The Perfect Kit: The Beginner Climber

The Perfect Kit: The Beginner Climber


Want to get started with climbing this year? Not sure where to begin in terms of gear? Here’s a look at some great purchases specifically with a new climber in mind.


Shoes are often the first purchase climbers make. You can borrow a helmet and harness much more easily than shoes. You definitely want to get the proper fit and avoid sharing foot funk with someone else. The Scarpa Origin shoes ($89) are a great option for your first pair. They are easy on and easy off with their Velcro straps and the leather uppers feature soft, padded tongues with a flat profile to create a comfortable fit for a wide range of uses. I’ve worn these shoes for hours at a time on long routes and used them on edges, smears, and in cracks. Scarpa’s Vision rubber works great while face climbing and the flat soles are perfect for jamming into cracks.


This colorful harness stands out not only for its eye-popping visual effect but its comfort and versatility. The Singing Rock Onyx ($49.95) features an easy-to-use speed buckle, four friendly gear loops, ergonomically constructed waistbelt and leg loops, not to mention plush padding for comfortable wear. And at less than 50 bucks, it won’t break the bank for beginners who have a lot of gear to buy for their first time out.


Protect that noggin’ with the light and easy-to-adjust Mammut Rock Rider ($79.95). The best helmet is the one you’ll actually wear and the Rock Rider takes away a lot of the excuses you might have for leaving it at home. It’s lightweight, breathable, and easy to adjust with three colors to choose from. Plus, at just under 80 bucks, it will leave you with money leftover to spend on other climbing necessities.


There are a plethora of great ropes out there but one that has caught my eye is the Edelrid Boa Eco ($149.95 for a 60 meter). It’s a smooth handling and durable rope that represents a great value for the price. By utilizing leftover yarns, this rope is both environmentally friendly and visually attractive. Each rope has its own unique design thanks to those recycled yarns, creating a colorful rainbow-like pattern in each rope.


When you are ready to head out for your sport leads, check out the C.A.M.P. Orbit Wire quickdraws ($13.95-14.95). Featuring two wire gate carabiners, one with a straight gate and the other bent, these draws handle and clip well thanks to their size and responsive construction. The nylon dogbone runners are a good balance of size and weight and include a rubber retainer to keep the rope side carabiner in place.


Most climbers start out with sport climbing but if you’re lucky, you’ll have a climbing mentor who will teach you the fine aspects of trad climbing early on. And, if you fall in love with it like I did, you’ll be anxious to buy your first cams. If so, consider the DMM Dragon Cams ($69.95-84.95) to get your rack started. The Dragons feature a dual axle and anodized cam lobes that are color coded for easy identification with a matching Dyneema sling that is extendable. DMM’s patented TripleGrip cam lobes have a raw aluminum finish and are constructed to increase the holding power of the cams, particularly in soft rock or sub-optimal placements.


For building anchors one of my favorites are the Metolius 18mm Slings ($5.95-12.95), available in three lengths; 10, 23 and 47 inches. These wide slings take knots well and are easier to untie compared to their skinny cousins. Many beginners also enjoy the security of a dedicated personal anchor chain and Metolius recently released an Alpine PAS ($24.95) that is 40% lighter and also less bulky compared to anchor chains of the past.


When building toprope anchors I like using steel locking carabiners to help my hands –and rope – stay clean of the black aluminum oxide that comes from the aluminum used in other carabiners. I love using the ClimbTech Steel Lockers ($10.95) on the master point of a toprope anchor because they last significantly longer than aluminum and they close with a simple twist of the double action locking mechanism instead of being screwed shut like traditional locking carabiners.


All that new gear won’t do you any good without the proper instruction. Climbing is not the kind of thing to figure out on your own. Quality instruction will help keep you safer and dramatically increase how fast you progress in the sport. Seek out AMGA trained and certified guides or classes from trusted sources. You can also study at home with Freedom of the Hills ($39.95). In its 8th edition, this classic tome of climbing instruction is a great reference for knots and techniques. Pair it with the Crag Survival Handbook ($19.95) to help give you the low down on the ins and outs of climbing outside, from tech tips to crag etiquette. Finally, while face climbing can be pretty straightforward to figure out, crack climbing can be just plain dumbfounding. Save yourself some skin and crank up your learning curve on cracks with The Crack Climber’s Technique Manual ($28.95), a thorough and detailed look at how to fill those spaces and make upward progress.

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