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Gear to get you on your way

Submitted by maculated on 2002-04-21

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I've seen a lot of posts from beginners asking about what types of gear they should be picking up on their way and at what stages. Having recently gone through the process myself, helped others do the same, and getting tons of advice from more experienced climbers than myself, I've nailed down a process of purchase to get the most out of your climbing experience as you begin your trek.

This article is not about finding your gear cheaply. If you've got the cash to sink, you don't care anyway. If you don't, then now's the time to become resourceful. You'll find your way.Gymbie heaven

So . . . you step into a giant warehouse and find yourself surrounded by plastic holds, pretty colored ropes, the local alternative station crooning into your ears, the odor of sweat and dust assaulting your nose, and these shiny, happy people with skin-tight tank tops and Prana linen pants carrying clean and neat rope bags - and you think to yourself: heaven! Welcome to the world of a gymbie.

If you're just starting out, I'd suggest submitting to the crummy rental harnesses and sticky rental shoes for a while until you have really got it down. First purchase that's in order?

Your gym may not have belay devices available for your use non gratis. If this is the case, then a good belay device and locking caribiner is your best and first purchase. There are many choices, but I'd suggest going with a tube design, such as Black Diamond's ATC. As for locking caribiners, you have a choice of self-locking or screw-lock. Both have plusses and minuses, but both get the job done. Your choice. The earlier you get your ATC and learn to use it properly, the more likely you'll find willing climbing partners. Plus, it's always nice to know the kind of wear your belay device has seen in comparison with the 'shared' devices of many gyms.

Next up? Chalk bag. There's two types of chalk bags, one's the larger trad bag, one's the smaller sport bag. Your choice, of course, but most people go with the sport size. If you get REALLY into bouldering, they even have chalk buckets. Chalk's great. Some people can get away without using any chalk, but most are going to work up a sweat and chalk will be there to stop you from sliding off a sketchy hold.

The next order of business is getting rid of that uncomforatble and probably out-moded harness. This is one of the things I don't think you should skimp on. A harness, like anything close to you, should be with your a while. Go to a store and if they can't offer a way to check comfort, go somewhere else. Many stores have ropes rigged to tie in to and hang off of. Guys, don't be afraid to try the women's designs. I've heard many men say they like the fit a great deal. Harnesses should be snug, not tight, and if you hang from it and the waist goes up to your chest, get a size smaller. The employee at the shop should be able to help you.

By this time, you've been going to the gym pretty regularly, you're an ace top-rope belayer, and you've got some good wear on your harness. Now it might be time for the shoes. Yeah, I know those rentals are gross. I do. But the thing is, you'll be wearing out your shoes much faster if you don't learn good foot technique, and that comes with experience and practice, which you've hopefully been doing all this time. You'll also know which kinds of climbs appeal to you most, so you'll be able to look for appropriate shoes. Check other articles here for shoe purchase advice.

And there you have it. A complete gym rat collection!

1) Belay device and locking caribiner
2) Chalk bag
3) Harness
4) Shoes
[page] Toprope Paradise

So you've been going to the gym for a few months and you've got the safety fundamentals down. You have an experienced climber who has agreed to take you outside and top rope there. Good for you!

He or she heads to the nearest sport or top rope crag and says, "Have at it." What do you need now?

Let's talk obvious. You need a rope. Generally most ropes you'll find climbers using are 10.5 mm from 50 to 60 m long. I'd always advise going with the longer rope, a lot more routes will be open to you. Different ropes are of different quality. If you don't know any different, I say go with a cheap rope. That sucker will be taking a beating as a top rope and you'll have to replace it soon enough. Now's the time to save some money. (For more info on rope, look around, I'm no rope expert.)

I'd also recommend a rope bag to care for said rope, although, once again, if you're strapped for cash - this is a nice thing to have and since this is your first rope, and as I said it's going to get trashed - if you can't afford it: forgettaboutit!

After this, it gets a bit more tricky. If your spot has walking approach anchors with bolts, this gets easy. If you have to use a tree, or other such anchor . . . well, this part gets a little customization - but that's what your experienced top roping partner is for, right?

In general, though, three quickdraws should do you, as well as a 20 ft cordelette (not less than 6 mm in width) with another locking caribiner. You'll usually find anchors with two to three bolts (hence the quickdraws) in a nice place to utilize your draws. Other times, you'll need to equalize your load (talk to your experienced partner again), and for that, you'll need a cordelette.

Okey dokey! You're a top rope maven now! Plus, you've got a rope to practice leading in your gym, too!

1) rope
2) rope bag (optional)
3) 3 quickdraws
4) cordelette
5) locking caribiner Other recommended items: webbing (3 lengths is great - 5 ft, 9 ft, 15 ft), assorted biners, locking and non-locking. [page] Sport Nirvana

This is the easy part. You've been using your rope from your top roping set up in the gym, and you're leading! Way to go! Sit back, enjoy the ride, all you really need for sport comes in two easy steps:

(1) You need more quickdraws (10-15), since bolt clipping is the name of the game. You already have three! If you really had money, you probably already got this and they all match! Yay for you!

(2) You'll be wanting an adjustable daisy chain and locking biner. This little guy is indispensible for setting up anchors at the top of leads, or rappeling after ascents. It goes through your tie-in points and hangs out on your harness' gear sling until you need to clip and lock it to a bolt to work with the rope and anchor system. You'll love your daisy.
If you don't want this, and would like to add to your possible trad rack for the future, a 48" sewn runner/sling,/b> with two caribiners will do the job just as well. It's stronger and generally safer, but not as adjustable. Ask your mentor.

At this point, you'll also really be wanting to invest in a good climbing helmet. Both your belayer (for loose rockfall) and yourself (for logged airtime) will be happy you got one.

You'll also want some quicklinks from the hardware store that also hang out on your gear sling if you're leading a climb you may have trouble finishing to rappel off of.

So . . . you're a sport climbing crazy now! What do you think of that?

1) More quickdraws
2) daisy chain
3) helmet
4) quicklinks

From here on out, customize and resize as needed. As you get into trad, rely on the advice of experience for the area you're climbing in. Starter racks vary, but you can purchase them through places like [page] Where to Skimp and Save

If you are buying your set-ups and you want to save some money, but don't know where to do it, listen up. I've advised you to buy numerous things, but some of them need top quality, whereas others will be functional and safe at any cost.

The ones in the latter category are: rope (so long as it's UIAA rated), helmet, and quickdraws.

Now, I know a lot of people will disagree on the quickdraw comment, but all of them are designed to be safely used, and as a beginning climber, you're not going to be able to tell the difference between a buttery soft gate and a stiffer one. Everyone's got their opinion on which quickdraw to get, and that's fair, but as a beginner, save your money - you have a trad rack to prepare for, and if you decide to become a sport climber full time - what's $200 a year down the line for ones that are just the ticket when you really know what you're doing?

Well, it's been fun. Get out there and climb hard! Feedback on this article is always welcome.


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great article!

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