Published on: 02/17/2022
The sport of climbing has progressed and become more modern throughout the years. This process has resulted in new tools and devices that make rock climbing safer. One such tool is the stick clip. Beginners just starting with lead climbing can especially benefit from climbing with a stick clip, but they’re an essential device for climbers at all levels.
Essentially, a stick clip allows you to clip the first bolt from the ground or without climbing up to it. In situations where you’d want to avoid a ground fall at all costs, it’s an important ally. For beginners, using such a device is an extra safe way to approach routes with exceptionally high first bolts.
This guide will go over situations where you’d want to think about clipping the draw. We also cover what we consider to be some of the best stick clips on the market today.
What is a Stick Clip?
A stick clip is a device that allows climbers to clip, from a distance, the top carabiner of a quickdraw (with the rope attached to the bottom carabiner) to a bolt on a sport climbing route.
As the name implies, a stick clip is made of a stick and a clip where the climber attaches the quickdraw they want to clip.
There are multiple ways to make a climbing stick clip. When you set out to buy a stick clip, you’ll likely notice that the clips and poles are sold separately. This is because the clip is the more specialized piece of gear. Many of the poles you can buy with stick clips are essentially the same as your standard painter’s pole.
How Does a Stick Clip Work?
Your average stick clip has a screw hole to attach it to the extension pole. The other end of the clip is, well, the clip. You generally use a stick clip by looping your quickdraw through the clip. Some models use a stiffer clip; in this case, you generally thread your rope through the clip. Either way, you should position the top carabiner of your quickdraw at the end of the clip.
Then, once you’ve found the bolt you want to clip onto to, you push the quickdraw onto it. With a bit of force, you should find that the gate on the draw opens easily. Then, you can slide the draw onto the bolt to clip the rope! You may need to give the rope a pull to get the draw to fully open at the gate. A rigid or bent gate on your draw can make this part tricky. Still, as long as you can get the gate open, you can get the draw onto the bolt.
Some stick clips are extendable, too. This makes them pretty easy to carry with you while climbing. A compact one that extends can be used mid-pitch can help an exposed stretch. You can clip the quickdraw into the next bolt and pack the stick clip away again.
Why and When Should I Use a Stick Clip?
There are two main reasons to use a stick clip:
1. To climb more safely by preventing a dangerous leader fall
Stick clipping is a practice that can make lead climbing safer. Most climbers use stick clips when the first bolt of a route is unusually high. Some climbing routes also start off very exposed or sketchy, even if the first or second bolt isn’t incredibly high. Using a stick clip can mitigate most of the risk of a leader fall by bridging the gap between yourself and the first bolt.
A stick clip can also be useful higher on a route. For example, if you’re climbing close to a ledge or in any other dangerous situation, you can use a stick clip to reach the next bolt for protection. Alternatively, you can also use a panic quickdraw, a self-closing rigid long carabiner to reach distant bolts.
Lead falls represent the majority of climbing injuries. This is why taking extra precautions is important for climbers at all levels. Despite some climbers referring to stick clips as “cheat stick”, there’s absolutely no shame to use one to protect yourself from potentially serious injury.
2. To Bail Upwards
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to complete a route. In this case, one solution is using a stick clip to clip your quickdraws to the bolts you cannot reach by climbing. This is called bailing upwards.
The advantage of this technique is that you don’t have to leave any gear behind (not even a carabiner or a quicklink): you can clean the route after reaching the top anchor. Also, it gives you a chance to try the route on top rope to practice the moves of the difficult sections.
Our Selection of the 3 Best Stick Clips
1. Best Overall Stick Clip: Trango Beta Stick Evo
This stick clip is one of the most highly-regarded on the market, and for a good reason. With unparalleled functionality and great build quality, what more could you ask for?
|Standard||12′ (30 cm)||29″ (74 cm)||1 lb 6 oz (612 g)|
|Beta||8′ (20 cm)||21.5″ (55 cm)||15.2 oz (430 g)|
|Ultra-long||22′ (56 cm)||45″ (114 cm)||2 lb 10 oz (1.2 kg)|
The Trango Beta Stick Evo offers extensive functions and excellent build quality. You can use it to retrieve gear, lasso clip hanging draws, and more. It also comes in standard, ultra-long, and compact versions. This makes it an excellent choice for anybody looking for the most versatile, high-performance clip.
Still, it’s worth noting that not everyone needs such a wide range of functions from their stick clip. Are you primarily looking for a tool to help you clip the first or second bolt of a route? In that case, the Beta Stick might frankly be overkill. Its price point does reflect its position as a more high-performance piece of equipment. So, if you’re looking for a more rudimentary clip, you might want to opt for a more straightforward model like the Kailas stick clip.
2. Most Durable Clip: Superclip
The Superclip is truly a super clip! While it doesn’t offer the same range of functions as other stick clips, the Superclip is insanely durable.
If you’re looking for a bare-bones, affordable, and long-lasting stick clip, then the Superclip might be the best option for you. The fact that you can screw it onto just about any extension pole gives the Superclip great flexibility.
However, some climbers may prefer a more complete model with a wider range of functions. It can also feel a bit more awkward to use the Superclip, compared to clip-in models. On the lookout for a clip that is very quick and effortless to use? If that’s the case, then you might benefit more from a different model.
3. Best Budget Option: Mountain Drifter Equipment Skyhook
Crowdfunding has brought us many great products, and the Skyhook is no exception! This sturdy, affordable, and reliable stick clip is great for making that first clip.
The Skyhook is a barebones yet reliable stick clip that should help you clip that first draw with no issues. The aluminum stick clip pole means it is incredibly light, and the Skyhook offers an impressive range once extended. Also, if you’re not a fan of the Superclip head, you can simply unscrew it and replace it.
If you’re only planning on using your clip for clipping the first bolt, then the Skyhook should more than suffice. Climbers looking for more sophisticated models may not be fully satisfied with this model. Also, the aluminum pole can be slippery, especially with sweaty hands. You might want to wrap some climbing tape around the pole like we did to make it as secure as possible.
How to Make Your Own Stick Clip (Our DIY Guide)
Whether you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to a commercial option or a DIY project, you might be interested in making your own clip. Because stick clips are so simple in concept, there’s a myriad of ways you could DIY one. This super-easy guide is just one way for you to make your own stick clip.
For the greatest possible range, we recommend using a telescoping pole or painter’s pole for your DIY stick clip. Length is also important when choosing your pole. Naturally, a longer pole makes it easier for you to access bolts that are further away. If you purchase a telescoping pole or some other collapsable pole, it should be easy to take your DIY clip with you on the route.
One of the easiest ways to make your own clip is to use a pole of some kind, two hose clamps, and a spring clamp. The spring clamp is the most important part here, as you’ll use it to clamp onto your quickdraw. If you don’t want to use the hose clamps, you could experiment with other ways to fasten the spring clamp to the pole.
However, we recommend that you find the most secure way to attach the spring clamp to the pole. This is especially true if you want to reuse your DIY clip stick. We prefer hose clamps for this method because they can be tightened manually with a screwdriver. This means you can get a very snug fit on the pole with the spring clamp.
Making a Clip at the Crag
It’s relatively simple to fashion a stick clip at the bottom of a route if you haven’t taken one with you. You should be good to go if you can find a long, sturdy stick! Ensure the stick you’ve found is long enough to reach the first bolt. Then, push the end of the stick through the dogbone on the draw. Make sure you’re clipped into the quickdraw, too.
All you need to do now is find something you can use to prop the gate open while you reach up to the first bolt. A twig works well for this. Simply insert the twig into the gate so that the gate is held open. Then, reach up to the first bolt and clip upwards! The twig should fall out of the gate, and you should then be clipped into the first bolt.
Note that you would likely only be using such a rudimentary stick clip once. This style of DIY stick clip is not suitable for multiple uses.
A reliable clip allows any climber to make a sketchy first bolt far safer by clipping onto it before leaving the ground. You can also use them to lasso hanging draws or even retrieve gear in some instances. What’s more, stick clips can be affordable and lightweight. You can even DIY your own clip and try making it from scratch!
Gone are the days when grizzled veteran climbers would laugh at less experienced athletes for taking a stick clip with them to the crag. Stick clips are becoming more and more common nowadays, and at some parks, you’ll see more climbers with them than without them. We feel that stick clips are a great way to make your climbing safer and protect yourself from injury. Give yourself the upper hand over exposed falls and high first bolts.