Rock climbing is fun, exciting and has become of the most popular adventure sports in recent times. It gives every adventurer the perfect combination of fitness, excitement, and adrenaline. There are different types of rock climbing, such as bouldering or top roping and others. Bouldering is a challenging rock climbing style and is a great start to climbing because it is lower to the ground and can be done socially.
Bouldering requires the climber to climb on outcroppings or boulders and generally remain about ten feet above the ground. Being equipped with the right gear while bouldering or while doing any type of rock climbing will ensure an added level of safety and fun. You don’t need a lot of gear while bouldering. Bouldering can be done with just three essential pieces gear- chalk bag, rock shoes, chalk, and sometimes crashing pads. However, it is a good idea to keep other gear handy just in case you may want to use them.
There are multiple pieces of equipment that you need for rock climbing but compiled below is a list of the most essential gear. Gaining knowledge through this rock-climbing buying guide will help you pick the best of the lot. Read on to know more about what to buy.
Your first purchase from your rock climbing gear list should be a pair of good rock climbing shoes. Without wearing specialized shoes, you will find it difficult to leave the ground and complete your climb. You can either go ahead and purchase one or rent from your gym and give it a try first. There is a myriad of climbing shoe designs, each best suited for a specific type of climbing. Selecting the perfect shoes can be critical because these are the only items that will actually help you climb the route. Given below are important factors to consider when buying one.
Types of Bouldering Shoes
- Neutral shoes
Neutral shoes are comfort-driven and allow your foot to lie flat on the ground, just like casual shoes. These shoes do not compress your feet, thus giving you extra comfort, but not enough power when you have to climb those steep routes.
These shoes are great for both novices and experts. Beginners can be comfortable in these shoes while trying out new techniques, while experts need them because they are comfortable when climbing very long routes. The model for beginners comes with thicker and harder rubber soles, which gives them great durability when you are just starting off.
- Moderate shoes
Moderate climbing shoes are for all purposes and are designed to increase your toe power by having a slight downturn and a tensioned rand to comfortably compress your feet. These shoes are found in either symmetrical or asymmetrical types and are a great pick for technical edging, slab climbing, or steep routes.
- Aggressive shoes
These shoes are designed for extra power and precision as you climb. They are very downturned are used mostly for tough boulder problems, overhanging sport routes or challenging face climbs. Since these are mainly for experts, you may be tempted to just buy one off the bat, but you should know that aggressive shoes are uncomfortable unless you are used to them. These shoes are generally asymmetrical, thus allowing you to place more pressure on your big toe as you climb through those micro edges.
Slippers are a good option if you are climbing in an indoor gym or bouldering because of their fast on and off mechanism. Some of these are thin and sock-like slip-on, while others look like any other shoes that you simply slip on and tighten up the hook straps. These don’t have any added advantage over the others but are only suitable for very short routes.
Bouldering Shoe Upper Material
The upper material of climbing shoes is important to figure out the comfort level of the shoes. The upper material is usually leather or synthetic and are available in both unlined and lined. Few manufacturers use a combination of both leather and synthetic for extra benefit.
- Synthetic Uppers
Synthetic uppers are generally preferred by manufacturers when they want to increase the longevity of the shoes or maintain their performance by limiting the stretch level of the footwear. Shoes with synthetic uppers are easy to wash but can retain odors since they are not as breathable as leather uppers. Therefore, while synthetic materials will last longer, they won’t stretch much, except for some materials like Lorcia that do stretch slightly.
- Leather Uppers
Leather is the top choice for most manufacturers of climbing shoes because leather is breathable, odor-resistant, strong, and will perfectly stretch to your foot shape and size. Unlined leather is better for absolute comfort because unlined leather would stretch exactly to your foot size. However, remember that leather will continue to stretch and so if you have performance in mind, then a lined non-stretching material should be used. In the case of unlined leather, your shoes may stretch up to a single size or more, while lined leather will stretch to half a size at the most or not at all if it is strongly reinforced.
Getting proper fitting shoes is imperative if you want to climb up the rocks. If you have well-fitted neutral shoes, then there won’t be any extra space, but you will be comfortable in them for hours. While in case of moderate shoes, they may curl up your toes but won’t be painful. However, with aggressive shoes, they will significantly curl your toes but give maximum power. Stiffer shoes are easier to size in than soft ones.
Only a good climbing rope will take your climbing skills to the next level and turn your casual hobby into an obsession. Picking the right climbing rope is crucial because ropes are your lifelines during rock climbing. Consider the factors mentioned below when choosing a climbing rope.
Types of Rope
There are basically two types of climbing ropes-
- Static Ropes
Static ropes are mostly used by experienced climbers because they are mostly used for jumaring up those fixed lines and for hauling essential gear as your rock climbing routes become more challenging. Otherwise, it is best to use none other than dynamic ropes.
- Dynamic Ropes
Dynamic ropes are stretchable ropes that are meant to absorb shocks and accommodate falls so that you don’t hurt yourself when you slip from a hold. For all different types of climbing, such as rope climbing, traditional climbing, sport climbing, and others, you will need dynamic ropes.
When you first begin rock climbing, you must definitely opt for dynamic ropes. Beginners should use dynamic ropes in the diameter range of 9.8 to 10.5mm because these are thick, durable, and can handle any weight you throw at them. From climbing steep lines to climbing on your usual crag, a 10.5mm will give you added durability and confidence as you climb.
However, the larger the diameter of the rope, the heavier the rope will be. You can opt for thinner ropes in the range of 9.2-9.5mm as you start leading longer pitches or routes. Remember that the weight of the rope will be more than the weight of your pack, therefore carrying a 10mm diameter rope of 100 feet can make you tiresome as you climb longer lines.
In the case of multi-pitches or alpine outings, ropes in the range between 7-8.5mm are recommended because they are extremely lightweight. However, these size ropes are usually used in a dual rope setup and hardly ever on their own.
Single ropes range in diameter between 9.2 to 11mm and can be used in almost all kinds of climbing, such as a sport or trad climbing. For multi-pitch climbs, most routes need two rope rappels, so it is a good idea to haul another rope with you.
These ropes are 8 to 9mm in length and should be used simultaneously. Most alpine climbers prefer double ropes since they can lower their pack weight and reduce drag on longer routes.
Twin ropes are 7 to 8mm in diameter and are much lighter than double ropes. They are used for the same purpose as double ropes, but these should always be clipped together. Many trad and ice climbers prefer twin ropes because you can easily rappel with two ropes, and there is an added mental security of climbing with two ropes.
Ropes come in lengths of 50, 60,70 m, while some may even go up to 80 m. For most purposes, a 60m length is generally used. This length gives the best combination of low weight and length, allowing for maximum enjoyment.
Some climbers may prefer to purchase longer ropes, like 70 or 80m, since they can later chop off the frayed ends and still have a good amount of length to rappel or climb. Pick a length that you think will be best for you, and if you still can’t seem to decide, then go to a 60m standard rope length.
Type of Coating
Some ropes are non-coated while some come with a dry coating. Dry coated ropes are best suited for alpine climbing because such ropes repel water and are crucial for safe climbing. In such conditions, non-coated ropes will become hard and swell due to waterlogging and may turn into a dangerous ice-cable.
A dry coating on ropes will also protect the ropes from abrasions due to friction on hard granite and will easily slide through belay devices.
All climbing ropes come with fall ratings, which is given by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme). The fall rating is given based on a benchmark lab test that determines the number of falls a rope can take before it is compromised. The numbers mostly range from 5-17 falls, and ropes with higher UIAA fall rating will last longer.
Crash pads or bouldering pads are spongy pieces of foam that are sewn into fabric and are meant to increase the comfort and safety of an impact or a fall. Most crashing pads come with carrying straps and can be easily carried like a backpack. When climbing in groups, most climbers bring their own crash pads, and multiple pads can be stacked on top of each other for extra safety.
There are mainly three types of foam that are used to make foam pads-
- Open-cell polyethylene foam
- Closed-cell polyurethane foam
- Ethylene-vinyl acetate foam(EVA)
Most manufacturers use a combination of both open and closed-cell foam, either mixed up or placed in alternating layers for softening the pad to a higher level.
The third type of foam is comparatively new to the market and is made up of shredded EVA that has been recycled from old running shoes. The advantage of using this new material is that it provides more flexibility than the others, which is great while using over irregular terrain.
Try to avoid thin and flimsy pads since they don’t give you absolute safety and comfort. Thin pads will be more of a burden than anything.
The type of foldings in bouldering pads are mainly divided into three categories-
- Taco-Folding Pads
These kinds of pads are made from one single continuous foam pad. Though there are no breaks in the foam with this type of folding, the center of such foam will break down over time due to constant folding and unfolding. The other benefit with taco folds is the extra storage space that you get in the gap.
- Book-Folding Pads
These pads are made of two foam pads that are folded at 180 degrees. This increases the durability of the foam, but these type of pads need a strap or Velcro in the middle in order to avoid folding of the center if the climber lands on them. Therefore, most people prefer to opt for taco folding pads instead.
- Bias-Cut Pads
In this type, a single foam is cut at 45 degrees right in the middle so that there are two foam pieces that overlap.
The type of foam used generally determines the size of the pads. Pads usually come in three different sizes-
- Everyday-Use Pads
Everyday use pads are generally 3 to 5 inches thick and measure about 48×40 inches in size.
- Oversize Pads
These pads are just bigger in size than the standard pads and measure about 7-5 inches in thickness. When folded, the thickness becomes double the thickness of the foam, but in case of taco folding, you can get about 12-inch-thick pads.
- Accessory Pads
These are smaller than the everyday use pads and are generally used as accessory pads or as extra support. They can be added to the main pad for added comfort and safety or used for shorter climb routes.
Chalk is yet another important rock climbing tool that should be kept handy. Its main purpose is to keep your hands dry from sweat and moisture so that your hands can get a good grip on the anchor holds. Using chalk while rock climbing is still a topic of debate since some believe that chalk markings can have a negative impact on natural rock formations. However, it should be noted that the chalk used in rock climbing is not actual chalk, but a sedimentary rock made up of calcium carbonate or calcite.
Before purchasing your next set of chalk, here are a few things you should know-
Types of Chalk
Most climbing chalk is made up of magnesium carbonate. These chalks are either available in powdered form, blocks, or in the shape of small cotton balls to reduce any form of spillage.
- Loose Chalk or Balls
Climbers who are on a low budget prefer chalk balls since they have a longer shelf life. However, those climbers who climb in warmer climates like to use a chalk bag full of loose powder in order to mark generously.
- Liquid Chalk
Liquid chalk is a life-saver for those climbers with extremely sweaty hands. Liquid chalk is used as an effective base layer and on top of which the normal chalk is applied for added friction. Liquid chalk is a combination of antiperspirants, chalk, and rosin or hydrophobic compounds.
Color and Drying Agents
Some manufactures like to blend their chalk with drying agents to increase the efficiency of the chalks. The specifics of these drying agents aren’t detailed, but they could simply be antiperspirants such as aluminum trychlorohydrex that work to temporarily plug up sweat glands.
Many climbers love using these supercharged chalks, while some don’t like them at all. There are also colored chalks available that allow you to match the color of the chalk with the rock.
Chalk bags are not only for carrying chalk but also act as a personal style statement. Their availability in numerous designs, colors, and patterns gives you the luxury to choose whatever you want. Chalk bags generally undergo a little wear and tear over time, but with a good liner and stiff upper rim, you are good to do.
Here is a guide on how to select the best chalk bag from the wide array of options you have today.
Chalk bags commonly come in three different sizes-
- Standard Size
Standard bags are worn around the waist and makeup two sizes of chalk bags. The first variation is a bag big enough to fit in your hand completely while the second variation is small and can only accommodate half of your hand.
- Chalk Bucket
A chalk bucket is the biggest of them all and is big enough to fit both your hands completely inside. This bucket is usually kept on the ground while you are bouldering.
The closure is an important feature you should check in your chalk bag. Without a tightly sealed closure, you may end up spilling chalk all over your gear. Extra care should be taken while buying a chalk bag online since you can’t check the product before buying it.
Some chalk buckets come with an attached loop for holding a toothbrush, which is necessary to clean off the holds. They also come with a small-sized zipper or Velcro pouch for sundries and keys. This feature may not always be necessary, but it is very useful if you don’t have pockets on you.
Chalk bags are attached either through a waist belt with a cord or a buckle or attached to your harness by a carabiner. The advantage of using a waist belt chalk bag is the freedom to boulder carrying the chalk bag without wearing a harness. It will also allow for easier access to the chalk bag since you will be carrying it as a backpack.
Some of the most important and indispensable tools in a rock climbing kit are carabiners. Carabiners work to safely and quickly connect the many components of a static or dynamic system during rock climbing. Know more about these small yet powerful tools ahead.
Carabiners come in multiple shapes.
- Oval Carabiners
Oval carabiners are a popular choice among climbing experts and are extremely useful as top-rope anchors and also for aid climbing. The carabiner is symmetrical and hence applies equal pressure on both the gate and the spine when loaded. The symmetrical shape of the carabiners makes them a little tough to handle.
- Pear-Shaped Carabiners
Pear-shaped carabiners give a large rope-bearing surface and are popularly used for belaying. HMS carabiners are the other name for pear-shaped carabiners, mainly because of the German name Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning a munter hitch belay. It denotes that these carabiners are mainly suited for belaying with a munter hitch. Thus, being equipped with at least one pear-shaped carabiner will help you in case you lose your belay device.
Carabiner Locking Mechanisms
The primary use of a locking carabiner is to be used for belay devices and at anchor points. A locking carabiner is much preferred to avoid any failures. The different locking systems found in carabiners are-
Most climbers prefer this simple locking mechanism because this mechanism needs the climber to manually unlock or lock the carabiner. This allows the climber to double-check on the anchor points, and it is also a reliable mechanism to be used under cold conditions.
- Automatic Locking
This type of locking system is mostly preferred by climbers in aid climbing because it saves time and increases speed. However, this mechanism can be hampered in the presence of dust, sand, or grit.
The magnetic locking system is another mechanism that is gaining ground since it works as an automatic locking system but without any drawbacks.
Type of Gate
Carabiners come in three different types of gates.
- Standard Gates
Standard gates are preferred in sport carabiners because a simple bend in the gate can make clippings much easier.
- Wire Gates
Wire gates are a popular choice for trad, sport, and ice climbing since they provide the advantage of being safer and lighter at the same time. These gates can easily clear ice, mud, snow, sand, and more. They are much stronger than the standard gates.
- Notchless Gates
Climbers seem to increasingly prefer notchless gates because they keep themselves free from hooking onto wired nuts, slings, or bolt hangers while unclipping. They are also much easier to use than other types of gates. Manufacturers have started designing notchless gates that offer the best of both types of gates.
Weight of the Carabiners
There is a race among manufacturers into building the lightest carabiner, and that has brought the lightest carabiners down to below 23 grams. Carabiners are extremely light, and when rock climbing, you would want to shave off any extra ounce you can. For those climbing with a big rack, having ultralight carabiners will work wonders. However, make sure that you keep usability in mind. Some carabiners, although light, might be too small for your hands. Regular sized carabiners are a good choice when climbing during the winter.
A climbing helmet is a crucial but underused piece of safety gear. Choosing the perfect helmet for your head is imperative. Modern rock climbing helmets are designed to be used anywhere from mountain tops to your usual crags. There are a few helmets that are designed for specific purposes. All in all, a helmet should be able to protect you from any head injury in case of a fall and save you from the impact. Consider the following factors while choosing one-
Types of Bouldering Helmets
- Foam Helmets
Foam helmets are designed similarly like bike helmets with an inner foam layer that is molded to an upper hard shell to protect the head from severe impacts. There are other types of hybrid helmets that are being manufactured with a foam layer just on the top part of the helmet, along with some suspension.
- Suspension Helmets
Suspension helmets are similar to helmets worn in construction sites that work like hard hats. There is a nylon webbing that separates the head from the hard shell of the helmet. Suspension helmets are adjustable and can be even used with a headlamp and hat. Many trad climbing, ice climbing, or class mountaineering helmets are of this type.
Features to Consider
When selecting a helmet, consider the durability, weight, and adjustability of the helmet. Consider the type of climbing you will mostly be partaking in. If you are a sport climber, then you should probably prioritize ventilation. For alpine climbers, insulation and adjustability should be your top priority.
A belay device is a piece of equipment that is used to control the rope during the process of belaying. It works to improve the safety of the climber while belaying.
A belay device comes in three different categories-
Tubular is the most common type of belay device used and is aptly used for trad and sport climbing. It is made up of one or two holes through which the bight of rope is passed and then secured to a harness using a locking carabiner. The combination of the carabiner, tubular device, and belayer’s brake protect the climber from a fall. These devices don’t have an automatic locking system.
Auto-blocking devices are a great pick for trad climbers who climb along with multiple pitches. These devices help in belaying from the top and are originally preferred by most guides. A tubular that also comes with an auto-locking feature is the best all-rounder belay device. Some of these devices can weigh as much as 12 ounces while some weigh only about three ounces.
These devices are also known as self-braking since they come with camming mechanisms that automatically locks down on a rope when there is a sudden force. These devices can prevent a climber’s fall and add another level of safety.
Some of these devices use a fixed metal with the carabiner acting as the camming mechanism, while some use spring mechanisms with movable parts. However, it should be reminded that a good auto-locking device does not pass for a good belay device. Care should be taken in weighing both sides while choosing.
You can only have a safe and enjoyable experience if you have the right rock climbing gear with you and, of course, the right experience. Rock climbing is an exciting sport but can turn out to be life-threatening if you are not well equipped or don’t know certain techniques. The complete rock climbing gear list mentioned above are some of the essential gears you need when rock climbing. Make sure that you go through every rock climbing gear buying guide mentioned and select gear that matches your needs well.