Nutrition & Health
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Date Posted: 1 February 2023
Staff member Shaun has been climbing outdoors for 11 years and has worked as a climbing instructor for two years. Here's his checklist of gear, complete with explanations, alternatives and his own personal preferences.
First step is to find someone who knows what they are doing and convince them to take you and show you the ropes… literally.
If you have the option to practise in the gym first, then do it. It’s a much safer way to learn how to clip and it requires less gear. If you are starting in the gym, you’ll only need the usual basics (shoes, harness and helmet) plus a rope and belay device.
Below is a checklist of gear you’ll need to sport climb outdoors with a brief explanation, potential alternatives and why I personally use them. Your climber friends’ advice may vary. For some background I’ve been climbing for 11 years outdoors and have worked as a climbing instructor for 2.
Anything comfortable. Seriously they will all hold a fall, so just go for comfort and in the hotter climates maybe something more breathable. Only point of safety I’d note is to have the sports and belay loops be a different colour to the rest of the harness. This will help your belayers spot improperly threaded knots.
This is optional for some people. It is not optional for people I climb with. Helmets are so light these days that there is no reason to not wear one. You won’t notice it, I promise. It will protect the back of your head if you get your leg tangled in the rope and fall upside down (this happens more than it should) and it will keep your belayer conscious on the friction device when you rip a rock off the wall and throw it on their head accidentally.
You will have your shoes from the gym. They will do for outdoor climbing just fine. Outdoor climbing is slower though, so you’ll be spending more time in these shoes than normal. Break them in at home!
Make sure to get the biggest, fluffiest and prettiest chalk bag so people know you’re serious.
I would start with a standard 60m/10mm rope. Most climbs in Australia are only 30m tall and a 60m rope is perfect to get up and back down again. Remember, if you want to get belayed back down, a 60m rope can only take you 30m high.
The thinner the rope the lighter it is, and the less rope drag you will experience, but it’ll also break faster and cost more money. Dry treatments for ropes were originally made for ice climbing but also help keep finer dust for getting into the core of a rope. This extends its life and increases its handling for tying knots. However, this will also add to the cost of the rope.
DO NOT get a thin rope if you are new. Ropes below 9.5mm are not recommend for some belay devices and run much faster, making mistakes with friction devices more punishing. Start with a cheaper rope as you won’t really feel a performance enhancement from the expensive ones, plus everyone mistreats their first rope.
For an exact number of quickdraws check your local guide to see how many you’ll need. 10 is standard unless you go multi-pitching or are doing climbs that involve top outs (no getting belayed back to the ground due to rope length issues). Try to have some shorter and some longer draws. It might not matter at first, but once you start to get stronger you will notice that a longer draw placed in a good spot can really reduce rope drag on longer, windy climbs. Never start a climb with an unknown number of bolts. Count the draws beforehand.
Carabiners are used for so many things. I recommend more than two, but it depends on your party. You need one for belaying with and one for your safety line. It takes a few carabiners to set up a top rope anchor if you don’t like using non-locking quickdraws. Any method of cleaning an anchor uses at least one carabiner. I use old ones to set up my hammock as well. Try to keep carabiners separated by use. Those used on sharp fixed hangers can cause excess wear on ropes when used with a friction device.
This is tied to your belay loop and you will attach a carabiner at the other end. DO NOT LEAVE THE GROUND WITHOUT ONE. It’ll cost $8 max. If at any point something goes wrong with the belay, you use this to go in direct to a bolt. It is also an independent point of safety when cleaning an anchor to get your gear back. Dynema is less obtrusive than nylon, but costs more.
This is up for debate across the internet, so I’ll quickly summarise for you. Learn on a friction device such as the Black Diamond ATC. The ATC can do anything you’ll need it to do and is relatively cheap. Once you get the hang of things then use a Petzl Grigri for the added safety but never get complacent and RELY on that added safety. It is harder to rappel off though, and adds a lot of unnecessary weight when multi-pitching.
Cuts, scrapes and bruises are a part of outdoor climbing. Scapes on dirty rock walls get infected easily, so a basic first aid kit is advisable. In any serious accident though you’re going to call emergency services. I recommend taking a basic first aid course before doing any activity outdoors where emergency services would take a while to arrive.