Figuring out the kind of climbing equipment you really need to get started can be a daunting task, especially for a beginner. As a beginner heading out to the outdoors, you are most likely accompanying a more experienced and well-equipped climber to the crag so the climbing rope will possibly be provided for you. Also, you are unlikely to be leading routes or setting and cleaning up anchors.
It is prudent to buy what you need, only after you are certain that rock climbing is something you are keen to pursue. When you are ready to get your own climbing gear, you probably want to start by getting personal gear that is enough to get you to the crag to start learning the ropes and climbing safely.
Here are the 5 must-have pieces of climbing gear that you need to get you ready for the rocks.
1. Climbing Shoes
These are not ordinary shoes; they are specially designed to protect your feet and provide the necessary friction on the rock as you climb.
It is important to remember that:
Climbing shoes should fit snugly without being painfully tight.
Climbing shoes are not made for walking long distances and doing so can ruin them. For the hike from your car to the base of your climbing area, wear approach shoes, trail runners or other appropriate footwear. Climbing shoes are for climbing only.
Climbing shoes are not made equal. There are different categories of shoes ranging from neutral to aggressive, and your choice can be guided by the type of climbing or your foot technique level. Aggressive shoes have a thin, downturned shape at the front with sticky soles that provide an excellent feel of the rock that provides you with a strong and powerful position for stepping on small holds with precision. If you’re a beginner climber, you might prefer a neutral shoe that’s comfortable to wear while you develop your technique.
2. Climbing Harness
A climbing harness is essential for any roped climbing as it is a critical part of the safety system that secures the climber to the rope or an anchor point. The harness is worn (and adjusted) to fit snugly around the hips and thighs, and is designed to provide comfort for the climber during long climbing sessions.
When getting your harness, it is important to remember to:
Choose the climbing harness based on the type of climbing you plan on doing.
Get the right harness for your size based on the hip and thigh measurements labeled on each harness.
3. Climbing Helmet
Climbing helmets are made specifically for rock climbing. They are essential when climbing outdoors to protect your head from falling rock and debris, as well as provide protection in the case of a fall.
It is important to remember to:
1. Get a helmet that is comfortable and light-weight enough to wear for extended periods of time.
2. Buy a helmet that meets the UIAA regulations for rock climbing.
3. Fit and adjust your helmet to sit snugly (but not too tightly) and flat on your head, and secure the chin strap properly before climbing.
4. Belay Device and Carabiner
The belay device is a special device that is used to help the belayer control the rope. Used correctly, a belay device creates manageable rope friction that helps the belayer catch a fall, lower a climber or feed/take slack when the climber is on the rock. The locking carabiner is the metal loop (usually aluminum) with a spring-loaded gate on one side that is used to safely and easily secure the belay device to the harness once the rope is passed through the belay.
5. Chalk/ Chalk bag
Climbing chalk is magnesium carbonate powder that you apply to your hands to keep them dry and to give you extra friction to improve your grip on the rock. Chalk is carried in a chalk bag; a small, closeable pouch, usually with a drawstring closure, worn around your waist as you climb.
6. Crag Sandals
We know we said 5 but we could not leave this one out! Crag sandals may not be ‘essential’ climbing gear but they are undoubtedly a must-have! After climbing a route, there is no better feeling than removing those hot, tight, and sweaty climbing shoes and slipping into a pair of sandals or crocs.
1. Choosing the right climbing gear is essential
Your choice of gear could mean life or death when on the rock. Do not skimp on your climbing gear at the expense of your safety!
2. Always inspect your gear before climbing
Whether you own it or rent it, always inspect gear before use. One key advantage of buying your own gear is that you know its history.
3. Gear is only as good as the climber using it
It is crucial that you take a class or find a mentor to guide you through your climbing journey. Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you’re practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you climb.
4. You will inevitably need more gear
As you progress in your outdoor climbing, more gear will be needed to be able to climb safely. The kind of gear you choose to buy beyond the basic must-haves will greatly depend on the type of climbing you choose to pursue.
5. There is a very limited selection of climbing gear in Kenya.
The options available for purchasing new climbing gear in Kenya is at Decathlon in Nairobi or by asking someone coming into Kenya from abroad to bring you what you need. Used climbing gear can be sourced from other climbers leaving Kenya and who may be selling off their equipment here. Due caution must however be exercised when purchasing second hand climbing equipment. Some limited gear may also be available for hire within the local climbing community.