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The Best Climbing Nuts and Stoppers

Wild Country nut placement.
Monday January 6, 2020
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We looked at the best climbing nuts currently available and chose 8 of the most popular and high-performing models to test side by side. We tested them while free climbing, aid climbing, and alpine climbing and compared their ability to hold a fall in a full range of fissures, from pin scars to parallel-sided cracks in a variety of rock types. We examined and weighed factors that we believed most appropriate for alpine, aid, and free climbing, to bring you the advantages and disadvantages of each model. We also considered which are the best value for a new climber getting their first rack, ready to break into the traditional climbing world.

Related: The Best Nut Tools for Climbing


1

Best Overall Climbing Nut


DMM Alloy Offset


Editors' Choice Award

$51.99
(31% off)
at Amazon
See It

Shape: Offset | Size Range: 12 - 30mm
Work great in pin scars, flares, or other spots where cams simply don't work
Recessed wires on the top help them fit in tight spots
Works well along secondary axes for more versatility
One of the better options for textured or large-grained rock
Cables not super durable
Limited size range
Hader to clean than traditionally tapered nuts
Don't work as well in more parallel-sided cracks

The DMM Alloy Offset nuts are our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice Award winner because of their overall versatility and how bomber they are in places where other pieces of protection might only be bodyweight. The Alloy Offsets are designed specifically to fit old pin scars and small flairs, and it shows as they are far and away our favorite for these types of placements. This is another reason why the current cam generation has transitioned to offset models over more traditionally shaped curved options. As small cams have gotten better and better, most climbers place far more cams than nuts on any given pitch. As a result, climbers tend only to place nuts where cams don't fit, and for this purpose, offset nuts work far better than traditionally shaped models. They also work well in a variety of rock types. With a groove cut on each side, they fit irregular or larger grained rock just as easily as smooth stone.

The Alloy Offsets are okay in more parallel-sided cracks but aren't as good as traditionally-shaped curved models. We think their biggest disadvantage is that they offer them only in limited size sets, meaning you need to couple them with another set with smaller sizes to really have a complete collection - we recommend the DMM Peenuts. While we think they are worth every penny, these nuts are one of the spendier aluminum models in our review.

Read Review: DMM Alloy Offset

2

Top Pick for All-Around Small Nuts


DMM Peenut


Showing a set of DMM Peenuts
Top Pick Award

$54.95
at Amazon
See It

Shape: Offset | Size Range: 5 - 14mm
Durable
Lightweight
Great in pin scars
Work great were most nuts or cams won't
Metal has a little less bite
Narrow size range

At first glance, the limited size range of the Peenuts leads you to think they are a niche piece and that you don't need them. Simply put, you would be wrong. We have found that these are some of the most heavily used nuts on our rack. While the largest one is not that big, they pair perfectly with the larger DMM Alloy Offsets. Any smaller options are less strong micro-sized pieces that are usually only found on aid routes or very scary technical leads. We found the size run of the Peenuts to strike a nice balance of having the sizes most used by the majority of trad climbers while maintaining strength and durability. While their aluminum heads don't "bite" as well as brass models, they are WAY more durable, and their cables kink far less than brass nuts because the cables aren't swagged in the head.

The downside is they do need to be paired with a larger nut to make a complete size run for the majority of trad climbs. However, we found them to be the absolute best performing smaller aluminum nut when it comes to strength and durability. Even though we'd recommend brass nuts for the majority of aid routes, we love bringing these on El Cap routes because they are SO tough. Their narrow aluminum heads open your eyes to the places they can be placed, which is sure to be appreciated by trad climbers at any level.

Read Review: DMM Peenut

3

A New Wave Classic for Alpine Climbing


CAMP USA Pro Nut



$59.61
(25% off)
at Amazon
See It

Shape: Curve | Size Range: 4 - 35mm
Easiest model to clean
Two well-designed orientations that make it very versatile
Reasonable price
Ribbed faces add better "bite" in textured rocks
Durable heads
Poor pin scar performance
Set includes the most common sizes but isn't quite a stand-alone size run
Cables kink slightly more easily than others
Walks easily

The CAMP Pro Nuts are a new take on an old design. They've taken a classic curved nut, slightly increased the curve and taper, and added grooves/ribs onto the main face for better "bite". While we didn't find that the ribs help significantly, they certainly don't detract from the Pro Nut's holding power, and in more featured rock may provide for a slightly better bite. These nuts offer even more curve than most, helping make them one of the most stable out there. This is because the heavily curved design facilitates always having three points of contact on the rock instead of two, which is inherently more stable. CAMP also rounded the heads more than most models, which makes them the easiest model to clean, which we appreciate.

Worth noting are this model's cables, which are slightly lower gauge than others we tested, relative to their size, which has both pros and cons. The pros are that it's lighter and more flexible, so they are less likely to pull out because of rope drag while you are leading a pitch. The main downside is that the cables are marginally more prone to getting kinked than other models, but not by a ton. The other disadvantage is their size run; though it includes seven pieces - and certainly the most commonly used sizes - it isn't quite enough to be a stand-alone set. We think this run is great for alpine climbing or complementing other nuts you might already have on your rack, but might be a little lacking for an all-around trad rack on their own.

Read Review: CAMP USA Pro Nut

4

Light and Versatile


Metolius Ultralight Curve Nut


A set of Metolius curve nuts

$14.95
at Backcountry
See It

Shape: Double curve | Size Range: 8 - 30mm
Light and low bulk
Fit irregular cracks
Less prone to walking
Cables kink easily
Tricky to clean

These are among the lightest nuts we tested. The cables are embedded in the nut head, eliminating a swage and some cable, a technique mostly reserved for brass nuts. This makes these nuts lighter and less bulky. However, it also makes their cables more prone to getting kinked. While we didn't notice it too much, we don't think it is nearly as bad as your typical brass nut because the cables on these are so much thicker and thus more durable.

The unique thing about these nuts is their double offset design, and double-curved faces mean these nuts do great in irregular cracks and are extremely stable when placed. This is because of the double curve design; they always have three points of contact when placed regardless of orientation. The downside is this also means they are a little more prone to getting fixed and stuck. They consistently take a little more effort to clean, which requires nut tools.

Read Review: Metolius Ultralight Curve Nut

5

Best Bang for Your Buck


Cypher Huevo


Best Buy Award

$9.33
(92% off)
at Amazon
See It

Shape: Curve | Size Range: 4.3 - 26.4mm
Great price
Versatile
Several set options available
Easy to clean
Durable
Secondary axis increases versatility
Heavy
Smaller sizes have less taper and are less versatile and hard to place well
Poor performance in flares
Just so-so in irregular or highly texture rock types

The Cypher Huevo nuts are nearly identical in design to the iconic Black Diamond Stoppers but cost much less. In fact, the only real difference we can find is the cable length, as otherwise, they are exactly the same sizes just with different color-coding. These nuts are also just as durable and come in a wide range of sizes. We also like that Liberty Mountain/Cypher sells this product in a wide range of groups from full sets to just key sizes, making them an even better value for those just starting off and those adding to an existing rack. We also love how tough they are; compared to most other pieces of passive protection, the market their cables don't get kinked as much. Their curved design, shared with the Black Diamond Stopper, works well in parallel-sided cracks by keeping three points of contact and thereby increasing stability and holding power in more featured rocks.

The downside is these climbing nuts are a bit heavy and don't do as well in pin scars or flared cracks. We'd recommend them for an alpine climber looking to get the most versatility out of only a handful of pieces, or for a beginning climber who might not have yet bought all the small cams they need - an entire set of Huevos costs about as much a new camming device! But for more experienced climbers we prefer offsets more, as they fit well where cams just don't. Plus, the sheer number of nuts you get in the full set of Huevos really shows its value.

Read Review: Cypher Huevo

6

An Old Classic


Black Diamond Stopper


Shape: Curve | Size Range: 4 - 35mm
Easy to clean
Durable
Large size range
Work well in more parallel-sided cracks
Two well-designed orientations add to their versatility
Poor pin scar performance
Don't work well in even moderately tapered cracks
Walk easily

The Stopper is one of the oldest designs around. They are so ingrained in climbing history that many people refer to all climbing nuts as "stoppers" in the same way many people call in-line skates Rollerblades. Their time-tested design is very durable and easy to clean. You can easily slide the cable through the nut head, which is handy if you have to loop these over a bolt with a missing hanger. We like both of the orientations that this nut can be placed in adding to its overall versatility.

That said, there is a reason why most other nut shapes have evolved so much; the basic design of the Stopper does not perform well in pin scars or almost any kind of irregular cracks. They work in more parallel-sided cracks, but as today's climbers end up protecting any given pitch with mostly cams, they will benefit from a nut that works better in places where cams won't rather than more-or-less overlapping with them except in the smallest sizes. While they are easy to clean, we've also found them to walk and pop-out more easily due to rope drag than other nuts. Still, a tried and true option that is a solid all-arounder, we just feel you can buy better, more complementary nut for the current cam-first generation.

Read Review: Black Diamond Stopper

7

Top Pick for Brass Micro Nuts


DMM HB Brass Offset


Top Pick Award

$23.95
(85% off)
at Backcountry
See It

Shape: Offset | Size Range: 3 - 14mm
Bomber in most small pin scars
Scoped head facilitates use in textured rocks
Soft metal deforms to rock increasing the integrity of placements,
Low profile swag lets them squeeze into tight spots
Stiff cables make placing them easier
Hard to clean
Brass head material isn't as durable as others
Not for everyday climbing
Cables fixed in head make wires prone to kinking
Significantly more expensive than similar models

Tiny brass climbing nuts are considered mandatory for any thinly protected route, from steep El Cap aid lines to Eldorado Canyon sketch-fests, and the DMM Brass Offsets are our review teams pick for the best micro nut. Like their aluminum counterparts, they are the most updated version of a tried and true classic. They are made in micro sizes, and the large "scope" in the side of their heads accommodates more textured and larger grained rock nicely. The cables are swaged into the head, minimizing extra material and allowing them to be slotted into the tightest of spaces.

Their brass heads are softer than aluminum models, which is both good and bad. On the plus side, the softer brass metal deforms to the rock, facilitating better bite that hopefully translates into better holding power - and something we certainly appreciate in these smaller sizes. The disadvantage, however, is that the soft heads get beat up faster and are consistently harder to clean. Their thin cables also require extra care and kink easily if you clean them carelessly. The DMMs also are seriously challenged by the Black Diamond Offset Micros, which are very nearly as good and a way better value. If money isn't an issue, we like the DMM's better, but for the money, the Black Diamonds are tough to beat.

Read Review: DMM HB Brass Offset

8

Great Value for Offset, Soft Micro Nuts


Black Diamond Offset Micro



$15.95
(83% off)
at Amazon
See It

Shape: Offset | Size Range: 3 - 14mm
Bomber in most small pin scars
Easier to clean than other offset brass models
Channeled head helps with use in textured rock types
Soft metal deforms to rock increasing the integrity of placements
Low profile swag lets them squeeze into tight spots
Less expensive than other offset brass models
Alloy isn't as soft as brass — more durable but less bite
Not ideal for every day climbing (low durability)
Cables fixed in head make wires more prone to kinking

A relative newcomer to the offset mini nut market: the Black Diamond Offset Micro offers a number of small but notable tweaks on the older classic DMM designs. The Offset Micro features a "copper/iron" mix in its head that preformed similar to most brass models we've tested. We did find them slightly harder and more durable than that of the DMM Brass Offsets but still not even close to suitable for day-in-day trad climbing. The fact that they were more durable than the DMM Brass was both good and bad. The good is that they are noticeably more durable. However, the downside is that they don't "bite" quite as well. We like how Black Diamond rounded off one of the inside edges, which makes them a bit easier to clean than comparable models. Likely our favorite thing about this model is how much more reasonably priced they are among the competition.

While we like a lot of things about these, micro nuts again they aren't really a piece to bring on most trad climbs as their heads will get too beat up and their cables wrecked. However, for aid, hard-to-protect free climbs, and big wall routes, they are amazing. While we like a few small things about the DMM Brass better (like the design of the scope in their heads to facilitate use in more textured rock), we don't think it's worth the significant price increase for everyone. The bottom line is that we like the DMM's a little better and think they're the bee's knees when the cost isn't a factor, but the BD's are nearly as good.

Read Review: Black Diamond Offset Micro

Our review focuses on using climbing nuts used for protection for traditional free climbing routes as well as aid and big wall routes. Here  a string of nut placements on Desert Shield in Zion.
Our review focuses on using climbing nuts used for protection for traditional free climbing routes as well as aid and big wall routes. Here, a string of nut placements on Desert Shield in Zion.

How to Choose Climbing Nuts


This review focuses on climbing nuts used for protecting traditional free climbing routes as well as for aid and big wall routes. We tested all of the products in our review in a variety of rock types in places like Squamish, Eldorado Canyon, Yosemite Valley, the North Cascades, Smith Rocks, Red Rock, Joshua Tree, Zion, and more.

We tested all of the products in our review for over 100 days in over a dozen different climbing areas. We did this to compare how each model performed in a variety of rock types. Looking down for the top of pitch 6 of Ginger Cracks in Red Rock  NV.
We tested all of the products in our review for over 100 days in over a dozen different climbing areas. We did this to compare how each model performed in a variety of rock types. Looking down for the top of pitch 6 of Ginger Cracks in Red Rock, NV.

How They Work


The hold of climbing nuts works in slightly different ways, depending on the design and the nature of the crack. They are all, however, considered "passive protection." The reason they are considered passive is because they don't press any force, use springs, or apply any mechanical advantage. They are simply set in a crack that constricts to a point smaller than the nut being placed, and (as long as the crack doesn't break), the nut can't fit through. This is different from spring-loaded camming devices, more commonly called cams, which are considered "active protection" because they actively expand into the crack they're placed in and use mechanical advantage to push out on the rock and stay in place.

This diagram shows why a curved nut maintains three points of contact in a constricting crack even in more featured rock types facilitating a more stable and thus stronger placement.
This diagram shows why a curved nut maintains three points of contact in a constricting crack even in more featured rock types facilitating a more stable and thus stronger placement.

In the most standard placement of a nut, the head is too big to fit through the crack below it. That is why all models have some taper and aren't just a square; instead, they're thinner on the bottom and broader on top. Different amounts of taper allow more or less surface area to contact the rock depending on the crack, which is the key to holding power. This is a foundational rule of passive protection - the more surface area in contact with the rock, the more secure the hold.

How a nut works is simple: simply slot into a crack where the head is too big to fit through the crack below it. This is why all models have some level of taper and aren't just a square. This helps to maximize surface area in a constricting crack  which is the key to holding power.
How a nut works is simple: simply slot into a crack where the head is too big to fit through the crack below it. This is why all models have some level of taper and aren't just a square. This helps to maximize surface area in a constricting crack, which is the key to holding power.

As a crack becomes more parallel or irregular, a curved nut design helps in two ways. First, the curve creates three points of contact (rather than two), which makes the nut more stable and, to a certain extent, allows the nut to cam into place. The second benefit of a curve is that it can potentially allow more surface contact with irregular and textured rock. All climbing nuts have a slightly different curve and taper, with each offering certain advantages and disadvantages. Of course, the magic is in figuring out what nut shape fits the greatest number of cracks that climbers want to use. The answer is complicated, but we'll go through it below:

While all nuts are tapered from top to bottom to some extent each company has its own amount of taper with slightly different shapes that they think is best for specific reasons.
While all nuts are tapered from top to bottom to some extent each company has its own amount of taper with slightly different shapes that they think is best for specific reasons.

Nut Shape


Offset Taper

The offset taper is slowly becoming the most popular shape for general-purpose trad climbing. This is a change from years past, where curved nuts were the most popular. Offset models are best for flares and pin scars for which they are specifically designed. This is the background as to why offset models are becoming more popular, but it also has to do with cams. Small camming devices have made significant strides over the past decade and are now significantly better and more versatile than they once were. This means most climbers are, understandably so, more likely to carry and use far more cams than nuts on any given pitch.

An "offset" shaped head has become the new most popular shape as they fit in pin scars and small flares far better than a cam would. The "offset part" is instead of a more traditional nut that features a trapezoidal shape they are thinner on one side and wider on the other along two of their axes.
An "offset" shaped head has become the new most popular shape as they fit in pin scars and small flares far better than a cam would. The "offset part" is instead of a more traditional nut that features a trapezoidal shape they are thinner on one side and wider on the other along two of their axes.

It's this new cam-first generation of climbers that benefit the most from offset stoppers than in decades past. As most climbers are more likely to place cams anywhere they can, they are better off carrying nuts to fit where few cams will. This tends to be in flared cracks and pin scars where more traditionally shaped models and cams are mediocre but offset models are more appropriate tools.

While there are few "bad" designs  our testers prefer offset models for general purpose trad climbing. Because small cams have gotten so much better  most climbers place far more cams while offset nuts tend to work amazingly where cams just don't. Here Austin Hill sinks a nut on the second pitch of "Thin Air"  Smith Rocks  OR.
While there are few "bad" designs, our testers prefer offset models for general purpose trad climbing. Because small cams have gotten so much better, most climbers place far more cams while offset nuts tend to work amazingly where cams just don't. Here Austin Hill sinks a nut on the second pitch of "Thin Air", Smith Rocks, OR.

Most offset climbing nuts, like the DMM Alloy Offset or the DMM Peenut don't do as well in more parallel-sided cracks, but that's okay as most people are more likely to place a cam in this places anyway. Offset models are also generally harder to clean because they are asymmetric - they don't want to rotate upwards and instead more frequently have to be backed up.

This photo shows the classic "curved" design  where one of the two primary contact sides has a curve. This helps to accommodate more featured rock and helps maintain three points of contact to make the piece more stable.
This photo shows the classic "curved" design, where one of the two primary contact sides has a curve. This helps to accommodate more featured rock and helps maintain three points of contact to make the piece more stable.

Curved Design

This is still the most common design used today, though offset models are gaining popularity. Their curve allows for three points of contact, giving greater stability to the piece while still letting it be cleaned easily. The curve, which is generally only on one side, also helps the nut to bite even when placed in irregular or highly featured rock. Examples of curved models are the Cypher Huevos and the Black Diamond Stopper.

A photo showing a great example of how a curved nut accommodates more featured rock and doesn't need a perfect constriction in order to work effectively. While we slightly prefer offset models we still like more tradionally curved designs.
A photo showing a great example of how a curved nut accommodates more featured rock and doesn't need a perfect constriction in order to work effectively. While we slightly prefer offset models we still like more tradionally curved designs.

Straight Taper

The straight taper has been nearly phased out, but there are still a handful of models being produced with this design. For example, the Frost Works Sentinel Nuts feature a straight taper that was used on hundreds of first ascents throughout North American in the '60s and '70s and still holds well in a classic bottleneck. It is the most straight-forward design for checking placement quality. The straight taper is not nearly as stable or versatile in flaring or parallel-sided cracks, though, and doesn't fit as well with irregular rock with sizeable crystals, as it doesn't have any clearance. While they are less versatile, they are still the easiest to clean.

Graham Zimmerman contending with several funky pods that can only be protected by offset nuts on the second pitch of "The Passenger"  Washington Pass  WA.
Graham Zimmerman contending with several funky pods that can only be protected by offset nuts on the second pitch of "The Passenger", Washington Pass, WA.

Crack Types


Pin Scars

Pin scars result when pitons are hammered into the rock. These scars are common in climbing areas throughout North America, from Yosemite to Eldorado Canyon to White Horse and Cathedral Ledge. Smaller pin scars are places where traditional cams don't work very well nor do curved nuts. Offsets, however, are specifically designed for these scars and are frequently bomber in these locations where nothing else will even hold body weight. All the offset models we tested work pretty well in these types of cracks: the DMM Alloy Offset, the Black Diamond Offset Stopper, and for smaller spaces, the DMM Peenuts, DMM Brass Offset and the BD Offset Micro. They all fit perfectly in pods where other nuts are terrible.

Here is a classic example of a crack where offset models are bomber and a more traditional nut would be just mediocre. This is because the crack itself is subtly flared. Because of this  offset models will get more surface contact as they are tapered to fit these types of cracks.
Here is a classic example of a crack where offset models are bomber and a more traditional nut would be just mediocre. This is because the crack itself is subtly flared. Because of this, offset models will get more surface contact as they are tapered to fit these types of cracks.

We love the DMM Peenuts, and we appreciate that there's a little more mass to them, and that they're easier to clean. However, for aid routes and big walls, it's hard to beat brass models. The DMM Brass Offset and the BD Offset Micro are both made of brass, which is a softer metal than aluminum and thus deforms to the rock to give you better leverage and connection. This deformation means they aren't great for everyday trad climbing but for scary, thinly protect trad leads and aid climbs where every little bit matters, they definitely offer a better bite.

With any nut  you want maximum contact with the head in order for the placement to be solid and be able to hold a fall. Here the nut is in a constriction which is good but the fact that only one half of one side of the head is in contact with the rock means the placement isn't particularly stable and more prone to popping out with rope drag.
With any nut, you want maximum contact with the head in order for the placement to be solid and be able to hold a fall. Here the nut is in a constriction which is good but the fact that only one half of one side of the head is in contact with the rock means the placement isn't particularly stable and more prone to popping out with rope drag.

Parallel-Sided Cracks

Of note, all climbing nuts need some sort of crack constriction in order to function. We compared how different models perform in more parallel-sided cracks versus heavily tapered or flaring spaces.

All nuts need some sort of constriction in order to work. We just compared models in different situations and in this category compared how well different models worked in more more-parallel-sided cracks even if they still have some constriction.
All nuts need some sort of constriction in order to work. We just compared models in different situations and in this category compared how well different models worked in more more-parallel-sided cracks even if they still have some constriction.

The Metolius Ultralight Curve Nuts is one of our top choices for parallel-sided crack performance. Their double curve design allows three points of contact pretty much no matter what, which makes them far more stable in these types of fissures. Other notable options include the CAMP Pro Nuts, which excel because of their high curvature along the side-to-side axis (the most common placement), helping the nut cam to remain more stable. The BD Stoppers and Cypher Huevos aren't far behind.

This photo is a good example of how classically curved models do better in more parallel-sided cracks by maintaining three points of contact. A CAMP Pro Nut is shown here.
This photo is a good example of how classically curved models do better in more parallel-sided cracks by maintaining three points of contact. A CAMP Pro Nut is shown here.

Most of the offset models didn't do as well in more parallel cracks, and the more parallel the cracks were, the worse they performed. The offset nuts aren't worthless in more parallel-sided cracks, but they just aren't as solid as curved models. Of note, the offset models are generally better in parallel-sided cracks than the curved nuts are in pin scars.

All pieces of protection need to strike a balance of being able to stay in the rock in the event of a fall  but also not be impossible for the second climber to remove. The role of the person putting the piece of protection in is certainly important but so is the design of the nut.
All pieces of protection need to strike a balance of being able to stay in the rock in the event of a fall, but also not be impossible for the second climber to remove. The role of the person putting the piece of protection in is certainly important but so is the design of the nut.

Ease of Cleaning


Climbing nuts with more rounded edges or slightly more pronounced trapezoidal shapes are slightly easier to clean. However, it is challenging trying to give a single nut an "easiest to clean" designation.

During one of our side by side comparisons testing each nut's cleaning ability  Ian Nicholson puts his whole 175lb body weight on each nut before removing them.
During one of our side by side comparisons testing each nut's cleaning ability, Ian Nicholson puts his whole 175lb body weight on each nut before removing them.

Overall we think the CAMP Pro Nuts, Black Diamond Stoppers, and Cypher Huevos are the easiest to clean of the traditional models. Both the Stoppers and the Huevos feature a nice trapezoidal shape while the Pro Nut offers more curved edges. These are significantly quicker to clean than any of the aluminum offset models. Among brass models, the Black Diamond Micro (consisting of a copper/iron allow with similar properties to brass) is easier than the DMM Brass Offset. This is because Black Diamond rounded the inside edge (the thinner side) off, making it easier for it to break free from its position.

Balancing placing a nut that will hold you if you fall but isn't so challenging for your second to remove is an important skill of any trad climber.
Balancing placing a nut that will hold you if you fall but isn't so challenging for your second to remove is an important skill of any trad climber.

The Metolius Ultralight Curve Nuts are the hardest to clean. The two sides of curves on the Metolius, while conforming well to highly textured rock, tend to get hung up on small crystals and other deformities. It makes the nut super stable but also means it takes more skill to remove.

Most nuts are best backed out of cracks either by pushing on the wires or using a nut tool to "poke" it backward. You can yank the cable upwards but this is hard on the cables of all nuts particularly offset models which can kink after doing this repeatedly.
Most nuts are best backed out of cracks either by pushing on the wires or using a nut tool to "poke" it backward. You can yank the cable upwards but this is hard on the cables of all nuts particularly offset models which can kink after doing this repeatedly.

Durability


The Black Diamond Stoppers and Cypher Huevos are the most durable overall products in our review. While we don't feel there are any truly "flimsy" aluminum-headed models, both of these stand out for not getting too banged up during extended cleaning sessions.

Among aluminum nuts  we didn't find a giant difference in the durability of the heads  but there is a greater difference among their cables - certain models are more prone to kinking from aggressive cleaning.
Among aluminum nuts, we didn't find a giant difference in the durability of the heads, but there is a greater difference among their cables - certain models are more prone to kinking from aggressive cleaning.

We also evaluated how easy it is to kink a cable during the use of any of the nuts we tested. In our experience, the Metolius Ultralight Curve Nut, DMM Alloy Offset, and Black Diamond Offset Stopper all struggle with this. With the three of these, the cables became kinked just below the head after too many upward jerks. Over time this kinking led to the cable coming unraveled or exhibiting a sharp bend just below the head, making them more challenging to place properly.

Brass models aren't as durable and thus aren't ideal for everyday trad climbing. However  for thinly protected free climbs  aid routes or big walls  they are pretty much mandatory and you just have to deal with the wear and tear. Here Rya O'Connell is thankful for a double set of brass offsets on the 5th pitch of Tangerine Trip. No camera tilt here  just look at the rope going straight down  STEEP!!!
Brass models aren't as durable and thus aren't ideal for everyday trad climbing. However, for thinly protected free climbs, aid routes or big walls, they are pretty much mandatory and you just have to deal with the wear and tear. Here Rya O'Connell is thankful for a double set of brass offsets on the 5th pitch of Tangerine Trip. No camera tilt here, just look at the rope going straight down, STEEP!!!

Most of the non-aluminum models we tested were either brass or some sort of copper-iron blend that exhibited similar overall characteristics. Some of these models included the DMM HB Brass Offset and Copper/Iron Black Diamond Offset Micros which both proved noticeably less durable than aluminum options. This is so somewhat by design, as their brass heads (or in the case of BD a copper/iron blend) is designed to deform to the rock for better "bite," hopefully increasing the nut's holding power. However, this deformity is the biggest reason that we don't think brass nuts are great for everyday trad climbing. Sure, they work great — they just don't last super long. Most of the time, you could get away with using much more durable aluminum models. However, for big walls, aid climbers, or sparsely protected free climbs, they are pretty much mandatory.

We think the classically curved models are fine but prefer offset models for all-around trad climbing. Here one tester sinks an offset on the first pitch of the Central Pillar of Frenzy  Yosemite  CA
We think the classically curved models are fine but prefer offset models for all-around trad climbing. Here one tester sinks an offset on the first pitch of the Central Pillar of Frenzy, Yosemite, CA

Between the two models, several of our testers found the metal in the head to be slightly harder in the Black Diamond Offset Micros compared to the DMM Brass Offsets. There isn't a huge difference, but it was enough to see a difference after just 1-2 big walls.

Nearly all of the models we tested can be placed in two orientations  adding to their versatility. However  the functionality of each model's secondary orientation varies significantly. Here a CAMP Pro Nut  one of the better performers in this metric  is placed along its secondary axis.
Nearly all of the models we tested can be placed in two orientations, adding to their versatility. However, the functionality of each model's secondary orientation varies significantly. Here a CAMP Pro Nut, one of the better performers in this metric, is placed along its secondary axis.

Orientation Options


This refers to a nut's ability to be placed along both of its axes, a feature of all the climbing nuts we tested. All of the products we tested are best with the most narrow axis facing out and the wider axis contacting the rock. However, some models stand out for their versatility along both axes more than others.

Most models in our review featured some sort of trapezoidal shape. This creates two axis that the nut can be placed in. The more common placement is when the longer side is in contact with the rock. However it is still possible to place the nut with the shorter side in contact with the rock  but as there is less surface area touch this tended to be less stable and the differences between models were more pronounced.
Most models in our review featured some sort of trapezoidal shape. This creates two axis that the nut can be placed in. The more common placement is when the longer side is in contact with the rock. However it is still possible to place the nut with the shorter side in contact with the rock, but as there is less surface area touch this tended to be less stable and the differences between models were more pronounced.

The Metolius Curve Nut, with its double-curved design, provides three points of contact on either side regardless of orientation, and is the best. They are easy to read, leading us to place them in both orientations more often than others. Closely behind are the Black Diamond Stoppers and Cypher Huevos, which are among the most stable in their secondary position.

Lots of nuts... Switching out pieces of passive protection for this review in Joshua Tree National Park.
Lots of nuts... Switching out pieces of passive protection for this review in Joshua Tree National Park.

Nearly the same can be said for the DMM Alloy Offsets and BD Offset Stoppers. We applaud all of these models for their overall versatility and for being quite functional in either direction. Unfortunately, as much as we love the DMM Peenuts, they offer no real secondary options.

Different models accommodate more textured or larger grained crystals differently. Some manufacturers shaved part of the metal on their more dominate side to accommodate more textured rock which proves effective. Photo comparing the three best performing smaller-sized nuts in our review  from left to right: DMM Peenuts  BD Offset Micro  DMM Brass Offset.
Different models accommodate more textured or larger grained crystals differently. Some manufacturers shaved part of the metal on their more dominate side to accommodate more textured rock which proves effective. Photo comparing the three best performing smaller-sized nuts in our review, from left to right: DMM Peenuts, BD Offset Micro, DMM Brass Offset.

Different Nuts Excel at Different Rock Types


All of the nuts in our review work in all rock types. However, some excel in certain types of rock more than others. We love offset models for all areas, as they just fit better where cams don't. But if you climb in an older area like Yosemite, Eldorado Canyon, Lumpy Ridge, or Cathedral Ledge (to name a few) that have plenty of pin scars, offset nuts are practically worth their weight in gold. They are perfectly tapered to fit old pin scars and are bomber, where a more traditional nut is just marginal.

For the most part  all nuts work in all rock types; however there were some that offered exceptional preformance in more featured or larger grained rock types.
For the most part, all nuts work in all rock types; however there were some that offered exceptional preformance in more featured or larger grained rock types.

If you climb in an area with heavily featured rock like Smith Rock, Joshua Tree, or the Canadian Rockies, the CAMP Pro Nut or the Metolius Ultralight Curve Nut both stand out. These models excel in areas with more irregular and larger crystallized rock because of their more heavily curved shapes, which create more clearance to accommodate large crystals better than others, and they are able to maintain three points of contact even against textured rock.

Using a #2 Wild Country Rock on a Wire to show how the 3 points of contact design of curve nuts can excel in less constricting placements.
Using a #2 Wild Country Rock on a Wire to show how the 3 points of contact design of curve nuts can excel in less constricting placements.

Looking for a Complete Set


For climbers getting into traditional climbing, there are some critical factors. The size range is important. Having your nuts extend to over one and a quarter inches can be the right way to start on the cheap, using larger nuts to cover sizes some people might cover with cams.

Some models like the CAMP Pro Nut as seen here offer all the most commonly used sizes but are produced in the very smallest or largest ends of the spectrum meaning you likely have to couple them with another set.  This is mostly for specific routes rather than everyday use.
Some models like the CAMP Pro Nut as seen here offer all the most commonly used sizes but are produced in the very smallest or largest ends of the spectrum meaning you likely have to couple them with another set. This is mostly for specific routes rather than everyday use.

If money isn't an issue, we love the combination of the DMM Peanuts and the DMM Alloy Offsets. We think this passive protection size run will last most people through many stages of their climbing careers and work well for a wide range of users and rock types. We also think that people might not use the biggest model as often, nor the tiniest, but they are still useable, and we've already talked a lot about how valuable their offset design is.

Other models like the Cypher Huevos (seen here) and the nearly identical Black Diamond Stoppers are produced in a large size runs and are both sold in various "packages" of sizes allowing buyers to really customize what they are looking to get.
Other models like the Cypher Huevos (seen here) and the nearly identical Black Diamond Stoppers are produced in a large size runs and are both sold in various "packages" of sizes allowing buyers to really customize what they are looking to get.

With that said, for less money, we still really like the size, versatility, and durability of the Cypher Huevos and Black Diamond Stoppers. These tried and true pieces offer two super useable axes with versatile and easy-to-clean shapes. Both of them are sold in several sized sets, meaning you can start with a partial set and fill it in later, or buy the whole thing and double up on the most common sizes.

Tester Ian Nicholson performing bodyweight side-by-side comparisons on El Capitan  Yosemite  CA.
Tester Ian Nicholson performing bodyweight side-by-side comparisons on El Capitan, Yosemite, CA.

Conclusion


Our team of experts, led by veteran climbing guide Ian Nicholson, take testing climbing protection to a very serious degree. Fun is also had, but resulting from the process is the most comprehensive review of today's most popular climbing nuts. When reading through our assessments, keep in mind the type of rock you want to climb, the style you like to climb, and other factors that are important to you to get the best set for your individual needs.


Ian Nicholson and Chris McNamara