Starting rock climbing is one of the most rewarding things you can do since it’s a great way to get outdoors, meet new friends, and keep fit. However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when choosing which gear to buy as there are so many options out on the market. A common myth is that climbing is really expensive, but quality gear will last for years so long as it’s well kept and most gyms have everything available to rent, which makes it easier to stagger buying gear. This article will break down which gear is the most essential to have as part of your kit, and hopefully makes you feel more excited about choosing your personal gear!
Every climbing wall will have shoes to rent, but if you plan on going more than once in your life then it’s well worth the investment to pick up your own shoes. Make sure you go in store to try on shoes instead of buying online as climbing shoes fit differently than regular shoes, and you’ll be able to take advantage of having someone in store to find your best fit. If this is your first pair of shoes make sure they are comfortable enough that you can keep them on for at least fifteen minutes without any discomfort – you won’t have fun if your shoes are so uncomfortable you have to pull them off every other minute!
Some of the most popular shoe brands today are La Sportiva, Scarpa, 5.10, and Evolv, and all of them have shoes catered to beginners (my first pair, the La Sportiva Finale, is a fantastic beginners shoe that is comfortable and transitions well between bouldering and longer top rope or lead climbs), and most shoes come in lace-up styles or Velcro which gives you even more scope to find something suited to you. Don’t get too caught up trying to find a specific “women’s” shoe though – most shoes are unisex and fit is a more important indicator of how effective a shoe will be. Shoes are arguably the most important investment you can make as a beginner as they will help improve your climbing so much, so take the time to find a pair that’s right for you!
A good harness will last between three to five years, so it’s worth picking something up that’s high quality. Black Diamond, Arc’teryx, and Mammut all make good quality harness that will last years. Make sure that the waistband of the harness is snug and that the harness is comfortable since you’ll be spending hours in it.
Similar to a harness, a good belay device should last for a few years as long as it’s well-kept (i.e not dropped from the top of the wall) so it’s worth buying a good quality device since it is what is keeping you safe. ATCs and gri-gris are the most common devices and retail from £10 to £20 (without a carabiner) for the ATC and around £50 for a gri-gri (without a carabiner). Don’t buy belay devices second hand either; it may look fine but if it’s taken multiple big falls or been dropped, it will have structural deficiencies that you can’t see from the outside. Buy one from a reputable climbing store and climb with peace of mind.
There are three main types of chalk: chalk ball, loose chalk, and liquid chalk. It’s completely up to you which kind of chalk you prefer, but bear in mind that chalk balls don’t tend to last as long as loose chalk or liquid chalk, and that some centres don’t allow liquid chalk on the mats. Chalk bags are a great way to store chalk in the centre without it getting everywhere, and most come with a strap you can use to attach it to your waist for rope climbing. Most chalk bags are pretty standard but if you’re looking for something a little more fun, 8bplus make fluffy monster-type chalk bags for £25. It’s worth asking your gym if they have any chalk bags in lost and found; odds are if it’s been there long enough, it’ll be up for grabs.