Just The Basics: What Gear You Need As A Beginner Climber
Let me guess, you’ve tried climbing for the first time recently, you’ve become hooked and now you want to scale all the mountains in the world?!
Rather than sliding into others well lubricated shoes or having to rely on the generosity of other climber’s gear which can be become time consuming if you’re swapping gear every climb, how about purchasing some?
Don’t know where to start?
It’s okay, I know it’s kind of overwhelming looking at a full rack laid out for an insane multi-pitch mixed route (You’ll come to understand what all that means), lucky for you as a beginner you only need 5 items to get started.
Other lists I’ve seen on the internet overload you with information and options, which is all useful, truthful information thought I must admit I think it’s excessive. If you don’t plan on getting into lead (setting ropes) straight away the following 5 is all you need.
- Our Favorites: Featured Rock Climbing Gear for Beginners
- 1. Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!
- 2. Belay Device – That Weird Thing You Put The Rope Through
- 3. CHA-CHA..Chaaaalk Bags ( & Chalk )
- 4. Harnessing The Helpful Harness
- 5. Pirates Of The Carabiner
Our Favorites: Featured Rock Climbing Gear for Beginnersthese products are featured in the article below - keep reading for additional information
|La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes||Lace-Up Rock Climbing Shoes||REI|
|Scarpa Origin Climbing Shoes||Velcro Rock Climbing Shoes||REI|
|Petzl GriGri + Belay Device||Assisted Braking Belay Device||REI|
|Black Diamond ATC Belay Device||ATC Belay Device||REI|
|Petzl Verso Belay Device||ATC Belay Device||REI|
|8BPLUS Chalk Bags||Chalk Bags||REI|
|REI Chalk & Chalk Bags||Chalk & Chalk Bags||REI|
|REI Climbing Harnesses||Climbing Harnesses||REI|
|Petzl Attache 3D Screw-Lock Carabiner||Carabiner||REI|
1. Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!
Not going to sugarcoat this…The shoes suck. They are uncomfortable and get stinky. The plus side is that you get used to it!
As a beginner you’ll be lacking technique (no offence) that certain shoes are specifically designed for so you can get away with slipping your feet into something closer resembling shoes than torture chambers.
You have three choices of “shoe fit.”
|Velcro||Quick to take on and off||Not as tight fit to the foot as laceups|
|Lace Up||Can adjust to snuggly fit your toes / feet||Take the longest out of the three to take on/off|
|Slip on||Super quick on/off||Loosest fit|
Here is where things get personal.
I have freaky feet. I have what seems to be a missing toe between my big toe and the next. As a result I have excellent balance, ability to pick up anything and finding shoes that fit me properly is a nightmare.
For me, laceups were my only option starting out, I was squeezing into anything else with more desperation than Cinderella’s evil sisters.
So if you have weirdly shaped feet like me, I recommend laceups, forget the annoyance of the extra time of taking them on/off. In fact you can see it as extra time to squeeze out those last few nerves and continue perfecting the Climbers Pre Climb Curses.
For those normal footed folks, try velcro over slip ons. If your foot can move around too easily in the shoe, you’ll have a hard time balancing and applying the edge of your shoe for more friction while climbing.
While there are many more terms for your footwear that is related to the “type” which is about the shape of the shoe, as a beginner you’ll start with a “neutral shape”.
Basically all that means is you’ll have a shoe that looks like a shoe and not a witch’s nose. Again, you’ll understand what that means in time.
2. Belay Device – That Weird Thing You Put The Rope Through
If you have only been sticking to climbing at indoor centres so far, the ropes have attached a belay device. However, once you go outside, you’ll need your own!
There is a bunch of belay devices that have been invented over the years and for the sake of safety I’m not going to mention any others than the assisted braking and tuber devices.
The guys in the 30’s and 40’s used to wrap ropes around their waist and call that safety, so you know, some of the other ideas, even if you know your knots like a good boy/girl scout, aren’t ideal.
ASSISTED BRAKING DEVICE
Most indoor climbing centres use assisted braking belay devices.
Many people going into indoor climbing centres are first timers or at least still getting confident belaying, so the safest system is the best. Assisted braking devices grab the rope the moment it’s being pulled through unless you manually pull back on a little lever. This system means it’s practically impossible for the climber to be dropped if the belayer gets distracted or panics and lets go of the rope.
Is your climbing buddy stubborn?
Then these belay devices are perfect for you guys. If your friend won’t give up on a problem and is taking more falls than a newborn deer, you’ll be thankful for the assistance an assisted braking device provides.
Okay, so what’s the catch? There’s always a catch! (Pun totally intended)
The downside of this belay device is it’s difficult to control the slack in the rope which as you become more experienced you may find at times you need less or more, especially when going on lead (setting the ropes). More on that in another article!
There’s also a preference amongst some climbers to use tubers, a more manual approach for the reason of believing that the assisted braking devices can make you lazy or form bad habits and that’s when accidents happen!
Other complaints are they are more expensive and heavier than other belay devices.
First of all depending on where you are in the world the term you use for this type of belay device will vary. Americans apparently call them tubers, I’m Australian and I’ve only ever referred to them as ATC’s.
Tubers/ATC’s are the most versatile and common belay devices you’ll see. Well hopefully, otherwise you’re climbing with some true dirtbags. Which is fine once you know a thing or two, but maybe not as a beginner.
As the belayer you have full control over the rope using a tuber/atc.
If I was to take you climbing, I would make you learn to belay properly on a tuber. Then once I believed you had reached belaying adulthood I would give you an assisted braking devices as rite of passage present.
3. CHA-CHA..Chaaaalk Bags ( & Chalk )
My ex was a sweater.
Not as in I dated a clothing item. As in, his perspiration levels could have flooded the Great Simpson.
His climbing shoes were something I could never go near despite crossing all those other relationship barriers like weeing in front of each other. All that sweat made him slippery so he couldn’t be without his chalk bag.
Say goodbye to sweaty palms and improve your grip!
Chalk at first was a novelty, I used it the first time because well to be honest, I was just copying everyone else. It does play a huge role in improving your climbing and increasing your safety if you’re like my super slippery ex.
You have two choices and it’s purely a personal thing.
- Loose chalk
- Chalk in stocking-like ball (you squeeze the ball and the chalk comes through teeny weeny little holes)
Then there’s the bag of course, which again is entirely personal.
4. Harnessing The Helpful Harness
Say that ten times real quick!
Your harness is what holds you in place. It’s the best friend that you don’t mind touching your gluteus maximus.
You, my young grasshopper, will want a sport harness. Harnesses only vary when you start getting into serious climbing like trad or ice/mixed climbing. Sport harnesses are the most common product on the shelves so it’s not confusing. As a beginner the only thing you’ll be paying attention to is whether you are male or female.
The male and female differ slightly for a few reasons
- The female harness has a slighter higher rise in between the legs thanks to lack of uh…things..you understand.
- The leg to waist distance is shortened
- Shape of the waistband on a females is slightly more contoured to those sexy curves we have
Budget and of course colour scheme!! ….These will be the biggest deciding factor for you as a beginner. Take a browse!
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: NEVER, I SAY NEVER buy a second hand harness unless you know and trust the seller. Most people are honest and would never pass on a harness that’s faulty but we are talking about your life at risk here. Sometimes the harness isn’t faulty but has received the brunt of big falls and is weakened. You can’t tell by looking at one, so personally I will only buy brand new ones if I need another.
5. Pirates Of The Carabiner
Much like rare jewels to a pirate, carabiners are a precious lifeline for climbers.
Again, much like pirates with hoard their treasures, some climbers obsess over their collection of carabiners.
Each type of carabiner serves a slightly different purpose and as you become more experienced these small differences will make for personal preferences.
Or you can be like me and when you have too many you discover they make great underwear holders if you only have hanging space in your wardrobe!! ( Thank me later! )
As a beginner you will only need one to attach the belay device to your harness and optional second as a backup/they’re handy to carry your shoes.
Carabiners come in many shapes and sizes. The only carabiner you’ll be requiring is for belaying so a pear shaped carabiner is what to look for! That and a locking device, let me explain below.
Non-locking – Any carabiner you can push on the gate and open is classified non-locking. Featured on quickdraw sets for quick and easy use. A quick draw is two biners attached by material, they are used while lead climbing and to set anchors.
Locking – As a beginner these may make you feel silly at first because they are a little fiddly until you get used to it. There’s two types
- Screw gate – These have a screw that twists over the gate.
- Auto lock – These have an auto lock the moment you close the gate
So why do you need to know the difference?
Because one is specifically for belaying and the other while it works is no-where near as safe.
Can you guess??
The autolock! You want to use an auto lock for belaying, there’s next to zero chance of the gate accidentally opening.
SEE YOU AT THE CLIFFS!
Here’s to hoping that you become encompassed by the world of climbing.
Owning these basics will help motivate and push you into regularly climbing, it won’t be long until you need the full kit!
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and come be one with your fellow mountain goats!
top image via Deposit Photos