When you’re just starting out, the amount of gear and harnesses and shoes and random doo-dads in the rock climbing section of the gear store can be intimidating.
What does all that stuff do? What climbing gear is needed for indoor climbing? What equipment do you need for free climbing? What do you need to start bouldering?
The answer to all of these questions is basically the same - it depends on what form of rock climbing you’re interested in and what gear you can borrow from others.
We’re going to give ya’ll a basic rock climbing equipment list broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
The best rock climbing gear for beginners to invest in is certainly shoes - no matter what form of climbing you’re going to try out. From there, you should acquire your own chalk and bag and maybe your own harness (if you’re going to be sport or trad climbing).
That’s it. The climbing community is largely very friendly and sharing-oriented. It’s common for more advanced climbers to share gear with the less-experienced friends they are trying to introduce to the sport. Luckily, this means that you don’t have to drop mega cash to get started with climbing - get yourself a few basics and compensate your friends for sharing their gear with you by getting a round of beers at the apre climb brewery spot.
In the beginning stages, shoes are the biggie. You can borrow most anything you need from gyms, gear rental stores, or your climbing friends. But shoes are hard to share because the fit is so crucial to your ability and enjoyment of the climbing sesh. If you are wearing shoes that are too big, you may have trouble gripping the wall and climbing will be much more difficult than it needs to be which may deter you from trying again next time your buds invite you out.
Shoes that fit your unique feet and will let you try hard on the problems/projects you want to learn to send are worth investing in.
Alright, now you’re into it. You have fallen in love with climbing and you want to move away from being the freeloading bum and invest in your own equipment. You may know that you’re at this stage when your climbing friends start making sarcastic jokes about you being a freeloader or when you yourself want to invite someone newer than you to climb and you need to be the one loaning out gear and keeping that revolving door of generosity moving.
Once you’re in the intermediate stage, you need all of the Beginner Gear PLUS whatever comes next in your preferred climbing style.
If you like indoor climbing, you probably need less gear than someone who prefers outdoor climbing. Most gyms provide ropes and belay devices but some will let you bring your own rope if you want to practice on your own gear.
If you like outdoor sport or trad climbing, get yourself a rope, some quick draws, a Personal Anchor System, a belay device. Perhaps it would be worth your while to score a few cheap trad pieces to start building your rack at this stage.
If you like bouldering, get yourself a crash pad or three.
Basically, look around when you go climbing and see which pieces of equipment you borrow the most often and get yourself some of those things first.
As you level-up from an Intermediate to Advanced climber, you’ll gradually begin adding to your Intermediate gear. Maybe instead of second-hand, you start buying brand new. Maybe
you have multiple pairs of shoes for different rock types. Maybe you have different packs for your sport rack and your trad rack.
Advanced gear is tricky to outline because so much of your gear needs will be dependent on your climbing preferences and goals. Big wall climbing vs off width bouldering have completely different gear requirements.
Essentially, for advanced climbing, you’ll want all the Beginner and Intermediate gear plus all the cams, nuts, draws, ropes, shoes, chalk bags, crash pads, belay devices, slings, PAS’s, and snacks you can fit in your house/van/backpack. The speciality gear for your big adventures will depend on where those routes take you - and we’d love to hear about them!
Your collection of rock climbing equipment will grow and evolve as your climbing does. What pieces make it onto an indoor rock climbing gear list may differ from what pieces make it on a
big wall climbing gear list.
This is a good place to start when it comes to thinking about your future gear investments and keep your eyes open for what other gear becomes essential during your climbing adventures that we may not have mentioned here.