On the surface, rock climbing seems to be a fairly straightforward sport--you find a rock, then make your way to the top of it. As with any sport, however, there are wide variations on the initial concept, and with those variations come a wide range of necessary tools. At its most basic, the sport requires only a pair of climbing shoes and a bag of chalk, and as climbs increase in length and difficulty, gear requirements build on those basics.
One thing that every climber needs is a pair of shoes. Everything else can be borrowed from someone else, but properly fitting climbing shoes are of major importance to any climber. If you're just starting out, it's OK to borrow a friend's pair, but if you plan on making a habit of climbing, it's a good idea to buy your own.
Check out shoes at sportiva.com.
Bouldering and other unprotected forms of climbing are the most minimalistic in terms of gear. Since these forms of climbing have little or no fall protection, bouldering requires little gear. Most boulderers generally carry three main pieces of gear: rock climbing shoes, a bag of chalk and a crash pad to land on.
For a look at some innovative crash pads, check out flashed.com.
Sport climbing usually consists of climbing much taller walls than bouldering, and there is a proportionate increase in protection. Climbers are attached to one end of a rope, which is either run through a chain at the top of the wall or clipped into bolts that are drilled into the face itself, with another climber, controlling their eventual descent from the other end.
In addition to rock climbing shoes and a chalk bag, sport climbers will need a harness, a climbing rope, locking carabiners, a belay device, quickdraws and a helmet.
Take a look at some ropes at bluewaterropes.com.
Traditional, or "trad" climbing, is similar to sport climbing, but instead of clipping into bolts that are pre-drilled into the wall, climbers must make their own protection by placing their own hardware into features on the wall for them to clip into. In addition to the gear mentioned in the bouldering and sport climbing sections, trad climbers must add nuts, wires and cam protection of varying sizes to fit into the wall.
Check out metoliusclimbing.com for a look at traditional climbing gear.
Article Written By Billy Brown
Billy Brown is an outdoor sports writer living in Northern California.
An avid rock climber and trail runner, he's been writing about outdoor activities, fitness and gear since 2005. He regularly contributes to "The Record Searchlight," uncooped.com, and Trails.com, as well as other print and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and is a NASM-certified personal trainer.