Crack Climbing Sizes Explained: Average width and techniques

In rock climbing, there are 5 basic types of cracks: finger, off-finger, hand, off-width, and chimney cracks. All of these crack types have different sizes and there is no one technique that allows a climber to climb every single type. How climbers navigate a crack greatly depends on the crack’s width.

On average, climbers will climb cracks that have widths ranging from 1/2 inch (finger cracks) to 5 feet (chimneys). Hand cracks are typically the most secure to climb while off-widths are the most challenging and technically difficult.

The table below details the average crack width for each type of climbing crack.

Crack TypeAverage Minimum WidthAverage Maximum Width
Finger cracks0.5 inches1 inch
Off-finger cracks1 inch1.5 inches
Hand cracks1.5 inches3.5 inches
Off-width cracks3.5 inches8 inches
Chimney cracks8 inches5 feet

These size ranges are based on the average climber’s hand, foot, and body size. As such, it is not a perfect metric for every climber. For example, a hand crack for a climber with large hands might be an off-width for a climber with smaller hands.

The differences of each crack size is explained in more detail below.

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Explaining The Different Crack Sizes

How much of your hand/body you are able to fit into the cracks will determine how you climb them and their relative size to your own body. For example, if you are a very small climber, you may need to adjust the values in the table above to be lower than what is presented.

Each of the different sizes are discussed more in detail below with some helpful videos illustrating common climbing techniques for the size.

Finger Crack Sizing

Finger cracks are the smallest size cracks that climbers can free climb. While there are smaller cracks in rocks, they are basically impossible to free climb if you can’t get any part of your finger in them.

Finger cracks are just wide enough for climbers to fit a part or all of their fingers into them. On average, finger cracks range between 0.5 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm) wide.

Climbers with smaller hands will be able to use tiny finger cracks that climbers with thicker fingers will be unable to.

If you want to know how to climb finger cracks well, I recommend to check out the Climbing Daily YouTube video below. In it, Tom Randall of Wide Boyz explains different climbing techniques for finger cracks.

Off-Finger Crack Sizing

Off-finger cracks are commonly referred to as “thin hands” or “off-hands”. These cracks are typically a bit more secure than finger cracks as climbers can get a larger portion of the fingers/hand into them.

Off-finger cracks are slightly larger than finger cracks but are still not large enough for climbers to fit their entire hand into. On average, off-finger cracks range between 1 inch to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) wide.

Climbers with tiny hands may be able to slot their entire hand into cracks that would be “off-finger” cracks for the majority of other climbers. For them, these “off-fingers” would technically be hand cracks.

If you want to learn how to climb off-finger cracks well, I recommend checking out professional climber Magnus Midtbø’s YouTube video below. In it, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker of Wide Boyz explain different climbing techniques for various crack sizes. It is time stamped below to the start of the thin hands lesson.

Hand Crack Sizing

Hand cracks are generally the preferred crack of climbers. They are typically the most secure and provide climbers with the “easiest” crack climbing experience.

Hand cracks are large enough for climbers to fit their entire hand into them. On average, hand cracks range between 1.5 to 3.5 inches (3.8 to 8.9 cm) wide.

Because hand cracks are the most climber friendly, they are a great starting place to get into crack climbing. Working with hand cracks first allows crack climbing beginners to get a good sense of the technique and form required to climb them without being too strenuous or difficult.

Crack climbing techniques are very different from face climbing techniques. If you are interested in how exactly they differ, check out my article here.

For the basics of hand cracks and crack climbing, I recommend watching the first part of Magnus’ video above. Some fun shenanigans take place in the introduction and their lesson first begins at 2:43.

Off-Width Crack Sizing

Off-widths are widely considered to be the worst size crack to climb. They are by far the most challenging and technically demanding of all the sizes.

Off-width cracks are too big for climbers to use a single hand in. Off-widths require climbers to “stack” body parts to touch both sides of the crack. On average, off-widths range between 3.5 to 8 inches (8.9 to 20.3 cm) wide.

There are many different techniques climbers can use when climbing off-widths. As you may have picked up on by now, I think the Wide Boyz do a great job teaching these different techniques and are very informative while being entertaining. Below is another vide that walks through a few different off-width techniques if you are interested.

Chimney Crack Sizing

Chimney cracks are the largest size crack. They are typically less awkward and much better to climb than off-widths.

Chimney cracks are large enough for climbers to fit their entire body inside of them. On average, chimneys range between 8 inches to 5 feet (20.3 cm to 1.5 m) wide.

The upper end of this width range really depends on how far a climber is able to reach and how flexible they are. Taller climbers with greater flexibility will typically be able to climb wider chimneys than shorter climbers that are not flexible.

The YouTube video by Anthony Johnson below gives a good example of how to climb “thinner” chimney cracks.


Crack sizes range from tiny finger cracks all the way up to chimneys. Not every width of crack will be the same relative size to every climber. One climber’s off-width may be another’s hand crack.

If you are looking at getting more involved in crack climbing, I recommend checking out my article that discusses the best gear for it. Crack climbing generally requires climbing shoes with different features and using the wrong ones may really hurt your feet.


Hi, I'm Rex! I have been into everything outdoors for as long as I can remember. Climbing became a huge part of my life in college and I hope to share everything I have learned on this website to help fellow passionate climbers.

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