How to Buy a Daisy Chain For Climbing

Buying Advice
By ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab - Tuesday January 3, 2012
Below are key things to consider when buying a daisy chain for aid climbing. While daisy chains can be used for free climbing, in general we recommend an anchor chain. At the bottom of this article we have more discussion on daisy chains versus anchor chains.

Metolius Monster Daisy Chain
Metolius Monster Daisy Chain
Credit: Metoliusclimbing.com

What is The Right Length?
All daisy chains I have seen work so the most important thing is to get the length right. You don’t want the daisy chain to come tight before you get to your maximum reach. (photo showing the proper reach for a daisy chain)

When shopping in the store, put one end at belt level and hold the other end as high as you can above your head with fingers outstretched. There should be to four to eight inches of extra daisy beyond your fingers. If between sizes, err on the size of being too long. If shopping online, raise your hand, measure from your waist to the tip of your fingers, and add a few inches. For most people, 55 inches is the right length.

Durability
Durability comes down to how you use your daisy chain. If you are just free climbing, it will last for five-plus years. If you are aid climbing and bounce testing a lot, it will wear out much faster. Unless you are unlucky and blow a bar tack, the point on the daisy chain that wears out first is the point that you clip to the biner that you then clip to the aider and piece you are standing on. If you aid climb a lot, get a daisy chain that has this critical point reinforced like the Metolius Monster Daisy Chain (below). If you don't aid climb a lot this does not matter as much.

Click to enlarge
Showing the big reinforced clip in point of the Metolius Monster Daisy Chain.
Credit: REI.com

There is some debate about how long the bar tacks last on nylon vs. Dyneema. The thought is Dyneema bar tacks rip out faster. We have not been able to test this but if you have experience, please post below.

Dyneema or Nylon?
We usually recommend Dyneema or Dyneem/nylon mix because they are lighter than regular nylon daisy chains. However, the nylon stretches more than Dyneema and therefor will absorb more force during a short daisy fall. How much does this matter? It is very debatable. This debate has been educated and made higher profile by the following video. The video is important to watch and the tests are informative. But it is also important to remember that a real world climber falling creates force equations much more complex than simply dropping a weight in a lab test.

I personally have only takes a handful of daisy falls in 100-plus big wall ascents and whether it was nylon or Dyneema I was connected to my last piece with, it usually held and I could never tell much difference. I am not sure how much difference there is between nylon and Dyneema in a real world environment where your harness, your body, friction against the rock, "penduluming" and other factors add in fall absorption (read our Climbing Sling and Runner Buying Advice article to learn more). If I was on a scary hard aid route, I would go with nylon just for the psychological value of thinking it would absorb more force. But for most walls I do, lightness and ease of use are much more important to me and I go with Dyneema or a Dyneema/nylon mix.

Adjustable or Regular Daisy Chains?
There are two types of daisy chains: adjustable and regular. I have always used regular daisy chains and most aid climbers prefer them. I have only used adjustable daisy chains a little so I can't give a detailed review. What I do find is that most of the adjustable daisy chains do not have very smooth one-handed extension. The one that does extend nicely is the Metolius Adjustable Daisy Chain. However, these are for bodyweight use only and I hear that they have broken during small falls. Even if Metolius fixed that issue I still find that regular daisy chains are faster and require less management. With adjustable daisy chains you have to keep them untwisted or they don't slide as well.

Anchor Chains vs. Daisy Chains
An anchor chain is a daisy chain alternative for climbers and canyoneers. They are typically too short and don't have enough loops to be useful for aid climbing. Unlike a daisy chain, which is only rated when clipped end-to-end, anchor chains are rated to full strength when you clip into any of the loops. This means that another climber can clip into your anchor chain or you can belay off it. You can also clip multiple parts of an anchor with an anchor chain. With a daisy chain, you have to be very careful if you ever clip more than one loop as demonstrated in this video below:


In general, we usually use an anchor chain for free climbing. The exception is for an application where you want to travel as absolutely light as possible. Here the lightest daisy chains are lighter than the lightest anchor chains.

View our complete review on anchor chains and check out our How to Buy an Anchor Chain or Personal Anchor System buying advice article to learn more.
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?” Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts.

Chris is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or ChrisMcNamara.com. He also runs a Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental.