Rock climbing gear can be simple. As a beginner, you can start with just a pair of tennis shoes and rent everything else. However if you would like to pursue further in rock climbing as a sport, I would highly recommend to invest in a pair of rock climbing shoes, a harness, and a belay device. It is much more comfortable to have your own equipment, especially shoes and harness.
Do not expect climbing shoes to be comfortable as tennis shoes. They should fit very snug and uncomfortable but it should not be painful. Climbing shoes are designed especially for climbing so there is very little to no padding. It is unsuitable to walk, hike, or run with them on. New leather is very stiff at the beginning. With a new pair of climbing shoes, you will need to break them in first then it’ll be a little bit more comfortable but will not be as cozy as tennis shoes. I usually take them off after every climb. This helps relax my bunched up toes and also prevent my shoes from wearing out from overuse. It took me about a month of climbing from two to three times a week to break in new shoes. After that the leather conform to your feet and relax a little bit more than before.
Climbing shoes are pointy at the toes. It is normal for your toes to bunch together at a point. This help your foot stick to a small hold with one focus point. It also helps with the pivoting of your weight and the positioning of your body. You want your shoes to be snug so that you can almost feel the rock underneath your toes. This allows much more control to your feet. The climbing shoes has sticky rubber sole which also help you stick to a rock much better than the traditional tennis shoes.
Usually climbing shoe size runs one size smaller than your own shoes. Check your size with rental shoes first to see what size fits you best. Be aware that different climbing shoe models and brands can fit your feet differently even if they are the same size. Make sure to try the shoes on first before purchasing because you may end up returning them when they do not fit right. Also keep in mind that the rental shoes may seem comfortable because they have been worn before by others so the leather has relaxed a lot more than brand new shoes.
Wearing socks is optional. I do not wear socks because my shoes fit very snug and there is no room for socks. In addition, socks are buffer between my feet and my shoes. I have less control of the shoes and the feel of the rocks so I prefer without socks. There is a small draw back, your feet and shoes may smell if your feet sweat a lot. My shoes are usually put away in a ventilated bag which airs out the smell and sweat. There is also an air freshener spray for shoes that you can purchase from retail stores to
free the odor.
There are a variety of climbing shoes simple for beginners and more aggressive for the intermediate to advance climbers. I started out with a simple beginner and less expensive shoes – Madrock. Climbing shoes varies from $50 to $250 or more depending on the brand and style.
Climbing harness is a critical equipment for sport climbing.
It saves your life each time you fall from a climb. You may want to invest in a comfortable and durable harness that allows easy fine tuning to fit your size. Renting them is also fine. In my opinion, the rental harness is not as comfortable as my own. There’s a single loop for the rental harness where you would put the rope through. When I put weight on it such as a fall, the harness tends to ride up my crotch which is slightly uncomfortable.
My own harness is slightly different where you put the rope through. You would put the rope through two loops instead of one.
One of the popular brand is Black Diamond. There are women, men and unisex harnesses. The women harnesses usually have smaller sizes for smaller women and more distance between the legs and waist to accommodate higher hips. However, women can wear men’s harness as well as men wear women’s. When my son just started climbing, he was too small for the regular harness so I bought for him the Women Black Diamond Primose. It still fits him even now at 5’9″. I bought myself a regular small Black harness in hope that we will switch when he grows taller. However, he did not want to switch so I kept it. The harnesses work fine for both of us.
You will need a belay device and a harness for sport climbing. However, you will not need them for bouldering. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is done without the use of ropes. The height for bouldering is usually under 6 meters (20 feet) tall. Sport climbing is another form of climbing that relies on ropes and anchors to get to the top. The height can varies from 60 meters (200 feet) or more/less. Sport climbing consists of two people, the climber and the belayer, while bouldering is an individual sport.
We use a belay device as a brake mechanism to a climbing rope by applying friction to it.
The rope is pushed through the device and clipped with a locking carabiner to the belayer. The belayer uses the device to lock off the free end of the rope, keep tension and stop the climber from falling. There are a variety of belay devices which I will describe further in details in my future blogs / reviews. The most common belay devices are tubular belay devices. Some have ridges to create more friction. These devices are suitable for sport climbing or rappelling.
30 meter rope (good for leading in gym) $89.95 – $120
60 meter rope (good for climbing outdoors) $159.95 – $199.95
These are few essential climbing gears for you to start your climbing adventure. I hope you’ll find this article helpful for your research. Please visit me again for future tips and reviews on the gears. Until next time – Climb on my friends.