Climbing requires giant granite walls and warm sunny days, right? Nope.
Even when it’s 0 degrees outside or raining sideways, you can climb in almost any city in the world. Climbing gyms are popping up all over the place and most offer cheap single sessions, gear rentals, and classes if you need them.
Once you’ve learned the proper knots and how to put a harness on, you can hit the climbing gym any time with friends and get a killer workout. And if you hit the climbing walls regularly, you’ll be as nimble as Alex Honnold scaling El Capitan. There’s nothing like hauling your post-holiday carcass up the wall to light your forearms on fire.
Most gyms rent out everything you need to get started but when you want to take it the next step and get a bit of gear, what do you need?
A belay device, shoes, and a harness are your main tools for climbing. These are the basics you’ll need every time you go. It’s easy to rent, but eventually, you’ll want to find your favorites and get used to using them. Knowing how to use your tools goes a long way.
The Mammut Zephir is a lightweight, super breathable climbing harness ideal for gym climbing. The webbing splits open on the back, distributing the weight across a wider area and making it more comfortable. Air moves freely through the expanded mesh to keep you cooler when the gym has the heat cranked a little too much.
This webbing, and the lightweight Dyneema belay loop, make the Zephir easy to pack going to the office or traveling. The bottom tie in point gets a lot of wear but has a plastic cover for more durability. After lots of use, red threads in the belay loop start to show through and you’ll know it’s time to replace.
Second of the three climbing essentials is the belay device. This is the small metal device that attaches you to the rope when your partner is climbing. By slowly feeding the rope through the belay device, the rope will catch if your climber falls.
The Mammut Smart 2.0 belay device is lightweight with no moving parts. By keeping your hand on the rope and pulled down slightly, the rope pinches against the carabiner and easily catches your climber in a fall. Other devices require a lot of effort to keep a hold on the brake end of the rope. The extra friction on the Smart 2.0 device makes it easy. To lower your climber after topping out, just push up slightly on the thumb groove which allows the rope to slide out.
Pair this with Mammut’s Smart HMS carabiner.
Climbing shoes don’t have to be wince-inducing vice grips on your feet. Beginner and intermediate shoes can be quite comfortable for wearing all day on the easier routes. The Tarantulace climbing shoes from La Sportiva are the perfect mix of stiffness and high-performance rubber with a comfortable shape and breathable leather upper. They fit a wide range of foot shapes and stretch a touch to conform to your foot shape.
Climbing shoes tend to get torn up during the learning process, scraping them along rock walls and holds. The Tarantulace won’t break the bank when you’re wearing through shoes quickly. If you need something even easier to get on and off for quick gym sessions, the Tarantula version has velcro closures.
To round out the climbing-specific gear, we need a chalk bag. They’re just small pouches that hang off the back of your harness or on a waist strap of their own to hold your chalk.
Slick, sweaty hands are tough to climb with. The integrated, refillable chalk ball in the Black Diamond Gym Chalk Bag lets you buy cheaper loose chalk but keeps it contained in a neat and tidy ball. There’s also a slot for certification cards you might need at the gym and a holder for brushes if you’re cleaning holds. The Gym chalk bag can clip directly to Black Diamond harnesses or comes with its own waist belt.
All this gear needs isn’t going anywhere without a good way to transport it. The folks at Mammut have spent a lot of time working at the office all day and then heading to the gym for a lunch or evening climbing session. The Seon Transporter backpack has two compartments that fold open completely, one for business, one for play.
The business compartment against the back has pockets for a laptop, a tablet, documents, and all the digital accessories. The main pouch on the front is much larger to store climbing clothes, a harness, and a belay device. A separate zippered pouch fits climbing shoes perfectly. Small vents on either side of the climbing shoe compartment let fresh air through so you’re not greeted with a bad dose of “eau de climbing shoe” on your next gym visit.
Climbing is hard on clothes. They have to be durable against the rock surface. They have to protect you from the sun if you’re outside. They have to breathe well when you’re climbing hard in warmer temperatures. The Pale Ale short sleeve button up shirt from Outdoor Research can do all that and even go to the pub after for a drink.
The UPF 15 sun protection in the Pale Ale’s fabric keeps you out of the sun if you decide to venture outside the gym. A hint of spandex lets the shirt move with you whether reaching for the next climbing hold or that cold beer afterward. The rest of the fabric is a combination of nylon for durability, cotton for a smooth feel, and Tencel Sun, a soft, moisture-wicking fabric made from sustainable wood fibers with a cooling effect. Now you can always be comfortable drinking and climbing (but not both, right?).
A good climbing pant is hard to find. They have to be stretchy, comfortable, retain their shape, and breathe well. The Prana Stretch Zion Pant is easy to wear every day because of its comfort and stretchiness.
They’re UPF 50+ for hot days outside. The bottoms are a bit baggy to easily go over boots for hiking and then roll up the bottoms and snap them in place to climb. A low-profile built-in belt stays out of the way of a climbing harness and backpack waist belts. If you need extra staying power, they do include additional belt loops. When you’re just hanging on the wall making your belayer do extra work, an extra zipper on the cargo pocket makes it easy to get your phone out from a seated position to take those “Look, Ma, I’m climbing!” selfies.
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