As warmer weather beckons, it’s time to dig out your climbing gear and start planning your next weekend trip. If you’re a rock climbing newbie, you may be at the stage of getting geared up for the first time. While eventually you’ll have the whole kit and kaboodle – shoes, helmet, harness, carabiners, ropes, belay device and chalk – shoes and helmet are where you’ll most likely get started. As with all adventure gear, it’s a good idea to get the best quality rock climbing equipment, because you’ll be depending on it, sometimes quite literally.
Getting a grip
Finding the right shoes is the foundation of your rock climbing gear, because it’s basically your feet that propel you up a rock face. Having a grip can do wonders for your sense of balance, which is what climbing is really all about. Shoes should fit your feet and your climbing style. Rock shoes are designed for aggressive, moderate or neutral climbing effort. The fit and design varies according to the difficulty of the climb, and also on how long the shoe will be worn.
Neutral rock shoes are a good choice for all day wear or for newbies. Moderate and aggressive rock climbing shoes have curved toes and stickier soles that help the climber get a better grip. Climbing shoes are not made for walking (or running or other activities) and should only be used for that purpose. Using them on any surface other than rock can ruin them.
Choosing the right helmet
A helmet can keep you safe from falling rock and debris from above. It also provides protection from impact against the rock. The right fit for a helmet is when it feels snug but not tight. Like climbing shoes, helmets should be chosen according to fit and the type of climbing you do. All helmets have internal strapping and a hard protected outer shell.
There are many different types of helmets but the two major kinds are hardshell and shelled foam helmets.
Hardshell helmets are the more traditional variety, with an extra-hard outer shell which is usually made of ABS plastic. There is a thin foam liner and a an internal strap suspension system. Shelled foam helmets are lightweight, with a thick layer of impact-absorbing polystyrene or polypropylene foam overlaid with a thin polycarbonate shell. These also have excellent ventilation, which makes them a good choice for warm weather climbs.
Finding a guide
If you’re new to rock climbing, it’s essential to find a good guide and to climb as part of a team. Introductory classes teach the basics including belaying, rock climbing techniques, as well as communication signals on the rock and how to choose the right climbing partner and location. At this stage the supplies for rock climbing will be provided, but you’ll learn enough about them to pick out your own rock climbing equipment when you’re ready for it.
Getting the right rock climbing equipment can be an exciting step in your progress as a climber. You’re essentially getting ready to leave behind the beginners’ walls and pitches and moving on to meet the rock on its own terms.