This article discusses five essential pieces of gear necessary those new to rock climbing outside of a gym and includes shopping tips when purchasing equipment.

Summer is just around the corner, as is a new season of climbing. For those who have been to a climbing gym a few times, and want to spend more time outside on the rocks this year, the following pieces of gear are must-haves for any climber.

Harness

A sturdy climbing harness is the piece of gear most needed to keep a climber safe. All commercially made harnesses are made of nylon and have padding to keep the user comfortable when on a rope. Many have a buckle that requires the climber to retrace the webbing back through the buckle, which adds to the strength of the harness.

When buying a harness, try it on first at the store for comfort and fit. Some stores have a rope hanging in the climbing section, which allows one to hang on the rope to test the harness to see how well it fits.

Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes provide an advantage by utilizing sticky rubber, which allows the climber to cling to the rock face. These shoes are sold with either tie-up laces or Velcro, and are oftentimes designed for specific types of climbing, such as sport climbing or overall, mountain rock climbing. They will fit more snugly than street footwear, for better control and feel of the rock. For this reason, many climbers will not wear socks as well.

Shoes are another item that should be purchased at a gear store. Getting the fit right is important, and a trained salesperson can help to find the right shoe. The store may have an area of simulated rock to test the shoes on a climbing surface.

Belay Device and Carabiner

A belay device is used to stop the fall of someone who is climbing. There are many varieties of belay devices on the market, with different techniques on their use. Knowing how to use this critical piece of gear is important, so ask the salesperson for a demonstration.

The carabiner used for the belay device is bought separately. These are oftentimes ‘D’ or pearl shaped carabiners with a locking gate that can be screwed shut, increasing its strength for holding a fall.

Climbing Helmet

The helmet is designed to protect the head of a climber from an impact, from falling rock, or from the impact of the climber hitting the side of a cliff. Climbing helmets are tested for durability, and come in different styles for comfort and fit. Try them on at the store to determine which one is best.

Chalk bag and Chalk

Chalk bags hold climbing or gymnastics chalk, which is used to keep the hands dry when climbing. These small bags are either strapped around the waist with cord or a small nylon belt, or clipped to the back of the climbing harness with a tiny carabiner. Chalk bags are sold in a variety of styles and colors.

Make sure to buy gear that is new; second-hand items may have microscopic cracks or weakened nylon that the seller is unaware of. Always try on the equipment for fit, and test it at and home to make sure it works. That way, when it’s time to climb you will be ready to enjoy how much fun climbing is!