For many beginner climbers, knowing what climbing gear to invest in can be tricky and even a bit daunting. It’s hard to say for sure what the most important things are, but this article aims to help you make a more informed choice when parting with your hard earned cash.
If you don’t feel ready to commit to splashing out on something like your first pair of climbing shoes or a harness, why not start with some of the smaller accessories? If you’ve not been climbing long then you may never have used a chalk bag, so this could be a great place to start where you’ll feel the benefit straight away. Chalk is simply a drying agent, so we use it to absorb the sweat on our hands which can make them slippery, particularly on well travelled indoor holds. Another good choice is to invest in your first belay device and karabiner. Buying a good belay/karabiner combo doesn’t need to cost any more than about £20 but could last you a decade of climbing.
In terms of your progression in climbing, getting a good pair of climbing shoes that fit well is going to have more effect than any other piece of equipment you can buy. Climbing shoes may seem expensive, but if you’re climbing regularly then the price of hiring shoes quickly adds up. Climbing shoes are designed to fit with as little ‘dead space’ in them as possible, so that they (without sounding too spiritual) move as one with your foot. This means that if you carefully place your foot on a tiny hold, you won’t end up with your shoe rolling around and causing you to fall. Most climbing shoes also have a much more precise toe shape than hire shoes, allowing you to use those tiny footholds that have always baffled you. Remember that all climbing shoes fit differently so you may need to try several pairs before you find the one that works for you. If you’re unable to get to a climbing shop to do this, our online shop has a very open returns policy so you can send shoes back no questions asked if they don’t fit. Check out our climbing shoe buying guide for more detail.
Rental climbing harnesses, as a general rule, are not very comfortable. They need to be incredibly adjustable to fit the range of people that visit climbing centres, and this makes it difficult to give them much padding. When you’re starting out and not pushing your limits, you’ll only have your weight in your harness when you’re coming back to the floor, which isn’t a lengthy experience. Once you start trying harder routes, however, you’ll spend a lot of time sat in your climbing harness while ‘working’ routes and this is where a comfy harness will become your (second, after your shoes) best friend. All harnesses sold in the UK meet rigorous safety standards, so you needn’t worry about a cheap harness not being up to the job. Generally speaking, the more you spend on a harness the more you’ll get in terms of comfort and weight saving. Higher end harnesses use more advanced technology to spread your body weight along with lighter materials to create an all round more pleasant climbing experience.
Get on the sharp end
If you’ve been climbing indoors for a while, you may be looking to start lead climbing. Lead climbing involves clipping your own rope into quickdraws as you climb rather than relying on an in-situ top rope. At almost every climbing wall, the quickdraws are already in place, so all you’ll need is a climbing rope. Climbing ropes come in a variety of lengths, diameters, finishes and coatings which can lead to a lot of confusion in the shop, so I’ll try and narrow down your options as simply as possible. Climbing ropes come in two main types in the UK, single ropes and half ropes. If you’ve just started put lead climbing indoors then ignore half ropes for the time being, as they’re specifically designed for trad climbing. For your first single rope, it’s best not to go much thinner then 10mm in diameter because the thickness of a rope relates very closely to its durability. If you’re using the rope frequently and you’re new to climbing, you’ll give it a hammering pretty quickly! Something like the Beal Edlinger is a great choice. For most walls a 30m or 40m rope is plenty, but some might require a 50m. It’s best to check at your local wall how high their lead walls are, and don’t forget you’ll need double that length in rope if you intend to make it back to the floor afterwards. Finally don’t worry about dry treatment or special finishes, if this is your first rope it’ll be given a lot of abuse and will probably need replacing before it gets anywhere near the crag, let alone a winter route.
If you’re still not satisfied with your new haul of climbing gear, there’s a huge range of accessories you can treat yourself to!
Boot Bananas are a great way to keep the nasty odour of your climbing shoes at bay!
Keep your kit neat and tidy with the Snapod shoulder bag from French company Snap. It’s the perfect size for a harness, a pair of climbing shoes and your sarnies!
Why not invest in a fingerboard so that you can train for climbing at home. The Metolius Woodgrips Compact won’t even look out of place in your living room.