A Beginner's Guide To Outdoor Climbing Equipment

Posted by Adventure 16 | 11.16.2017
climbing gear check
Gear check olas creative

Every rock climber has a favorite piece of gear, whether it's that trusty No. 2 cam or that worn pair of climbing shoes so smelly they act as your own personal bug repellent. But with all the different types of climbing out there, there are many more types of climbing gear, and it can be tricky choosing what will work for you.

Besides safety, climbing equipment also tends to be associated with a bit of nostalgia for most climbers. The gear represents your hardest send, the epic road trip, or that campout where the weather turned for the worst unexpectedly. 

To help you get started with your own epic adventures, we've put together this little beginner's guide to aid you in your quest to find the right kind of to suit your climbing needs. 

1. Always remember to read reviews carefully. What works for one person might not work for you. 

2. Choose wisely. Most of the time its best to look at fit, ease of use, and practicality, rather than price. 

3. Pamper your gear! Proper treatment of your gear will result in longevity and cost efficiency through the years. By doing this you’ll treat your gear better than your cell phone!




Bouldering in Joshua Tree

Bouldering in Joshua Tree  olas creative

Bouldering is considered the most cost-effective introduction to climbing. It requires the least amount of investment as far as equipment goes. This gear list is simple. Shoes are, of course, a given for all types of climbing. Make sure to try several types and styles of climbing shoes before deciding on a pair. A general rule is to make sure that the heel cup fits your foot from the start and there is no weird pressure or tightness. Another good rule of thumb is that your toes should be slightly bent, not flat, but not completely bent. How a shoe fits is very opinionated and every climber will say it has to fit this way or that but remember, YOUR FOOT, YOUR FIT!

Next, you will need a crash pad, which is essential for bailing out at different heights when bouldering, and many climbers own several. The size and quality is based on your budget and your preferred type of bouldering. If you're planning to get into highballing, which is bailing out at heights larger than 10 feet, then a larger pad that covers more ground is recommended. A smaller, satellite pad for sit-starts, cover tree stumps and places in-between pads, is also a good investment. These smaller pads are also easy to attach to a larger pad for lugging around the crag. Most climbers get a combination of both and/or go with friends that have a variety of crash pads to bring along. 

Chalk buckets are primarily used by boulderers as well. They make it easier to keep track of your chalk and also serve as a place to stash brushes. Brushes make it easier to clear chalk and tick-marks off rock, or use as an emergency toothbrush (eww). 


Traditional Climbing


Trad is the most time consuming and committing type of climbing.
Trad is the most time-consuming and committing type of climbing. Ruth Hartnup

Traditional climbing is one of the biggest investments (except ice-climbing) that a climber can make, and it is both time consuming and costly. The trad climber is typically looking for adventure, seeking out new routes and exploring less-visited established crags. Gear investments include a dynamic rope which vary in length, thickness, and weight. Dynamic ropes have a bit of stretch in them which aids the climber when falling. Most rope lengths come in 60 meters (~200 feet) but depending on the climber they can go to 70 meters long (~230 feet). Thickness is also dependent on your needs as the climber.  Qualified staff at your local Adventure 16 can assist you with determining your needs, but the idea is that anything below 10.0 is ideal for trad climbing. Both length and thickness affect weight. Shorter and thinner ropes will be lighter, while thicker and longer ropes are heftier. Again, do your research, ask questions and never consider using anything other than a dynamic climbing rope.

Protection, or "Pro" is what sets the Trad climber apart from the Sport climber. You will want to invest in as many active cams (such as Black Diamond and Metolius) and full set of passive nuts/chockstones and Hexs, as you think you may need for where you plan on climbing. A nut-tool will also come in handy for cleaning the smaller versions of pro that can easily get stuck if you take a fall on them. There is a huge world of protection out there, so it's worth it to take a trip over to your friendly, local Adventure 16 outdoor shop (locations; San Diego, Solana BeachTarzana and West Los Angeles) to check out the gear, try things on, and gain advice when building your rack and investing in gear. 

No matter what your friends say, and as bulky as it is, a helmet is a good way to protect your noggin. And NO!, a bike helmet won’t suffice. Climbing helmets are specific and sit differently on the head. The reason to wear one is not about hitting yourself while climbing, but when loose gear or rock comes falling down from high above. 

On the list of other gear, there are several types of belay devices out there and every climber has a preference. Get one that is affordable for you and feels comfortable when you use it. Belay gloves are not necessary, but they save your hands for when it really counts--and come in handy when repelling.

Harnesses are a very personal piece of gear and definitely require a lot of trying on before deciding on a brand and type. The best idea is to TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! Most mountain shops have a non-returnable policy on climbing gear, especially harnesses, so do your homework. There are many styles and fits out there, and the best thing to do is to research, ask, and try on. 

Carabiners and slings make alpine-draws which complete your trad rack and you can not go wrong with extras of either one. Carabiners have different shapes and uses and slings come in different thicknesses and lengths. Each trad climber has their own set-up and specific gear they use, but don’t feel intimidated.  You will gain knowledge and preferences just by using your gear more. A suggestion would be to buy a single item first, try it, then if you like it buy more later. 



Sport Climbing


Of course, there are climbing styles other than the ones mentioned here, such as Top Roping, which is the preferred method of climbing in gyms and at the crag. Ice, mixed, and alpine climbing for example, are very similar to Traditional climbing and sometimes you will have to perform bouldering moves. 

Aid climbing is different from all of the other types because instead of using your body to climb the rock, you relay solely on your gear. Almost all aid routes have the tiniest cracks and holds that a person's fingers can barely grip, but very experienced climbers have been able to climb them (check out Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson’s Dawn Wall free ascent).  Early rock climbing in Yosemite during the 1950’s and 1960’s and greats such Royal Robbins and Warren Harding could technically be considered Aid climbing, depending on who you ask. 

In any case, every one of these styles of climbing push you to your outer limits and break your comfort zones. Your gear will only take you so far. The rest lies in your mental and physical strength. Just because your friend says, after five months, that you need to start lead climbing, does not mean you have to. Move at YOUR pace when YOU are ready, and you’ll find that any one of these climbing styles will prepare you for the future adventure and thrill you may seek.

Originally written by RootsRated. Edited by Danny Palma



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