Outdoor climbing gear, as climbers we love buying that shiny new stuff however, with so much choice out there theses days, its becoming harder to understand what kit is best for and your chosen climbing style.
Hopefully, I can make things a little clearer and help you understand what and how much gear you'll need to pack into your climbing bag. In this blog post we are going to progress from kit for beginners, looking for their first sessions on rock, through to experienced trad climbers crushing routes on Cloggy.
First of all, this blog post isn’t about how to use gear, it is simply about sifting through what gear you'll need to get up outdoor routes. If you're reading this as a new to climber to the outdoors but already have some indoor experience, I would expect that you own your own indoor gear such as a harness, belay plate and some form of single rope. If not don't panic, another post will be on its way shortly about what to look for to get started with the basics.
On a quick note about buying kit, always look out for the UIAA symbol. The UIAA is the international body for climbing and is a 3rd party checker for any manufacturer producing climbing equipment. One of their basic functions is to be a 3rd party checker for any kit produced and put climbing companies equipment through a number of rigorous tests to ensure it is safe for use. If you see any kit without this symbol, buyer beware!
So lets get on with it! Outdoor sport climbing is a really good place to start, as it requires very minimal kit. Most of you will probably already have the basics for this style as it's very similar to leading routes down your local wall. There are a number of skills you will need to learn before progressing to leading sport routes outside however, kit wise it's relatively simple.
- a set of 10-12 Quickdraws between 12cm-25cm, (Chunky ones are better for Sport, skinny ones are better for trad as they are lighter)
- a couple of 120cm slings with a HMS style carabiner (to keep yourself safe)
- Assisted braking device (E.g a Gri Gri - a bug style belay device would also be fine if your strapped for cash.)
- A new shiny 60m single rope for the UK is more than perfect however, some sport crags in Europe are pretty monstrous in height, so an 80m rope could be a consideration for future proofing your rack.
Sport climbing is amazing and reasonably simple once you get to grips with it, however if you want to break into the adventurous world of trad climbing you will need a few more bits and pieces.
So, where do you begin? Well, becoming a second is the best way to start out, as you simply follow the leader up the route going “Second” and taking the gear out, this means that you can, yet again, get away with minimal new gear. With a bit of extra kit and a bit of know-how, you can follow you leader up pretty much any trad route, anywhere in the world, sounds good right? All you would need to add to your indoor gear is:
- 3 Screwgates (To keep yourself safe and clip to stuff, D shaped ones will be fine)
- 1 HMS Carabiner (for rigging purposes)
- Another 120cm Sling and carabiner (To keep yourself safe if your first one is busy, Dyneema ones are lighter but more expensive)
- A Prussik on a snap gate carabiner (Knowledge on how to use them is good too)
- A nut key and leash (For taking out those stubborn bits of gear out)
Now if you have seconded some trad routes, been leading sport climbs and wanted to start getting your own trad rack together, keep reading as I have put together a few lists to use for guidance, depending on where your at with your leading. If you have followed the lists above, you will already have your personal gear and some quick-draws. Now all you need is some gear to clip into and jumping straight into buying everything at once can be expensive and a big undertaking. So, here are some building blocks for you to build your own rack, as each block is roughly what you will need to get yourself up a route at each grade band. This way, you can just build up your rack at your own speed, by going through each block as you progress through the grades.
Mod – HS
- Set of 1-11 Wires (split them over two racking carabiners on your harness, The DMM Wallnut sets are excellent!)
- Set of 4 Hexes (Getting bigger from your biggest wire)
- Basic set of Cams (Sizes 1,2,3 or 2cm – 5cm ish. Try to stick with just one brand of cam and then the sizes will all match. The DMM Dragons are a popular favourite.)
- 1x 240cm sling (for building belays, putting over boulders or just tying up your mate)
- 2 x 120cm slings (for extending quick-draws or finding threads etc)
- 5 x rigging Carabiners
- 1 x HMS Carabiner (for clove hitching yourself into the rope)
- Trad Quick-draws 10-12 between 12cm-25cm (Skinny ones are better for trad as they tend to be lighter, but if you are on a budget then your existing sport quickdraws will be fine.)
- Nut Key
VS – E1
- More cams (00, 0, 0.5, 0.75 and a No.4 or a range from 1cm – 6.5cm ish. Again, try to stick with just one brand of cam and then the sizes will all match up.)
- 60cm slings (up to 4 slings with two snap gate carabiners per sling for using as extra-long quickdraws)
- Offset wires (double up the middle sizes of your existing brand to give you a bigger choice)
E2 and Up
- Micro cams (Micro 1, 2, 3 and 4 or less than 1.5cm)
- Possibly double up on cams (Between Micro 3 and a No2)
- Micro Wires (Brass or alloy/ offset or standard depends on the rock type and placements being used)
- Route specific kit (E.g. – Skyhooks, Ball nuts and Tri cams)
There are other things to think about for climbing outside for example; Half ropes, gear for multipitch climbing, clip sticks and bouldering pads that aren’t mentioned here, But that’s another topic altogether. As you get more experienced you will start to get an idea of what you need and be able to make decisions about your gear for yourself. Either way, we hope this helps you and if you are in doubt about anything here, give us a shout!
Matthew Shepherd - Senior Instructor PCS