If you're planning on an adventure that involves hanging by a rope, you'd better make sure that the rope - and all necessary gear - is reliable and sturdy. If you're a beginner, you may not want to take out a second mortgage for your new hobby, but quality climbing gear is very important. And if you're planning to climb Mount Everest, you'd better have the best gear money can buy.
Indoor or outdoor climbing?
Most beginners get started with indoor climbing. This enables them to learn the necessary skills to scale walls, rocks, or mountains safely. Many experienced climbers often keep their skills sharp by practicing at indoor climbing sites as well.
Another advantage to beginning at an indoor facility is that the vast majority of these gyms allow patrons to rent or use stock climbing equipment for practice. This allows people to evaluate their aptitude - and their commitment - to the sport before investing in harnesses or other hardware, like belay devices. Of course, many people prefer to purchase their own helmets or shoes early on; this equipment is a little more personal.
Bouldering is becoming an increasingly frequent pastime for both beginning and experienced climbers. This involves climbing rocks or smaller boulders without using ropes. In fact, bouldering requires very little climbing gear at all.
Crash pads, also referred to as bouldering mats, are essential, as well as climbing helmets. Most climbers also take along essential accessories such as climbing holds and climbing shoes. Chalk and chalk bags are also needed.
Sport climbing is also becoming very popular with climbers. Bolts or anchors are permanently placed into the face of a rock. Climbers wear a climbing harness, climbing helmets, and sturdy climbing shoes use a climbing rope, as well as a rope bag, to scale the surface of these walls. Sport climbing, like bouldering, also requires the use of chalk and a chalk bag.
Of course, experienced climbers still turn to traditional climbing for the real challenges. These climbers use ropes and more equipment to climb large mountain peaks or scale steep cliffs. Traditional climbing involves the use of removable climbing aids that are placed into cracks in the rock's surface instead of bolts or anchors. Some examples of these protection devices include carabiners, nuts, and cams.
Climbers then use a rope to climb up the face of the mountain. Climbing gear for traditional climbing involves the usual climbing helmet and climbing shoes. Climbers nearly always use climbing harnesses and belay devices with traditional climbing, as well as climbing bags.
When even a mountain is not enough, some truly daring adventurers turn to ice climbing. They scale glaciers or frozen waterfalls rather than mountains. Of course, the equipment for ice climbing is very specialized, requiring special ice climbing boots or mountaineering boots, as well as proper winter clothing, and specialized ice climbing tools.
Some tools used especially for ice climbing include protection devices like ice crampons or ice screws. Others prefer ice pitons. Most climbers also equip themselves with climbing axes and special climbing rope. Rope used for ice climbing is called dry rope, because it has been treated with a coating that repels water. Ice climbers also used standard climbing equipment, including belay devices, harnesses, climbing bags, carabiners, and climbing helmets.
Most climbers are very choosy about their preferred climbing equipment, as well as their climbing apparel, because their lives sometimes depend on their choices. They typically focus on quality climbing apparel made by well-known manufacturers like Black Diamond or Metolius.
Climbing apparel includes shoes, helmets, sunglasses, gloves, shirts, pants, and sometimes even shorts, depending on the weather. Helmets are also necessary; these offer protection from falling objects as well as head protection in the event of a fall. Climbing shoes are manufactured with rubber soles that are very stiff. These help provide good traction while climbing.
Climbing bags are designed to carry climbing equipment, while a chalk bag contains chalk used for rock climbing. Most climbers attach these to their climbing harnesses so they can reach them easily. Harnesses are designed to connect the climber and his or her rope. Harnesses are secured about the climber's waist and legs, making the climb both easier and safer.
Some climbers use single rope, while other climbers use double rope, or half rope. Other climbing ropes are also available, including rappelling rope, climbing slings, or cords. Climbers carry extra ropes in a rope bag. Belay devices are used to control the movement of the rope. These act like brakes to slow the climber's descent. Releasing the belay device will speed one's descent.
In addition to climbing ropes, climbers use climbing holds to assist them in climbing up or down the rock's surface. Different types are available. For example, cams, or camming devices, are spring loaded and are inserted into cracks in the rock's surface. Upon insertion, the climber pulls an axle and the cam expands and is secured into the rock.
Another commonly used climbing hold is a nut. A nut is a small wedge that has been threaded onto a wire and is placed in a crack as a protection device. Climbers secure their ropes to these protection devices with carabiners. Some people use quickdraws, which are two carabiners that have been connected with short lengths of webbing.
Small, medium or large?
For traditional climbers, the two most critical pieces of their gear are their climbing shoes and their harnesses. Using properly sized gear makes the climb much safer and more comfortable.
Climbing harnesses are sold in varying sizes, from extra small to extra large. Climbers who find themselves in between sizes should choose the size that cause the waist belt and leg openings to fit snugly, but comfortably. Different manufacturers size harnesses slightly differently. For example, a Black Diamond harness marketed as a medium size is constructed with a waist size between 30 and 33 inches.
Special women's climbing harnesses or children's climbing harnesses have been designed specifically for women or children. Additionally, specialized harnesses are used for ice climbing; these are designed to fit persons garbed in warm winter clothing. Climbing harnesses are also manufactured specifically for other types of climbing, such as alpine or big wall climbing. Multipurpose climbing harnesses are also available.
Climbing shoes are required for most types of climbing, but in certain cases, climbing slippers can also be used. Both are designed for protection and traction. Shoes should fit tightly, but comfortably. Street shoe sizes are often different from climbing shoe sizes; try on several pairs and find the right fit before buying. Additionally, remember that leather climbing shoes without a lining will stretch approximately 1/2" with wearing. Other shoes are less likely to stretch.
Climbing is exciting and challenging, but without the right equipment, it can be dangerous. Keep yourself - and everyone in your climbing party - safe by choosing proper quality gear and following the safety rules you learn. And if you're considering a serious challenge, such as climbing Mount Everest, get plenty of experience first!