Show of hands - how many of us climbed trees and rocks and fences and maybe even homes when we were kids? Come on, I know I’m not alone here.
One of the reasons I love climbing so much is because it’s basically a grown-up riff on the original version of play that we can more often engage in as adults.
Of all the different ways you can climb a rock, bouldering is one of my favorite forms because it requires so little equipment and skill to get started. The overhead to explore this type of fun and adventure can be a lot lower than that of sport or trad climbing where you need more ropes and extra gear.
There are a few common questions and concerns I hear from friends and strangers who are newer to the sport that I want to address here. Those questions include: what equipment do I
need to boulder? How much does it cost to start bouldering? Can beginners even do bouldering? How do you improve your bouldering technique?
Let’s dive in and find out how to start bouldering outdoors, shall we?
As I said above, bouldering requires the least amount of gear of any of the forms of rock climbing. The essentials are just three things: shoes, crash pad, and chalk. That’s it. If you want to add a few extras into your kit a brush and a chalk bag are nice to have.
Climbing shoes are critical for keeping you on the wall to the best of your ability. Having good shoes is important although having good technique and strong muscles will take you far as well.
Shoes come in a wide range of styles and materials. Some are better for beginners and some are better for more expert climbers. Some are better for slab (relatively flat walls that are less steep than vertical and rely on balance and friction-oriented moves) climbing and some are better for overhanging roofs (a rock that is angled at more than 90 degrees).
The type of shoe you need will depend greatly on the size and shape of your foot, your climbing style, and the type of rock and typical features you’ll be projecting.
Another thing to keep in mind as you explore this sport is that you don’t necessarily need brand new shoes. Sometimes used shoes can be a great starting pair for newbies because they’ll cost less and be largely broken in already! Breaking in climbing shoes can be very
painful and so skipping this step might be beneficial.
Your crash pad is extremely important. This is the piece of gear that is going to break your fall - and you are guaranteed to fall. Crash pads come in a variety of sizes and foam thicknesses. A bigger crash pad might be better to fall on, but it’s also going to be heavier to carry and take up more space to store.
It’s a good idea to get crash pads in as new condition as you can find and afford. These are a huge safety piece and you don’t want to skimp on an old, inflexible one that won’t protect you from the forces of gravity.
Some climbers use chalk for every move they make, some climbers only dust-up before starting a route, and some climbers don’t even use the stuff. There are as many different
kinds of chalk as there are shoes and crash pads so we recommend you test out a few different brands and styles to see what works best for your hands and climbing style. Some chalk is sold in its own ziplock-style bag and some is sold in bricks that will need you to bring
along a chalk bag to carry it in.
So if you only need three things to start bouldering, how much might this end up costing you?
If you buy everything brand new, getting started with bouldering might cost between $250-300. This price range is based on full-priced, beginner-focused gear. If you happen on a
seasonal sale, coupon, or lucky strike, it could be less! If you want higher-end gear, it’ll likely cost far more.
If you want to try out bouldering before investing in brand new gear, it might cost between $50-150. On our website, we even have some listings for shoes as low as $20! At less than HALF of what brand new, discounted shoes cost, that’s a steal if you’re just trying to get into the bouldering scene.
As with most outdoor activities, bouldering *can* cost as much or as little as you want it to,
relatively. It *can* be wildly expensive to have all the best gear or it can be piecemealed together from used gear shops to thrift stores to garage sales to donations from friends.
One of the greatest parts of climbing, in general, is that it’s a very social activity and so you may even be able to borrow gear from climbing friends and partners before going for the full send and getting your own pieces.
While bouldering is a relatively low barrier to entry activity in the gear sense, that’s basically where the ease-of-use stops.
Bouldering is hard.
It can be intimidating and discouraging sometimes because a bouldering route is essentially crux move after crux move after crux move. Where sport climbing usually has one or two relatively hard moves on a route, bouldering is all the hard stuff in a (usually) smaller package.
So in addition to gear, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right mindset when learning to boulder.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a starting point for how to start bouldering outdoors and peace of mind when it comes to finding the appropriate gear.
We hope to see you out there wrestling some pebbles soon!