The Best Big Wall Gear Sling
We took four big wall gear slings and tested them on Yosemite's big walls and in our Gear Lab. We scored each gear sling in five categories: comfort, adjustability, organization, ease of getting on, and overall bomberness. We scored each gear sling, added up the points, and then awarded our Editors' Choice and Best Buy awards.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Analysis and Tests Results
The Yates Big Wall Rack stood out as clearly the most comfortable. Not only does it have more padding, the padding wraps all around your torso so the weight is not just on top of your shoulders. The padding is also fuzzy and comfy. Most other gear slings were about the same for comfort. The Black Diamond Zodiac Gear Sling and Metolius Big Wall Gear Sling both distributed weight to the back, which is a pro but it also made them less breathable. The Fish Double Gear Sling has big, comfy padding but almost all the weight is on the top of the shoulders. We got sore on top of the shoulders with really heavy nailing racks, but not with the racks most people climb with.
The Yates had the most gear loops and most options for organization. There are three loops on each side that give lots of places to clip gear. Some people may prefer two loops on each side like on the Fish. It comes down to personal preference. The Metolius and Black Diamond only had one gear loop on each side. This is okay for shorter clean aid walls. But for bigger walls only one gear loop on each side is not enough unless you are okay with organizing a lot of gear on your harness.
The Yates has buckles all over the place and comes in a bunch of different sizes. This can be a pro and a con in the sense that if two partners are different sizes, and are switching off the rack, it can be awkward if one person wears a size small and the other a size large. That said, it rarely happens in practice. The Metolius is the second most adjustabable gear sling and has a number of ways to get the fit just right. The Fish and Black Diamond don't have many options for fit so before a purchase make sure you have the right size.
Ease of getting on and off
The Fish is the easiest to get on and off. Not only does it have an easy-to-use plastic buckle, it also has big tabs on top that scream "clip me!" and make it easy to clip the sling to the anchor. Both the Metolius and and Black Diamond slings also have quick-to-use plastic buckles but they don't have the big bomber tabs on top. The Yates does have these tabs but the threaded buckle takes a while to get on and off and adjust between partners with different chest sizes.
The Yates is the most bomber because there is no plastic that can break and all the clip-in points are made of beefy webbing. We have never seen one wear out. The Fish is also bomb proof. I have used the same one on and off for 15 years and never been able to wear out the padding or break a buckle. The Metolius is reasonable bomber but the clip-in points are not as beefy as those on the Yates or Fish. The Black Diamond uses pretty thin clip-in points on top and just a bar tack or two for the gear loop. Neither inspires a ton of confidence with a heavy rack but, in fairness, I have never heard of one breaking.
If you want the ultimate gear sling for serious aid routes, the Yates Big Wall Rack is the way to go; it gets our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice award. It is comfy, bomber, and easy to rack a ton of stuff on. It is also very heavy, has a ton of straps and is at least double the price of all the other gear slings we tested. If you are on a budget, or just want a lighter and simpler gear sling, we recommend the Fish Double Gear Sling and give it our Best Buy award. It is not as comfy as the Yates but is light, simple, and really all you need for most big walls. Both the Metolius and Black Diamond will also work well for light big wall applications, but we have a hard time recommending them for serious big walls because they only have one gear loop on each side.
— Chris McNamara
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