Beginner Climbing Gear List

If you are a new climber, figuring out the all the necessary climbing gear that you will need over your first few months in the sport can be pretty intimidating.  There are what seems like hundreds of choices for rock climbing shoes, harnesses and even carabiners.  The objective of this post is to help narrow that process down into a comprehensive beginner climbing gear list covering the essential climbing equipment you that will take you to the next steps in your climbing career.

Beginner Climbing Gear List – The Big Three

As you progress as a rock climber, it is seriously worth investing in some of your own climbing gear. The most important and essential pieces of climbing gear are often referred to as “the big three.” The big three consist of rock climbing shoes, a climbing harness, and a climbing helmet (outdoors).

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List- Climbing Shoes -  La Sportiva Tarantulace

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear- Beginner Climbing Gear List- Climbing Harness - Petzl Sama

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List - Climbing Helmet - Black Diamond Half Dome

As long as you have these three pieces of climbing gear, regardless where you go in the world (whether climbing indoors or going on a guided outdoor trip), you won’t have to worry about renting equipment. This is why these items are considered “the big three.”

Of the three, the most important are climbing shoes. Good footwork is essential for climbing and the best way to develop a “feel” for the rock is by consistently wearing a well fit pair of climbing shoes. It is also nice to not have to think about the sanitary concerns of wearing nasty rentals.

There are a lot of styles of climbing shoes and climbing harnesses on the market.  To help you make an informed decision and pick the right gear specifically for you, definitely read:

Rock Climbing Shoes – How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes 

Climbing Harness – How to Choose a Climbing Harness

Beginner Climbing Gear List – Rest of the Basics

Depending on your indoor climbing gym, there may or may not be community chalk as well as belay devices available. That said, for your next purchase it is worth considering looking into picking up chalk, a chalk bag, and a basic belay device.

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List - Metolius Ultralight Chalk Bag

Chalk bags are exactly what they sound like… bags to hold your chalk.  They come in different sizes, fabrics, and patterns and I wouldn’t overthink it. Just make sure whatever bag you buy has an opening large enough to comfortably get your hand in. The last thing you want to be doing is fighting with your chalk bag when you are hanging at your limit and need some extra chalk. I personally really like (and use) the Metolius Ultralight Chalk Bag pictured above. It is super simple, light weight and has a great closure system to keep the chalk in your bag and out of your backpack.

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List - GriGriSeeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List - ATC Guide

The two basic types of belay devices are an assisted breaking device, such as the Petzl GriGri, or a tube-style breaking device, like the Black Diamond ATC or ATC Guide. Each device has its pros/cons, but both devices require proper training to use correctly. If you plan to continue on to trad climbing, I suggest you lean toward the ATC Guide.

For more information on belay devices, their differences and learning how to properly use them, read:

•Top Rope Belaying – Intro to Top Rope Belaying (article coming soon)

Some indoor climbing gyms may only allow a certain type belay device so make sure to check with the gym before making your purchase.  Obviously if you are climbing outdoors the decision is purely based on your own preference or the preference of whomever you are climbing with.

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Climbing Gear - Beginner Climbing Gear List - BlackDiamond Rocklock Carabiner

Regardless which belay device you end up going with, you will need a locking carabiner to secure it to your harness. For use belaying or attaching myself to an anchor, I prefer to use a large pear shaped locking carabiner like the Black Diamond Rocklock pictured above.

Beginner Climbing Gear List – Bouldering

The only specialized climbing gear you need for bouldering is a crash pad and some climbing shoes.

Seeking Exposure - Rock Climbing - Bouldering - Climbing Gear -  Beginner Climbing Gear List - Crash Pad - Black Diamond Mondo

Essentially a crash pad is a large portable pad that you place at the base of a boulder problem when bouldering outdoors. This way, you are not landing on the bare ground if you fall off.

•Bouldering Crash Pad – How to Choose a Bouldering Crash Pad (article coming soon)

Beginner Climbing Gear List – Where to Buy

When it comes time to actually purchase your rock climbing gear, you can either lean toward a local climbing shop or a large retailer. Each has its own pros and cons, but in general:

Store Type Pros Cons
Local Climbing Store Better gear advice from actual climbers More stringent return policies
Large Retailer Employees may not have actual climbing background More lenient return policies

If you do decide to use a large retailer, I have had very good experience dealing with Backcountry, REI, and Moosejaw.

Backcountry – Rock Climbing Gear

REI – Rock Climbing Gear

Moosejaw – Rock Climbing Gear

Backcountry has the best selection by far, but for purchases with a high probability of being returned (like climbing shoes), I tend to lean more toward REI or Moosejaw. The reason is because they have actual “brick and mortar” stores, which gives a little bit more flexibility for making “in-store” returns (obviously depending on where you live).

Quick notes on the Beginner Climbing Gear List

Although not necessary, as discussed in the Rock Climbing – A Beginners Guide to Rock Climbing, before venturing into the world of outdoor climbing, it is worth gaining experience at an indoor climbing gym bouldering or roped climbing. It is also important that when you do initially move outdoors, you are accompanied by a rock climbing guide or more experienced climber until you are confident enough with your technical skills that you can climb safely on your own. With that in mind, this gear list will not include gear more advanced gear such as climbing ropes or climbing protection for building anchors.

If you are interested in more advanced gear lists, check out…

Top Rope Climbing Gear List

•Trad Climbing Gear List (article coming soon)

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La Sportiva Tarantulace Rock Shoes Petzl Sama 2 Harness - Men's Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet Metolius Ultralight Cylinder Chalk Bag Petzl GRIGRI 2 Belay Device Black Diamond ATC-Guide Belay Device Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate Carabiner Black Diamond Mondo Crash Pad

  2 comments for “Beginner Climbing Gear List

  1. July 20, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I found your article “Beginers Climbing Gear List” simple, informative and helpful. I look forward to your article “Beginers Trad Climbing list.
    Thank You
    Robb Thorn

    • Chris
      July 25, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Hey Rob,

      Appreciate the feedback. Feel free to reach out to me anytime at ccasciola@seekingexposure.com if you would like to see more information on a particular topic.

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