Climbing 101: the gear (part 1)

NOTE: Climbing is a dangerous sport which may result in injury or death if done incorrectly. We are a bunch of very enthusiastic amateurs. These articles are based on our experiences and gear requirements in climbing. They are not meant to replace the expertise of professional trained guides. If you are unsure about anything it is best to seek the opinion of a professional.


So, you have been going to the climbing gym (we bloody love how popular climbing has become!) and you are totally loving it! Recently, you’ve been thinking “i’ve had enough of stuffing my feet into sweaty shoes that 300 others have climbed in! I need my own gear!” But where do you start? What harness do you need? And what is the go with shoes? Start here! Read on!

Shoes

Shoes are the most personal piece of climbing equipment and good shoes make the most difference. You need climbing shoes no matter what form of climbing you do – indoor, outdoor, bouldering etc etc.

A few things to consider when looking for climbing shoes:

  1. fit – the most important feature of the shoe.
    • fit is all about personal preference. You want a snug shoe – a bit smaller than your normal runners. They should be tight, but not painful. Your best bet is to go down to a good outdoors store and try on some pairs. If in doubt, track down the store staff to help you out.
    • pointers:
      • toes should be snug, but not painful!
      • make sure the heel doesn’t move around or rub
      • more aggressive (more curved) shoes are tighter
  2. closure
    • lace: the most adjustable shoe. Great for longer climbs. You might want to adjust a bit between climbs. The laces take a bit away from their profile but tuck the laces in and you should be good to go on anything.
    • slipper: Not a very common shoe. They offer the lowest profile as they don’t have straps or laces they just slip on with elastic sides. The low profile can be good but with no way to fasten them we have heard storied of them coming off with a big heel hook. These certainly wouldn’t be the first shoe in our quiver but definitely have their place.
    • strap: come on and off really easily. Not as adjustable as the trusty laces but still a bit of room to move and our go to for the gym and most single pitch outdoors. Straps can sometimes be undone in cracks but they are a good low profile shoe.
  3. shape – really depends on what climbing you want to do.
    • gentle: have a flatter sole with less curve. They are more comfortable and a great beginner shoe. You sacrifice some of the technical ability of the shoe, but might not notice on the easier climbs. Even if you’re not a beginner these can be great, comfortable shoes for a long day at the crag or that long multipitch climb.
    • moderate: The in-between shoe. It has more of a curve in the sole giving it more technical ability and making it easier to get those harder climbs. But it does come at a cost to comfort. This style of shoe would be our go to as it is a good all rounder if you do a bit of sport or trad climbing and it should be able to get you through a few of those boulder problems too.
    • aggressive: These are for those really hard problems where you need all the help you can get. They are more aggressively curved which makes them great for that overhang or hard boulder problem but they won’t work so well in those cracks or for smearing. These may be the only pair of shoe you need if you love your bouldering and don’t spend too long in your shoes.

Harness

Any harness that has a passed the climbing safety requirements will keep you safe on the wall. All the other features on a climbing harness are just your preference.

Here are some things we think you should look for in a harness:

  • Padded waist strap: these will make your climb much more comfortable. Most standard harnesses from reputable climbing companies will have the padding.
  • Padded and adjustable leg loops – again most hire harnesses usually won’t have padded leg loops but most reputable brands will. We recommend getting a harness with adjustable leg loops. They are more versatile for your future climbing adventures.
  • Gear loops – these are the loops you see on the waist belt of most harnesses. If you’re just doing indoor stuff you won’t really use them but again most harnesses come with them. If you think you might branch out into sport or trad make sure your harness has them.

Carabiner

There are many types of carabiners; wiregate, straight gate, bent gate, screwgate, D shaped, pear shaped, autolocking. The list goes on!

One D shaped or pear shaped, or screw gate carabiner will do the trick to start out. Just make sure it is one rated for rock climbing.

They should have a force rating on them of at least 20kn in the major axis. For indoor climbing this is all you need. If you continue your climbing to sport or trad you will need a few more but we will talk about these next time.

Chalk & a chalk bag

Chalk comes in a few forms and a few different colours. If you’re climbing outdoors pick a colour that matches the rock so you don’t leave dirty great chalk marks all over everything and ruin the aesthetic for others.

  • Free chalk: goes straight in your bag and is great to get a good covering on your hands. Annoyingly messy though.
  • Chalk balls: less messy and great for gyms (some gyms require them). Just chuck it in a chalk bag and get climbing!
  • Liquid chalk is an alcohol rub that dries off and leaves the chalk on your hands. Mess free, but not great for those really difficult sweaty climbs and not easy to apply once you’re on the wall.

Chalk bag: Our recommendation is to find a cheap bag with a draw string so you can close it when off the wall. Most bags come with a waist strap, but we like to get a small carabiner and hook it onto the back of our harness.

Online retailers can be great, you can get some really good deals! However, going into a store you will be able to get the best advice and make sure you have the right gear.

Check out the WMSS member discounts at Bogong Equipment. Just mention you’re a WMSS member and show your Qpay membership card for 10% off.

Reputable brands include: Black Diamond, Arc’teryx, Evolv, Camp, Wild Country, Petzl, La Sportiva, Butora, Scarpa, Edilrid, Mammut, the list goes on!

Keep an eye out for other posts to pick up tips about sport or trad climbing.

Happy climbing 🙂

WMSS

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