, tap it from below with your nut tool.

If that doesn't work either, hold your nut tool under the nut and hit it with a big hex.

Removing a climbing nut from a crack in rock

As a last resort, yank upwards on the attached quickdraw or sling to dislodge it.

Be careful though, this damages the cable over time.

Removing a climbing nut from a crack

Racking Climbing Nuts

Climbing nuts grouped in size order attached to a sling rack

Oval carabiners are good for racking nuts – the large bottom radius helps to stop the wires tangling together.

Nuts prefer to be organized by size and racked in groups of 4-7 per carabiner.

It's common to have 10-15 nuts split onto 2-3 carabiners for a typical climb.

Cramming all your nuts onto one carabiner makes it hard to find the one you want, and if you drop this carabiner, you'll have no nuts.

Top Tip

It's better to rack your nuts on a carabiner with a strong gate-spring.

A weak gate-spring can be pressed open easily, meaning that you will 'rain nuts' on your belayer.

Rock climber drops climbing nuts

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