Three Best Nuts for Trad Climbing

ProductTotal Weight
Editors Choice: DMM Wallnuts1.2 lbs
Black Diamond Stoppers0.97 lbs
DMM Alloy Offset Nuts0.4 lbs

Climbing nuts are one of the first pieces of trad protection climbers will purchase. Placing nuts are intuitive, they are inexpensive, and will last you a long time. But if you’re new to trad climbing, how do you make sure that you’re getting the best climbing nuts?

With climbing experience, you build your own personal preference. We have been climbing for a while, guiding professionally, and talking with tons of climbers at crags and online. We came up with the following list of the best climbing nuts.

Table of Contents

Best Climbing Nuts

  1. DMM Wallnuts – Editors Choice
  2. Black Diamond Stoppers – Best Affordable Climbing Nuts
  3. DMM Alloy Offsets – Best Offset Nuts

DMM Wallnuts – Editors Choice

The DMM Wallnuts are the best nuts for trad climbing.
A bouquet of DMM Wallnuts

Pros

  • Fit a wide variety of cracks thanks to the tapered and contoured shape of the nut
  • Groove in the nut head slots the nut perfectly and provides more stability
  • Larger sized nuts are engineered differently to reduce weight
  • Wider range of sizes than the DMM offset nuts

Cons

  • Color-coordinated sizing didn’t correspond to anything I’m used to
  • Expensive
MSRP$129.95
Total Weight1.2 lbs
Total Size Range0.2 - 1.5 inches
Strength Range7 kN - 12 kN
Head Material100% alloy aluminum
Cable Material100% steel

DMM walnuts take first place in our search for the best climbing nuts. It may be the ethos from DMM, “climb now, work later”, but when we first touched these nuts they just seemed to ooze out quality.

For starters, I’m a huge fan of the heads. Each nut has a grooved section that helps seat the nut in irregularly sided cracks. But this scoop hasn’t hindered any placements I have made. Since the bottom of the nut is smaller than the top, any constriction is fair game for a placement. This grooved face also shaves a bit of carrying weight from our rack.

The larger sizes of DMM Wallnuts are hollowed out to save weight on the climbers rack.
DMM Wallnuts have a harder alloy in their small nuts and a softer alloy that is hollowed out for the larger nuts.

Different alloy material is used for all of the nuts. Unlike aluminum, alloy is a combination of several chemical elements. Aluminum is its own chemical element and has its own place on the periodic table.

Since we can fiddle with our recipe for alloy, DMM chose to use a harder alloy for small nuts to prevent shearing, and a softer metal is used for the larger nuts. This soft metal bites into placements making them rock solid.

All climbing nuts can be placed in two different orientations, they can be placed so the faces are touching each side of the rock or that the sides are wedged inside. But since walnuts have been tapered uniquely, they have three different orientations.

Climbing nuts can be placed in different orientations. This gives you overlap in size.
Nuts can be placed with either the long side parallel to the rock wall or perpendicular, as shown above.

Both placements are valid and are left to the climber to decide. But what I love about the walnuts is that the nut has a tapered shape for its face and sides. DMM took something that appears simple, climbing nuts, and did an excellent job engineering it for climbers.

One thing I do dislike about these nuts is that many of the sales pages mentioned how they are color-coded so we can easily tell the sizes. There are 11 different nuts and I have not yet memorized the color size order. I can easily blurt out the color order for Black Diamond cams, but I have yet to memorize the nut color order.

The last thing I want to mention is the wire stiffness on these nuts. I have vivid memories of trying to place nuts high above my head when I’m gripped and getting scared. Thankfully, the wire here is stiff enough that I can reach my limits for a placement. Then as I climb by, the wire still has the flexibility to prevent the piece from coming out.

Black Diamond Stoppers – Best Affordable Climbing Nuts

Black Diamond Stoppers are an excellent affordable option for climbing nuts.

Pros

  • Classic and reliable design that has withstood the test of time
  • Slightly cheaper than DMM Wallnuts

Cons

  • Nut head design did not lead to the most surface contact in irregular cracks
MSRP$119.95
Total Weight0.97 lbs
Total Size Range0.27 - 1.38 inches
Strength Range6 kN - 10 kN
Head MaterialAluminum
Cable MaterialSteel

Black Diamond Stoppers are a time tested design and they are $10 cheaper than a full rack of DMM Wallnuts. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of many outdoor gear brands, first started releasing stoppers in 1972. As Chouinard’s first company became Black Diamond, they continued making nuts and are one of the longest-running stopper manufacturers in the world.

Most climbers begin with nuts as their first introduction to trad climbing. Passive protection is more intuitive than active protection. We’ve encountered chockstones while climbing and placing a nut is the same idea. Slot the nut in a constriction so it can’t come out. And the shape of this nut makes this easy to see.

The nut is a big square, there aren’t any scoops or grooves in the head. I think this “less is more” design makes it easier to create stable placements. But this design also brings us to one of my complaints about the Black Diamond Stopper.

One thing we disliked about Black Diamond Stoppers was the shape of the nut head. We preferred DMM's design here.
Red black diamond stopper compared to the green DMM walnut.

These nuts aren’t going to fit every placement, on any irregular rock or flaring crack the placement won’t be as ideal as something like offset nuts. The reason being is that offset nuts are tapered and manipulated to fit in weird places. With the Black Diamond Stoppers, I have a harder time getting as much surface contact and I believe that is due to the design of the nut head.

The rounded corners of the offset nut  helps it fit in irregular cracks
The red stopper is compared to the nut head of an offset nut.

If you were to get these nuts, I’d recommend complimenting them with a set of offset nuts. I am a big fan of the DMM alloy offsets, but there are BD offset stoppers as well. I think having a nut rack combined of these two would be perfect for the budding trad climber.

DMM Alloy Offsets – Best Offset Nuts

Pros

  • Unique offset design fits irregular and flared cracks perfectly
  • Fit extremely well in tapered cracks

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited range of sizes
MSRP$74.95
Total Weight0.4 lbs
Total Size Range0.47 - 1.18 inches
Strength RangeAll are weighted to 12 kN
MaterialAluminum Alloy

DMM Alloy offsets remind me of Totem Cams. They both have a cult following of devoted users. And they are trying to get all of their friends to join too. I gave in and picked up a rack of these climbing nuts and I have not been disappointed.

Alloy offset compared to the wallnut, note the more complex shape of the offset.
The right nut is an offset nut.

A few years back, I accidentally got off route and ended up on an R rated climb, something I could have avoided if I had worked on my outdoor route reading skills. The protection was poor and I desperately wanted to be back on the ground. The best placements I managed were a blue offset and a black totem.

With those in place, I was confident enough in my protection that I felt good… down climbing back to the ground. I wish I could say I sent, but I used those two pieces to bail. Thankfully I was able to hike to the top, rappel and get my gear back.

I’m not the only climber with this experience, these climbing nuts are excellent in flared cracks. When it feels like there’s no other protection to be found, my offset climbing nuts come to save the day.

Flipping the orientation of climbing nuts in a placement can give better protection.
Comparing nut heads of offset nuts. Switching the orientation of the nut gives overlaps in sizes.

Each of the offset climbing nuts is rated to 12kN and the smallest of these nuts weighs only 27 grams. I recommend these nuts to every climber, but my biggest complaint is that the size range is limited. If the DMM alloy offsets came in a wider range of sizes, these would be our top pick.

The DMM Wallnuts provide some of the offset functionality of the DMM Alloy offset, a curved nut that comes in slightly different shapes, with the added benefit of the wide range of sizes.


Readers also asked

How do you place nuts for trad climbing?

The nut is placed in a constriction in solid rock where it will not come out. I usually like to look for a V notch in the crack or placement, and then come from above and slot the nut. Once the nut is placed, you may need to add a sling to prevent rope drag and to keep the nut in place. Hire a climbing guide to get better instruction on placement.

How does a climbing nut work?

Climbing nuts are made of metal and are considered passive protection. It works by being wedged into a placement in the rock where it cannot fit. This wedge keeps it in place to catch a climber in the event of a fall.

How much does a climbing nut weigh?

Climbing nuts are some of the lightest protection that is on the market. Because of a simple design, a block of metal, they will weigh considerably less than cams. The heaviest Black Diamond stopper only weight 0.15 pounds!

How much does a full rack of climbing nuts cost?

A full rack of climbing nuts will cost around $120. One of the best value for climbing nuts is the full set of Black Diamond Stoppers, which come in at $119.95. We like to compliment the Black Diamond Stoppers with a set of offset nuts. Black Diamond Offset Stoppers will work perfectly as a companion.

Do climbers still use nuts?

Climbing nuts haven’t gone the way of the hex yet! They are still a crucial part of traditional climbing protection. Smaller nuts can be used for aid climbing. I love using climbing nuts at anchors when I have the comfort and luxury to stand around and place the nut.

What are micro nuts?

Micro nuts are climbing nuts that have been engineered to be extremely tiny. Some of these climbing nuts can be as light as 4 grams but still hold 2kN. The Black Diamond Micro Stoppers are a popular choice, but the smallest sizes are only rated for direct aid. Micro Nut Sets can be bought for around $100. Micro nuts can be incredibly useful if you are attempting to protect pin scars. But the smaller sizes of micro nuts are only rated for direct aid, ie) they can only hold body weight.

What are ball nuts in climbing?

Ball nuts are a rarer form of climbing protection, they aren’t passive protection because there is a trigger and camming action occurring in the device. In parallel sided cracks, these ball nuts are an excellent choice instead of pounding in a piton. Pulling the trigger pulls a steel ball below the nut making the piece smaller to fit in the crack.

What are nuts used for in climbing?

Climbing nuts are used for protection while climbing. Nuts are placed into cracks and other features in the rock and will catch the climber in the event of a fall. Climbing nuts are considered passive protection because there are no moving parts to the pieces.

Do you need offset nuts?

Offset climbing nuts make an excellent complement to a rack of nuts. I don’t think they are totally necessary, especially if you buy a full rack of the DMM Wallnuts. But I personally do carry offset nuts on my climbing rack. Since they are more specialized nuts, offset nuts do cost a bit more. I personally recommend having them, but you can get away without them.

How do you place an offset nut?

An offset nut will be placed the same as standard nuts. We’re looking for constrictions in the rock where the nut can be wedged into the crack. But the offset taper of these nuts makes them excel in odd placements. If you’re just getting started placing nuts, try aid climbing while on top rope. You can use your body weight to test the placement and get familiar with climbing nuts. Always strive for more surface contact on the head of the nut.

What are climbing stoppers?

Climbing stoppers are the same thing as climbing nuts. You’ll often hear nuts referred to as climbing stoppers, wedges, or even chocks. Offset stoppers are also a product sold by Black Diamond.

How do I remove a climbing nut from the wall?

A nut tool is your friend when removing climbing nuts from the wall. But before you start pounding away at your nuts, take a second to identify and think about how the nut was placed. Chances are that the nut was slid down from above and into the constriction. Try hooking the nut tool in the wire loop and wiggling.
You can also push the nut back into the crack using the tip of the nut tool. One mistake I made when I first started trad climbing, was to just hammer on pieces of protection with my nut tool. once I started thinking about how the piece was placed, I was able to easily remove it. Nut tools take a bit of practice to get used to them, practice placing and removing pieces at ground level.

Looking down from the top of a pitch of climbing

Review Criteria

We looked at the following review criteria when reviewing climbing nuts:

  1. Security, how secure the nut felt in the well and its strength
  2. Price
  3. Weight
  4. Performance

We wanted to find the nuts that would perform the best in a wide variety of terrain. You can read more about our review criteria.