Rock Climbing Gear

In rock climbing there’s quite a bit of gear depending on what type of climbing you want to do. If you’re just going indoor climbing at a local gym you’ll only need a few items, if you’re going trad climbing in Patagonia however, you’ll need a good amount of gear. Like anything else in the outdoors, rock climbing can be extremely expensive, or not too pricey, it’s all up to your style and how much you want to spend on your gear. One thing I’ll always say to splurge on, though, is the shoes. Rock climbing shoes will never be the comfiest thing you’ve worn, but some are certainly more comfortable than others. I bought the La Sportiva Katana for my first pair of shoes. The toe is pointed a bit more than most shoes I see, but I actually like that a lot. I feel it gives better grip on those tiny foot holds. The shoes are lace up which I like, the tongue wraps around the entire top of the shoe so there is no bunching, left untied the shoe still fits snug enough to climb, they grip well on indoor walls (haven’t tried them outdoors yet)and for me they’re very comfortable. I also have a pair of MadRock Flash 2.0 that I just got for free with a membership to Central Rock Gym in Hadley. These shoes are a pretty run of the mill. Nothing fancy about them but for a retail price of $82 you can’t expect them to climb for you right? They have two Velcro straps instead of laces which are needed because they don’t form to your feet very snug (if you have all around larger feet they might fit better but my skinny feet don’t fill the shoes). I absolutely hate the tongue, unlike my La Sportiva shoes the MadRock shoes have two flaps that meet in the middle for the tongue. This system isn’t very comfortable and it’s very easy to pinch the top of your foot which may not sound bad but when you pinch it and then have a seam digging into the same area, it’s a bit of annoyance. I noticed I was slipping off every little hold with these shoes but I’m hoping they just need to be broken in a bit. Something I do really really like about these shoes is the gel heal which makes walking very comfortable. Over all the shoes are fairly comfortable aside from the tongue issue. I think I’m going to end up using these shoes for mainly outdoor climbing, if I can find anything good around here. Another essential piece of gear for any climbing, in my opinion, is chalk. The purpose of chalk is to dry out sweaty hands and therefore provide better grip on holds. Chalk bags cost from $10-30 depending on size, style, and who makes them. My first one was a black diamond standard bag that was $15, my girlfriends bag is a very slightly bigger petzl bag that cost $25. I’ll never knock anything petzl makes because their stuff is phenomenal, but the chalk bag is overpriced. My new Camp chalk bag is almost double the size of the Black Diamond and was only an extra $5. If you want to get into top roping, lead climbing, trad climbing, sport climbing, mountaineering, or any other type of climbing you’ll need a harness. If you’re not sure what all these types of climbing are, look for my follow up article that should be up pretty soon explaining them. The harness I use is a Camp harness which is not a top name but works just fine for me, and my wallet. I like this harness a lot, it’s perfect for sport climbing, but probably not ideal for trad. It’s very lightweight, comfortable, and safe. It has 4 gear loops which can be used to hold various things such as; chalk bag, belay device, quickdraws, cams, stoppers, and other things. The above items will be explained in a moment so don’t feel intimidated if you’re lost. And again with harnesses you could spend $50 like I did or go for a nicer Petzl or Mammut that are nicer but sometimes have things you don’t need adding unnecessary weight.

Left to Right: Belay devices, quick draw, stoppers, chalk bag.

Left to Right: Belay devices, quick draw, stoppers, chalk bag.

 

 

 

Belay devices: These are used to safely stop a falling climber and to let them repel at a controlled rate. They are an absolutely 100% necessary piece of gear when doing any type of climbing with a rope and harness. If I could recommend one belay device it would be the Petzl GriGri 2. I however don’t have one yet because it costs $95 and I’m not ready to sink that much into a belay device. They are worth every penny however because they have an automatic brake in them and control descent for you. The first device I got was a Black Diamond ATC XP. It’s $20 and does everything you need it to, you just actually have to pay to attention with this one (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE DOING!!!!). Along with that you’ll need a locking carabiner, the Black Diamond Big Air XP belay device comes with one for $30. The device I just recently bought is the Mammut Smart Alpine device. I absolutely love it! It’s a fairly big device but not really that heavy like you’d think. This device, like the Petzl GriGri 2, stops a falling climber automatically. If you look at the picture to the left you’ll notice it has a large side with a couple holes in it and a smaller side with no holes. The larger side is where you clip your locking carabiner. You use the smaller side to control a climber descent, with your hand off the side no rope with flow through, the more your pick up on the side, though, the more rope is allowed through. My friend and I were using it the other night for the first time and it took a little getting used to. I found it easy to use but if you’re not paying attention you can easily let out rope too quickly. Overall I’d recommend anyone get this device, and quick while it’s still on sale for $30 instead of $50 at Eastern Mountain Sports.

Quickdraws: A quickdraw is simply two biners with a runner in between. They are used to be clipped to either a bolt in the rock, your cam, or your stopper and then to your rope to catch you in case of a fall. I currently only have one because I don’t lead climb yet, but I will be taking the class at CRG within the next couple months.

Cams: A cam is a piece of active rock protection. It’s referred to as active because it has moving parts. Most cams have four lobes but you can also get tri-cams which have three lobes. The disadvantage of using tri-cams are they have less points of contact with the wall and they’re not as strong in general. But they are still good, especially for beginners, because they are much cheaper. A typical cam will run anywhere from $50 to $120 depending on size. Whereas you can pick up a tri-cam for closer to $30. For cams the best one you get in my opinion, and Climbing Magazines April 2013 101 Best Gear Tips Of All Time issues opinion, is the new Black Diamond Camalot X4. The other model I recommend is the Camalot C4. These cams are pretty similar, the biggest difference is the X4 being a full lobe size smaller. I know a couple people who trad climb a bit and they all love the C4’s.

Stoppers: A stopper is a piece of passive rock protection because it has no moving parts. It’s essentially a block with a piece of steel cable running through it and forming a loop at the opposite end to clip to. Stoppers are great to have because they come in a bunch of different sizes, some smaller than cams will do, and are very light. They’re also very cheap! I currently only have two as I start to build my rack for when I do get to go trad climbing, but they were each $8.

One more important piece of equipment to get, the rope. Obviously you need a rope for safety reason but how big? Well, most ropes come measured in millimeters ranging from 8.9 up to 10.2 is what I’ve seen. An 8.9 rope will probably hold up just fine for any climber, however if you know you’ll be falling a lot, I’d go with something thicker like 9.8 or more. A rope will probably be the most expensive single piece of gear you buy with an average price of over $200.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor bouldering then something you’ll need is a crash pad. A crash pad is a pad of foam, usually 3-4 inches thick, and helps keep you from getting seriously injured. When outdoor bouldering it’s important to have other people with you and those people being spotters. The job of a spotter is to sort of catch you in a fall, they mainly try to catch your head and will sometimes be able to keep you standing instead of falling down and possibly missing the crash pad.

If you’re brand new to the amazing, and dangerous, sport of rock climbing, please do not use this blog as your only means of knowledge. Everything on here will keep you safe but you still need a trained professional to practice with and learn the correct way to do things. There’s a ton of videos on youtube and I suggest watching those too, that way when you do seek out a pro, they have much less to go over. If you can demonstrate knowledge of basic knots and an understanding of gear, they’ll be able to get you climbing quicker and with less things for you to try remembering.

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Hiking and Tenkara

Hiking and Tenkara, two completely different ways of enjoying the outdoors that can go hand and hand. I’ve been hiking since I was super young but never enjoyed it the way I have in the last couple years. Of course when I was younger I’d run all over and jump on the rocks and stuff. But now I enjoy it much more because I rarely stay on the trail, at least not for the ascent. I have so much fun climbing up the few hundred feet of rocky areas and don’t mind that I have no bigger mountaineering type mountains around me. The only mountain “nearish” to me is Mount Washington and that is still only about 6,000 feet. Still more than double the size of anything in the close area but it’s a few hours and a couple tanks of gas away. And along with hiking is my other passion, Tenkara. I’m about a year deep in my journey of learning Tenkara and have loved every second of it! Tenkara is an extremely versatile style of fishing and very simple. It is exactly what hikers and backpackers want. The best part is its super light, easily less than 8 oz for your entire setup if you do it right. Mine is even slightly lighter than that I think. I carry my “technically tanago” but to me backpacking Tenkara rod (Diawa Soyokaze 9′) weighing in at 1.6 oz. I have a random set of forceps, fishpond nippers, a spool of 5x/6x/7x tippet depending on where I’ll be fishing, a small fly box with all the flies I need for a week or more, and last but not least are the line spools. All of that weighs in at about 3 oz.  I typically carry two spools. 1 setup with a longer line and one set up with a shorter line. I prefer to carry it all in my pockets or right in my backpack when hiking instead of lugging around a bulky fishing pack. Although I love my fishing vest for local streams its not very practical for longer hikes. If you’re the type of person that likes nets, TrailLight Designs makes a titanium net weighing just 2.4oz. Its incredible how light things are getting these days. Some people prefer to get a hip pouch that slides onto their belt to carry all their fly stuff, however by not using one of these or a net I’m able to have an extremely light set up! One major thing I want to point out about hiking and tenkara is that you don’t have to spend tons of money, these activities cost virtually whatever you choose to spend. I spent about $100 to get a rod, line, spool and tippet as i mentioned in my previous article, ‘Beginners guide to Tenkara: part one’. For my day hikes I spent about $200.

The Talus Ridge OutDry

The Talus Ridge OutDry

I spent $90(regularly $145) on my shoes that are Columbia Talus Ridge Outdry, they keep the water out(sort of) and keep warmth in. Very comfortable and sturdy. They are rated for carrying up to 30-35 pounds of gear and are meant for harder dirt surfaces. They will not excel in the Rockies but are great for the Appalachians. Highly recommend these shoes, very comfortable.

The Merrel Bare Access 2

The Bare Access 2

A bit heavier than some other shoes like the Merrel Bare Access 2 at just under 1lb 13 oz but they’re stronger so to me it’s a fair trade off. Shoes like the Bare Access 2 are trail running shoes and thats all they’ll ever be. I took them for a few trail runs this week and iI’m impressed by the lightness of these shoes. They have 4mm of a Vibram sole so they’re certainly a barefoot runner. Very flat bottom providing pretty good traction, though the Talus Ridge have better grip. Overall I would recommend these for anyone trail running or looking for an extremely lightweight shoe. I got the shoes(Talus Ridge) with a higher weight rating than I needed because I usually pack a bunch of stuff I won’t use in my pack if I’m going out for a quick day hike just as a conditioning thing. And the pack I carry is usually about 25-30 pounds. However the last time I went backpacking, which was only my second time ever going, I had my pack at just over 5 pounds not including my water. I carried a lightweight pot, 3 esbit tabs, 3 REI stormproof matches and striker, a shaved down plastic fork, a shaved down tooth brush with just enough toothpaste for my overnight, some pasta for food, about 2 liters of water if I remember correctly, the clothes on my back, and a very thin fleece blanket. The reason I took the fleece blanket was to have something to lay on that night. I used my pack as a pillow and kept on my clothes to stay warm though I think the temp was about 60 at the lowest all night if that. The best part about the trip was the trout I caught for 2 out of the 4 meals. Unfortunately on this trip I didn’t bring my camera or even my phone to take some pictures which was a bit of a bummer because I saw some pretty gorgeous things. I wanted to see just how lightweight I could go on this trip. And keep in mind that was my second ever trip, this summer I’m hoping to go a lot more! I’m hoping I can go with actual gear this time though. There’s nothing like sleeping right under the stars, but there’s also nothing as annoying as waking up with bugs all over you. Still can’t decide if I want to get a lightweight tent or go with a Hennessy Hammoch but more on that when I actually decide. As you can see Tenkara and Hiking go together perfectly for me, how does this work out for you?