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Climbing has grown in popularity over the past decade — evidenced by the sport’s debut at this year’s Olympics. And the rise in rock climbing is easy to understand, since it’s a full-body workout that gets you outdoors (or to the gym) and helps take your mind off everything else. If you’re one of the many adventure-seekers looking to start climbing, you’ll need some of the best climbing gear.
Whether you’re hitting a gym or climbing outdoors, there are several pieces of essential gear to get started. This collection will no doubt grow and change as you get better and more specialized, but a few items are necessary for every climber, like climbing shoes, a chalk bag and even a helmet.
(Note: If you’re just starting out, we recommend taking lessons from a pro at a climbing gym, so you can learn how to properly climb and use your gear at the same time.)
What’s the Best Climbing Gear?
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up the best climbing gear that everyone from newbies and pros should have in their arsenal.
1. La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoes
Unlike some sports, you can’t get away with climbing in anything other than purpose-built climbing shoes. Climbing gyms often have them for rent, but, if you plan on going more than once, it’s worth the investment to get your own pair.
For beginners, we recommend the La Sportiva Finale. They’re very comfortable with a relatively neutral shape and enough padding to handle cracks. With symmetrical toe boxes and a flat front, they’re on the less aggressive side. That means you won’t be doing any crazy bat hangs, but that will come down the road. Also, a note on sizing: Be sure to size down a bit for a secure, snug fit.
2. Black Diamond Momentum Harness
Like your first climbing shoe, beginner harnesses should be comfortable and versatile — not specialized or high-performance. This Black Diamond Momentum harness is just that, as it can be used for gym, sport or traditional climbing, as well as belaying. You get plenty of adjustability thanks to TrakFit leg loops (adjustable leg loops are also essential for mountaineering), as well as speed adjust buckles on the waist. On the sides, you’ll find four pressure-molded loops for chalk, rope, carabiners and other gear. The whole harness is relatively lightweight at 10.7 ounces, although you may want to get something lighter at a later date.
3. Arc’teryx Ion Chalk Bag
Chalk bags are an inexpensive and easy to way make climbing easier and more fun. By keeping chalk close at hand during a climb, you’ll be able to keep your hands dry for a better grip. This is doubly helpful for new climbers who are prone to sweaty palms (no judgment).
One of the best chalk bags out there is this Arc’teryx Ion. With a wide, rigid opening and a gently tapered shape, accessing chalk is very easy — no matter your position. Because it’s constructed using tough 210-denier cordura nylon, rips or scuffs are very rare. The bag also has a handy zippered pocket for stashing small items, as well as a loop for holding your brush. When not in use, a simple drawcord keeps the chalk securely enclosed.
4. Petzl Grigri + Belay Device
All climbers should learn to belay at the same time they learn to climb, so it’s a good idea to have a reliable belay device in your starter gear kit. Our recommendation is the Petzl Grigri+, an upgraded version of Petzl’s best-selling Grigri.
The Grigri+ is an assisted braking belay device, meaning it will automatically lock under sudden force if your climber falls. Although the Grigri+ is more advanced than a standard tube device (the most common belay device style for beginners), it still works the same way. There’s a switch on the side that changes focus from the top rope to the lead rope, as well as an anti-panic locking system that closes if the brake’s handle is pulled too hard.
5. Petzl Attache Locking Carabiner
Once you get a belay device you’ll need a locking carabiner as well. We suggest a classic locking screw-gate such as this Attache from Petzl. It’s very easy to use with a large gate clearance and a pear shape. The Attache also features a convenient red safety stripe that makes it easy to see whether the carabiner is locked or not. All in all, it’s an extremely versatile tool to be used for everything from belaying to rappelling to daisy chains.
6. Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
It’s never a bad idea to have a helmet for outdoor climbing. Rocks or gear from other climbers can fall on you, slips when roped in can result in painful head knocks, and, of course, there’s the (unlikely) possibility of a real fall.
To protect your head, pick up one of these Half Dome helmets from Black Diamond. With a weight of about 12 ounces, a polycarbonate shell and co-molded foam, the helmet is lightweight and comfortable enough for all-day use. Extra features include an adjustment dial for one-handed use as well as clips for a headlamp.