Getting Started Climbing: Gear – Womenclimb
Getting started with climbing: equipment Today, mountaineering and climbing instructor Esther Foster, who is based in the Lake District, walks us through the first steps in choosing the right gear if you're ready to take those steps. Starting to climb outdoors can be a daunting experience, especially considering all the technical skills you need to […]

Getting started with climbing: equipment

Today, mountaineering and climbing instructor Esther Foster, who is based in the Lake District, walks us through the first steps in choosing the right gear if you're ready to take those steps.

Starting to climb outdoors can be a daunting experience, especially considering all the technical skills you need to learn and the amount of kit you might have to purchase. But don't let these things hold you back; we have more information and opportunities at our disposal than ever before, and there is a whole world of rock climbing just begging to be explored!

This series aims to give you some tips on these first steps and decisions as you progress towards outdoor climbing. The first article looks at what equipment you might need and how to buy it, with the next two articles giving you suggested supports for both traditional and sport climbing.


My first piece of outdoor rock climbing equipment was a nut wrench that I found in lost property when working a rock climbing wall in my late teens. I then pretty much managed to afford six quickdraws and a set of 1-10 nuts when I moved to college. Over the next few years I built my rack piece by piece very slowly and tried to befriend climbers who had all their gear and owned a car. Twelve years later, I now have more climbing gear than I have space for, and I even have a car! I remember the excitement of owning my first camera, my first harness, and my first quickdraws, and now it's a pleasure to give some tips and see others start their outdoor climbing journey!

# 1 Should I buy everything at once or build it bit by bit?

"This decision will mainly depend on your financial situation and will be entirely up to you."

Buying a traditional or sports mount at the same time can be great in making sure you're ready to go out and be completely independent. However, I would suggest that if you are a new outdoor climber, it really pays to use other people's equipment a bit and figure out what you like and how things work, so you can make the best decisions. in the store on what you actually want to buy.

If you're a little more strapped for cash, don't be afraid to ask if you can use your partner's climbing equipment (social distancing rules in function) when you are outside. Climbers are generally a nice bunch and happy to share, and to be fair a lot of us would prefer to use our own climbing rack anyway. When I go rock climbing I like to use my own rack because I know the colors and the system so well that it is easier to use. If you use your friend's stand and ropes, there will always be other ways to contribute; maybe while driving, bringing a cake or just being in good company!

# 2 Which equipment should I really take my time to decide on?

Here are a few items that I would suggest paying a little more money for or taking your time to purchase the right one for you:

  • Helmet: If you don't like the way it looks or isn't comfortable, you won't wear it. Go to a store with a lot of choices and try them all.
  • Harness: Advice on choosing a harness could probably take a whole other article. Fit is critical and sizes vary by brand, so I recommend trying on a model first and considering which models best suit your needs.
  • Cams: For traditional climbing I would highly recommend paying money for a good set of double axle cams (eg Black Diamond Camelot or DMM Dragons). They are incredibly well designed, accommodate a wide range of cracks, and are difficult to pinch.
  • Rope: There are more detailed strings blogs here, but basically take your time to determine the length, diameter, and design that will best suit your needs. Often times when people start to climb a 50m single rope is sufficient, but as you progress you may need double ropes for traditional climbing or a longer rope for climbing. sports abroad.

Other equipment such as quickdraws, nuts, slings and carabiners are easier to choose. The stores will sell a variety of brands which are all of good quality, and although I will give you some tips in the next two articles, you can usually choose whatever price and design is right for you.

# 3 Should I go to a store, buy online, or buy second hand?

I would highly recommend purchasing any brand new key security kit. Your life depends on it, and you don't know how the used kit was stored or handled (take a look at our article on rope for more information on this.). Clothing, rock shoes, guides, and bags can all be purchased second-hand. Outdoor Gear Exchange on Facebook, EBay and are all great places for this ... you can find some real gems and quality items, barely used, and it's great to encourage the kit to be reused rather than thrown away.

Another consideration is that the world of online shopping is really taking its toll on local businesses and big stores. We all want a good deal, but if you can afford it, consider purchasing your gear from an outdoor store when possible.

And finally…

What exactly should I buy?

Decisions about exactly what gear to buy can seem tricky, which is why Esther has shared her thoughts on traditional first support and sport climbing first support here:

First Sport climbing rack

If you don't know what we're talking about, don't worry - maybe it's time to join us at one of our meetings where you can meet other climbers and start learning about the equipment and what works for you, before you take the first steps. This is just one of the many advantages of our meetings!

Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock'n'roll.

The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of disciplines, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various genres of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.

Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal chic. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a class either through your gym or a local guide.

The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an génial place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock'n'roll, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular genres of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock'n'roll has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of expertise than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and dangers on real rock. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.

Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, résistance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, évidemment ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or bermuda cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other techniques. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and challenges !

One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone app called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in short, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. sept and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.

Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all genres of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear shop to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock'n'roll. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). tera climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.

We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.


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