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Rock climbing requires a lot of equipment if you want to protect yourself against falling. In addition to the standard equipment such as the climbing rope, helmet, and harness, you will also need other things such as quickdraws, lockable carabiners and a belay device.
So that you don’t lose the overview, I have compiled a complete list of the equipment you need for climbing and linked the best products.
You will need the following equipment for rock climbing:
- Climbing shoes*
- Climbing rope* incl. rope bag*
- Climbing helmet*
- Climbing chalk* + bag*
- Carabiners* and quickdraws*
- Climbing Harness*
- Belay device*
- Appropriate clothing
How much of the climbing equipment you need depends on your climbing route. This article is designed for normal sports climbing with toprope or lead climbing. If you are looking for the necessary equipment for traditional or “trad” climbing, where you have to install your anchors in the rock yourself, have a look at this article.
Personal Climbing Equipment
Personal climbing equipment is the essential equipment that is worn on your body, i.e. climbing helmet, climbing shoes, and climbing harness.
Unfortunately, you often see climbers without a climbing helmet. I have already experienced one or two situations in which more would have happened without a helmet than just a small shock. Climbing helmets are not very expensive and they come in many designs and sizes. In this article, you will learn how to choose the right climbing helmet.
There are basically two types of helmets and a hybrid form. The classic climbing helmet is the hard shell helmet. They consist of a hard plastic shell, which is very robust and absorbs the impact. The advantages are clearly the long service life and the good air circulation at the head.
The other type of helmet are hard foam helmets that resemble bicycle helmets (but you should not necessarily go climbing with a bicycle helmet). In the event of an impact, this foam absorbs the impact. However, such a helmet can usually only withstand one stronger impact. After that, it’s trash. Hard foam climbing helmets are generally more sensitive- for example, you should not sit or step on them. The advantage over hard shell helmets is a low weight.
Today, however, hybrid helmets, i.e. a mixture of both systems, are modern and mainly available. A hard plastic shell protects the outside and a layer of rigid foam is underneath. The advantage of this combination is that all advantages of both helmet types are combined!
The weight, adjustment possibilities, ventilation, and design are the decisive factors when purchasing. You can also look for other features such as headlamp mounting.
In a Nutshell
- Never climb outdoors without a helmet! (bouldering is ok)
- Choose a hybrid helmet, which consists of a hard shell with a foam core.
- Low weight, good adjustment possibilities, and sufficient ventilation are the most important features
What to Buy?
This helmet is the ideal all-rounder, available for women and men. With its low weight, it is very comfortable to carry and also offers excellent ventilation. Through the numerous holes on the sides and the top, enough air comes to the head. The climbing helmet can also be easily adjusted to the shape of your head and the headlamp mount on the front is another plus point.
The model for women* even has a hole for a ponytail!
Climbing shoes are a must when climbing and are one of the first things you should buy. They protect your feet and their rubber soles provide enough friction to keep you on the rock. Depending on where you climb and what type of climbing you prefer, determine which shoe is best for you.
Climbing shoes have many features to consider. You can find out how to choose the right climbing shoe for you in this article and here you will find the best climbing shoes for beginners.
When choosing your first climbing shoes, you should never listen to the outdated rule that the shoe should be as tight as possible. Yes, they should fit tightly but never cause pain. Climbing shoes are no longer produced in such a way that they stretch by several sizes. So you can buy one that’s closer to your regular shoe size.
An optimal fit is advantageous when climbing for various reasons. They don’t slide back and forth, they don’t hurt and they don’t rob you of your concentration. Especially at the beginning, it is important that you feel comfortable in your shoes so that you don’t get used to bad habits. A sore foot almost always results in a posture that is suboptimal for your technique.
Buy a pair that is comfortable but tight – tight enough to place your toes precisely on small edges and comfortable enough that you do not hate your climbing shoes after a few hours of climbing.
After you have bought your first climbing shoes and used them extensively, you will eventually need new ones. Then it depends on the direction in which your climbing preferences have developed. Do you prefer bouldering or do you prefer to climb long distances? For longer distances, you want a high level of comfort. When bouldering you rather need the higher performance. The shorter the distance, the tighter and more aggressive the climbing shoes become.
In a Nutshell
- All the major brands have special climbing shoes for beginners that will accompany you for a long time.
- Buy shoes that are tight but comfortable. They mustn’t hurt.
- Most climbing shoes for beginners are also available in narrower-cut women’s shoes.
- The sole should be between 4 and 5 mm thick.
- There are 3 types of climbing shoes: neutral, moderate and aggressive. Neutral is the right type for beginners.
What to Buy?
The absolute winner among climbing shoes for beginners. It fits almost everyone and is a very good all-rounder. You can climb with this shoe both outside, as well as in the climbing gym.
They give you a lot of precision so you can boulder with them and even on long outdoor climbing tours they are comfortable enough that you don’t curse them at the end of the day.
Due to the relatively thick and robust 4 mm Vibram XS Edge sole, this climbing shoe lasts very long. Choose one shoe size smaller than your regular street shoe size.
A climbing harness should be adaptable so that it fits well in thick winter clothing as well as in thin summer clothing. You should also know how much equipment can be attached to the harness. If you are unsure what to look out for when buying a climbing harness, read this article.
Climbing harnesses have many loops with different functions. The most important one is probably the belay loop in which you bind the climbing rope. This part of the harness is particularly robust and is the subject of quality testing during production, as the complete weight of the climber hangs on this loop.
The hip and leg loops hold the harness in place and can be adjusted exactly to your body. At the hip loop are the gear loops to which you can attach your other equipment. Depending on the number of loops, you can carry tons of quickdraws, carabiners, auxiliary rope and other material with you. Remember that you may only hang equipment or other ballast on the gear loops – they are not suitable for belaying.
In a Nutshell
- The fit of the harness is very important. Pay attention to adjustable hip and leg loops when buying if you plan to use the harness in different weather conditions so that it fits you with summer and winter clothing.
- For Toprope climbing a simple climbing harness is ok. If you want to lead climb or traditionally (trad climbing), you will need a climbing harness with gear loops.
What to Buy?
Despite its fair price, this harness is more than just for beginners. It has all the features you could wish for and is available in many sizes. You can also adjust it variably.
The best thing about the Black Diamond Momentum are probably its perfect gear loops. They are the ideal size, robust and easy to reach.
Its construction distributes the load of the body weight evenly, which leads to a very pleasant wearing comfort.
Climbing Chalk + Chalk Bag
Climbing Chalk is the white stuff climbers, gymnasts and weightlifters useon their hands to increase their grip on their hands. Moist hands are the enemy of every climber, as the hands become slippery due to the moisture. Climbing chalk absorbs moisture.
Climbing chalk is available in different types: as powder, blocks or liquid. Usually it is in powder form, blocks are only bought because they are usually a little cheaper, because the production step of crushing is missing. Liquid Chalk is somewhat more expensive and is based on the powder dissolved in alcohol. This makes it easier to apply, prevents dusting and lasts longer. You can also make liquid chalk yourself!
To keep your climbing chalk with you when you climb, there are special bags that you can hang from your harness. When climbing, you dip a hand in the chalk bag and apply the climbing chalk.
Usually climbing chalk bags have the following features:
- Bag for the climbing chalk
- Closing mechanism, so that the climbing chalk cannot come out of the bag when you do not need it.
- A loop to attach the bag to the harness
- A place for a climbing brush
As long as the bag can show these things, it is left to your taste. A chalk bag has nothing to do with your safety when climbing, so you can hardly do anything wrong here. Just pick the one you like best.
In a Nutshell
- Powdered climbing chalk is best at first. Chalk balls containing climbing chalk are recommended. That way it’s less dusty.
- Buy a bag that you like!
What to Buy?
Climbing Chalk as powder with reusable Chalk Ball*
I have tried all kinds of climbing chalk and can say that I like climbing chalk best as a powder in a reusable chalk ball. It is far less dusty than loose powder and lasts quite long. The application is also very pleasant when you squeeze the ball inside the bag with one hand. When buying, make sure that the chalk ball is reusable and not a disposable product. So you can fill it up again and again with fresh powder.
You really can’t go wrong with the chalk bag. Pay attention at most to the size and that there is a loop for attaching it to the climbing harness. And I don’t know about you, but I like to stand out from the crowd with a special design.
Technical Climbing Equipment
Probably the most important piece of climbing equipment. The climbing rope is your life insurance.
If you have an already equipped climbing partner, you probably won’t need your own climbing rope at first, because you can share his. However, you should not wait too long to own your own climbing rope, as only then do you know the life story and the condition of the rope. An unknown climbing rope is always a risk.
Choosing the right climbing rope can be quite complicated, which is why I wrote an article about it.
There are static and dynamic climbing ropes. Dynamic ones are used for rock climbing and static ones for abseiling and rappelling. Dynamic climbing ropes are somewhat elastic, which makes them cushion the fall of a climber. With a static rope, the fall would end abruptly, which would not be very pleasant for the climber. In addition, the forces acting on the climbing rope are enormous and can damage the climbing rope. A dynamic climbing rope absorbs a fall better and withstands many falls.
Although there are many climbing accidents, it is very rare that a climbing rope is to blame. Climbing ropes are meticulously tested and almost never break. And if they do, it is because they have been used incorrectly (sharp-edged objects like a sharp rock edge damage the rope). Like every piece of equipment that is part of personal safety equipment, climbing ropes are also standardized. When buying, you only need to check if the CE mark or a UIAA label is on the rope.
Climbing ropes are sensitive to dirt and dust. If this penetrates the inside of the rope, it acts like sandpaper and damages the inside of the climbing rope. To avoid this you should not put it bare on the floor, but use a rope bag for it. In a rope bag you can transport the climbing rope well protected and when you reach the location you can spread the bag on the ground and lay the climbing rope on it. Even while you are climbing, the rope remains on the rope bag.
In a Nutshell
- 60 m are ideal for outdoors to have enough rope with you for most climbing routes.
- In a climbing gym 30 m is enough.
- 9.8 or 10 mm thickness is a good compromise between durability, weight and safety.
- The climbing rope must be dynamic and not static.
What to Buy?
At 70 metres, this climbing rope is a good length for beginners, which will be sufficient for most routes. Besides, you can shorten it several times before it gets too short.
It is 9.8 mm thick, has all the safety certificates and comes from a company that has been well-known and reliable for decades.
Those who know Sterling also know that the climbing ropes last almost forever. The price is more than justified.
The precise workmanship of this climbing rope also forgives you some mistakes, which is especially advantageous for beginners who are not yet familiar with all tricks in the use of climbing ropes.
You need a belay device to secure your climbing partner. This device brakes the climbing rope mechanically by friction to brake the climber in the event of a fall. Automatic belay devices are best suited for belaying.
Your climbing partner and you can of course share one belay device, because only the person who is belaying needs one when climbing, but sooner or later you want to own your own belay device.
A belay device allows you to control the climbing rope as follows:
- Hold and cushion a fall of the climber.
- Lower your climbing partner in a controlled manner.
- Give the climbing rope. If you lead climb, you must regularly give him more climbing rope so that you do not stop him. The rope leads from the climber through the next anchor down to the person securing the rope.
- Haul in the climbing rope. If the climber climbs toprope, the rope goes up to the top anchor and then downwards to the climber, which reduces the effective length of the climbing rope between the belayer and the climber the further up the climber comes.
With a manual belay device, the climbing rope is only deflected once. This creates a great deal of friction, which helps to brake the climber. However, as the climbing rope is not stopped immediately, some climbers prefer to wear gloves when belaying to prevent burns.
Automatically belay devices automatically block the climbing rope in the event of a jerky pull. But even if the belay device functions like a safety belt, the person securing it must still hold the climbing rope by hand.
In a Nutshell
- There are manual and automatic belay devices. The auto-block feature of automatic belay devices helps you belaying by a great deal.
- You and your climbing partner only need one belay device.
- An instruction for belaying is a must! Belaying your climbing partner is the most important thing when climbing. Never use a belay device without the necessary knowledge of its use.
What to Buy?
Manual: Black Diamond ATC*
The manual belay device from Black Diamond is the standard for learning. Super stable and inexpensive. The friction can be regulated wonderfully and to let the climber down with this is super easy.
Automatic: Petzl Grigri 2*
If you want automatic support, you can’t get past the Grigri from Petzl. Since Petzl brought this belay device with brake support to the market, there is no comparable device, which can compete with its durability and handling.
This was topped with the Grigri 2. It has become lighter and smaller and can be used for almost all climbing ropes with a thickness of 8.9 to 11 mm.
I myself use nothing other than the Grigri.
The safest type of carabiner is the lockable carabiner. The lock prevents unintentional opening, making lockable carabiners suitable for particularly critical connections such as on the climbing harness, the belay device or important anchors along the track.
If necessary, a lockable carabiner can be replaced by two normal carabiners inserted in opposite directions (one opening to the right, the other to the left).
With quickdraws*, you connect the climbing rope with an anchor in the wall. A quickdraw consists of two carabiners which are connected by a loop.
If you attach the climbing rope with a quickdraw set to a hook on the wall, the load on the climbing rope and the anchor is reduced, as the force is dampened by the radius of movement. If you attached the rope directly to the wall with a single carabiner, the load would be many times higher. This is especially important for self-laid anchors. In addition to increasing personal safety, you will also extend the life of the climbing rope.
Usually, quickdraws have two carabiners of different sizes on both sides. The larger carabiner is connected to the anchor, the smaller one to the climbing rope. In addition, the two openings of the carabiners differ from each other. The carabiner on the side of the mountain usually has a straight gate, the one on the rope side has a curved or a snap opening with two wires.
If you are lead climbing, you have to carry enough quickdraws with you to have enough for each anchor. Before using a quickdraw set, please read this article to learn how to keep the correct orientation between the wall, climbing rope and carabiner opening. If you do it wrong, the climbing rope in the worst case can free itself from the carabiner.
When it comes to clothing, it is important that it does not prevent you from climbing. Too tight clothing can restrict your freedom of movement and it should not be too warm or cold. It is best to use the onion principle in unstable weather or on a long climbing tour: many thin layers that can be combined depending on the weather conditions.
- Length-adjustable pants*: These trousers are not only very popular for hiking. Adjustable trousers are also very practical for climbing tours. Usually, these trousers can be divided at knee height with a zipper. So you always have the right trousers with you in warm and cold weather.
- Softshell Jacket*: A Softshell jacket is ideal for rain, wind and slightly colder temperatures. They are light, do not restrict mobility and fulfill their purpose as wind and water protection excellently. And when the sun comes out in between and it gets a little warmer, the breathable material doesn’t warm you up too quickly.
- Breathable sportswear*: There are not only breathable Softshell jackets – other garments such as shirts or trousers are also available in a breathable material.
- Hat/Cap/Bandana*: If you are climbing in high summer, you should have a head protection against the sun with you. Since there is rather no shadow when climbing, a sunstroke without proper protection is pre-programmed. A sunstroke, in addition to its other symptoms, also leads to an impairment of your concentration – and this should always be 100% when climbing!
- Water: Indispensable! Water is life and sports require a lot of it. The warmer the day, the more you need. If you’re working on a climbing route for over an hour, it’s not a bad idea to think about a water bubble. You can carry it on your back in a mini backpack while climbing and drink it with a small tube.
- Food: Depending on what your day looks like, you should also bring an appropriate amount of food. If you’re only climbing one afternoon, a sandwich and some fruit are probably enough. For longer tours, you should think about what to bring with you.
- Approach shoes for the way to the climbing route*: Half-high hiking boots are ideal for the way to the mountain. Make sure these shoes are particularly light. If you want to store your shoes in your harness or in your backpack, they should not be too heavy.
- Headlamp*: If you climb very early in the morning or into the evening, an LED headlamp is ideal. They are light, fit on the climbing helmet, are very bright and have a quite long life. Make sure you have fresh batteries or spare ones with you.
- Sunglasses: Sporty versions that adapt more to the shape of the head are best suited. As a result, the sun can no longer dazzle you so easily between glasses and face. Pay attention to good quality. A sunny day without shade is very exhausting for your eyes and often leads to headaches.
- Climbing Backpack*: A backpack for climbing should not be too big but still be able to carry your equipment. A volume of about 40 liters is ideal.
- Sunscreen: There is hardly any shade on the rock and sunburn is unpleasant, so pack some sunscreen when it gets sunny.
- Optional – Camera/Action camera*: If you want, you can also document your trip in pictures or videos. Of course, action cameras that you can attach to your chest or helmet are ideal. So you can capture and share your adventure!
Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on climbtheearth.com only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.
Disclosure: This website is the property of Martin Lütkemeyer and is operated by Martin Lütkemeyer. Martin Lütkemeyer is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to enable Web sites to earn advertising revenue through advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Links marked with * are affiliate links.