(Photo courtesy of Rsriprac via WikiMedia)
Need some advice on what gear you need to get started in sport climbing? Want to upgrade the gear you already have? Let one of our Gear Institute faculty educate you on the latest and greatest products from top brands across the outdoor industry. Here’s our list of the perfect sport climbing kit.
People often attribute their love of sport climbing to a love of movement over the rock and not having to deal with the hassle or stress of traditional gear. The Petzl Sitta ($160) is a super lightweight harness that allows for the fluidity of movement over stone that sport climbers love. Made with Petzl’s Wireframe technology, the Sitta gets rid of traditional foam padding and incorporates strands of Spectra cord through the waistbelt and leg loops to distribute a climber’s weight. The result is a incredibly light and compact harness that feels like you’re wearing next to nothing, allowing you to focus on the movement you love.
Abundant options exist for those clippy things we use while sport cragging. One popular option are the C.A.M.P Photon quickdraws ($17.95-$24.95). The Photons are the lightest full size carabiner in the world so you get to enjoy the weight savings in a full size package for easier handling and a large gate opening. My friends and I have joked that the rope just clips itself into these things thanks to their favorable gate action. Available in a variety of versions to fit your tastes, my favorite is the Mixed Express KS, with a straight gate on top and a responsive wire gate on the rope side of the draw. Plus, the recently updated version includes a handy retainer to keep the rope end carabiner in place for clipping.
Your head can start spinning when considering the myriad options for climbing ropes. While some swear by the skinny, dental floss like cords that are becoming increasingly popular, the old school types tend to still argue for a cable-like rope over 10 mm for durability. A happy medium is the BlueWater Lightning Pro ($167.95 – $269.95), which at 9.7mm provides a great measure of both the lightweight and easy handling of a small cord, while providing a good measure of durability too. Plus, if you’re a numbers person, you’ll appreciate the high fall rating (8 UIAA falls) and low impact force (7.8 kN). Available in 60, 70, and 80-meter lengths, standard and dry treated, and a bicolor option with three sweet colors, you’ve got plenty to choose from to add to your sport kit.
We’re not trad climbing here, so we don’t need to do the mountaineer’s coil after every pitch. Keep it simple and just shove that rope into the Black Diamond Super Chute ($44.95) rope bag. A generously sized tarp provides plenty of space to keep your rope clean, and off the ground, while making it super easy for stowing as you move to the next climb. Countless times I’ve “tsk-tsk-ed” people for trying to coil my rope at the crag when all you have to do with the Super Chute is grab the edges and let it slide into the large bag at the bottom. Color-coded green and red straps allow you to tie off the ends of the rope, making it a cinch for locating the top while securing away the bottom as well.
Opinions about belay devices are kind of like talking about politics at the dinner table. Everybody has one, and you’ll be hard pressed to change it. But, I’ve known countless people who have purchased the Edelrid Jul2 ($29.95) after giving it a shot on a climb. Users regularly comment about how smoothly it feeds rope and how secure they feel with this device, which doesn’t include the handle of many other assisted locking devices. It is compatible with a wide range of rope sizes (8.9 – 11 mm) so you can comfortably belay your buddy on his fat, fuzzy working rope and again on his redpoint burn when he grabs that skinny 9 mm.
A big allure of sport climbing for many is minimizing the risk found in other forms of climbing. The Trango Squid ($29.95), when attached to an extendable painter’s pole, allows you to clip and unclip draws on those high first bolts, or preclip the rope on a hung draw with relative ease. At first, this move comes across as a bit of a circus trick, impressing people with how quickly you can place draws on and off bolts. But, the true value comes when climbers discover how this technique can take away much of the stress they feel over the risks of leading.
Increasingly I see people donning helmets at the sport crag, but few want to wear old, heavy institutional type head protection when they can wear a lightweight, breathable helmet that you barely know is there. The Singing Rock Penta ($89.95) fits the bill quite nicely, with all of those features plus the ability to stylishly accessorize by choosing one of four attractive colors. The molded foam that the Penta offers provides great protection, while the chinstraps are comfortable, narrow and light, Plus, it looks good and that’s a big part of sport climbing, right?
After a friend lost feeling and strength in one half of his body due to a bulging disk in his neck, I promptly started to consider the condition of my neck from the repeated and regular craning as I looked up. I promptly went out and bought the CU Belay Glasses ($120-140) and made them a part of my regular kit. These reading glass like spectacles have prisms that allow belayers to keep their heads level while still maintaining a watchful eye on their climber. High quality glass has proven to offer clear vision while managing to stay scratch free. The frames are one sinewy piece of metal completely free of hinges that can often provide a breaking point. You might look goofy in them at first but if you visit any prominent sport crag these days you’ll notice them popping up left and right.
What are you going to dip your hands in to keep them dry and primed for pulling? Check out Friction Labs chalk ($10 for 2.5 oz.), a high performance blend of chalk that is a purer form of magnesium carbonate. I like putting on a base layer of their Secret Stuff ($29) first and then dipping into one of their three blends of chalk that range from fine to super chunky. And while you’re dipping, what are you dipping into? I know many climbers who have spent some bucks swapping out their carabiners just to save a few grams here and there. But you could save up to 100 grams simply by switching to the Metolius Ultralight Chalk Bag ($22.50). That weight savings could come in hand for your big onsight attempt, and it comes at a fraction of the price.
Want to weigh in on these products? Have alternatives to offer? Leave a comment below!