Rock climbing is certainly moving up in the world; not only is indoor rock climbing commonly practiced in gyms, but the sport was also headed to the 2020 Olympics for the first time ever. With more and more people taking to the climb, it’s becoming more evident that the right information about gear and safety needs to be readily available.
When it comes to indoor climbing, the rules are pretty straight forward, but once you take to the outdoors, things get a little trickier. The time of year at which you’re climbing will determine the kind of techniques that you use, routes that you take, and gear that you need. Plenty of the same rules still apply, but there are a few important ones that work best during the summer.
Back in 2012, there was a survey conducted that found 37% of climbing incidents occurred in summer. This is due to the fact that many people preferred to rock climb in the warmer months, and the various challenges presented during summer that many may not expect. Summers can often fluctuate in temperature more so than winter; you’ll need the right gear when climbing during the warmer months to deal with the varying conditions, from clear, cool mornings to hot, midday mugginess. Let’s take a look at what to consider when looking for rock climbing gear this summer.
The first thing that you’ll need to do is to research where you’re rock climbing, and the appropriate gear that you’ll need. When climbing in the summer, lighter layers on top are recommended, and pants that can be converted to shorts for the bottom. You’ll want to look for materials that are athletic and breathable. Heavier items of clothing will absorb sweat and could end up weighing you down. This can cause dehydration and energy loss, as well as putting you in a dangerous situation.
While the gear you use to rock climb will stay the same all year round, there are some more specific things that you’ll want to pay close attention to when looking for climbing gear in the summer:
Shoes should absolutely be at the top of your list. It’s one of the harder purchases to make, because it’s such a personal thing and there are so many options to choose from. You can have a look at this guide on beginner rock climbing shoes from ExIceMaiden to get a solid understanding of quality climbing shoes. As one of the most important points of contact between you and the rock, you’ll want it to feel like you’re not wearing any shoes at all.
If you are new to climbing, your feet might not be very strong, so bent or curved shoes might hurt to stand on; however, those features are great for more experienced climbers. A neutral rock climbing shoe is probably what you’ll want to go for if you’re a beginner. Choosing the wrong shoe can lead to some nasty stuff, such as bunions, ingrown nails, metatarsalgia, and even toe deformities.
Another key factor when choosing footwear is finding climbing shoes that are waterproof. No matter what time of year, or whether you’re wearing approach shoes or boots, it’s always best to go waterproof; you never know what you might have to trek through.
You’ll want to focus on non-restrictive items. Pick apparel that’s functional, but stretchy and tough. Many rocks are abrasive, and can easily tear lightweight clothing. Without a strong material, ripping is almost guaranteed. You need to stay mobile when rock climbing, and you don’t want your clothing to restrict your movements. Wear loose pants, shorts, and tops, so that you can move and step as you need.
Also, when choosing your clothing gear, you’ll want to avoid things such as cotton materials. Rock climbing is considered a fat burning exercise, and you know what generally happens when you exercise? You sweat. Cotton traps moisture, and can carry up to 27 times its own weight in water. The higher you get, this can cause issues—namely more cold and wet. Because cotton doesn’t usually dry fast, you may also be left feeling colder for a longer period of time. Synthetic materials will help to keep you dry, and there are many options that deal better with moisture and are comfortable and waterproof. Synthetic options could help you to stay cool, without making you unnecessarily cold as you climb higher. (3)(4)
When it comes to the bottom half of your climbing ensemble, many people prefer long shorts or pants. Shorts that are specifically designed for climbing are cut to protect your legs, and to be long enough not to get caught up in the harness leg hoops. Capris or three-quarter-length pants work great as well, not only to help you stay cool but also to protect your legs—especially your knees—from scrapes and cuts.
For the most part, choosing headgear is the same year-round, but to make things more comfortable and still offer some protection from the sun, you should consider using a visor. Visors work well worn under a climbing helmet to protect your face from the sun. Regular caps often have a button on top, which can get kind of uncomfortable, and they don’t always fit well under a helmet. A visor is the perfect compromise.
Almost every climber knows the benefits of using chalk when climbing—especially in warmer climates, where you’re more likely to sweat and get clammy hands. If this sounds familiar to you, chalk could be a Godsend. The size of your chalk bag could depend on your hand size, or what you’re most comfortable with. Many climbers over the years develop a larger hand size, so you might want to consider a zip bag with a big enough opening so that it won’t be an awkward fit. It’s encouraged to hang your chalk bag on a length of prusik cord, and to get a bag with a zip to ensure that you aren’t losing any chalk as you go.
The following is some more gear that you’ll most likely need:
Climbing ropes: Rock climbing ropes have elasticity, to absorb your weight and energy should you fall. There are also static ropes available, which are used to pull up equipment and as an anchor.
A harness: for outdoor and indoor climbing, your harness is what connects you—the climber—to the ropes holding you up. When choosing your harness, it’s all about comfort, especially if you’re a beginner; however, you should also look for an option that has enough loops for your belay device and ropes.
A belay device: you’ll probably hear this term thrown around quite a bit in the climbing world. A belay device is essentially what you use to control your rope. It should provide an easy way to stop the rope if you were to fall, and to control your descent when traveling downwards.
Protection devices: there are a few different protection devices out there that provide you with the ability to create a temporary anchor point on any rock during a climb. This is to help with your ascent and to prevent falls. On average, roughly 30 people actually die from rock climbing each year, so it’s important to have the best protection out there.
A carabiner: these are essentially rope connections. Carabiners are spring-loaded metal loops; there are locking and non-locking options available. They’re mostly used to attach a rope to an anchor, or to connect the climber to the middle of a rope.
It’s good to make price and quality comparisons before making any purchases. Check reviews, and ask questions in-store to gauge the equipment’s quality. You can even see if they’ll price-match, or offer you a deal based on how much you buy.
Once you’ve done your research and you’ve found your gear, there’s no better way to gain an idea of how your climb will go than by testing it all out. You don’t have to go out and do a pre-climb or trek; you can simply go for a run over rocky terrain, or head to a rock-climbing facility.
Check for comfortability and breathability in your clothing. You don’t want to be too cold, nor do you want to feel suffocated or dragged down by your gear. Especially when using ropes, hooks, or a chalk bag, it’s important to be sure that they’re fixed to your harness properly and that they aren’t too big or too heavy. The more comfortable you are, the better and safer climb you’ll have.
Remember that if you’re trying rock climbing as a complete beginner, it’s always advised to do it under supervision—at least until you’ve learned and mastered all the techniques and skills, and have become very familiar with the equipment.
Regardless of whether you’re new or a total pro, finding the right gear is a crucial aspect of the climb. Before you start anything, you need to know where you’re climbing and the conditions on the day; is it going to be sunny, humid or clear? Summers can often fluctuate throughout the day, so you must be prepared for anything. When finding gear this summer, remember to look for weather-appropriate clothes, hats and head gear, chalk bags, and—of course—the right footwear.