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Guide to Beginner Rock Climbing Essentials

From the bottom of a cliff, rock climbing seems an improbable, if not downright insane, pursuit. The stakes are too high, the ropes too thin, the risk of falling too great. Then again, runners collapse all the time during marathons, and cyclists are constantly getting Frogger’d. In fact, some studies suggest climbing is less likely to kill you than seemingly tame sports like tennis and swimming. The reason so few climbers fall is because — and this is the hardest thing for a first-timer — they’ve learned to trust their partner and, just as important, their gear. For that kind of faith, it goes without saying that you need reliable equipment, the kind that’ll save your life when you miss a hold and take a whipper from 100+ feet in the air.

This is bomber, save-your-ass gear that’ll get you started with trad climbing, but a word of caution: it’s only as good as the climber using it. Take a course, learn to belay, and then find an experienced mentor who can teach you the ropes and be your lead climber. Because that’s so important, we’ve omitted lead protection (cams and nuts) from this kit. Your lead climbing partner has a complete rack and, once you’ve chosen your favorite style of climbing and got some routes under your belt, can give you pointers on what you’ll need. (Black Diamond makes very good industry standards in its Stoppers and Camalots.) With the PSA out of the way, it’s time to climb.

BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro 9.7mm (70m, Bi-Color)

While the best rope ultimately depends on the type of climbing you do, this one from Georgia-based BlueWater Ropes is a good all-rounder that’s tough enough to handle lots of falls but stretchy enough to absorb plenty of force in that case. In fact, family-owned BlueWater was the first American company to manufacture dynamic climbing ropes, and they’re still making some of the industry’s best, which is why they’re the favorite hangout of climbing greats Conrad Anker, Tommy Caldwell and Renan Ozturk. Spend the extra money for the bi-color option, which helps you quickly ID the midpoint for rappelling and coiling.

Mad Rock Flash 2.0

This affordable do-everything shoe is a redesign of Mad Rock’s iconic Flash shoe. The heel has been cushioned to absorb the impact of whippers, the classic leather upper combined with a synthetic stretch material for comfort on and off the rock. Made for dirtbags by dirtbags (Mad Rock founder Young Chu collected cans to support his Yosemite-based climbing habit), the Flash 2.0 is one of the stickiest, most durable budget shoes available.

Mammut Skywalker 2 Helmet

Rule #1: Always wear a helmet. Rule #2: The easiest helmet to wear is one you’ll barely notice. The Swiss-made Skywalker 2 is lightweight and comfortable, sports eight vents and an easy-adjust dial. Put it on to protect what counts, then forget it’s even there.

Black Diamond Momentum AL Harness

The “AL” here stands for all-around, and that’s exactly what this lightweight, pared-down harness is. It’s as solid as anything on the market, and — with its breathable waistbelt and adjustable leg loops for layering up and adjusting fit on the fly — eminently comfortable. Although the Momentum AL doesn’t have the self-locking speed-adjust belt so many have grown fond of, some instructors think it’s best to start climbing with the traditional fold-back buckle, which reinforces the system of personal responsibility and built-in safety checks that all rockhounds rely on for survival. And, at a dirtbag-friendly $46, its value is near impossible to beat.

Wild Country Titan Keylock Screwgate

At the very least, you need a locking carabiner, with its added protection, to attach your harness to your belay device. This one, from the UK’s Wild Country, is a simple, strong, reliable D-shaped screwgate carabiner that sells fairly cheaply on Backcountry and Amazon and fits the bill precisely.

Petzl GRIGRI 2 Belay Device

Daydreaming on belay when your partner comes off the wall? This mechanical, auto-locking belay device feeds rope out smoothly and, in the event of such a deadly rookie mistake, brakes automatically when a climber falls. Still, treat it with the same respect you would any belay device, and keep both hands on the rope at all times. There’s no such thing as autopilot in climbing.

Arc’Teryx C80 Chalk Bag

There’s no need to overthink your chalk bag. This one gets the job done — it’s big enough for multi-pitch climbs, and its wide opening offers easy access when you’re pumping out. Now stick a chalk ball in it; Black Diamond White Gold or Metolius Chalk Sock are solid options.

Prana Stretch Zion Pant

While this pant, with its four-way stretch and abrasion-resistant fabric, seems ready-made for climbing, Zion disciples (yes, it’s that beloved) will tell you it’s the perfect pant, period. Wear it in the office or on the road, but it really shines at the crag, where the ventilated, gusseted crotch and stretch fabric give you complete freedom to make the crux move. A DWR finish repels light rain, not to mention the drool of envious climbers.

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30

This rugged top-loader features everything you need for a long day at the crag: hydration sleeve, rope strap, load-stabilizing compression straps, water bottle sleeves and carry loops. Coming spring, MH will offer an updated, fully waterproof OutDry version of this classic daypack for an additional $30.

Peter Koch

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Climbing Gear for Beginners: What You Need Now & What Can Wait

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So you’re hooked on climbing.

There’s a lot to learn on the wall — knots, techniques, movement, etiquette — but there’s also a lot of gear involved.

It can be daunting to get started in the climbing gear world, so we put together a list of what gear you’ll want to buy, when, and why.

Everyone’s climbing journey is different, though, so get the gear that’s right for your own personal goals and style.

The items below are loosely organized by recommended purchase order — items toward the top are the ones you’ll want to get first, while those at the bottom can wait until you’re a little more comfortable and experienced.

Climbing Gear List for Beginners

Necessary

  • Climbing shoes

Highly recommended

  • Chalk bag & climbing chalk
  • Harness
  • Belay device & locking carabiner
  • Helmet

Once you’ve been climbing for a little while

  • Climbing pack
  • Basic accessories such as climbing tape and a climbing brush

Later on, as needed

  • Nut tool
  • Slings & carabiners
  • Climbing rope
  • Quickdraws
  • Trad rack
  • Crash pad

Climbing Shoes

Importance: Necessary

Expect to pay: $80-120

Our favorite beginner climbing shoes

  • Evolv Defy
  • Mad Rock Flash 2.0
  • La Sportiva Tarantulace
  • Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym

My gym shoes, old and new

Buying Advice

Regardless of what type of climbing you’re doing, shoes are the first thing you’ll need. They’re pretty much all you need to get started climbing.

Most gyms have a rental system, but if you’re climbing consistently it’s worth it to get a pair (or pairs, as the case may be) of your own.

There are lots of good options for a first pair. When you’re learning, don’t worry about getting anything fancy — there’s no reason to spring for an aggressive shape, crazy rubber, or a massive downturn.

Most brands make at least one shoe model especially for new climbers. These are usually cheaper and more durable, making them a good choice for gym use. The La Sportiva Tarantulace, Evolv Defy, Scarpa Origin, and Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym are a few of the classic options.

Lastly, it’s best to try them on before you buy. Fit is a critical factor. If there aren’t any good stores or options nearby, you can often find sizing/foot-shape recommendations online.

Where to Find Climbing Shoes for Cheap

If you’re looking to pick up kicks for cheap, there are a few options. Check craigslist, Mountain Project, or local climbing stores for used pairs. And of course scour various sites like REI, Amazon, and Backcountry for deals.

My first pair of climbing shoes was a pair of neon-pink Boreal Lasers that were (the older climbers at my gym informed me) all the rage in the early 90s. I picked them up for $20 at a consignment store.

If you’d like even more ideas of where to look for deals, check out our guide to finding cheap climbing gear.

How to Size Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

We all know at least one of those boulderers that prides themselves on squeezing into shoes a bajillion sizes too small. They have elaborate rituals of flexing shoes this way and that, blowing into them, bringing little plastic sheets to help slide their heels in, and grimacing dramatically as they take them off.

Especially for beginners, I recommend against this approach. You’ll climb better when you’re not in pain, and when you’re starting out there’s no need for extreme downsizing.

Get a pair that’s comfortably snug: tight enough that you can be precise with your toe placements but comfy enough that you don’t hate them when you’re cranking out gym sessions.

How Your Climbing Shoe Needs Will Change Over Time

After a while, you’ll want to invest in shoes that fit your climbing style and needs — a boulderer will buy different shoes from a trad climber.

You’ll also need to replace or resole your shoes as the rubber wears out (this will happen sooner than you’d like).

Because of how disparate different climbing venues and styles can be, most climbers end up with multiple pairs of shoes, each with a specific purpose or usage. As you develop your skills and figure out what you like to climb, you’ll be able to build and refine your own quiver.

Chalk Bag & Climbing Chalk

Importance: Highly recommended

Expect to pay: $10-20 for chalk bag, $2-10 for climbing chalk

Our favorite basic chalk bags

  • prAna Chalk Bag
  • Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag
  • Any of the many bags with fun designs from bespoke gear makers

Our favorite budget-friendly climbing chalk brands

  • Metolius Super Chalk
  • Black Diamond White Gold
  • Whatever cheap chalk your local climbing gym sells

A basic chalk bag with climbing chalk inside

Buying Advice — Chalk Bag

Climbing shoes may be all that’s necessary to get started, but a chalk bag will make your life much more enjoyable.

Lucky for you, chalk bags are neither expensive nor complicated. Most chalk bags share the same basic features:

  • Pouch for the chalk
  • Closure system
  • Loops for a belt or carabiner
  • Climbing brush slot
  • Maybe an extra small pocket for a cell phone or keys

Some bags (like this one) have unique features or closure systems, but by and large the design is pretty standard.

Because the basic features are the same, much of choosing a chalk bag comes down to aesthetics. Let your personality shine — find a pattern or design that you like, and it will brighten your day every time you climb. There are plenty of excellent bespoke chalk bag makers with fun designs. I personally rock one from Krieg Climbing.

When you’re starting out, a chalk bag is probably your best option because you can use it whether you’re bouldering or on ropes.

If you end up spending most of your time over pads, it might be worth investing in a chalk bucket. These are larger, hold more chalk, and are much more convenient (and less wasteful) when you’re bouldering.

Chalking up with a chalk bucket.

Buying Advice — Climbing Chalk

Our philosophy is that you shouldn’t dish out lots of money in the beginning for premium climbing chalk. Save buying a bag from FrictionLabs until you’ve been climbing for a little while.

The easiest and cheapest option is usually to buy a block or bag of basic chalk from your gym or local gear store.

The only caveat here is that some gyms have restrictions regarding chalk. They may ask that you only use liquid chalk or that you carry your chalk in a chalk ball.

Harness

Importance: Highly recommended

Expect to pay: $50-80

Our favorite beginner-friendly climbing harnesses

  • Black Diamond Momentum
  • Mammut Ophir 3 Slide

My first harness and belay device

Unless you’re content staying within a few feet of the ground, you’ll need a harness. Most gyms rent these as well, but harnesses are an easy investment. They’re not too expensive and last quite a while.

Most harnesses will offer the same basic features, and the specifics don’t matter too much until you’re climbing lots or specializing in a certain style. There’s no need for a super-light harness when you’re just starting, so fit and comfort should be top priorities.

One decision you’ll have to make is whether to get a model with adjustable leg loops. These are mandatory for mountaineers, who have to size over various layers and put on harnesses while wearing crampons. Personally, I find adjustable leg loops to be an additional hassle for gym and crag use, so I prefer models with fixed leg loops.

Just like with shoes, most gear manufacturers make an “all-around” harness model that’s suitable for new climbers. The Black Diamond Momentum is the quintessential example, but there are plenty of options available. My first harness was a Petzl Sama, which is still going strong to this day despite being thrown around on all kinds of adventures.

Belay Device & Locking Carabiner

Importance: Highly recommended

Expect to pay: $15-25 for belay device, $10-20 for locking carabiner

Our favorite beginner-friendly belay devices

  • Black Diamond ATC-XP
  • Black Diamond ATC Guide (for those interested in multi-pitch climbing)

Our favorite budget-friendly locking carabiners

  • Petzl Attache
  • Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate
  • Black Diamond Positron Screwgate

The Black Diamond ATC-XP, left, and the Petzl GriGri 2, a popular yet more expensive belay device, right

Buying Advice — Belay Device

To complete your basic climbing kit, the last ingredients are a solid belay device and locking carabiner.

When you’re learning to belay, a tube-style device is the way to go — it’s the most common and versatile style. The Black Diamond ATC-XP is the most common for gym use, but many brands make a version of the same device.

If you plan on eventually exploring the world of multi-pitch climbing, it may be worth snagging an ATC Guide instead.

As your climbing career progresses, you’ll get the belay device that best suits your uses. An alpine climber and a sport climber will have different needs. For more, you can read our belay device buying guide and our take on the eternal GriGri vs. ATC debate.

Buying Advice — Locking Carabiner

Of course, you’ll want a locking carabiner to go with whatever belay device you choose.

There are some newfangled designs and locking mechanisms out there, but a basic screwlock HMS carabiner is all you need to start. The Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate is such a carabiner that is cheap and earned high marks in our field test of the most popular options.

Helmet

Importance: Highly recommended

Expect to pay: $60-100

Our favorite budget-friendly helmets

  • Black Diamond Half Dome
  • Petzl Elios

Helmetted up for a long route in Tuolumne Meadows

Why a Climbing Helmet Is so Important

If you’re ever climbing outside (or even if you like to be cautious inside) a helmet is highly recommended.

Yes, it’s one more thing to take along. No, it’s not helping you get up the wall. No, it usually doesn’t look that cool. But when it counts, you’re going to be really glad that you’re wearing one.

Unfortunately, blows to the head can happen in a variety of climbing scenarios. You might take a nasty fall onto a ledge. If your leg is behind the rope when you fall, you can flip upside down. A party above you might drop a cam. Perhaps scariest of all, rockfall from above can happen no matter how careful you are.

Fortunately, head injuries are still relatively rare in climbing, though the data and discussion around helmets and injuries are fairly nuanced (Climbing Magazine published an excellent article on the subject).

As is so often the case, decisions come down to good risk management. Your risk of hitting your head is lower on an overhanging granite sport climb than it is on a ledge-filled trad pitch. Some venues are known for loose rock, and some objectives may require more caution. Boulderers especially tend to eschew helmets (despite the very real risks), while trad climbers tend to be pretty consistent about wearing them.

Ultimately, what you do with your head is up to you. Make sure you’re comfortable with the decisions you make and the risks you take — the stakes are high.

A climbing helmet is useless if you don’t wear it. Make sure to pick one that fits comfortably and whose design you can at least tolerate. Those with extra big heads brains should look for helmets that come in large or XL sizes.

Climbing helmets are mostly unisex, but there are a few models designed specifically for women.

Climbing Pack

Importance: Wait until you’ve been climbing for a little while

Expect to pay: $30-60

Our favorite budget-friendly climbing packs

  • An old duffel bag or backpack
  • Metolius Gym Bag (for gym use)
  • Black Diamond Bullet 16

The Black Diamond Creek 50 is our Top Pick for climbing packs

As you accumulate all this climbing gear, you’ll need something to carry it in. Any old duffel or pack will do at first, but especially as you find yourself climbing more (or if you adventure outside), it’s worth grabbing a bag that you can trust.

The right size and style will depend on your personal use and preferences. Those who aim for days at the cliffs will want to snag a roomy crag pack, while boulderers might be fine with smaller options. If your only destination is the gym, a good duffel or carry-bag might be all you need.

Everyone packs differently (I always pack way too much food and water), so size your bag according to your personal needs.

Basic Accessories: Tape, Brush, Skin Care, & More

Importance: Wait until you’ve been climbing for a little while

Expect to pay

  • Tape: $5-10
  • Brush: $7-15
  • Salve: $10-20

Our favorite accessories for beginners

  • Metolius Climbing Tape
  • Lapis Boar’s Hair Climbing Brush
  • climbOn Lotion Bar

Together, tape and a brush are made even more powerful

Depending on what you’re climbing, how much you climb, and what your style is, any number of climbing accessories might improve the quality of your climbing life.

If you’re learning to crack climb (or you just need some extra skin protection), pick up some climbing tape.

If you’re all about getting perfect conditions for your project, pick up a climbing brush.

If you like to keep your skin in good shape, grab a skin file, a pumice stone, or a tin of climbing salve.

If you spend a lot of time on ropes, one accessory I especially recommend is a pair of belay glasses. All that time spent looking up puts a real strain on your neck and can cause chronic discomfort after years of climbing. Belay glasses offer a significant ergonomic upgrade, and after long belay spells you’ll feel the difference.

Choose Your Own Adventure from Here on Out

Most of the gear above is suitable for all beginner climbers exploring the sport. After the basics, the investments start to get a little larger and more specific.

From here on out, buy your gear as needed based on what climbing style you’re most interested in.

Don’t be afraid to branch out, either. Most climbers enjoy more than one style of climbing, and many own all of the items below.

Note: From now on, we won’t be giving buying advice since these are pieces of gear you won’t need until later down the line.

Nut Tool

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: $15-25

My trusty nut tool (the leash is handy, although it’s easy to make your own)

I know it seems odd to buy a nut tool right off the bat, but if you’re interested in multi-pitch or trad climbing, a nut tool is one of your best investments. They’re cheap, easy to find, and they last forever.

Firstly, having a nut tool means you’re ready to start following routes. You can get out with a mentor or a friendly rope-gun, learn from their expertise, and not have to borrow their tool when you’re cleaning gear.

If you’re lucky, a nut tool will also get you started on a rack of your very own. Parties abandon gear surprisingly frequently (or, in Eldorado Canyon, pretty much constantly), and a tenacious follower can often free a piece or two. “Bootied” gear is the cleaner’s to keep, and you might find yourself with a piece or two to get you started.

If you’d like help picking out a nut tool, check out our article on the best nut tools.

Slings & Carabiners

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: Variable, depending on number

Slings, lockers, chalk bags, and a trusty belay device

If you’re out sport or trad climbing with more experienced fellows, an anchor setup is another useful package. If you’re multi-pitch climbing, you’ll most likely anchor in using the rope, but if you’re doing single pitch routes, you’ll often be cleaning off of bolted anchors.

Learning to clean a route is quick and relatively easy, and it makes you a more attractive prospect as a climbing partner. Grab a sling or two (or a PAS if that’s your style) plus a couple locking carabiners, and you’ll be able to clean anytime.

Rope

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: $200-300

Our favorites

  • Mammut Infinity
  • Sterling Evolution Velocity
  • Sterling Slim Gym & Mammut Gym Rope (for gym use only)

If you’re interested in sport climbing, trad climbing, or even toproping outside, you’ll eventually want a rope. Some gyms don’t provide ropes for members, in which case you’ll need one to lead climb indoors as well.

When you’re learning, it’s usually best to tag along with more experienced climbers (who will usually have ropes of their own). Once you’re ready to strike out on your own, do a little research and grab a rope that will work for you. The attributes you’ll need to decide on are thickness, length, and treatment (dry or no).

Quickdraws

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: $100-200 for a complete set

Our favorites

  • Petzl Spirit Express
  • Black Diamond FreeWire
  • Petzl Djinn Axess

My first set of draws, pieced together from sales and locals

Along with a rope (and some gear to clean), quickdraws are all you need to get out sport climbing (they’re also useful for trad climbers).

You’ll want 8-12 for a complete set, though some routes or areas may need more.

Trad Rack

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: A LOT

If you’re going to take the leap into trad climbing, you’ll eventually need to build your own rack.

I don’t recommend embarking on this project until you’ve followed plenty of routes and gotten some experience under your belt, because it’s an expensive and time consuming endeavor.

For a complete rack, you’ll need a set of cams, plenty of nuts, a set of draws and alpine draws, a number of slings, a bucket of carabiners, and probably a cordelette. It’s best to talk to other climbers, do your research, and know where you’re planning on climbing before you start building your own set.

If you’re interested, check out our step-by-step guide on how to build your first trad rack.

Crash Pad

Importance: As needed

Expect to pay: $150-200

Our favorite budget-friendly crash pads

  • Mad Rock R3
  • Mad Rock Mad Pad
  • Metolius Session
  • Organic Full Pad

Out for a day of mustachioed bouldering

If bouldering is your jam, your gear decisions are simplified: when you’re ready, grab a pad or two and call it a day.

If you’re going out with a group, you can often get away with using other people’s pads, but it’s nice to have one of your own to contribute. Plus, then you can go out for a day of solo bouldering with nothing more than a pad, some shoes, a chalk bucket, and a good attitude.

That’s not a bad life.

Before you go into the nearest outdoor retail store and splurge on unnecessary ropes and quickdraws, let’s get down to basics. This is what you really need to start climbing. (And don’t forget to work on your skills, too.)

Shoes

Advanced climbers often buy boulder- or wall-specific shoes. As a beginner, you just want a pair that you can stand to wear, since almost all other climbing shoes prioritize performance over comfort. Here are two styles we like.

La Sportiva Tarantulace ($80)

(Photo: Courtesy of La Sportiva)

The La Sportiva Tarantulace has a laced upper that fits precisely to the foot. The aggressive rubber heel is durable and long-lasting, and the midsole is slightly arched but not too severe. Its synthetic leather is soft against your foot, and the tongue’s interior lining helps manage moisture. Another thing that sets this shoe apart is its toe shape: Rather than the sharp-angled toe of most climbing shoes, the Tarantulace has more of a squared silhouette that offers a bit more wiggle room.

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Scarpa Origin ($90)

(Photo: Courtesy of Scarpa)

Instead of laces, the Scarpa Origin uses Velcro to create a snug but not punishing fit. A suede upper offers some padding. The toe is slightly curved, which is helpful for digging into smaller footholds, but the shoe still has a relatively flat profile, so it won’t beat up on your foot.

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Chalk

There’s really no such thing as beginner’s chalk. If we’re talking budget, sure, some of it is cheap. But it’s better to spend just a little bit extra over the bottom-end options that don’t really work. You do want to figure out whether liquid, block, or loose chalk works best for you. Here are some options.

Metolius Loose Chalk ($4.50 for 4.5 Ounces)

(Photo: Courtesy of REI)

This is the top-selling climbing chalk in the country. It uses high-quality magnesium carbonate to keep your hands dry while climbing. Though liquid chalk is known to avert sweaty palms for longer, loose chalk is generally more affordable.

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FrictionLabs Secret Stuff Chalk Cream ($20 for 75 Milliliters)

(Photo: Courtesy of FrictionLabs)

This long-lasting formula maintains grip and friction for multiple climbs, thanks to ultraconcentrated magnesium carbonate. The cream also naturally kills bacteria on your hand that might make climbing more slippery.

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Chalk Bag

Boulderers use a bucket—a large chalk bag kept on the ground to use between tries. When climbing on a wall, you’ll want to use a smaller chalk bag that ties around your waist for reapplying chalk when needed. There’s no need to spend much money here.

Prana Geo Chalk Bag ($22)

(Photo: Prana)

This stylish bag has sturdy double belt loops that keep it from moving around your harness, an adjustable drawcord that enables easy access and closure, and a fleece-lined interior.

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Organic Lunch Bag Chalk Bucket ($33)

(Photo: Courtesy of BJR Climbing Equipment)

This customizable, design-it-yourself bucket is stiff, so it stays open and upright on its own for easy access. There’s also a sturdy closure buckle that prevents chalk from spilling in the back of your car. A big outer pocket stores snacks, climbing tape, or hand salve, and two elastic loops hold the brushes you need to clean lichen or dirt off routes.

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Crash Pad for Bouldering

Mad Rock Pad ($160)

(Photo: Courtesy of Backcountry)

The Mad Pad uses polyethylene foam to create a five-inch-thick landing. On the trail, it transforms into a backpack, complete with a hipbelt and chest strap, so you can haul your shoes, water bottle, chalk bag, and layers. If that wasn’t enough, it can also be turned into a lounge chair for post-climb beers.

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Harness for Rope Climbing

Mammut Ophir 3 Slide ($55)

(Photo: Courtesy of Mammut)

The Mammut Ophir 3 Slide fits a variety of waist sizes and uses well-built but flexible webbed materials, so it’s comfortable to sit in when you’re hanging on belay. The waist and leg loops are easy to adjust, all the materials breath well on hotter days, and the tie-in loop is positioned to avoid chafing. Even better: It’s suited for a variety of climbing types, meaning it’ll work for harder lead and trad climbs as you advance.

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Black Diamond Ozone ($55)

(Photo: Courtesy of Backcountry)

Like the Ophir 3 Slide, Black Diamond’s Ozone harness is easy to adjust for beginners who don’t want to fiddle with their gear. At just 10.5 ounces, it’s also super lightweight.

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Helmet for Rope Climbing

When choosing a helmet, make sure it’s climbing-specific, fits well, and has an easily adjustable chin strap.

Black Diamond Half Dome ($60)

(Photo: Courtesy of Black Diamond)

This high-performance, lightweight helmet is both affordable and durable since it’s made with a hybrid of foam and plastic. Large air vents on the sides and in the rear move heat, and the helmet comes with an easy-adjust fit dial. A low-profile clip allows you to secure a headlamp for late nights hiking out.

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Petzl Elios ($65)

(Photo: Courtesy of Petzl)

The Petzl Elios is a popular go-to option for all climbing-related adventures, be it canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, or sport climbing. Its features are similar to the Half Dome: adjustable nape-mounted dial, clips for headlamp, ventilation, and quality composition.

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Filed To: ClimbingRock ClimbingClimbing ShoesHarnesses Lead Photo: Alexandra Simone / Aurora Photos

Sport climbing is one of those hobbies that’s mostly free and extremely accessible once you own the gear. Our editor and his wife recently learned the ropes of sport climbing and accumulated the basic gear needed to hit the crag.

If you’re interested in sport climbing, you probably want to begin by buying only the essential gear — just enough to show up at the crag and start climbing safely. That’s the logic my wife and I followed as we amassed a basic sport climbing setup.

Sport Climbing Kit Essentials

Climbing Shoes: Five Ten Rogue (M), La Sportiva Mythos (W), SCARPA Vapor V (W)

Tired of continually paying to rent old and smelly climbing shoes at gyms, I made Five Ten Rogue climbing shoes the first piece of climbing gear I ever bought. Mine are probably 10 years old now, and the rubber at the toes is just now starting to peel away. They’re still extremely comfortable though, with Velcro straps that make them easy to put on and take off.

At my skill level, many routes don’t require particularly aggressive shoes. For me, it’s more about being able to practice longer and get more reps in. These are quality starter shoes that allow me to do just that for right around $100.

Five Ten Rogue climbing shoes

My wife raves about her La Sportiva Mythos shoes. These are not particularly cheap beginner shoes, but they’re made to last and darn comfortable. She wears them on 90 percent of her sport climbs.

For routes that are more delicate or overhanging, she switches to her Scarpa Vapor V shoes for more precision. Their edges are more precise, and the downturned toes help with foot placement on overhangs. These are a more aggressive option, so she doesn’t wear them long. But she has found that they give her extra confidence on harder routes.

La Sportiva Mythos (Left), Scarpa Vapor V (Right)

Chalk Bag: Metolius Access Fund and STATIC Artist Series Yosemite Chalk Bag

A chalk bag is nice to have on hand, especially on hotter days when sweat is a factor. Any chalk bag will do the trick, so we went for looks when buying ours. With the Metolius Access Fund bag, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Access Fund to help protect American climbing areas. My wife’s STATIC Artist Series bag isn’t cheap, but how can you beat the beautiful watercolor artwork of Yosemite?

Metolius Access Fund (Left), STATIC Artist Series Yosemite Chalk Bag (Right)

Chalk: Metolius Super Chalk

Dubbed “America’s #1 climbing chalk,” Metolius’ Super Chalk is what we’re currently dumping into our chalk bags. We like the resealable bag and the low price ($4.50). Before hopping on a sport route, we often mix our hands in the stuff for sweat absorption and extra friction on the wall.

Harness: Black Diamond Zone (M) and Edelrid Jayne II (W)

I’ll be honest: Both of these harnesses were given to us by friends who had extras. But when you’re first getting into sport climbing, any climbing harness from a known brand should do. The Black Diamond Zone harness is lightweight, affordable, and well padded. The four gear loops hold plenty of quickdraws and carabiners, and, most importantly, it fits me like a glove.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness

My wife uses Edelrid’s Jayne II harness ($60) and has no complaints (except maybe the bright neon colors). It’s ultra-adjustable and has plenty of attachment options for racking gear.

Edelrid’s Jayne II climbing harness (women’s)

Belay Device: Black Diamond Big Air XP Belay Device Package

We like the package deal that comes with Black Diamond’s ATC-XP belay device: It includes a Mini Pearabiner screwgate locking carabiner. It’s all you need to belay someone!

The carabiner secures the rope and belay device to your harness while the ATC-XP belay device is simple and user-friendly. Its high-friction grooves offer three times greater hold than non-jagged tube-style belay devices, which is key when my 105-pound wife belays my 155-pound frame.

Rope: Edelrid Python 10mm x 60m Non-Dry Rope

A climbing friend once told us that when you first start climbing, just buy the most inexpensive climbing rope you can find. We took that advice to heart and found this Edelrid Python 10mm x 60m Non-Dry Rope during REI’s Anniversary Sale. When we took a beginner’s sport climbing course at a climbing gym, our instructor confidently told us that a 60- or 70-m rope would be plenty long to start with. So far, we’ve loved our Edelrid rope and have no qualms.

Rope Bag: Metolius Dirt Bag II

A rope bag is the easiest way to keep your climbing rope organized and clean. We like Metolius’ Dirt Bag II, which fully unzips to reveal a large tarp that offers plenty of space to flake the rope out onto and belay from. Using the tarp keeps the rope from dragging in the dirt or across rocks.

Once the climbing day is done, simply tie the rope up, place it in the tarp, wrap the tarp around the rope, fold the bundle into the bag, and zip it up. Then, the rope is secure and is easily carried to and from the crag with the bag’s shoulder strap.

Helmet: Petzl Boreo (x2)

Falling on a sport climb can be jarring. Often, you free fall a few body lengths until being caught by your closest quickdraw. A climbing helmet is crucial for protecting your head from injury on the route.

Beyond protection when falling, we can’t count how many times we’ve bumped our heads on an overhanging rock while climbing. Also, we always wear a helmet when belaying to shield any falling rocks. Petzl’s Boreo helmet is a budget-friendly option that stays stable on the head and is easily adjustable for sharing with friends.

Quickdraws: Metolius Bravo Wiregate (x7) and Black Diamond FreeWire 12cm (x4)

For an entry-level sport climbing kit, we’d recommend a minimum of eight quickdraws. Along the route, you clip these into bolts in the wall and clip your rope into the other end. This system is your protection if you were to fall.

We started with seven Metolius Bravo Wiregate quickdraws and added four Black Diamond FreeWire quickdraws to our set, which enabled us to climb longer routes. The Black Diamond FreeWire quickdraws can be bought individually or as a set of six.

Metolius Bravo Wiregate (Left) and Black Diamond FreeWire 12cm (Right)

Slings: Black Diamond 18mm Nylon (120cm) and Black Diamond 10mm Dynex (120cm)

Slings are most often used (in conjunction with a locking carabiner) when cleaning an anchor at the top of a climbing route. My wife and I each have a 120cm sling, which we attach to our harness and clip directly into chains or a bolt.

This allows us to remove our quickdraws from the anchor and thread our rope through the rings before rappelling down a route. We like the 120-cm length, as it gives a longer reach yet can be doubled-back or knotted if shorter length is required.

Slings and locking carabiners

Locking Carabiners: Black Diamond Positron Screwgate (x2) and Petzl OK Oval Screwgate (x2)

In total, my wife and I have five locking carabiners. We use the Black Diamond Positron Screwgate with our ATC belay device while the Petzl OK Oval Screwgate carabiners connect to our slings when we clean an anchor. The “pear-shaped” locking carabiners are preferred for belaying, and the oval-shaped carabiners are more user-friendly with slings and at anchors.

Crag Climbing Pack: Metolius Freerider

Though you could technically make do with a standard hiking backpack, we really like the Metolius Freerider crag climbing pack. Its main opening is huge and easily fits all sorts of climbing gear.

At the top, there’s an additional compression strap for attaching rope or jackets, and there are plenty of gear loops throughout. The chest and hip belts make for a comfy carry and we especially like the zippered lid pocket for keys, phones, wallets, and other valuable items. Instead of attaching our gear all around a hiking backpack, we can simply toss everything into the Freerider and head to the crag.

(Bonus) Crag Sandals: Walmart Crocs

No, this piece of gear isn’t a sport climbing “essential,” though it has proven invaluable. After a route, there’s nothing better than removing tight, sweaty climbing shoes and slipping into a pair of sandals.

We like the $10 Crocs from Walmart. They provide toe protection and are easy to slip into, lightweight, and breathable. When not on the wall, I’m in these puppies feeling (and looking) good.

Interested in learning the ropes of sport climbing, but not sure where to start? Check out our article, “Sport Climbing 101: The Best Way to Learn the Ropes.”

Climbing

If you’re looking for a new way to challenge your body, burn calories and relieve some stress, then perhaps climbing is an activity you should explore. Rock climbing has become increasingly popular over the years, especially since you don’t have to live in the mountain states to participate. Indoor rock climbing gyms and climbing gear are quite easy to come by, and can provide you with the same adventurous experience, minus the fresh air and sunshine.

There are different types of climbing, so you have some freedom when choosing which one is best for you, unless of course you want to try them all. Whichever kind of climbing you choose, Bill Jackson’s has the climbing gear for you to safely enjoy this exciting sport.

Bouldering

Bouldering is a discipline that involves climbing on rocks, boulders, or other surfaces without the use of a safety harness or rope. Bouldering is done near the ground, generally topping out at about 20 feet, so the distance of a fall is relatively short. Boulderers put a “crash pad” on the ground to prevent injury in the event of a fall. Initially, mountaineers and rope climbers chose bouldering as a way to build stamina and finger strength. Today, bouldering is enjoyed both outdoors and inside climbing gyms. Bouldering is less equipment intensive as it needs only climbing shoes, comfortable clothing, a helmet and chalk. Many people enjoy bouldering as a form of fitness and like the route problem-solving and social aspects.

Top Roping

Top roping is a form of climbing that incorporates a rope, harness, carabiners, helmet, shoes, webbing and a partner. The rope runs through an anchor point attached at the top of the climb to a tree, boulder, or some other solid structure. One end of the rope attaches to the climber, the other is handled by a belayer, who manages the rope as the climber goes up. In the event of a fall, the belayer uses a belay device to “brake” the fall.

Lead climbing

In lead climbing, the first climber sets temporary anchor points, called “protection,” on the rock face as he or she ascends. The trailing climber pays the rope out and eventually follows the leader up removing those anchor points. Dynamic rope is used in this style of climbing because of the possibility that the leader will fall a substantial distance before the rope catches. The rope then stretches, slowing the momentum of the fall and protecting the leader from an abrupt stop.

There are two styles in this category: traditional (called trad) climbing and sport climbing. In trad climbing, the anchor points are set by the leader and removed as the final climber goes up, so they are temporary. Something like leave no trace. In sport climbing, the anchors are a permanent feature of the route; drilled in to the rock face.

Via Ferrata

Via ferrata is an Italian term meaning “iron road.” Essentially, a steel cable runs the length of the climbing route. At several points along the route the cable is affixed to the rock. Climbers link themselves to the cable with a lanyard and pair of carabiners. When an ascending climber’s carabiner reaches an attachment point on the rock, the second carabiner is clipped above that fixed point, and the lower one is unclipped. The climber can then proceed.

Free soloing

The most risky type of climbing. The climber does not use ropes or anchoring gear, only hands, feet, body mind and spirit. It is not for the faint of heart.

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(Note this is just a rock climbing gear list – make sure any kit you are using is tested for its safety. If you’re not sure of the quality of the gear you borrow, don’t risk it).

Depending on the kind of climbing you’re planning to do, the gear you need will differ. So, here’s a quick break down for beginners (I’ve got a Where to Start post here, feel free to have a read!), to give you an idea of what you might buy for each stage of the various climbing disciplines:

Indoor bouldering

Beginner: Nothing. Rent or borrow a chalk bag and climbing shoes.

Getting into it: Buy a pair of shoes, mine were £55 in a sale… Renting is often £2/3.

Regular climber: Buy a chalk bag and chalk.

Outdoor bouldering

Beginner: Borrow a chalk bag. Wear sturdy shoes. Go with someone who has a bouldering mat.

Getting into it: Buy shoes and a chalk bag. Go with someone who has a bouldering mat.

Regular climber: Buy a bouldering mat.

Indoor Climbing

Beginner: Nothing. Rent or borrow a chalk bag, shoes, harness & belay device from the gym.

Getting into it: Buy shoes. Rent the rest from the gym for a few visits.

Regular climber: Buy a chalk bag, chalk, harness, belay device, rope and quickdraws. Some gyms will have quickdraws already on their walls, others will require you to bring your own.

Outdoor Trad Climbing

Beginner: If you’re going with a club or on an organised trip, nothing. Rent or borrow a chalk bag, helmet & nut tool. Wear sturdy shoes. I’d consider buying a harness, belay device and locking carabiner right from the start as you’re putting your own / someone else’s lives on them. Otherwise, make sure you’re borrowing decent gear.

Getting into it: Buy a helmet, harness, chalk bag, nut tool, belay device and locking carabiner if you haven’t already. Wear sturdy shoes & consider buying your own.

Regular climber: Buy shoes if you haven’t already. Once you get into leading consider buying ropes and hardware. If you have a regular climbing partner, you could look at each buying half of the necessary kit.

What to Buy – Rock Climbing Gear List

Everything you buy is going to come down to personal preference. I got so much advice from people in my club, friends, my dad, YouTube and shop workers before I invested in my new harness and shoes. I made my own rock climbing gear list which I’m sharing below.

The best advice I can give is to try out as many different styles/brands as possible and decide what suits you. I went to a great outdoor shop that had a mini indoor wall with a rope to attach to. It meant I could test out the harness and shoes properly without leaving the shop.

There’s nothing to say you have to buy them from where you try them out… Check prices online and at other shops before you buy!

I got my Scarpa Velocity shoes in a sale at my local outdoor shop. They’re super comfortable and fit really well. I tried on about 15 pairs of shoes before I bought them, these were the most comfortable.

There’s lots of information online about what size to go for (this BMC article, for example). I know really good climbers who have their toes so squished they walk around like a flamingo when not climbing.

I’m not that hardcore, so I went up 2 sizes and got a pair of shoes which are tight enough that I can feel the wall and stand on little holds, but that aren’t about to make my toes drop off.

Shoe Reviews

UKC published a group test for rock shoes in Dec 2018. They give lots of testing factors and highlight the fact that it’s so subjective.

Which shoes you’ll find the most helpful will depend on your own personal preference along with the types of climbs you’ll be on.

Overall there were 3 shoes that received 4.5 out of 5 stars:

La Sportiva Kataki

A good shoe for trad and sport climbing, with a lot of support.

Evolv Oracle

Great for bouldering and sport climbing. Maybe a little soft for long trad climbs.

Scarpa Instinct VS

These receive excellent reviews wherever I’ve looked. Good for the whole spectrum of climbing styles.

I’ve seen a lot of people climb outdoors without a helmet. Maybe 15 seconds is too much time to spend putting one on, or maybe they don’t look funky enough, I don’t know. I wouldn’t climb outdoors without one so I recommend adding it to your rock climbing gear list!

As with shoes and harness, it’s definitely worth trying on a few helmets and looking at their reviews or talking to people about what they’ve found the best. Make sure you buy from a reputable supplier.

When I climbed as a teenager, I wore a JB El Cap – It was comfortable enough and had sparkly silver bits. Unfortunately, a 15-year-old helmet isn’t considered much use, so I had to replace it… Gutted!

Mammut Rock Rider

I’ve invested in the Mammut Rock Rider. I tried 5 or 6 helmets on and found this one the most comfortable and liked the way it sat on my head.

It’s a lightweight, foam helmet with plenty of adjustment and ventilation openings. The inside of it is padded and it has headlamp clips.

Petzl Meteor

This helmet is pretty lightweight (at 225g), has plenty of ventilation for hot weather and is pretty comfortable.
It comes in two sizes so should accommodate most people, even with a thin hat liner. It is also a good shape to fit under a hood.

Chalk bags come in a variety of sizes/styles. The most common I’ve seen have been smaller ones to clip onto your harness or wear on a hip sling, so you can carry them up a climb. Or bigger “bucket” bags which you leave at the bottom – used for bouldering.

Evolv Andes

I’ve had my chalk bag for 15 years and don’t plan on replacing it anytime soon. If I was going to replace it, I’d go for something like this one by Evolv.

Mammut Rider

I love this chalk bag! It’s simple but looks great and has a zippy pocket and toothbrush holder (for brushing dust/chalk off holds – not that I’m at the point of needing that yet!). It comes with a hip sling so it can be used for bouldering.

Psychi Abyss

This comes as a useful starter kit including chalk, finger tape and a brush. Designed for bouldering this is a decent bundle to get started.

8b Plus

A fun and funky chalk bag with a lot of character! I’m doubting it’ll last as long as some of the others, but it looks cool. Designed to be clipped onto a hip sling or harness.

Chalk Ball

You can often pick up a chalk ball from your local gym or get a cheap pack of three from Amazon.

One of the most important things you’ll buy. It probably goes without saying, but… Don’t cut corners with your harness research!

DMM Venture

I have the DMM Maverick 2, which is pretty similar to this DDM Venture but doesn’t have adjustable legs. If I decide to try winter climbing, I’ll probably need to get a harness with adjustable legs so I can fit plenty of warm layers under it!

I did some research online, looked at what my friends have, then went to an outdoor shop and tried on 7 different harnesses before I decided on this one.

The salesman in the shop was helpful and hooked me up to the in-store top rope so I could sit in the harnesses and see if I was comfortable. The DMM was the most comfortable, along with being light and has 4 gear loops so should be OK for trad climbing too (when you need to clip gear onto the loops).

Petzl Adjama

Highly recommended by both climbinggearlab.com and UKC, the Adjama is an all round decent harness that even has ice clipper slots, so is suitable for alpine and ice climbing.

Black Diamond Momentum

A really popular, comfortable and durable harness that comes in at a reasonable price. This is another good all-rounder with fully adjustable waist and leg loops. It’s also quick and easy to take on and off and a good one for new climbers.

Belay Device

Belay devices, like all climbing equipment, come in a huge range of styles, materials, etc. Splitting them into two very loose groups would give you a group for assisted-braking, and one for non-assisted braking.

There’s a post all about climbing basics such as tying in and belaying, you can read that by clicking here…

Assisted-braking – Petzl GriGri 2

A GriGri has an advantage over a tube-style belay device in that if somehow the belayer is incapacitated (faints, gets hit by a rock, etc.), the device will automatically lock off, holding the rope in place.

There are issues with GriGris, mostly from people not using them correctly. I have tried one but, in the end, preferred my traditional tube-style device. Whichever style you are going to go for, make sure you have training and lots of practice before someone’s life is put in your belaying hands.

Non Assisted-Braking Petzl Reverso 4

I’ve just bought the Petzl Reverso 4 and have been using it the past couple of weeks while climbing indoors. It’s light and easy to use. The Reverso produces a lot of friction when belaying, which is something I’ve liked about it.

I’ve read reviews (such as this one on 99boulders.com) that say the Black Diamond ATC-Guide is a more effective belay device than the Reverso, so it’s worth looking into.

Locking Carabiner

This will be used to attach your belay device (and the rope when you’re belaying) to your harness or anchor point. There are so many options for locking carabiners… You can buy a belay carabiner (with a little clip to hold it the right way around).

I don’t have one of these at the moment, but they are recommended to make sure your carabiner doesn’t spin around and jam in the belay device.

The alternative is a standard screw-gate carabiner. You can get these from any climbing gear supplier, or online. Make sure you always buy from a reputable dealer though! I’d add a few of these to your rock climbing gear list.

Generally used when seconding on trad climbs, a nut tool will help you take out any nuts that your partner put in. Do some research (This video has some good info) into how to carry and use a nut tool.

It’s helpful to carry a nut tool when leading a climb too in case you want to replace a nut you’ve put in.

Metolius Torque

This nut tool has wrenches built in so you can use it for tightening bolts on sport climbs.

Wild Country Pro Key

The Wild Country nut tool can come with an attached stretchy leash to make sure you don’t drop your tool when using it – handy!

Rope and Hardware

I’m going to save rope and hardware for a future post since I’ve not invested in these myself yet. I’ve been lucky enough to always climb with partners who have a full rack of gear and ropes and they haven’t minded me using them!

In the meantime, if you’d like some advice on building a rack for trad climbing – have a look at this EpicTv video.

Ready to Hit the Rock

So that’s it, end of my rock climbing gear list… Where are you in your climbing journey? What have you bought so far? I’d love to hear from some of you in the comments below!

I’m really happy with the kit I’ve invested in so far, particularly my Mammut Rock Rider helmet. There’s a lot more I’d like to invest in but will have to save it for another day.

Sport Climbing Essentials

Get Out and Clip Some Bolts!

So maybe you started climbing in the gym and you’re ready to take your newly acquired skills and psych out onto some real rock. Maybe you’re a seasoned trad climber and you’d like to gear up to hit your local sport crag. Or maybe you’ve done some sport leads using friends’ gear and you want to build your own rack. Regardless of the circumstance, there are some crucial pieces of gear that every climber should have in his or her sport rack. Here at Outdoor Gear Exchange we’ve selected some essential items that you need to have a safe and enjoyable sport climbing experience!

Petzl Spirit Express Quickdraws

Sport routes have a fixed line of bolts drilled into the rock to protect the route and a set of fixed anchors at the top, so sport climbers just need a rack of quickdraws—two non-locking carabiners connected by a sewn sling—to protect a route.

Quickdraws typically come in two lengths; a short version that is 10 to 12 cm long, and a long version between 15 and 18 cm long. Shorter draws are lighter and less bulky on your harness. They are good for straight forward routes. Longer draws reduce rope drag and are great for meandering routes or overhung cliffs. A set of quickdraws made up of a mixture of the two lengths gives you the option to use long or short draws depending on the character of a route.

Typically, you need a draw for every bolt on a route, two for the anchors, and an additional two or three in case you need more in a tricky situation. On average, 12 to 16 draws will be enough for many sport crags. However, it is important to look at the areas where you will usually be climbing and determine how many quickdraws you need to bring along.

Petzl Spirit Express Quickdraws are super lightweight, with a wide dogbone for easy handling and a rubber piece on the rope end so that the carabiner stays in place when clipping the rope. The Spirit Express draws come in 12 or 17 cm lengths.

Shop our entire selection of quickdraws!

Down-turned, High-Performance Climbing Shoes

La Sportiva Miura VS

Some of the most unique and hardest sport climbing routes in the country, like those at the Red River Gorge or on the Waimea crag in at Rumney, are very steep or overhung and require aggressive, down-turned climbing shoes with a pointed toe. This style of shoe keeps your feet from cutting on overhung sections and allows you to utilize toe hooks.

A good option for sport climbing is a velcro closure shoe, which is easy to remove while belaying or moving to a different route.

CHECK OUT OUR GUIDE TO CHOOSING CLIMBING SHOES!

The La Sportiva Miura VS shoes are some of the best technical climbing shoes and feature a performance fit and a down-turned shape. The Miura VS is a great do-it-all shoe that also works well for gym climbing or bouldering. La Sportiva also makes a version of the Miura VS specifically for women.

Shop our selection of climbing shoes!

A Sport Harness

The Black Diamond Solution Harness

While all climbing harnesses are primarily designed to distribute weight and catch you when you fall, many harnesses are specifically designed for the unique needs of different types of climbers. Sport climbing does not require a climber to hang heavy gear from his or her harness, so sport harnesses are built with minimalist design features like fewer gear loops. Since many sport routes are single pitch and don’t require hanging all day in a harness, sport harnesses have thinner leg loops and waist belts.

Eliminating unneeded features from a harness makes it much lighter and allows sport climbers to push harder. While an all-around harness will still work well for sport climbing, a sport-specific harness is a perfect option for someone who primarily hits the gym or a local sport crag rather than trad routes, big walls or alpine ice.

The Black Diamond Solution is not only lightweight at 11 oz, but also perfectly contoured to relieve pressure-sensitive areas while you’re hang-dogging on your project.

Shop our selection of harnesses!

The Right Rope

Mammut 9.5 Infinity Dry Rope

In sport climbing, weight is an important consideration in all aspects of your gear. When you’re trying to send a tough project, using a rope that you can clip easily and that won’t weigh you down when you’ve reached the final moves of a route is crucial.

A 9.5mm or 9.6mm rope is a great all-around sport rope that is lighter than larger diameter ropes, but can still withstand numerous falls while working a route or getting some leads under your belt. Ropes in this range are easy to handle when belaying, unobtrusive while climbing, and relatively compact for transporting to the crag or from route to route.

The Mammut Infinity 9.5 dry rope is a light, high performance rope with a dry treatment, making it an excellent go-to rope for sport climbing.

Shop all ropes!

An Assisted Braking Belay Device

Petzl Grigri 2

For extra safe belaying, bring an assisted braking belay device like the Petzl Grigri or the Trango Cinch with you to the crag. This style of belay device has an assisted braking function that pinches the rope under weight. The belayer uses classic belay technique to pay out rope and stop a fall, while the assisted braking device adds increased friction for safety and control.

For lead-belaying on a sport route, an assisted braking device is an excellent choice. During a lead-fall, the shock weighting of the rope activates the camming mechanism in the device. Since falls can occur frequently while sport climbing, it is ideal to have an assisted braking device for security and to lessen the fatigue on a belayer from repeatedly catching falls.

Shop all belay devices!

A Chalk Bag and chalk

PrAna Chalk Bag

Every climber needs a chalk bag. Chalk dries moisture from your hands and gives you a secure grip on holds. Chalk bags are a simple item, but look for one that has a waist belt, a draw cord that prevents your chalk from falling out, and a soft, comfortable inner lining. PrAna’s basic chalk bag with a belt has everything that you need. You can fill it up with some Metolius Super Chalk and you’ll be ready to go!

Shop chalk bags and chalk!

A Helmet

The Petzl Sirocco Helmet

Many sport climbers don’t wear helmets and their use is certainly optional. However, with today’s ultralight helmets, the old complaints that they are too bulky, heavy or hot to wear when climbing hard are becoming increasingly unfounded.

Helmets shield against rockfall that can occur even at sport crags. They also as protect your head if you were to end up inverted from a fall with the rope behind your leg, or you clip your foot on outcropping rock.

The Petzl Sirocco helmet sets a new world standard in lightness at just 165 g, while still maintaining excellent impact resistance and high levels of ventilation.

Shop all climbing helmets!

A Crag Bag or Rope Bag

Mammut Neon Gear Pack

At a sport crag, climbers have the unique opportunity to climb a route, clean it, then move a few yards away and set up another climb fairly quickly. Using a rope bag, usually resembling a simple duffel bag with a rope tarp inside that can be deployed quickly, or a crag bag, which is a utilitarian pack made to hold a rack of quickdraws, shoes, a rope and a few accessories, sport climbers can get gear from the car to the cliff easily.

The Mammut Neon Gear Pack is a perfect choice for sport climbers. Featuring organizational gear loops and specialized pockets for shoes and a chalk bag, as well as an integrated rope bag, the Neon Gear Pack has everything you need to set up your favorite warm-up and then quickly jump onto the 4 star route down the wall as soon as it opens up.

Shop all crag bags and rope bags!

A Stick Clip

On hard sport routes, it’s nice to give yourself some reassurance that you won’t deck before you clip the first bolt. A stick clip allows you to place your first quickdraw, with the rope already clipped to it, before you leave the ground. Using an extension pole and a specially designed attachment to hold your quickdraw, you can ensure that you stay safe on difficult routes.

Shop all of our climbing accessories!

Belay Glasses

Don’t get a sore neck from belaying all day at the crag; pick up a pair of belay glasses! Belay glasses may not be the coolest looking piece of gear, but they significantly reduce the strain on your neck from looking up at your climber. At a sport crag where you may be climbing a large number of routes and spending half of the day belaying and staring straight up, belay glasses will make your day much more enjoyable!

Rock Climbing Gear Guide: Best Rock Climbing Gear for Beginner Climbers

For the beginner rock climber, buying gear can be stressful and overwhelming. Don’t worry, these recommendations will point you in the right direction. We have searched high and low to find the best entry-level gear, with a specific focus on safety, performance, and value. Recommendations are unbiased, based on community reputation and our staff’s personal experience. Your purchases support our free content.

This guide was last updated on January 2nd, 2020.

In deciding what type of gear you’ll be needing, it’s important to first take into account the style of climbing you’ll be participating in. Most indoor gyms offer both bouldering and roped climbing in the form of top roping and lead climbing.

Outdoor destinations may offer any combination of bouldering, sport climbing, and trad climbing. You can learn about the styles of climbing here.

Indoor and outdoor bouldering

Bouldering necessitates the least amount of gear, only requiring shoes, chalk, a chalk bag, and if you’ll be bouldering outdoors, your own crash pad.

Indoor roped climbing

For indoor roped climbing, you’ll need: shoes, a harness, a belay device and locking carabiner, chalk, and a chalk bag. If you eventually begin lead climbing in the gym, you may need your own rope and a rope bag/tarp to keep it clean.

Outdoor roped climbing

Climbing outdoors, there’s an endless supply of gear you could use. In addition to the indoor roped climbing gear, you’ll likely also need quickdraws and a helmet, among other optional additions.

Related: Gear Guide to the Top 9 Best Shoes for Rock Climbing

Black Diamond Momentum and Primrose Harnesses

In deciding on a first climbing harness, we suggest looking at comfort, functionality, safety, and affordability. Taking these factors into consideration, Black Diamond’s men’s Momentum and women’s Solution lines offer an excellent starting spot.

Both harnesses are very comfortable, with sufficient padding throughout both the waist straps and leg loops. Four gear loops on each harness offer plenty of space for quickdraws, belay devices, and even cams if you begin trad climbing. In terms of safety, Black Diamond is the gold standard here in the United States, so you can be assured that these harnesses are rigorously tested to withstand extreme loads. And finally, these harnesses are available at a fantastic price.

For an all-around beginner rock climber harness, Black Diamond’s Momentum and Solution are hard to beat.

Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet

When climbing outdoors, whether you’re leading, belaying, or just walking around the base of the crag, wear a helmet! While many sport climbers and professional climbers will often forgo the use of helmets, that decision is informed by years of experience. Beginning climbers should wear helmets without exception until they can properly identify the times when climbing without one may be appropriate.

Bonus tip

Add your name, an emergency contact, and any drug allergies you may have to help rescuers in the event of an emergency.

Petzl GriGri Belay Device

The GriGri is an assisted-braking belay device that works by pinching (and significantly slowing or stopping) the rope whenever it moves quickly through the device. During normal rope movement, the internal cam isn’t engaged, allowing for smooth rope handling. But as soon as the rope begins moving quickly (think “falling!”), the cam engages, pinching the rope and helping to brake the fall. We endorse the use of assisted-braking belay devices as an added form of redundancy during belays.

Alternative pick: Mad Rock Lifeguard

The Mad Rock Lifeguard uses the exact same belay technique as a tube-style (ATC) device and slack can be easily fed out without deactivating the cam. Additionally, the Lifeguard is the lightest and cheapest camming belay device on the market. Mad Rock has exceeded all expectations and created an exceptional alternative to the industry-dominant GriGri.

Petzl Reverso

If climbing outdoors, an ATC-style belay device is generally needed for rappels (it can also be used for belaying, although it doesn’t offer assisted-braking security). We suggest Petzl’s Reverso, which is not only great for rappelling but can also be set up in Reverso mode to belay a partner up on multi-pitch climbs

Black Diamond HotWire Quickdraw Pack

The Black Diamond HotWires boast exceptional quality and durability at an affordable price. As a beginner, you don’t need absolute top-of-the-line gear, nor should you search for the cheapest equipment on the market. The HotWires fit the bill for quality entry-level quickdraws that will last for years, without breaking the bank.

Mammut 9.8 mm Eternity Classic Climbing Rope

The Mammut Eternity Classic is a perfect beginner’s climbing rope. Its 9.8mm diameter and durable sheath will stand up to the abuse typical of the learning years. Plus, with a UIAA fall rating of 9 (a bit higher than other comparable beginner ropes), this burly rope can handle more falls as you quite literally learn the ropes of rock climbing.

With a handy middle marker, to assist in identifying the middle point of the rope, it has all the safety components in place, with no compromise on the affordability. It’s also a Bluesign product, the eco-friendly seal of approval.

The Mammut Eternity Classic is a great choice for top roping, sport climbing, and trad climbing. The 60m length is most appropriate for new climbers but if your budget affords it, the 70m does have added benefits on long outdoor routes (or the 80m if your local crag is known for particularly long routes. Alternatively, if you’ll be mostly climbing in a gym, the Eternity Classic comes in a 40m length as well.

Keep it clean

Ropes can get dirty quickly, so keep your Mambo clean and organized with a dedicated rope bag. Our favorite is the Metolius Ropemaster—it’s built with unbreakable buckles, has a built-in tarp, and special tie-off points help you easily identify rope ends.

Black Diamond Magnetron RockLock or GridLock

Black Diamond Magnetron RockLock

Black Diamond Magnetron GridLock

Many locking carabiners suffer from a critical flaw: you have to remember to lock them. While spring-loaded auto-locking carabiners are out there, they tend to be heavy, clunky, and difficult to operate. Black Diamond received multiple industry awards for the Magnetron, which uses two magnets in the gate to automatically lock the carabiner when it is closed. The carabiner is not cheap, but purchasing one or two Magnetron RockLocks for use in personal anchor systems affords a significantly improved margin of safety. The GridLock is the Moja Gear staff pick for belaying because of its dual safety of magnetically locking and preventing cross-loading. Learn more about these wonderful carabiners in this article.

Petzl Connect Adjust

Personal anchors can be a contentious piece of equipment, but let’s make one important piece of information clear: don’t use a daisy chain as a personal anchor! Most purpose-built personal anchors still suffer from a crucial flaw in that they are made of nylon or Dyneema, which do not absorb any energy in the event of a fall onto an anchor. To solve this, Petzl created the Connect Adjust, which uses dynamic rope to better handle an accidental fall. Additionally, it features an adjustable arm that makes repositioning a breeze.

Alternative pick: Metolius Personal Anchor System (PAS)

While we love Petzl’s Connect Adjust for its dynamic fall absorption and easy adjustability, the Metolius PAS offers a safe tethering method at a more affordable price.

Sterling Rope HollowBlock

It would take an entire article just to describe the benefits of this little piece of cord … so thankfully we have one right here! The HollowBlock will keep you safe on your rappels and it will allow you to perform essential self-rescure techniques. Put it on your harness every time you leave the ground—it’s that important.

Rock Climbing Fundamentals eBook – $10

Rock Climbing Fundamentals: Essential Terms, Techniques, and Tips for the New Climber

For brand new climbers there is a lot more to learn than just rock climbing skills. The whole sport is loaded with new words, abbreviations, gear, and culture to discover. Moja Gear’s Rock Climbing Fundamentals ebook gives new climbers a foundation in understanding rock climbing history, rock climbing gear, and rock climbing training.

Goda Acupressure Finger Massage Rings

Climbing is hard on the fingers. Goda Massage Rings provide relief by promoting blood flow and breaking up scar tissue. They’re so useful that even professional climber Ethan Pringle always keeps a few in his pack.

Metolius Chalk Sock

Chalk socks help minimize the mess from chalking up, while ensuring an even coating on the hands. Being refillable, you can always add your favorite chalk when the initial batch runs low.

Additionally, chalk balls help prevent spills when your chalk bag is unintentionally flipped upside down. Using a chalk ball benefits both you and those around you; nobody wants to breathe in a small blizzard of chalk.

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Before you start cragging outside, you probably want to perfect your climbing skills at the gym. Thankfully, getting started is easier (and cheaper) than you might think. Below, five professional climbers share their favorite gear for beginners looking to get off the ground.

Evolv Defy Rock Climbing Shoes ($89) and MobilityWod Supernova 2.0 Massage Ball ($40)

(Photo: Courtesy Evolv/Rogue)

Kai Lightner, Professional Climber

For the gym, Evolv-sponsored climber and national championship winner Kai Lightner recommends the unisex Defy shoes, because they’re comfortable (as far as climbing shoes go), have an easy hook-and-loop strap system, and sport a vegan-friendly synthetic upper. “For beginners who are buying their first pair of shoes, it’s important to try on many different styles and sizes to find the best fit—one that is comfortable and snug without being too tight,” Lightner says. These reasonably priced all-arounders feature an antimicrobial liner to keep the funk at bay.

Lightner also carries this massage ball to relieve kinks and muscle tension after climbing. “Foam rollers are great at home but bulky for travel,” he says. “This massage ball accomplishes the same goal in a more travel-friendly size.”

Buy Climbing Shoes Buy Massage Ball

8bPlus Kelly Chalk Bag ($30) and Chalk Cartel Climbing Chalk ($16 for 8.82 Ounces)

(Photo: Courtesy 8BPlus/Chalk Cartel)

Ben Hanna, Professional Climber, World Cup Competitor

Ben Hanna brightens things up with his furry monster chalk bag from 8bPlus. “They’re a good way to keep climbing fun and lighthearted,” he says. Besides its crazy looks, this chalk bag has a wide five-inch opening for quick and easy hand access, a brush holder on either side, and a carabiner and waist belt for versatile attachment. The best part? Each monster has its own name and backstory to go with its personality. “I am a fan of Kelly, cuz pink,” Hanna says.

Hanna fills Kelly with climbing chalk from Chalk Cartel, an up-and-coming company based in New Mexico. “They’re local, and I think they have the best chalk on the market,” he says. Chalk Cartel sells its high-quality magnesium carbonate by the quarter or kilo in eco-friendly packaging at a reasonable price.

Buy Chalk Bag Buy Chalk

Petzl GriGri+ Belay Device ($150)

(Photo: Courtesy Petzl)

Michaela Kiersch, Professional Climber, Youth Climbing Coach

As the first woman to send Necessary Evil (5.14c), Michaela Kiersch knows the importance of a good belay. “The GriGri+ is an absolute must,” she says. “This belay device offers top-of-the-line safety features, including an anti-panic handle to prevent rapid and uncontrolled lowering.” This third-generation GriGri is good for beginners, with lead and top rope belay modes for easy handling and an extended rope diameter range of 8.5 to 11 millimeters. “Another great feature is the stainless-steel wear plate, which gives the device a longer lifespan,” Kiersch says.

Buy Now

Camp Energy Harness ($50) and Addaday Nonagon Foam Roller ($35)

(Photo: Courtesy CAMP/Addaday)

Ben Rueck, Professional Climber

Ben Rueck’s list of accomplishments includes climbing the first ascent of Pure Pressure (5.14a), but the Camp-sponsored athlete often sees new climbers get ahead of themselves by buying the most expensive gear right away, which can be overkill for the gym. “I recommend starting out with a simple, clean, and comfortable harness like Camp’s Energy,” he says. The fully featured harness has thermoformed padding, adjustable leg loops, four gear loops, and a haul loop—at a price that won’t break the bank. It’s lightweight and versatile and serves as an “easy transition harness to the outdoors,” Rueck says.

To stay loose and accelerate his recovery process, Rueck rolls out with the Nonagon after training and gym sessions. The 13-inch-long roller has an EVA foam core and nine sides with a textured surface to hit the sore spots. “I enjoy rolling out for about ten to 15 minutes, mostly focusing on legs, back, and shoulders to create mobility,” Rueck says.

Buy Harness Buy Roller

Rhino Skin Solutions Repair Cream ($9) and Rhino Split Stick ($3.75)

Nina Williams, Professional Climber

(Photo: Courtesy Rhino)

Pulling on plastic quickly wears down your hands, especially for newer climbers who haven’t built up callouses. But Nina Williams, the first female to send Ambrosia, has a solution. “Rhino Skin Repair Cream is great for stinging, post-gym-sesh hands, because you can put it on right after climbing once you’ve washed the chalk off your hands,” she says. Unlike wax-based hand balms, Repair Cream is a nongreasy lotion that absorbs quickly after application, so you won’t leave streaks on everything you touch. “It sinks into your skin instead of hanging out on the surface,” Williams says. “Feels great, smells great.”

Williams also keeps a Split Stick on hand for quick spot-treatment to flappers, splits, and problem creases. “My hands are naturally super dry and crack easily,” she says, “but Rhino Skin fixes it the fastest.”

Buy Repair Cream Buy Split Stick

Filed To: Climbing Lead Photo: Jane Barlow/Getty

Buyer’s Guide: Climbing Gear for Beginners

Cracking into the climbing world is an intimidating endeavor—the gear is expensive, the community tight-knit, and the consequences of a mistake dire. If you’re hoping to get into the sport, our primary recommendations are that you a) check out your local climbing gym and b) ask friends who are experienced climbers to help you figure out the ropes. That said, even with the advice of your climbing friends, getting equipped for climbing can remain a question worth pondering over. While we can’t teach you how to climb—the best way to do that is through firsthand, experiential, on-the-wall learning—we can help point you in the direction of top climbing gear.

That’s why we developed this buyer’s guide: to provision beginners and even intermediates with proven climbing gear from some of the best climbing brands in the business. First off, we’ll break down essential gear—harness, shoes, and belay device—that are requisite to getting started. We’ll also talk about additional gear—ropes, quickdraws, helmet, chalk, apparel etc.—that will help you take your climbing from the gym to the crag.

Navigating Climbing Gear Costs: Steep to Cheap

For the climber without a clue, cost can be a seemingly unsurmountable barrier to entry. There are some gear categories when it’s worth it to go cheap, and others where you don’t want to skimp. Luckily for beginners, introductory climbing gear is generally cheaper than more advanced gear. Take climbing shoes, for instance: advanced climbing shoes often soar above $100, but less aggressive models, like the Black Diamond Momentum shoes we included in this buyer’s guide, hover in the double digits.

On the other hand, certain pieces of safety gear, like a belay device, for example, will speak to both advanced climbers and beginners alike. The Petzl GriGri+ is Petzl’s most advanced (and expensive) belay device, but climbers of all skillsets can appreciate the simple interface, assisted braking mechanism, and reliable build. Also, the top-rope mode is helpful for learners who are nervous as they begin to belay.

Additionally, and this is by no means always true, gear that is more expensive can be more likely to retain its longevity. The Beal Booster rope we included in this guide, for instance, is not a “beginner rope.” Rather, it’s a rope that many intermediate and advanced climbers regularly rely on. It’s more expensive than the Karma, Beal’s popular untreated option, but the Booster is dry-treated and will last longer, especially in wetter climates.

Lastly, keep in mind that certain styles of climbing are more affordable than others. Serious trad climbers, for instance, may have racks that are worth more than their vehicles. But that’s a far ways down the road for beginner climbers. If you’re climbing at the gym, all you need are shoes, harness, and a chalk bag. Is bouldering more your speed? Shoes, a chalk bag, and a crash pad will do it.

Climbing Apparel: Do You Really Need It?

When you’re just starting out in the climbing gym, you by no means need to purchase climbing apparel—it’s not like it will make you a better climber. If you’re climbing indoors, just climb in what’s comfortable to you, and spend your cash on gear like shoes and a harness that you can’t climb without.

That said, once you’ve got the essentials dialed and you want to make the move to outdoor climbing, upgrading your wardrobe with, say, climbing pants or a climbing-friendly hoody will help you keep your other clothes from being ripped to shreds by unforgiving rock. Unlike the friendly plastic holds at the gym, real rock will mercilessly maul your favorite athletic apparel.

Climbing specific apparel does have a few benefits beyond durability, too: manufacturers take necessary flexibility, moisture-wicking, and performance into account. We’ve included a few of our favorite pieces of climbing apparel in this buyer’s guide, in case you’re tired of retiring your pants due to gritty encounters between rock and knee.

Below, you’ll find our top recommendations for climbing gear, ranging from harnesses and helmets to shoes and quickdraws. Read on, dive in, get after it, and be safe.

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes $64.09 – $85.46

Black Diamond’s a force to be reckoned with in the climbing world, but they avoided crafting climbing shoes for a long time. In fact, when they finally announced the launch of their climbing shoes, which took a purported 5 years to develop, they quoted the Wu-Tang clan, saying, “I’m sorry it took so long, didn’t mean to make y’all wait. Good things take time to create.”

At the low end of Black Diamond’s lineup of climbing shoes is the Momentum, a shoe with a slipper-like flat last, meaning it’s not the downturned, uncomfortable shape of a hooked, aggressive shoe. This makes it relatively comfortable and more tuned to the needs of beginners. The two-strap Velcro build is easily secured in place, and when the dogs are barking after a tough climb, two loops over the heel enable you to wrench it from your sweaty foot quite easily. The Momentum is recommended for slab climbing—sloped, less steep ascents—as opposed to vertical or overhanging rock, though progressing beginners will happily trust these comfortable shoes at the high end of their limits.

Bottom line: Learning to climb is a tough road as it is, don’t make it tougher with a pair of shoes that cause your feet to cramp and blister. These shoes are comfortable, affordable, and perfectly suited for the needs of beginner climbers who are hoping to become intermediates.

Best for: Slab climbing, all-day climbing, long days at the gym or the crag.

Petzl Luna Harness

Petzl Luna Harness $49.40 – $53.97

For female climbers, the need for a women’s specific harness is paramount. Petzl’s Luna harness not only sits at an affordable price point, but the adjustable, padded leg loops and waistbelt hug the body without causing unwanted pinch points, either. Our tester was quick to note how comfortable the Luna is, especially after wearing in the initially stiff material.

The Luna comes equipped with five gear loops, so when making the transition from gym climbing to single- or even multi-pitch outdoor climbing, it’s up to the challenge. The front loops are notably stiffer—perfect for hauling gear and easing the use of carabiners—while two side rear loops are more flexible, allowing the comfortable use of a backpack, and a center rear loop is optimized for hauling shoes and remaining gear.

Bottom Line: Forgiving on both hips and wallet, this harness is prepped for gym and crag—it’s not a beginner option per se, but it will keep beginners comfortable and more intermediate climbers sending.

Best for: progressing from gym to rock, beginner climbers seeking comfort, outdoor intermediates looking for a harness that can haul

Petzl Boreo Helmet

Petzl Boreo Helmet $47.22 – $64.36

You’ll never see climbers rocking helmets at the gym, and some climbers even choose to forgo a helmet outside as well. However, we’re big fans of helmets when climbing outside, because, frankly, head injuries are zero fun. That’s why we recommend that you keep your noggin safe with this affordable hybrid helmet from Petzl. The Boreo has a form-fitting inner liner that’s comfortable even when sweaty. The tough ABS outer shell protects the EPP and EPS foam liners from being damaged by daily use so that they’re in good shape should a serious impact occur.

Our tester noted that she felt secure in the Boreo, especially with regards to impacts that come from the rear, commenting that the coverage felt more significant than helmets she’d tried in the past. Dig into the Boreo’s technical specifications and it turns out that she was on to something: the Boreo actually sports Petzl’s Top and Side protection, meaning that it’s designed to handle fallen rock as well as unforeseen lateral impacts. All climbing helmets are designed to handle rock falling from above, but they don’t necessarily offer sufficient protection if you’re taking a fall and slam your head into the wall at a different angle.

Bottom Line: The Boreo offers multi-directional protection, at an affordable price. The lightweight helmet can be used climbing and mountaineering, among other activities, and it’s a piece of gear that’s well worth the investment.

Best for: Stepping up to climbing outside, protecting your head from multi-directional impacts in a multitude of climbing scenarios.

Beal Booster Rope

Beal Booster Rope 9.7mm Starting at: $148.47

Choosing a rope is a tough decision. There are thick ropes and thin ropes, long ropes and short ropes, treated ropes and untreated ropes—the options go on and on. The Beal Booster balances a middle ground that most climbers will find enticing: it’s Dry Cover treated, meaning that it will resist the best efforts of dust, water, and abrasive rock. The 9.7mm size is on the skinny side of the spectrum but it’s not an ultra thin rope—an Italian pasta maker might say it’s more spaghetti than angel hair. Whether you’re a beginner climber looking for a rope that will withstand a wetter environment or a more advanced climber retiring a tired old rope, Beal’s Booster series of ropes has been around for decades, and the updated, Dry Cover-treated rope is a trustworthy, durable, and intelligent option. If the rope is too steep for your taste, consider Beal’s Karma—an untreated and exceedingly affordable option.

Bottom Line: Available in several sizes, the Beal Booster’s Dry Cover treatment and thin (but not too thin) size makes it an attractive rope for outdoor climbers across the board.

Best for: outdoor climbing, use in wetter environments

Petzl GriGri+

Petzl GriGri+ $143.96 – $147.16

Belay devices can be cheap—but this is not one of those belay devices. However, for a premium price, Petzl’s GriGri+ is an easy-to-use option that is reliable and well-suited for the needs of both beginners and advanced climbers alike.

Modernized from its beloved predecessors, the updated GriGri+ can be used with all single ropes ranging from 8.5 to 11mm, it’s built with a bombproof stainless steel plate, and it sports an “anti-panic handle.” Essentially, this handle allows the belayer to control the speed of the descent—ease it back and the climber begins to descend slowly, crank it further and they speed up, and if you ever pull too hard, the mechanism actually catches, locks, and the descent comes to an abrupt halt.

Our favorite aspect of the GriGri+ and the reason we’ve included it in this buyer’s guide for beginner climbers is that it has two modes: top rope and lead. The top rope mode is awesome for learning to belay, as it helps take up slack. When you start dabbling with sport climbing, lead mode is just a quick switch away.

Bottom line: Belay devices vary in price for a reason—the GriGri+ is a top-of-the-line option that helps instill confidence in belayers, whether they’re beginners or advanced climbers.

Best For: Staying safe, indoor and outdoor climbing, beginners to advanced climbers.

Trango Sport Climbing Kit

Trango Sport Climbing Package Starting at: $170.96

Most climbers end up tacking their kits together bit by bit, adding a piece of gear here, a sling there—ask around and you’ll soon realize that building a “rack” is a long and perhaps even endless task. Trango, however, at least makes entry into sport climbing pain free with this simple yet comprehensive kit: it includes ten Phase quickdraws, four React Screwlock Carabiners, and two 60 cm low-bulk slings.

Trango’s craftsmanship is high quality, and by buying in bulk, you get an awesome package for a more than reasonable price. While you’ll supplement this kit as you continue to develop your skillset and expand your climbing repertoire, Trango’s Sport Climbing Kit is a fantastic place to start. Of course, we can’t stress this enough: take classes at your local climbing gym or climb with more experienced friends who will show you exactly how to use this gear. Gear only keeps you safe if you know how to use it.

Bottom Line: Well-built and packaged in a beginner-friendly kit, this selection of basic sport climbing essentials from a storied brand will help gym climbers make moves to get after it outside.

Best for: Starting a sport climbing career from scratch.

Black Diamond Nitron Quick Draw

Black Diamond Nitron Quick Draw Starting at: $22.46

If you’re looking for a high-quality quickdraw, the good folks at Black Diamond have been crafting them for years—matter of fact, they’ve continually been pushing climbing gear innovations for decades now. Today, Black Diamond offers a range of quickdraws, including the more affordable wire-gate FreeWire line that’s ideal for climbers who are starting from scratch, as well as the Nitron, a robust yet lightweight quickdraw that’s a top choice of their sponsored athletes.

The Nitron is a bit more expensive, and unfortunately doesn’t come in a six-pack like some of Black Diamond’s other quickdraws, but it does sport Black Diamond’s premium features: two hot-forged carabiners are connected by light yet stiff polyester webbing. The carabiners sport a straight gate up top and a curved gate on the bottom to facilitate quick, clean clipping (this also makes it easy to organize your quickdraws on your harness or sling). Plus, the snazzy, unmistakable purple gleam of these bad boys make it easy to keep an eye on your gear at a crowded crag.

Bottom Line: Here are three facts. Black Diamond makes some of the finest, most trustworthy quickdraws on the market. Their athletes are some of the best in the world. These quickdraws are a favorite of those athletes. Need we say more?

Best for: Sport climbing, relying on the safety equipment of the pros, trusting your gear

Black Diamond Uncut White Gold Chalk

Black Diamond Uncut White Gold Chalk $1.86 – $6.18

What climbing shoes are to your feet, chalk is to your hands. Well, kind of… Black Diamond’s Uncut White Gold Chalk comes in a huge, Costco-sized tub with a mix of fine white powder and boulders of uncut goodness. Toss a few chunks into your chalk bag and get to climbing—this powder has a magical way of keeping your hands dry and your fingers locked!

Bottom Line: Hands get sweaty when you get nervous? Fear not and trust BD’s Uncut White Gold.

Best for: climbing of all creeds

Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag

Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag $11.44 – $18.96

Almost as essential to your climbing kit as harness and shoes is a chalk bag—without one, you’ll succumb to sweaty hands and suffer the consequences of missed holds. Whether you’re climbing at an air-conditioned gym or a sun-smeared desert crag, a chalk bag will allow you to climb to new heights. We’re big fans of Black Diamond’s Mojo Zip Chalk Bag, as it pairs simple yet bold dual colorways with a classic cinch design. Our testers loved the simplicity of the bag, and the lightweight, like-nothing’s-there feel of the thin waistbelt. The key element of the Mojo, however, is the bag’s zipper compartment—which, as it turns out, is perfect for stashing your key in.

Bottom Line: A chalk bag is necessary, and the Mojo ticks all of the boxes while adding a touch of flair.

Best for: Bouldering, indoor and outdoor climbing

Outdoor Research Direct Route Gloves

Outdoor Research Direct Route Gloves $26.89 – $43.16

Belaying your climbing partner can be absolutely brutal on your hands, especially when the routes are rad and the day is long. The Direct Route gloves are a tight-fitting, goat-leather shield for your digits, and they’re well-equipped to keep blisters at bay.

Our testers loved the Direct Route gloves in both warm and cool temps: when the sun’s out, the polyester and spandex fabrics are sufficiently breathable. When the sun dips and shadows wrap the high alpine in darkness, the Direct Route adds enough warmth to send one last route (or three).

The goat leather palm and cow suede overlays provide a welcome grip, and the glove isn’t so bulky that you’ll notice a significant loss of handling. Whether you’re rocking them for warmth or to ward off ripped skin, these gloves are a smart addition to your climbing pack.

Bottom line: You can climb harder and longer if your hands aren’t mangled whilst belaying. The Direct Route subsequently stretches out your sessions.

Best for: Belaying, without the blisters.

Mammut Neon Smart Backpack

Mammut Neon Smart Backpack $125.96 – $132.96

You might not think you need a climbing-specific backpack. And the truth is, you might not need one, and any old pack will do. However, after checking out the features of Mammut’s Neon Smart backpack, don’t be surprised if you start salivating, at least a little bit.

The main draw of this pack is that it zips open—and we’re talking open. The entire pack unfolds like a nylon Transformer: there are several internal pockets for your harness, shoes, etc., loops for clipping carabiners and organizing your quickdraws, a removable rope tarp, and even a tiny little carpet (picture a zip-out welcome mat) to wipe off unwanted dirt.

For a 35-liter pack, the Neon Smart fits a surprising amount of gear, and our testers were able to stuff 10 quickdraws, a rope, harness, and a helmet inside while still having plenty of room for snacks, water, and an extra layer. There’s a beautiful utility of this pack—every piece of gear has it’s place.

Bottom Line: We live in the “smart” world. Smart phones, smart cars, smart houses, the list goes on. Mammut’s managed to make a truly smart backpack without equipping it with bluetooth.

Best for: packing your climbing gear intelligently.

Patagonia Hampi Pants

Patagonia Hampi Pants Men’s $72.68 – $75.05

After three months of relentless use, our tester actually lost these pants. Poof, they disappeared. Whether they were blown off the laundry line or lost and found by a lucky climber, heaven only knows. The point being, though, that upon losing them, he felt a deep and aching longing, having come to love them intimately over those few months.

The pants are well-suited for climbing: the hemp fabric is just the right amount of stretchy, surprisingly durable, and breathes like a meditating monk. Lightweight and thin, these pants actually keep you way cooler than you might think. The tapered legs mean that flowing fabric is never getting in the way of a technical move, and though the overall fit is on the slim side, the crotch area is not constricting and the pockets remain comfortable beneath the straps of a harness.

Lastly, the style is such that these need not be solely “climbing pants”—rather, they’ll work in a slew of other scenarios as well. That is, assuming they’re not ripped and covered in dirt and chalk. Although, to be honest, isn’t that kind of the point?

Bottom line: These slick, comfy, slim-fitting pants are killer at the crag—and everywhere else.

Best for: Bouldering, big walls, and beyond—anything and everything, especially if it’s under the sun.

Outdoor Research Fifth Force Hoodie

Outdoor Research Fifth Force Hoodie $55.18 – $66.22

We’re head over heels for this hoodie. Outdoor Research has enlisted a fabric blend that performs well when pushed hard yet remains comfortable in more casual settings. Many brands forgo the use of cotton altogether in technical apparel, but this piece is 58% cotton, 39% Cordura nylon, and 3% spandex—the result is a delightful trifecta of comfort, durability, and stretch. It won’t tear or rip easily thanks to the breathable Cordura, which makes it stronger than your typical cotton fabric. The spandex injects the Fifth Force with sufficient stretch, essential when reaching for tough and trying holds.

Keep this in mind, however: the hoodie is lightweight—we’re talking light as a feather—and if you’re looking for a thick, cozy hoodie, definitely look elsewhere. This piece is best used on breezy summer evenings, warmer spring and fall sends, and in air-conditioned climbing gyms. We’ve also taken to wearing it on runs and cross-training workouts—the snug hood makes you feel a bit like Rocky when you’re hitting your stride.

Bottom line: This lightweight champ is our favorite hoodie in its weight class. No matter where or how you rock it, the Fifth Force is a force to be reckoned with.

Best for: Climbing, training, jogging, everyday use

Eddie Bauer Women’s Travex Infinity Tank

Eddie Bauer Women’s Travex Infinity Tank Starting at: $21.58

For warm weather climbs, a tank top is a smart choice (assuming you’re slathering your shoulders with sunblock). Eddie Bauer’s moisture-wicking Infinity tank is lightweight—so much so that it’s barely there when you’re charging up a trying route. This isn’t necessarily a “climbing tank” by any means, but that’s what our testers been using it as (well, she’s been running, biking, and hiking in it, too). The Eddie Bauer piece has been a favorite from summer through fall, whether climbing indoors or out. The polyester and spandex fabric is quick-drying and comfortable—requisite for long days on the wall.

Bottom Line: A basic, do-it-all tank that we’ve commandeered for climbing

Mammut Alnasaca T-Shirt

Mammut Alnasaca T-Shirt Starting at: $34.20

Crafted from a blend of polyester, merino wool, and polyurethane, the Alnasaca is everything that a climber wants in a t-shirt: soft, slim-fitting, stretchy, and stink-proof. The antimicrobial properties of wool makes this shirt primed for multi-day climbing trips far from the land of laundry machines. Not to mention, that wool also helps keep the UPF 30+ shirt cool when climbing in warm locales. The shirt has a welcome stretch to it, as well as a slim, European fit that’s cut fairly high on the upper arms. The Alnasaca’s at home at the gym and at the crag, but it’s also stylistically prepared to do battle with mountain town pubs, city streets, and trips back home to meet your significant other and/or climbing partner’s parents.

Bottom Line: A stylish, comfortable, and sweat-ready favorite from a classic climbing brand.

Best for: Climbing—and life in general.

Climbing gear for beginners

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