Essential climbing kit

Essential climbing kit

Kit by Andy Kirkpatrick. A brief guide to the essential equipment for most styles of climbing, with helpful buying hints.

Rock shoes

Your rock boots or shoes must fit well, otherwise you'll find yourself in a negative spiral: if you're not comfortable you'll not climb well, and that may put you off climbing, and if you don't climb you won't improve. The colour, price and type of rubber on your boots are all secondary considerations. Rock shoes should be a snug fit without being overly tight.


The colour, price and type of rubber on your boots are all secondary considerations to their fit.
 
Look for lace-up shoes that are neither too tight nor too loose and sloppy for your first pair. Your big toe should be touching the very end of the boot, to provide the boot's power and stability when standing on small edges. If comfort is a real priority, think about wearing a thin pair of socks (non-cushioned sports socks, such as cycling socks are ideal, especially in a modern fabric like Coolmax). Socks will improve comfort, particularly if you wear your boots for long periods, and in hot weather you can wear your shoes without socks should your feet start to swell.

Scarpa Thunder rock shoes
Scarpa ThunderChalk bag

You don't need anything fancy. Almost anything will do provided it has an accessible top and secure closure (don't forget the chalk!). Tie the bag around your waist with a length of 4mm cord or better still, use shockcord as that doesn't need retying. Don't clip the chalk bag to your trousers or harness with a karabiner, as this may prove dangerous if you fall onto your back.

Harness

Like rock boots, choose according to the fit rather than the colour or price. Non-adjustable legs loops are cheaper and more durable than adjustable loops. Look for four gear loops and broad, comfy webbing for the legs and waist. It's difficult to buy a dud harness in the UK, as they're all pretty much 'bomb proof'. 

Helmet

If you're climbing outside buy an appropriate rock climbing helmet (see Helmets article)

HMS screwgate & belay device  

These are your basic equipment items for belaying both indoors and outdoors. Buy a modern twin rope belay 'tube' device rather than a 'figure of eight'. Ask the retailer for advice on the currently popular devices. 

Essentials for:
  • Bouldering - Boots, chalk bag (plenty of chalk), tooth brush, cloth for cleaning boots.
  • Climbing wall - Boots, chalk bag, harness, belay plate and HMS screwgate.
  • Sport climbing - Boots, chalk bag, harness, belay device and HMS screwgate, single rope (9.4mm - 11mm) and ten to twelve quickdraws.
  • Traditional climbing (top roping) - Boots, chalk bag, harness, belay device & HMS screwgate, single rope (9.4mm to 11mm), plus small assortment of screwgate karabiners, slings (120cm or 240cm) and perhaps a few wired and slung nuts appropriate to the rock type.

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