Slings are the glue that holds every climber's rack together. Uses include quickdraw slings, anchor building, personal anchors/cowstails, lead protection and even racking your gear in your bag! For personal anchors, please refer to this article.
Due to the many uses, there is a multitude of lengths, materials and widths. Its worthwhile noting, all slings, skinny, fat and whatever material all need to meet a 22kN (equivalent to 2243kg) breaking strain under static load for EN and UIAA certification.
Climbing slings are made up of 2 main materials, Dyneema or Nylon.
Nylon 16mm - 25mm 83g/m - 90g/m
Nylon is the original sling material and is still widely used making up any whole of part of a sling that is coloured. Dyneema is only white. Nylon slings are heavier, but are more durable and cheaper. It is mainly used for sport climbing QDs (quickdraws), where weight is not an issue and having a wide sling to grab onto is preferential.
UHMwPE (Ultra High Molecular weight Polythene) 6mm - 12mm 27g/m - 33g/m
Commonly known by its brand names, Dyneema, Spectra or Dynex, this material has an ultra high strength to weight ratio, meaning super skinny slings can achieve the required strength. It is recognizable by the sling width, always at the skinnier end and the white colour (as it cannot be dyed).
The narrow widths also handle much better in extendable quickdraws and use much less length when tying knots, which is very important when keeping bulk and rack weight down.
Other sling types
A unique design incorporating a Dyneema core and tough abrasion resistant outer. This makes the sling incredibly durable and easy to untie tight knots. However, this makes a heavy sling which is stiff and difficult to handle.
A type of cord sling with a super strong aramid fibre core, similar to Kevlar, and abrasion resistant outer. Aramid fibres are heat resistant and very strong for their weight.
In the real world, Aramid cord is stiff and great for threads and also easily untied after weighting.
These innovative slings from Edelrid combine an ultra strong Dyneema core with a shock absorbing Nylon outer increasing knot strength.
Rabbit runners/spider sling
This is a type of sling is made up of one length of sling webbing with a loop on each end. This maximises versatility for the actual length of material and weight. The same length of webbing used to make a normal 60cm sling will make a 120cm rabbit runner. This means all the things you would normally do with a 120cm sling can be done with the same amount of material and weight as a normal 60cm sling.
Here is a good article outlining their advantages.
QD slings or Dogbones to our cousins across the pond, are made of either Nylon, Dyneema or both.
Sport QDs tend to use thick Nylon slings to make grabbing ahold of them easier and to limit movement when clipping. Lightweight QDs for trad and winter climbing are great for saving weight and the sling is designed as such not to interfere with marginal gear.
After the slings have worn out but the biners are still strong, you can buy replacement QD slings.
Although there is a wide range of lengths, the most common lengths you will encounter are 60cm, 120cm and 240cm. Others include 30cm, 90cm, 150cm, 180cm and 400cm.
|Length||30cm (Very short)||60cm (Short)||120cm (Medium)||240cm (Long)||400cm (Very Long)|
|Uses||Long Qd slings||Extendable QDs Threads Personal Anchor||Large Threads/slinging boulders Building small belays Very long extendable QD||Anchor making Slinging large boulders||Good for setting fixed abseil anchors Slinging very large boulders|
|Racking||Racks over shoulder||Racks double over shoulder||Racks on carabiner on harness||Not normally carried whilst climbing|
The Mammut Contact sling is light and extremely soft to handle. The sewn join is seamless therefor minimising snagging on the biner when extrending the QD. For extenders, AKA alpine draws, use 60cm.
First sling set
DMM make a great value multipack of Dyneema slings comprising of all the essential lengths and available in both 8mm and 11mm. Set 1 comprises of 1 x 60cm, 2 x 120cm, which is ideal for either topping up your trad rack or starting a a sport setup. The second contains 2 x 60cm, 2 x 120cm and 1 x 240cm which is perfect as a trad starter pack or comprehensive sport pack.
There are various adjustable personal anchors now on the market, such as the Petzl Connect Adjust or the Metolius PAS. However, if you are gathering your first rack or prefer to keep things simple, a cheap and durable Nylon sling is ideal and can be used to rack your gear on. Plus, 16mm is also much nicer to look at that 8mm Dyneema for those who are nervous.
Fed up with stuffing slings through awkward threads with a nut key? The Aramid cord is stiff and easily shaped to poke through small gaps. Having at least one on your rack is is will be useful and will quickly earn its worth.