How to Choose Passive Climbing Protection Devices: Nuts, Hexes, Tri-Cams

Passive Climbing Protection Devices

In the climbing world, your choice of climbing protection devices matters a lot.

Protection devices refer to nuts, cams, hexes, stoppers, and so on.

It’s a world that has two categories: active and passive climbing protection devices.

In rock climbing, you should learn how to choose a climbing nut for protection.

A nut is also known as a stopper, and it’s a threaded metal wedge on a wire that most climbers will use for protection.

They wedge it into a gap or crack in a rock. 

Generally, passive protection is the first kind of pro that a beginner will purchase.

It is considerably more affordable than active protection such as camming devices and offers multiple placement selections. 

However, before you intend to go out and shop for the gears, you need to research thoroughly the location you want to pursue since various rock types will be suitable with some kits better than the rest. 

Let’s dive in more on the passive climbing protection devices!

What are the Main Types of Safety Equipment Used in Rock Climbing?

The main types of safety equipment used in rock climbing are harnesses, climbing ropes, and climbing helmets.

What are the Main Types of Climbing Protection Devices Used in Rock Climbing?

The main types of climbing protection devices used in rock climbing are divided into two categories – passive climbing protection devices and active climbing protection devices.

In this article, we will explain what are passive climbing protection devices.

What are the Differences between Active Rock Climbing Protection and Passive Climbing Protection Devices?

There is one general difference between active rock climbing protection gear and passive climbing protection devices.

An active pro consists of moving parts that contract or expand to enter a crack, whereas the passive pro doesn’t have any moving parts; it entirely relies on the metal shape and how it fits in the gap. 

Active PRO Gear and Passice PRO Climbing Gear
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

What are the advantages of using passive climbing protection devices?

The advantages of using passive climbing protection devices are listed below.

  • Reliable
  • Bomber
  • Quick to place
  • Lighter than the cam devices
  • Incredibly durable and robust equipment
  • It is cheaper than active protection; therefore, you don’t have to break the bank to purchase them

What are the advantages of using active climbing protection devices?

The advantages of using active climbing protection devices are listed below.

  • They have a more comprehensive working range compared to hexes and nuts
  • They can easily fit in parallel cracks and pockets more readily than the passive pro
  • They have increasing holding power. Suppose a fall exerts some dynamic force, thus very secure if well placed

Keep in mind that one of the most significant advantages of the active pro is that it’s multidirectional; thus, it stays in place even after pulling it upward.

On the flip side, the passive protection is unidirectional and often protects the downward pull only, so you can remove it if you pull it upwards. 

Though solid upward forces on the trad protection are not highly common, there are times when you exert upward forces while moving the rope via a nut; it’s sufficient to jiggle it out.

If you want to lessen the pressure, you should extend the gear by clipping a quickdraw or sling between the rope and the pro to lengthen the distance between the two.

What are the Types of Passive Rock Climbing Protection Devices?

The types of passive rock climbing protection devices are listed below.

  • Nuts
  • Tube Chocks
  • Hexentrics (Hexes)
  • Tri-Cams


Passive Climbing Protection Gear Nuts
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

The passive climbing protection device nuts are aluminum wedges made to use on more minor cracks of a rock.

The nuts are also called stoppers.

They entirely depend on a constriction in a crack to build a mechanical barrier meant to hold the piece inside the wall.

There are several ways to place them; sideways, broadside out, etc., though the standard placement will only shield the downward pull. 

What are stoppers used for in climbing?

Stoppers (also called nuts) are small aluminum devices placed into constricting cracks and used to increase friction on a climbing rope.

They may also be used to create an anchor on the rock face.

Stoppers are often brightly colored to be easily seen in the event of a fall.

Stoppers serve the same purpose as a bolt but without causing damage to the rock surface.

Tube Chocks

Passive Climbing Protection Gear Tube Chocks
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

The passive climbing protection device tube chocks are suited to parallel-sided cracks or pockets.

They are manufactured in sizes for cracks ranging from 3” to 12” wide.

Using its powerful spring-loaded mechanism, tube chocks expand and lodge the ends into place.

Tube chocks are used in horizontal, vertical, and angled cracks.


Passive Climbing Protection Gear Hexentrics
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

No products found.

No products found.

No products found.

No products found.

The passive climbing protection device hexentrics (hexes) are the more extensive protection gears designed with hollow aluminum blocks for medium to wide cracks.

Mainly, they used them for multiple routes before the invention of cams, but today, most people prefer cams for that kind of placement.

Keep in mind that hexes are cheaper, lighter, and safer in icy or wet cracks.


Passive Climbing Protection Gear Tri-Cams
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

No products found.

Though the tri-cams are technically passive protection since they lack the moving parts, one end has a sharp point, and the other side is gently curved to cam against the climbing rock for effectiveness in flaring pods and parallel-sided cracks.

Passive Pro Placement Tips

To be competent and safe, you should understand how to create passive pro placements for both belay anchors and lead protection on the trad routes. 

Failure to learn how to evaluate and place the nuts, chocks, and stoppers will lead to even fatal accidents or have challenges.

Here are tips on setting climbing passive protection equipment better and more effectively to boost the rock safety margin as you climb. 

  • Using tapered nuts placement is a real bomber. You tend to look for a crack with constriction and narrow slots to slide the nut to fit well. Please pick the most direct and most accessible placement for the nut; it’s often the sturdiest placement and easy to clean.
  • Suit a tube-chowk to pockets or parallel-sided crack. It’s a passive pro gear that is the best piece to choose for an extra-wide placement. They come in various sizes that fit in gaps that range from 3″ wide to 12″ wide. The clock operates like the rod of a curtain in a shower, whereby it uses the powerful spring-loaded approach to firmly lodge and expand the ends in place. The locking collar will hold it at your preferred width. Tube chocks will resist pulling in any direction; therefore, you can use them in angled, horizontal, and vertical cracks. 
  • Use large nuts. If possible, using a big nut is more secure than a micro or small nut. The larger the nut, the more the mass; thus, the surface area tends to be more intact with the rock surface than the small nuts. Also, the larger nuts have more substantial and thicker cables than the little wired nuts, thus hard to break below a load. 
  • Ensure there are fast placements in the cracks. While on small footholds and hanging using one hand, you need an easy and quick nut to place rather than a more creative and complicated one. So, recognize and get a great nut and slot it in the rock. 
  • There should be no big open cavities behind your piece that could fall into, making it useless. Be keen on this and often visually inspect the crack you intend to place into for width variations between the back and front of the crack. If there happens to be a substantial open cavity behind your bomber placement, consider using a giant hole. It’s risky since you might not be in a position to visually inspect the piece to ensure it’s in a constriction or a great contact or constriction. The only best bet is to get a different placement.
  • Note, the most effective placement is the best one. It would be best if you got rid of awkward stretching and moves to place the stopper. Similarly, a primary position of a particular piece is the most robust, while you can set the most passive components in different directions, generally a primary position or most robust. You should learn that kind of placement to use it when possible. 
  • Practice the placement skill on the ground before landing on the sharp end. It’s often tricky to place a passive pro. Mortar fireplaces and rock make a great classroom, particularly when it rains. It would be best if you got an experienced person to look at your placements and make corrections in case of any faults before you carry some of the mistakes up the climbing route with yourself. 
  • Climbing pro never lasts forever. It would be best to inspect the abrasions or wires for kinks or nut heads for cracks or abrasions.

Passive Climbing Protection Devices Buying Tips 

  • Purchase a set of nuts. At about $100 or thereabout, you will get around 10 or 11 nuts of different sizes. It tends to be cheaper than buying individual sizes. With experimentation and experience, you will be in a position to tell the dimensions you require, the measures you should duplicate, and the kind of pro to add. To better understand the approximate combination of the sizes, you can check with other individuals who frequent your preferred climbing spots. 
  • Stretch the initial protection assortment by back cleaning. If you need a nut size in various places, you should lower it down to the already existing placement pro that you need. And if you realize that you will often need specific sizes, you should add more dimensions before your next climb. 
  • Purchase a nut-removal device. It’s a tool that helps to reduce stress and tear on your nut wires; it’s better for yanking them out. It is not possible to get rid of the nuts by just lifting them out of placements. 

No products found.

What is the Passive Rock Climbing Protection Devices Lifespan?

The average passive climbing protection devices lifespan is at least five years, considering no major incidents have happened (dropping on the ground from very high places) or using passive climbing protection devices moderately.

The actual lifespan of a specific piece of nut will depend on how frequently you use it and if damage occurs or not.

You should inspect the elements and do the replacement in the following situations.

  • You come across tri-cams stitching or sling or a fraying in the cable. 
  • There are cracks in the hex head, nut wedge, or the tri-cam head.
  • A piece falls in a significant distance, despite a crack being invisible.
  • Load the piece in severe falls.

Keep in mind that if there are any doubts regarding your dependability on the protection, retire it.

Which are the Major Standards for Climbing Equipment Reliability and Safety?

The following two major standards govern climbing equipment safety and reliability globally.

CEN has become an important standards organization in recent years, especially in Europe since all products sold there must be third-party certified according to the relevant standards. In most other countries, there is no such requirement, although most manufacturers follow UIAA or CEN standards voluntarily.

Final Thoughts on How to Use Passive Protection Devices 

In the olden days, climbers would use pebbles jammed inside the rock cracks using a cord tied around them for safety. 

Later they discovered that nuts could work even much better and more effectively, and one could permanently sling using a rope.

Now, there are various tools to select from that fit cracks ranging from most enormous to smallest.