Living in a van leaves you with a very limited amount of storage space. However, having limited space does NOT mean you need to have a limited rack. It may not be the world’s largest gear collection, but what I do have, fits comfortably in the back of my vehicle/home and has given me plenty of memories and summits. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down free gear, and I will always spend at least 30 minutes trying to pull a booty cam, but overall, I’m happy with my rack and where she has taken me.

How I built my trad rack: The birth of an addiction

My rack, like my trad career, started in Joshua Tree National Park. For $60 dollars I found myself the proud owner of an ancient Black Diamond .5, a yellow and a blue Metolius Master Cam from a questionable era, some small Metolius hexes, and a few large unknown hexes (that I quite like.) This was the beginning of a slight addiction. Though I was desperately in love with my pre-owned gear, it wasn’t long (read: the same trip) before I purchased some new pieces to add on. With a bit of insight from an east coast guide that I ran into, I extended my tiny rack with Black Diamond Camalot C4’s: a number one, two, and three, along with a set of DMM Wallnuts.

That trip started a tradition: Every time I would go on a climbing trip outside of San Diego (home base), I’d buy a new piece of gear to add to the rack. Preferably from a new shop. Not the cheapest way to build a rack, but a fun way. I talked to a lot of experienced climbers and tried to purchase what they recommended. Where you’re climbing makes a large difference in the ideal protection, and it was clear that the local shop owners can give you the best beta.

Featuring crag dog Achilles

I ended up with DMM HB alloy offset nuts from Red Rocks, a yellow Fixe Alien Revo from Yosemite, CAMP ball nuts from Zion, an orange Metolius Ultralight from Idyllwild, a purple Totem from Joshua Tree and many many more. It is my favorite way to build my rack and try new gear. Otherwise, since I have a deal with BD, I would only purchase Black Diamond. So I’m glad I’ve been able to branch out.

The trad racks that perform best for me

Though I have an assortment of gear to choose from, my gold standard for most climbs consists of a Base Rack:

This is simply my Base. It is always racked up and ready to grab at a moments notice and I will add/remove as needed.


If I need to add more, I start with my Supplemental Rack:

When doubling up on sizes, I try to pull from different companies to have more variety. For instance, If I need doubles of BD .4, I will add the yellow Alien for pin scars. Doubles of BD #2? I’ll use the yellow Wild Country Friend, it has a slightly higher range than the BD and compliments it well.

Other than my Base Rack and my Supplemental Rack (yes I name my racks) I have what I call my Creek Rack. The Creek Rack is a large assortment of cams from all kinds of years and companies. Master Cams, Dragon Cams, old Friends, and ancient Camalots to name a few. I use this rack for when I need quadruple or more of a certain size. Hence the name Creek Rack. Most of this gear I found for REALLY good deals on craigslist or an equivalent and couldn’t turn it down. Who says no to a cam for under $10? I know I don’t.

On The Road Gear Storage with 1
This is what happens when you always say “yes” to gear. Note: Home is now a Sprinter.

Lastly, as protection goes, I have my Sport Rack. This is just a bunch of quickdraws and a “sport anchor” (in case somebody wants to toprope) that I made. I have just recently made the switch over to a full rack (12) of the Edelrid Bulletproof quickdraws as my primary protection. Though they are NOT cheap, even with the deal I got with ‘em, but they do keep your rope from turning black and are great for projecting. I also have a couple BD PosiWires, Neutrinos, and some randos to beef up the numbers (27 total) for sport multi-pitch totaling.

On The Road Gear Storage with 2

For a quick TR anchor, I have two dogbones, one with a Bulletproof locker and a normal locker, the other with a single locker and a Bulletproof bent gate non-locker. This is so the next person can either top-rope or pull the rope and lead it without having to fumble with a locked biner at the end. (See pic below)


Everything listed above fits into a single drawer in the back of my Sprinter van, Frieda. There’s even enough space left over for random booty gear and a couple chains of biners.

On The Road Gear Storage with 3

Harness, shoes, and rope. Oh my!

Above my protection drawer is where I keep my quiver of shoes, harness, and chalk bags. I own two pairs of La Sportiva Katana Laces (sized differently for boulder or sport), a pair of La Sportiva TC Pros, and Butura Alturas. These four pairs of shoes do well against most terrain and overlap enough to be able to resole one at a time without inconveniencing me. I find it’s important to not rely on a single shoe for anything. It’s not a perfect system though, you never know when a shoe might blow early.

I have too many ropes for a man that lives in a van. I was once lucky enough to booty two 70m ropes from Unimpeachable Groping in Red Rocks and couldn’t track down the owner(s) to save my life. I also won a 9.8mm 70m Mammut Tusk from Randy Leavitt at an Allied Climbers event in San Diego. On top of my free ropes, I have purchased:

I found that the Sterling Fusion quickly became my go-to rope. At 70m and 52g/m it weighs about as much as your average 60m rope and the extra 10 meters can change a lot when on the wall. Whether stretching pitches or making longer raps, I usually find myself wanting a 70m. I don’t have the greatest things to say about the Black Diamond ropes though. Yes, they have caught all my falls and if that’s all you want in a rope, then it’s fine. I tend to want a bit of durability though. The middle marker was all but gone in a handful of uses and the sheath is a frayed slipping mess. I’m going to use it till it dies though, I’m not one to waste. As for the booty ropes, I cut one to make gym ropes for my friends, and the other went to the climbing partner that found them with me. He claimed the 70m Edelrid Boa Eco 9.8 and left me with the unknown rope.

Organization and storage

I used to store the ropes nice and neatly hanging from one of my rear doors. Sadly, they could potentially protrude into the area that I store my drying wetsuit.


Now I just kind of keep the ropes wherever they will fit in the back. It’s not the prettiest, but it gets the job done. I’m currently in the process of revamping the garage space though. Hopefully when I’m done my gear will not only look better but won’t risk get saturated in salt water either. Organization in a van is extremely important and proper space utilization makes all the difference.

Justin and Lauren lovers leap

I know this didn’t cover ALL of my gear, but I covered most of it. The pictures should fill in some blanks. And no, I don’t have the grandest gear stash. However, I do have (in my opinion) the most suitable for my current condition. I like to think I’ve been doing a decent job of balancing my rack with available space and needs. Within the past year, there hasn’t been a single time that I wasn’t able to climb something due to lack of gear. But when that time comes, you better believe I’ll get the gear needed and say to hell with the extra living/storage space. (Alpine gear is next on the list!)


Any gear questions? Ask in the comments!


This Gear Stash post is Part 9 of 11 and is sponsored by Backcountry. This means, all opinions are 100% the author’s and there has been no manipulation of the gear being displayed, but gear links go directly to Backcountry’s website when available. This sponsorship helps to keep WeighMyRack alive, to pay authors, and allows more articles to be written. Also, since Backcountry has the biggest online selection of climbing gear of any US retailer, it made sense for us to partner with them for our Gear Stash stories.

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