An Introduction to Free Climbing Pt1: Equipment

As many of you know, I enjoy climbing as my sport of choice. I’m not fantastically good at it—I definitely need to drop my body fat a bit more and I’ve never taken a class—but it’s something that I love and enjoy doing a few times a week. Today I start a several-part series on what rock climbing is, how people can participate, and a bit of technique.

Despite the above picture, most of the climbing I do is at a gym. I am lucky enough to live four minutes away from Stone Summit, USA’s largest climbing gym. Thus, this perspective will be given for indoor climbing, otherwise known as free climbing.



I really like Red Chilis!

You are not going to get anywhere without a good set of rock climbing shoes. If you are just starting out, I recommend renting until you know what kind of climber you are. All rock climbing shoes have a rigid rubber sole that extends over the toe. When trying on new shoes, remember that synthetic shoes do not stretch, whereas leather shoes do–up to a whole size! It’s best to go to a climber store to have a store associate help you find your first shoe. There is a lot more to buying a shoe (like strapped vs laces, edging, and even shoe tightness), but the takeaway should be this: street shoes or sneakers are not going to help you climb!


Black Diamond Harness!

There are lots of different kinds of harnesses for different kinds of climbing. If you’re finding that you are mostly going to be in a gym, I recommend getting a harness with lots of padding for the legs and waist, but most importantly the harness should FIT. A poor fitting harness is not going to hold you if it is too loose or even too tight.

Belay Device and Locking Carabiner

Repeat after me: I will not buy a carabiner that does not lock. I will buy a locking carabiner. The purpose of this is safety; the belay device and carabiner are there to protect from falling to the point of injury. There are a variety of belay devices. I tend to be old school with my tubular device, but I have also used auto-locking devices and they have always worked well for me.

Chalk and Chalkbag

Chalk helps get rid of clammy hand sweat while also increasing grip! It is primarily magnesium carbonate but often with added magnesium sulfate which acts as a drying agent (thank you Wikipedia). The chalkbag should clip onto your harness or tie around your waist.

There is a lot more that can go into indoor climbing (like lead climbing and bouldering), but not for today!

Have you ever climbed before? What was your experience?


3 responses

  1. It’s surprising to me that I’ve never done any kind of climbing like this. When I was young (5-6?), I’d often climb trees and insist that a member of my family watch me to show them how high I could go. As I got progressively higher, I’d ask them if they could still see me. If they told me that they could, I would climb higher and higher until the answer was “no.”

    Naturally, the only reason they said no was for my safety. I can’t really blame them for this as there was a particular tree where I was able to get about 20 feet into the air, and I could have seriously injured/killed myself if I fell off from that and landed improperly.

    Another thing I recall doing in my youth was jumping off a particular building. My family owned a cabin that we’d visit once in awhile, and I recall climbing to the top of our woodshed there and jumping off of it. it was a decent fall (hard to remember, but 7-8 feet? maybe more?) but I was always able to jump off and land safely in a pile of dirt below. I guess this doesn’t directly relate to climbing, but it certainly shows a degree of fearlessness.

    I think once I got a little bit older, I just never climbed anything anymore. I don’t know why I stopped. A climbing gym would be pretty fun and I’d really like to give it a try sometime, even if I’d be pretty awful in it :).

  2. Thanks for the info, Suzie. I’ve always wanted to try climbing but have never gotten around to it.

    Maybe your post(s) (?) will inspire me to get on it. =D

    Have a great one!

    New John

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