The Best Nut Tools for Climbing

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We took seven of the best nut tools and tested them at cleaning a variety of cams and nut types in all sizes and over a broad spectrum of rock types. We compared their weight, durability, ability to clean a nut, ability to clean a cam, the comfort level while pounding on the nut tool with our hand, how nicely they ride on a harness and each tool's overall value.

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Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners

Review by:

Review Editor

Last Updated:
May 24, 2010

Best Bang for the Buck

Wild Country Pro Key

Best Buy Award
Wild Country Pro Key
Price:   $16 online
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The overall best value was the Wild Country Pro Key for only $14.95. It has the largest area to pound on with your hand. It comes with a spring leash and while most people find this pretty useful, if you find it dorky it is easily removed. The Wild Country has a relatively low profile head (second only to the Metolius tools) for freeing micro stoppers and it hangs toward the front of the pack for cam removal.

The Best Tool for Specific Applications

  • For Alpine climbing where weight is at a premium, the Ushba is hard to beat. If the Ushba is more than you want to spend and are wearing gloves most of the time, look for a design without the extra metal "pad," saving both weight and cost.
  • If you are climbing longer routes, the Wild Country Pro Key is a nice choice for its comfort in palm pounding and its removable spring leash.
  • For aid climbing or climbing in areas with an abundance of small cracks (think Eldorado Canyon), then either of the Metolius tools is a good bet.
  • For climbing a lot of routes where you are bringing a hammer and intending to beat the living piss out of your gear, then the Black Diamond Nut Tool with its chromoly steel body is best.
  • If you have big hands, then look toward the Caranut and the Ushba.
  • When climbing in less traveled areas where you need a knife to replace webbing and cordage at rap anchors, the Trango Shark is a great option.

Analysis and Test Results


The Ushba Titanium was the lightest at 41 grams. Coming in close behind, at first glance, were the BD and the DMM Nutter at 48 grams each. However, neither one has the built-in carabiner that the Ushba offers so you have to add the weight of a carabiner dedicated to carrying the tool on your harness. Thus the carabiner plus the tool is the actual overall weight. The true runner up is the Omega Pacific Caranut at 54 grams. It is heavier but significantly less expensive (11 grams more and $14 less, making the Caranut an option for weight watching dirt bags).

Ability to Clean Nuts

All of these tools worked well cleaning nuts. The noticeable difference was was in smaller cracks. The two Metolius tools, with their thinner profile heads and slightly shorter hooks, could get into some of the smallest fissures to probe out seemingly fixed wires. Both the Extractor and the Free Nut share this smaller profile, making them the best at excavating even the most immovable small stoppers. Our runners up were the WC Pro Key and the Ushba Titanium, doing well in the cracks but not quite up to the two Metolius tools.

Ability to Clean Cams

When trying to retrieve a cam that has walked in too deep to reach with your fingers, contenders with more curve did slightly better. The exception is the DMM Nutter, which has two teeth on its tail designed to fish out buried cams by hooking onto SLCD's trigger in two places. These teeth worked on most brands of cams. Most of the other tools did fairly well fishing out cams, sometimes with the assistance of a nut to help retract the trigger.


We measured how well we could hammer our palm on the nut tool without fear of tearing our hand to shreds. Best were the WC Pro Key and the Ushba Titanium. They each had by far the largest area for beating with your hand, which translated to the least pain. The Metolius Free Nut finished not far behind in third place.

Tangle Factor

Here is where we measured how badly a tool gets tangled in everything it is not supposed to. The Metolius was the least trouble due to being shorter in length as well as having the lowest profile hook. The Ushba, while scoring extremely well in every other category, got tangled the most because of its long length and large sharp hook.

Ease of Handling

This is possibly the crux of this review. We tested all the tools on how nicely they came on and off our harness, how easily they poked out a nut while holding it, not pounding the tail end with with our palm. We gave higher points to built-in carabiners and ease of clipping onto gear loops. The Metolius has a small carabiner that was low profile but it made removal from our gear loops slightly more difficult. The Ushba and the Omega came on and off our harnesses the nicest. The Wild Country Pro Key rode along well and had a built-in spring leash. This never seemed to be a bother and kept us from accidentally dropping it. The Ushba Titanium has finger hole protectors that kept our fingers from getting scraped up.

Bottom Line

Many products preformed similarly in many categories and it was hard to pick a runaway winner. All of the tools we tested cleaned most nuts and cams fairly well. Standouts in the thin crack category were the Metolius Extractor and Metolius Freenut. But our Editors' Choice award goes to the Ushba Titanium. It was tied for first as the most comfortable, was in the top tier for cleaning nuts and cams and was the lightest overall plus having a built-in carabiner. Its only drawback was its tendency to catch on the rest of our rack. A close second at $11 less was the Wild Country Pro Key. It was just as comfy and cleaned nuts better than the the Ushba. Its spring leash was a nice bonus, and all that comes for less than the park entrance fee at Yosemite.
Ian Nicholson
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