Feeling comfortable and confident on the walls at your local climbing gym? Maybe you’re ready to head outdoors and try some real rock walls. Here’s all the gear you need to get started rock climbing.
BSA climbing guidelines require you to be protected with a belay rope during all activities when your feet are more than shoulder height above the ground. We suggest these two types of climbing:
In TOP-ROPE CLIMBING, you’re secured to ropes anchored above you and throughout your climb. Belayers manage the ropes from the top or bottom of the climbing routes.
In LEAD CLIMBING, you’re secured to belay ropes extending below you. As you climb, you insert artificial protection like cams, stoppers, chocks or other hardware into cracks in the rock, and then attach the rope with carabiners or quickdraws (two carabiners connected with a piece of short, sturdy material).
Learn more about BSA climbing guidelines at scouting.org/outdoor-programs/cope/
A helmet is one of the most important pieces of climbing gear because it protects your head from hitting something as well as from falling rocks and gear. Wear only a UIAA- or CEN-approved climbing helmet; bicycle and football helmets aren’t acceptable because they’re not designed to protect you from falling objects.
If you’re warm-natured or climbing somewhere hot, look for a light-colored helmet with plenty of ventilation. But most important, pick one that fits comfortably snug.
Athletic shoes and light hikers are fine for beginning climbers. But if you want more performance, you’ll need climbing-specific shoes. There are several types, from tight-fitting sock-like climbing slippers, to flexible and super grippy friction shoes, to edging shoes, which provide performance with more comfort.
Climbing shoes should be tight but not painfully so. You might size down a size or two from your street shoe when picking a climbing shoe. They are also usually available for rent at climbing gyms and are sometimes provided for use at Scout camps.
A harness is a belt system that fits around a climber’s hips and legs. A harness comfortably distributes your weight and allows you to easily attach yourself to the belay rope as you ascend. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to attach to the harness. The waist belt and loops distribute your weight in many directions for comfort and safety in the event of a fall.
Though it’s possible to tie a seat harness from a single piece of webbing, a commercially made harness is more comfy. Pick a harness that is tight but not so much that it restricts your movement. When in doubt, choose the smaller size.
A carabiner is a ring with a spring-loaded gate that is used to connect pieces of climbing equipment and secure rope. Carabiners are essential for rappelling and belaying other climbers. Good carabiners are made of aluminum alloy or high-grade steel, with spring-loaded gates that snap closed. They can be oval, D-shaped or pear-shaped and come in either locking or nonlocking options. Usually, the lighter and stronger a carabiner is, the more expensive it will be.
Beware of look-alike carabiners — things like climbing key rings and accessory holders that are not designed for climbing, as they won’t be strong enough to support your body weight.
Belaying is a safety technique that keeps tension and provides friction to a rope while your partner is climbing so he cannot fall very far if he slips. There are several types of belay devices, including a slotted plate and a tube device. The tube device is most popular because it provides friction with minimal heat.
Two carabiners connected with a piece of short, sturdy material is called a quickdraw. It allows rope to run freely through anchors while leading. Quickdraws are designed to easily attach to a bolt and clip a rope in seconds — something climbers appreciate when dangling from a tricky handhold.
PERSONAL ANCHOR SYSTEMS
Anchors are pieces of equipment set up to secure a climber while ascending. With most routes finishing at a fixed anchor, having a personal anchor system attached to your harness enables you to quickly clip into the anchor bolts.
CAMS AND STOPPERS
Protective hardware such as cams or stoppers allow climbers to secure anchors in the rock.
Grip is super important while climbing. Chalk helps dry a climber’s hands (by removing sweat and moisture) and improves his or her hold on the rock. Most climbers use loose chalk in a bag or chalk balls (you can make your own by filling a cut-off stocking with chalk). Though it’s perfect for gyms and manmade climbing towers, chalk stays visible on rocks, making it look unnatural and conflicting with Leave No Trace principles. Always follow local regulations regarding chalk use when climbing in the wild.
You don’t have to be out in nature on a real rock or in a climbing gym to train for rock climbing. Many climbers use grip trainers to build the muscles of the hand and forearm. Others hang pull-up style training boards in their home to practice various climbing holds and moves.