Gear Basics for Rock Climbing

Gear Basics for Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is inherently dangerous. With proper gear and training the risks can be sufficiently reduced to enjoy climbing on a regular basis without fear of injury. Different types and styles of rock climbing require different types of gear. Traditional climbing requires ropes, harnesses, carabiners and other gear to protect the climber during a fall, while bouldering only requires the use of a padded mat placed in the fall area. Besides bare-footed climbing, all forms of climbing use special shoes with "sticky" rubber to grip the rock. The following gear list is just the basics.

Rock Climbing Shoes

The rubber used on the soles of climbing shoes provides better traction on rock than the rubber on ordinary sneakers. The fit is usually tight, but not unbearably painful. Some are stiff, while others are flexible, and some are good at grabbing small edges and others gritty faces. A rock shoe should be selected based on the climber's experience as well as type and style of ascent. There are many general purpose shoes that are suitable for a beginner or all-around use.



Climbing ropes can be dynamic or static. Dynamic ropes stretch to reduce impact shock on the climber and safety system during a fall. Static ropes are mainly used for hauling equipment or rappelling. Dynamic ropes are tested against Union Internationale des Associations D'Alpinisme (UIAA) standards to ensure the rope will not break during a normal fall. They come in lengths of 50 or 60 meters with diameters ranging from 8 mm to 11 mm.


A harness is necessary to connect the rope to the climber. One can be made using webbing, but these are potentially dangerous. A good harness is comprised of adjustable leg loops secured to an adjustable waist belt. The harness should fit well and be easy to put on and take off. The comfort of the harness is vital to its performance because a climber may have to hang from the rope for long periods of time. A poor fitting harness may cut off blood flow to the legs during hang periods or cause pain.

Belay Device

The best way to belay a climbing partner is with a belay device. The rope passes through this device during a belay and with proper use can put enough friction on the rope to stop a falling climber. It does not, however, prevent the climber from ascending. There are different types of belay devices including tube, plate, automatic and the figure eight. The tube belay device is the most common.


Carabiners are loops of aluminum alloy with gates used for linking together climbing gear. They come in different shapes and sizes for different uses. Some can also lock when in the closed position. The shapes of carabiners include oval, D and modified D. The most important use of carabiners is connecting the rope to anchor points including the belay anchor.

Other Gear

There is an abundance of climbing gear on the market available to climbers to increase their safety and comfort while climbing. This includes nuts and spring-loaded cam devices for anchor placements; crampons, ice screws and ice axes for mixed rock climbing; bouldering pads for bouldering; quick draws for sport climbing; and even clothing designed especially for climbing.


Article Written By Tim McGivern

An outdoor enthusiast, Timothy McGivern has been writing about his adventures since 2005. He founded "The Sustainable Cyclist" in 2008 and maintains a personal blog covering rock climbing experiences throughout the United States. He is a bicycle mechanic, licensed engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Union College.

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