I often get asked by climbers new to the outdoors what gear I use for trad and why I use it. These pages will be a list and explanation of all the gear I use and why I use it, what gear I like and what gear I can’t stand. These posts are aimed at people getting into trad. This week I’ll be looking at slings.
Slings can be roughly split into two main materials, Nylon and Dyneema. I’ll break down the differences super quick, but I mostly use dyneema slings so that’s where I’ll be focusing.
Nylon: heavier, thicker, more durable and cheaper.
Dyneema is lighter, more slippy, doesn't last as long and doesn't like knots, exposure to UV light or heat.
I pretty much exclusively use Sewn dyneema slings when climbing. A dyneema sling is just a loop of Polyethylene plastic, ( but the thread in the stitching and the colored trim are both nylon ) they can be extremely useful for extending gear, slinging spikes or building trad anchors. The only time I’ll use nylon slings is when I’m setting up a top rope and don’t want to wear out my skinny dyneema. Dyneema slings can come in varying thickness, usually between 8 and 11mm, and in lengths of of 30cm, 60cm, 120cm and 240cm.
The thickness of your dyneema in my experience isn’t really that important, if you’re worried about your 8mm sling getting damaged by a sharp edge? those few extra millimeters in an 11mm sling aren’t going to make you feel much better. I’m sure that an 11mm sling will wear out in use slower than a 8mm but in my experience they usually last about the same length of time.
When people say a “full length” they usually mean a 60 cm sling and a double length is 120 cm. A good trad rack will have at least two or three 30/60cm slings and one or two 120/240 cm, but this will vary based on where you climb, climbing on lots of meandering routes? you’re gonna need more to extend gear and reduce drag.
The “fuzzy” ness of a sling is a good indicator of how worn and how strong a sling is, once your slings get heavily worn and have loose threads, replace them. Dyneema is only really supposed to last three years with normal use, so any longer than that and you want to look at replacing them.
Slings are the second strongest thing you have on your rack right after your rope. So long as they aren’t “cut” by something like a falling hex you won’t pull them apart during normal use, but it’s worth noting that tying them in knots drastically reduces the force they can take. DMM did a really good video on knots in slings a few years back, I’ll quickly summarize, don’t take fall factor two falls onto un-knotted dyneema, or knotted nylon…. actually… avoid all fall factor two falls.
There is one little thing I have noticed about dyneema slings, I don’t think gear manufacturers want us to know… once you notice this one thing about dyneema slings it will save you money in the long run when buying gear, All dyneema slings are the fucking same. I have never felt or noticed a difference in any of them, they have different colors and some have different patterns but they all behave the same, so just buy the cheapest ones you can find.
The way I buy slings is simple, I go online and search “Climbing Sling” and the length I want “120cm” and then sort by price, add to cart and done. this week it happened to be some black diamond slings, if these turn out to be any different than all the other brands and types of slings I’ve ever used I’ll let you know. (spoiler: They wont)