Posted on September 11 2014
Climbing is a sport with many different disciplines from bouldering to mountaineering with many different options in between. In this article I have tried to talk about the main pieces of gear which span all the different areas of climbing. It is by no means and exhaustive list but should get you stared.
Shoes are essential for all pure rock climbing disciplines, Sport Trad and bouldering. Now the traditional advice for shoes is they should be very tight, in fact taking you shoes off between climbs because they hurt so much is pretty common. As a beginner I am not sure this is the best advice to take, your shoes need to snug but they shouldn’t be painful. You want to make sure you enjoy the climbing not be in constant pain. The modern shoes designs are also much better so you don’t need to cram your foot into it. Choosing a brand is down to personal preference, there is not a massive difference between the major brands so go for the ones which fit well and look great. Extra features like sticky rubber, heel hock area, velcro and aggressive shape are all nice once you improve but by far the most important factor is how you place your foot and not what shoe you wear.
Your personal safety device used in all rope forms of climbing the harness is an essentially piece of kit. There are of course hundreds of different types out there. I believe that the most import mat factor in a harness is comfort. Often you will be hanging in your harness for considerable periods during your day. So don’t sacrifice on the comfort. After comfort you can start to look at the other features, if you are doing lots of Trad climbing then a gear loops are important, for sport climbing you may want to look a lightness and for mountaineering you might want adjustable leg loops to go over thick mountain gear.
Ropes come in many sizes and shapes. There are twin ropes, double ropes, whole ropes and static ropes all of which in a variety of thickness and lengths. Twin ropes are a pari of ropes which tend to be very thin and light, they must be used together to be safe, so when you climb with twin ropes both must clip into every piece of gear. The advantage of the twin rope is primarily the weight they save. Double ropes are also a pair of ropes but both are full strength, so this allows you to clip either rope to any piece of gear. They are particularly useful for routes which are not straight, as you can clip different ropes to reduce rope drag as you move upwards.
There are thousands of different types of protection you can by. I am not going to into all of it here but they fit into two categories, passive protection and active protection. Passive protection is something you put into the rock in such a way that it wedges there. If you fall it will hold you weight with out moving. Examples of these nuts, hexs, and slings. Active protection is where the device flexes or moves under the load of fall to lock into place. For example a camping device allows the user to pull a handle back to make the cam smaller so it fits into a crack, when they let go it will stay in place. When you fall onto it the force of the fall forces the cams to expand and lock into the rock, and stopping the fall.
Sometimes called extenders these are simply pieces of equipment which contact your protection to the rope. There are load off different types, however the main thing to remember is to buy a number of different lengths. This allows you to be flexible when you are climbing and overhang or route which moves around the face a lot. Having long extenders helps to reduce drag on your rope.
This is a whistle stop tour of the climbing gear world, designed as a rough outline for the beginner.