The objective of this post is to give climbers looking to transition into climbing outdoors a comprehensive top rope climbing gear list for building their own top rope rack.
To accomplish this we will first touch on each of the items before providing a complete list at the end of the article. It is assumed that the climber already has the items mentioned in the Beginner Climbing Gear List. As such, we will not discuss basic items such as climbing shoes or a belay device.
If you are interested more advanced gear lists for trad climbing or sport climbing, make sure to read…
•Trad Climbing Gear List (article coming soon)
•Sport Climbing Gear List (article coming soon)
Top Rope Climbing Gear List – Climbing Rope and Static Line
Given you already have the basic climbing gear, your next investment is buying a quality climbing rope.
For more information on choosing the best climbing rope for you, be sure to check out:
When building top rope anchors, static line is essential for extending your anchors over the cliff edge. Unlike climbing rope, static line is usually sold directly off the spool and cut to length. Static line is also much easier to use both for building anchors as well as keeping yourself safe while working in an exposed location. For those reasons, static line is preferred over webbing and is the primary method taught to rock climbing guides as part of the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) certification.
Different people have different opinions on the recommended diameter for the static line used in top rope anchor building applications. I have seen ranges from 9mm to 11mm. Regardless how big or small you decide to go on diameter, I strongly suggest at least 30 meters in length to give you a lot of optionality for building anchors.
Note that although static lines do have a place in climbing systems, they are NOT meant to be used as a “climbing rope.”
Top Rope Climbing Gear List – Climbing Protection
With regard to actually purchasing climbing protection, your options are either active gear or passive gear. Your goal is to eventually build your top rope rack to include both. Because passive gear is much cheaper, a common strategy is to start building your rack with passive gear and then slowly adding active gear over time as you gain experience.
To learn more about the different types of climbing protection read:
With regard to passive pro, your basic choices are climbing nuts (also called stoppers) or hexes. Because there are usually larger rock features and more protection opportunities at the tops of cliffs, I would honestly lean more toward hexes purely for top rope anchor building applications.
If your eventual goal is to progress into traditional lead climbing, hexes are very rarely carried and you would be better served buying a set of nuts. If you do buy nuts, make sure to include the larger nut sizes for top rope anchor building applications.
•Climbing Nuts – How to Place Climbing Nuts (article coming soon)
•Climbing Hexes – How to Place Climbing Hexes (article coming soon)
Although more expensive, once you understand how to properly place climbing cams, they are the fastest and easiest way to place protection in a uniform parallel sided crack, period. Climbing cams are an incredible tool to have in your arsenal and without a doubt, provide the backbone of just about every trad and top rope climber’s rack.
Top Rope Climbing Gear List – Other Hard/Soft Gear
After climbing rope, static line, and rock protection, the only other gear you will need are a few regular carabiners, locking carabiners, and one or two runners.
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I am a huge fan of using large pear shaped locking carabiners like the Black Diamond Rocklock for anchoring and belaying applications. Another area this type of carabiner excels is when creating the master point on top rope anchors. The large oval shape is perfect for allowing the climbing rope to easily slide through the carabiners and the carabiners are built to just take a beating.
In addition to my larger burley locking carabiners, I also like to have a few smaller lightweight locking carabiners that I can employ in the actual anchor system. I prefer to keep my belay/anchor locking carabiners separate from my lightweight locking carabiners since they have different primary uses.
Next up are regular carabiners. These will be used for everything from just keeping your climbing gear organized to connecting different parts of your anchor. You will need a quite a few of these bad boys.
Finally, I would suggest picking up one double length runner and one triple length runner or cordelette. Double length runners come in handy when equalizing individual parts of the anchor. Triple length runners or cordelettes are useful for equalizing multiple pieces of gear or wrapping trees for anchor setups like what the AMGA calls the Fox System (article coming soon).
A triple length runner is just about the same functional length as a cordelette and can be used as a substitute depending on the climber’s preference. Material does not matter, but just be aware of the pros and cons of each as well as their intended purpose before deciding.
•Nylon vs. Spectra/Dynema – Does Material Matter? (article coming soon)
It might also be worth learning how to use your climbing rope or static line to equalize different parts of your anchor. This is an advanced application, but really helps save time and gear when utilized properly.
•How to Utilize Your Climbing Rope When Building Anchors (article coming soon)
Top Rope Climbing Gear List – Putting It All Together
Now that we have briefly touched on each of the items a climber will need as part of their top rope rack, let’s put it all together into a single comprehensive list for two climbers heading out for a day of top rope cragging.
From the Beginner Climbing Gear List:
Rock Climbing Shoes – 2 pairs
Climbing Harness – 2
Climbing Helmet – 2
Chalk bag – 2
Chalk – enough for 2 climbers
Belay Device – 2 (1 should be functional as a normal rappel device)
From the Top Rope Climbing Gear List above:
Climbing Rope – 1
30m Static Line – 1
Set of Climbing Nuts or Hexes – 1
Set of Climbing Cams – 1 (optional)
Large Locking Carabiners – at least 3 (1 for the belayer and 2 for the master point)
Small Locking Carabiners – at least 2 (for use within the actual anchor system)
Regular Carabiners – Depends on how you decide to rack your gear, plan for at least 10
Runners – 2 (1 double length and 1 triple length or cordelette)
Top Rope 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:
|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.
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