Helmet and Harness
Whether it is cool to wear a helmet when climbing is not really a consideration for beginners. Helmets are a must have especially for beginners, as there will be spills, slips and falls. Even short drops can result in severe injury should a climber hit her head on the way down or on the ground. There are several very good and relatively inexpensive helmets available for beginners such as the Petzl ROC, which runs around $60. Features of this helmet include ratcheting micro adjustments for a proper and secure fit and low weight.
A properly fitting harness is a must have for both safety and comfort. Ranging in price from the $35 up to $100 and more, harnesses are available from several reputable manufacturers. When purchasing a harness it is wise to avoid the temptation to buy a basic non padded version. Padding is not necessarily a luxury, especially after several hours tied to a line on the rocks. In other words, your body will thank you for spending a little extra on padding. An excellent choice for the beginner climber is the Arc'Teryx Skaha which runs in the $60 range. This harness will serve the beginner through the learning curve and beyond and is a good investment for the money.
Climbing shoes can make an enormous difference during a climb by giving the climber support and helping him to push through difficult parts of the rock. A good pair of shoes for the beginning climber from a manufacturer such as Five Ten or La Sportiva will cost around $125. These will serve a newbie well into the next phase of climbing. However, for an upgrade that will include soles designed to handle a wider and more severe range of rock conditions you may want to choose a shoe such as the Five Ten Hueco, which runs about $140 a pair. Remember, shoes make an enormous difference during a climb.
Hardware, Rope and Gear
When considering rope, beginners should stick to rope diameters in the 11mm range. Blue Water ropes are an excellent choice as well as a great value. Dollar for dollar, these are some of the best ropes on the market. At first, avoid the rush to start buying gear that you may not need. The beginner will need a D shape locking carabineer as well as a figure eight for belay and rappel purposes. Black Diamond manufactures excellent hardware and is a good choice for the beginner. Finally, you will most likely want to consider a chalk bag. There will be times when your hands will become damp from a variety of factors and the chalk you carry will absorb the moisture and enable a secure grip on the rock. Metolius makes several bags in a range of designs and prices.