The wild world of rock climbing is littered with various types of gear and clothing. At a glance, it’s complicated. However, to get started on the crag you really only need a few essentials.
First, decide which type of climbing you will be doing. Are you going to be spending your time in the gym, outdoors or both? Will you be bouldering (climbing smaller rocks without a rope) or using a roped system? These questions will help you decide what gear you’ll need for your climbing endeavors.
For the true beginner…
If you have zero experience on rock, you may want to start with a trip to the climbing gym. Here in Colorado, we are lucky to have a climbing gym around almost every corner. To get started in a gym, you’ll need the least amount of gear for a roped climb.
Start by investing in a good harness. Choose something comfortable, preferably with gear loops if you plan on going outdoors. You’ll also want a belay device. For starters, stick to a standard ATC device instead of a gri-gri. To attach your ATC to your harness, you’ll want a large, rated pear-shaped, locking carabiner.
You’ll also want a chalk bag and some chalk. Chalk type is a personal preference, you can buy loose chalk, block chalk or eco chalk. If you opt for loose chalk, consider getting a re-usable chalk ball to keep the mess at bay.
For successful sends, you’ll need climbing-specific shoes. Selecting a climbing shoe is an art form. For simplicity’s sake, look for a neutral to moderate shoe shape. In general, climbing shoes aren’t the most comfortable footwear choices, so be sure to bring footwear for approaches or belaying. Wear comfortable clothes to the crag that allow free movement. Breathable, non-cotton fabrics work great both indoors and out.
When you’re ready to take your climbing outdoors…
Once you’re ready to take your climbing game outdoors, you’ll want to invest in a few more items. First and foremost, you’ll need a climbing-specific helmet. These helmets are designed for climbing environments. Never use a bike helmet as a climbing helmet, they are designed differently and won’t be effective in the event of rock fall.
You’ll also want a rope. Climbing ropes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For starters, chose a dynamic, 70-meter rope that is nine-point-five to 10 millimeters in diameter. Dynamic ropes allow for flex in the system, meaning you won’t get choked by your harness should you take a fall.
Prior to climbing outdoors, be sure to take an outdoor tope rope safety class from a qualified instructor. When you head out to top rope, you will need to build an anchor in order to set your top rope. Understanding top rope anchoring systems, safety systems and other best practices on the crag is essential. Typical anchoring systems use four locking carabiners, two asymmetrical D-shaped carabiners and two pear-shaped carabiners. Anchors can be built with several materials, including double-sized nylon or Dyneema slings, or approximately 25 feet of seven-millimeter cordelette. Choose an anchor that best fits the conditions of the crag you are climbing.
For the least amount of fuss…
Bouldering provides a simpler option for outdoor climbing. All you need is a chalk bag, some chalk, climbing shoes, and a bouldering-specific crash pad. Look for a crash pad that has straps, so you can carry it on your back for the approach.
As always, before heading outdoors be sure to check the weather and pack for your hike to the crag accordingly. Never leave the trailhead without the Ten Essentials. Furthermore, don’t be that person, follow all Leave No Trace best practices and leave wilderness areas better than you found them. Happy climbing!
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