A BEginners Guide to Climbing Equipment
The gear needed for rock climbing varies greatly depending on the style of climbing you intend to do, but the necessities begin with four basic items. At minimum, you will need a pair of climbing shoes, a helmet, a harness, a belay device, and a locking carabiner. These four items will cost between $150-$250.
The first item you should buy are the shoes. Once you have the shoes, you have everything you need to begin bouldering. When you are buying your first paid of shoes, you should look for a neutral shoe with a tight, but not painful fit. Many rock shoes have an aggressively downturned toe, these are unnecessary for the beginner and uncomfortable when you are not used to how tight a climbing shoe fits. The fit is incredibly important for a new climber, if you get too tight of a shoe you will be less inclined to actually wear the shoes. The shoe should be tight enough that your feet do not slide, but not so tight that your toes curl against the front of the shoe. There are three main styles you can choose from. Slipper style—which are secured by elastic across the top of the foot; strap on—which are secured by a velcro strap across the top of the foot; or lace-up—which are secured by tying the laces. They each offer their own advantages and disadvantages, but a beginner should choose whichever is most comfortable. Focus on your personal preference. As you advance in climbing, you will know better what type of shoe you need. Visit a local gear shop and try on different pairs to find the best fit. Our personal favorite climbing shoe is the La Sportiva Turantulace. They are affordable, comfortable and effective.
Harness and Helmet
Once you have chosen a shoe, the next step is to find a harness. Every harness by a reputable company will have similar safety ratings, so fit and comfort are the most important aspects. A beginner should look for a harness with padding on the waist and leg loops—it will be much more comfortable to hang in a padded harness. You also need to find a harness that fits correctly. You should find a harness that has a waist belt that cinches securely, but has enough room left over to allow you to wear layers underneath. Some harnesses have adjustable leg loops, whether you choose to get one is entirely down to personal preference. Some people enjoy the freedom to loosen the leg loops while they are standing on the ground, others prefer the ease of non-adjustable loops. The efficacy of the harness is not impacted either way. Check out the Black Diamond Solution Harness for a comfortable yet affordable option.
Helmets are also about style and comfort. All rock climbing helmets made by an established company will be strength rated to take impacts. Make sure the helmet can be secured snuggly to your head and cover your forehead. You don’t want a helmet that is going to fall off! The most comfortable helmet we have tried is the Kailas Aegis Plus.
Belay Devices and Carabiners
The last two absolutely necessary pieces of gear are the belay device and locking carabiner. There are two main styles available on the market—tube style and assisted braking. Assisted braking devices are safer and easier to learn. But it is easier to transition from using a tube style device to an assisted braking device. If you know how to use a tube style belay device, you will be able to belay with any device. Learning with a tube style belay device will give you a greater understanding of the forces at work and an increased ability to improvise if you drop or lose your belay device while on a climb. A tube style belay device also doubles as a device that allows you to rappel. If you intend to climb outdoors a tube style device gives you much more flexibility. Often the belay device will come with a locking carabiner—if it doesn’t choose an auto-locking carabiner rather than a screwgate carabiner. You can usually buy these items together. Check out the Black Diamond Big Air Belay Package.
All of these gear items are supplied with Denver Climbing Company courses. By taking our courses, you can try out the equipment before investing. Once you have decided rock climbing is an activity you wish to pursue, you can start to build your personal gear inventory. These items will be everything you need to climb in the gym. If you decide you want to climb outdoors, learn the skills from DCC starting with our Intro to Outdoor Rock Climbing Course.