Rock climbing is a sport or hobby that requires equipment and knowledge. It’s not something you can just pick up and learn with minimal effort and investment. Rock climbing requires a very specific set of gear, and of course, that comes at a price. Depending on your skill level, commitment, and budget, the gear you’ll need varies, as does the amount you’ll spend.
But, what do you need for rock climbing, and how much does it cost? The range is wide, beginning at anywhere from $40 to $200. If you’re starting with nothing and plan to start rock climbing, you’ll at least need these things:
- Climbing shoes
- Belay device
- Crash pads
But that’s just bare-bones necessities. Even these items offer a wide variety of choices. It’s important to know just what you’ll need for the climbing you’ll be doing, so you can choose where to save and where to splurge, as well as what you must have and what you can get by without.
How Much Does Rock Climbing Gear Cost?
Rock climbing can become a very pricey hobby, especially if you have to travel to partake. The list above provides the very basics of what you’ll need to get started. You may find yourself adding to your collection as you become a more advanced climber. Each of those basics can be found at a wide price range.
And even though these supplies are all heavily recommended and highly suggested by the pros. Without these items, your climb won’t be safe. Below is a brief description of what you have to have for your first hike in the great outdoors, along with options for an affordable or high-end product.
Rock climbing can be dangerous, making it extra important to have the proper footwear. Traction on your shoes is of the utmost importance, as it will protect you from slipping. There are so many different kinds of shoes, and the fit is so crucial to your climbing journey, listen to these experts for a few helpful hints: How to Choose the Perfect Climbing Shoe for You.
Another added safety feature of climbing shoes is found within the fit. Climbers wear shoes that fit tight on the feet, causing the toes to slightly bend inside. This will ensure that your feet are always gripping as much as possible.
- Climb X Redpoint Strap NLV Men’s/Women’s Climbing Shoe $37.88
- Tenaya Iati Unisex Rock-Climbing Shoe $179.99
For obvious reasons, a helmet is 100% necessary for any kind of rock climbing. Even if you’re just planning a little hike up a small rocky hill, you have to protect your head. Falling down and hitting your head anywhere can be dangerous.
Rock climbing has the added hazards of, you know, rocks, so it’s clearly riskier than a regular hike through the local park.
Because climbing involves land that’s sloped, there’s also likely to rock above, as well as below your footing. Climbing helmets can also protect against anything that might slide down the slope and hit your head. Let these folks help you choose the proper helmet in this video called just that, How to Choose a Climbing Helmet. This decision can affect you later in life, so it’s best to be extra informed.
A harness isn’t necessary for all types of climbing, but if you’re going to attempt any sort of incline, you won’t want to start without putting one of these on.
Also, seasoned climbers recommend trying a new harness out on an easy climb before using it on a tougher route. However, if you do choose a climb that will require a harness, watch this before making a purchase. How to Choose a Climbing Harness.
The job of a climbing harness is to tether the climber to the ropes, or anchor point. This helps keep the climber more steady and secure, in case they lose their footing. Instead of sliding or falling down a sloped area, the harness will keep the climber close to the ropes.
Climbing chalk is similar to what gymnasts and weightlifters use. It’s a magnesium carbonate compound that’s used to create a barrier between your hands and the rocks. You can find chalk in loose form or as a powder or a block. All will do the job. It just depends on your preference. Use some tips from this Guide to Climbing Chalk.
Our bodies naturally sweat, especially when we’re exercising or nervous, so rock climbing is the perfect recipe for sweaty palms. These very same sweaty palms can cause serious danger for rock climbers. Stepping over rocks and boulders is scary enough, it’s best to avoid slipping from hand sweat.
These little guys are something you’ll need to use no matter what. There’s a science to choosing these, depending on what kind of ropes you’ll be using and the climbing you’ll be doing. Check out this video for a guide on exactly how to choose the right carabiners for your expedition, How to Choose the Right Carabiners.
There are many different kinds of carabiners, and the price range is wide. You’ll need more than just one, as they have all kinds of uses during climbing. They can be used to attach climbing ropes to equipment or keeping two ropes together. Again, depending on what you plan to use these for, there are many different types and strengths of carabiners.
This tool sounds just as important as it actually is. A belay device works essentially as a hand brake for climbers. It’s a handheld tool that attaches to the ropes, allowing the climber as much or a little freedom as needed.
When the belay device is engaged, it causes friction and stops the climber from sliding down the rope. Some belay devices are squeezed, but others are used by pulling on the rope.
Belay devices are also a piece of equipment that involves personal preference to work with your climbing style. Here’s a quick video that can help you choose a belay device when you’re first starting out: What is the Best Belay Device for Beginners?
After you get your footing in the climbing world (pun intended), you’ll be able to experiment with other belay devices to maximize their use for you.
Ropes come in many different lengths, as well as a variety of thicknesses. There’s even quite an assortment of colors to choose from in the world of ropes. As with most of the other equipment on our list, these different styles work with various types of climbing. You’ll have to decide what kind of climbing you plan to do before you choose the ropes.
Ropes can be one of the key elements in whether your climb is successful, so let the experts help you find the ones that are best for you right here: How to Choose the Best Rock Climbing Ropes. Once again, advice on this kind of equipment should be taken from an expert climber.
Climbing Crash Pads
Although crash pads are only beneficial when climbing smaller heights, they are still a very important factor in keeping climbers safe. This Crash Pads video will show you how to choose the proper padding, as well as how to arrange the cushion for maximum protection.
If you’re climbing to great heights, a crash pad at the base of your slope won’t offer much protection, other than give you a gentle cushion once you reach the ground.
However, if you’re climbing up a less steep hill, a crash pad will protect you from hitting the ground too hard. It’s important to put crash pads in a place where they can also protect your body from anything on the ground that could cause harm after a fall.
Optional Rock-Climbing Equipment
As previously mentioned, there are some things that you must have to even start rock climbing. Meaning, you’ll be able to climb without some of these. But these items will enhance the safety of your climb, therefore making it a more enjoyable experience.
As you grow as a climber, these are things you may want to add to your gear collection, if you choose to wait on purchasing them. You may find some of them to be unnecessary or just extra baggage on your climb, but many climbers find these tools to be very beneficial.
- Chalk bag
- Climbing shirt
- Climbing pants
- Face mask
This is one of those pieces of equipment that’s not 100% necessary, but it will save you time and help keep your hands free. A chalk bag hangs with the climber, making it easy to grab and reapply the chalk as needed.
Many climbers will apply chalk before they start a climb and then a couple of times throughout, but it really depends on how much your hands sweat. Having a chalk bag dangling right next to you makes your chalk easily accessible. This guy can help you decide on a chalk bag that fits all of your climbing needs: Choosing Chalk Bags.
This one is only on the optional list if you’re climbing indoors. If you’re climbing outdoors, use sunscreen. While we’ve covered most areas that need to be protected, we can’t ignore the sensitive skin on the face. Outdoor climbs can expose the face to many extreme elements, including the sun. This is something you may want to do a wear-test on before using it for a real-life climb.
Here we are discussing sweat again, but you’ll need to be mindful of this when choosing a sunscreen. Sweatproof sunscreen is ideal for climbing.
You’ll also want to choose a non-greasy formula that’s easy to apply and long-lasting. Ideally, one with a high SPF that won’t require reapplication every 30 minutes would be best. You may also want to opt for a spray, as it requires less effort in applying and doesn’t have to be rubbed in.
- Coppertone Sport Clear SPF 30 Water Resistant Sunscreen $6.97
- SunBum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray $14.39
Some climbers swear by shirts that are made specifically for climbing. Others prefer to wear their favorite t-shirt. The common sentiment shared amongst most climbers is whatever you choose, make sure it’s comfortable.
Some shirts are made to wick away sweat while keeping you cool, which can come in handy during a climb. It’s also important for a shirt to be fitted enough that it won’t get in the way while you climb.
And remember to consider the climate where you plan to climb. Long sleeve vs. short sleeve is something you’ll want to consider, as well as the possibility of a shirt with sunscreen. Changing clothes to accommodate your body temp while climbing is not ideal, and neither is a sunburn.
Similar to shirts, climbing pants should be comfy, breathable, and easy to move in without getting tangled in the rest of your gear. Climbing pants come in a variety of styles, colors, and materials, which you can factor in when considering the climate that you’ll be in when climbing.
Many pants even come with extra features, including loops and pockets for hosting any additional things you need to keep close. Some find regular length pants to be easiest to move in, while others prefer capri length. Many pants also come in a waterproof version, which can provide further protection against the elements.
Some climates and elements might require more than just sunscreen to protect the face. If it’s extremely cold and windy, you may want to provide your skin with an added layer of protection in a face mask. Also, in very cold temps, this can take the shock out of the cold air entering your lungs.
You’ll want to be sure to try on your mask before committing to using it. This will ensure it’s comfy, and the material doesn’t rub or irritate your skin. Any kind of allergic reaction on the skin while climbing could really be a disaster.
Gym Climbing vs. Outdoor Climbing
This is one of the main factors to consider when choosing climbing equipment. Will you be climbing inside a temperature-controlled gym, or outside in real life elements?
If you’re new to climbing, or just considering starting up, you may want to give a climbing gym a try. Equipment rental can start as low as $15 dollars, which is quite a bargain compared to the hundreds of dollars you could spend on your own equipment.
An added bonus of going to a climbing gym and renting gear is that you don’t have to worry about where to store the gear or even clean it when you’re done, that’s all up to someone else.
Although climbing gyms are a great place to get your feet wet and decide whether or not you want to commit to rock climbing, the environment of a gym doesn’t much compare to the great outdoors.
A gym won’t prepare you for possible weather conditions, encountering wildlife, or even what to do if you fall. These are all things that can only be learned outside while actually climbing.
Also, rock climbing shoes fit very tightly, and there’s no room for socks. In fact, they’re supposed to be worn sans-socks. Of course, these shoes are disinfected between uses, but if the thought of sharing shoes with a stranger makes you feel a little uncomfortable, you may want to skip the gym and get right outside.
While both outdoor climbing and gym climbing have their pros and cons, the choice is ultimately yours. Rock climbing is something that is very personal, and the climber must decide which environment is best for their own climbing goals.
Hiring a Guide
Technically, a guide isn’t actual gear,but a guide can be an integral part of your climbing collection. Again, this will directly be related to your commitment to rock climbing, as well as where you choose to do your climbing.
Whether you’re looking to go into the great outdoors or practice your climbing in a gym, there is always an expert around willing to share his or her lessons learned and helpful hints to get you started. This will ultimately help you become a better climber, and hopefully you’ll be learning from someone else’s mistakes instead of having to make your own.
Choosing a Climbing Guide
If you choose to hire a guide, he or she will be knowledgeable about the land you’re about to climb. Hopefully, they’ve climbed that very path many, many times before. They will be able to show you how to climb safely while enjoying it as well.
However, this can be pricey, especially if you’re asking the guide to provide the gear. Before you choose a guide, make sure to consider the following:
A reputable guide will have credentials in the form of certification. This means that he or she has been trained for a certain number of hours in the terrain where they guide. They will also know first aid and be aware of any other safety concerns.