Should You Tip Your Rock Climbing Instructor?

Rock climbing is an amazing sport that is not only physically challenging but can also challenge your mind. If you are new to rock climbing or are hoping to improve your technique, you may want to start indoors with an instructor’s help. Nothing can improve your form and prepare you for more challenging climbs like help from a pro.

Should you tip your rock climbing instructor? In most gyms or climbing locations, tipping is not expected but is always appreciated. As with many services like this, instructors supplement their income with tips that come from satisfied clients.

While most instructors do not expect it, adding a tip can help show your appreciation. It is also important to plan ahead, as some locations will not allow you to add a tip to a debit card or credit card payment. If you want to show your appreciation, bring along a cash tip to give at the end of the lesson.

Do You Tip a Rock Climbing Guide?

A rock climbing guide differs slightly from an instructor because they usually work outdoors, where climbing can be more dangerous. In fact, many backcountry climbs require a guide to guarantee you stay safe and know exactly where to climb. Unfortunately, many locations do not state upfront if tips are expected, and finding information on this can be challenging online.

If you have an upcoming climb scheduled with a guide, it is important to note that, like instructors, most guides do not expect a tip but would be very grateful for one. While you can find some basic information about tour guides online, these are not rock climbing guides and truly should not be treated equally.

In many cases, this individual guides you, is prepared to handle any safety incidents, takes care of your gear and just makes sure your climb runs smoothly. Your tip should reflect this hard work.

We will further discuss tipping etiquette and how much to tip, but you should be prepared for this by having extra cash on hand or in your vehicle to give at the end of the guided climb. In the U.S., most guides expect if they are going to get a tip, it will be at the end of the climb, and not before. Cash is usually the easiest way to give this tip.

Basic Tipping Etiquette

There are a few basic things that you should keep in mind, no matter where you are tipping. Being aware of etiquette is important when it comes to tipping your rock climbing guide as they deserve just as much respect and compensation as others in the service industry.

Climbing guides are truly experts at what they do and are really there for you. Some basic tipping etiquette you should keep in mind are:

  • Tip on professionalism and skill, not on personality. In a perfect world, every rock climbing guide would be perfectly friendly and happy to help. However, even if a personality does not mesh with yours, or if an instructor is “too serious” or not overly friendly, they still deserve a tip.

While rude behavior or distasteful behavior should not be encouraged with a tip, it is important to look at the job done over the guide’s personality.

  • If you used a coupon or gift certificate, don’t give a reduced tip. If your guided climb was gifted to you or you got it for less because of a coupon, you should calculate the tip based on the normal price of the climb. If you go the climb for less or even for free, you should still consider tipping to show your appreciation. In many cases, this actually makes tipping easier because you have not paid as much for the climb itself.
  • Do you tip based on pre or post-tax price? Many decide on what they will tip based on giving a percentage of the climbing price. The big question that arises is if you should use the final price or the price before any taxes are added, which honestly does not make a major difference. In most areas, this will be a minimal difference, and most guides do not mind.
  • Even expensive climbs need to be tipped. If you want to tip properly and you want to show appreciation for your guide, you should tip regardless of the base price. If the climb is very expensive, you can tip on the lower end, but it is still important to tip if you have a good climb with a good instructor.
  • Yes, tip the owner. One thing that many question is whether you should still tip if your guide is also the owner of the company? The short answer is yes, even if your guide owns the company, they deserve to be tipped just like any other guide. In fact, many guides who own the company still rely on these tips.

How Much to Tip Your Rock Climbing Guide?

Of course, all of this leads to what exactly should you tip your rock climbing guide? While everyone is different, the basic amount per tip for an outdoor climbing guide is between 10% and 20% of the tour cost per person. 

However, this amount can vary greatly depending on the climb length and overall quality. If you have an especially great tour guide, you can always tip more.

Most guides will accept tips, and it is standard practice for them, but you can always check the company’s website to see if this is mentioned anywhere.

When to Tip Extra?

If you have an especially great climbing guide, you can always tip more than the recommended percentage. If you have the extra money to spend and the climb itself was one to truly remember, this is a great way to show your appreciation and applaud their great work.

Some reasons you may tip a little extra include having a guide who:

  • Offered one-on-one attention and took special care to help you master a certain skill
  • Went out of the way to guarantee a great time and checked in on you often
  • Was highly skilled, teaching you special tricks and techniques along the way
  • Was very knowledgeable on technique, location of the climb, and the natural resources found there, teaching you something you didn’t expect to learn.
  • Simply loved their job, and you could tell that your happiness was important to you

How to Tip Your Guide

In most cases, the tip is given in cash at the end of the guided climb. If you have planned out your tip beforehand, you should put the cash in an envelope and bring it with you to give to your guide at the end. However, if you brought cash but have not planned out your tip, you can give them the money directly.

You will want to find your guide at the end, thank them, and directly give them the tip. If the tip represents yourself and other members of your group or family, make sure to mention this. For those who did not remember a cash tip, you can always ask about adding a tip to a credit card or debit card after the climb, but some companies do not allow this or are not equipped for this.

At this time, it is really helpful to the guide if you also offer feedback about the experience. Whether or not this comes with a cash tip, most guides will want to know what was especially helpful for you and what made your climb a good experience.

Should you, unfortunately, have a less than great climbing experience, you may not want to tip or will want to tip less than what is recommended. However, if you do this, you should offer advice on how to improve the experience for later climbers. This can be awkward to do in person, but many locations have an online review site like Yelp where you can leave this information.

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