Recently, as you may have read, I took my buddy Josh out to rock climb for the first time. I have been climbing for almost a decade and used to work at a gear shop, which was great for Josh, but you may not have the same connections to someone with all the gear and extra for others.
Rock climbing is growing in popularity, which means you too might want to try it for the first time and want to know where to start.
“So what’s the first thing someone needs to get started in rock climbing?” Josh asked me. Historically, the climbing gear took a bit of knowledge and was uncomfortable to use, but now days it is much easier, much more comfortable, and much safer, which appeals to more people. However, a lot of the gear is a bit pricey, especially for families on a budget—but don’t get discouraged just yet.
Climbing gear is like starting a collection: as your skill and knowledge develop, you acquire more gear over time. The first thing to do is get the basics—shoes and a chalk bag. These are the two most personal items you can get, and your climbing friends will appreciate the fact that you have them.
Most climbers don’t mind sharing their harness with others (and they might even have an extra one just for such occasions, like I do) but because everyone’s feet are different, you will need to get your own shoes. They run on average from $75 and can go up to almost $200. Chances are, though, you can find a decent climbing shoe on sale if you look around, and I’ve bought shoes for $40 before. A great option for entry level shoes are the La Sportiva Mantis (retails for about $80), it’s a Velcro shoe for a more custom/adjustable fit than a slip on and easier to put on and take off than a lace up.
The trick with shoes is that you want them to run smaller than your street shoes. This is so you can get a solid foothold and are able to “feel” the rock better and get a better foothold. I buy about a size smaller than I normally wear. A little discomfort is okay, but you don’t want them to be painful, and they will stretch a little, so you don’t want your foot to slide around in the shoe.
Now you may be thinking “Sure, I understand why I need my own shoes, but why can’t I just use my buddy’s chalk bag?” Well, you may start climbing with your gear-loaning friend, but chances are you will want to climb other times, too. If you have shoes and a chalk bag, you have everything you need to go bouldering or to the climbing gym. Besides, a chalk bag will run anywhere from $7 – $22, and I’ve even seen people make their own. We here at Benosh recommend Krieg chalk bags. Krieg is a wonderful company that makes their own bags that don’t break the bank and will even do custom bags to order, not to mention they love to support local gear shops and climbing gyms. Also just remember, most gyms don’t like loose chalk, so grab a Metolius Chalk Sock too—you can get one for around $4.
So, just because you don’t have the money to fund a full-scale ascent up Mt. Kilimanjaro, it doesn’t mean you can’t work your way into the sport one piece of gear at a time. If you don’t have a connection into the sport, hit the climbing gym or check out a local gear shop. These places always have information on climbing classes and are a great way to meet others that share the same enthusiasm and might need someone to climb with them. Lastly, please remember that climbing is dangerous so practice safety first and last. If you are unsure about something ask around. It isn’t too hard to find those purists, and trust me they aren’t shy when it comes to talking about climbing.
Travis R. considers himself a desk jockey by day, outdoor explorer on weekends, and puts the active
in most activities. You can find him online at www.nwadgc.com or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.