There is a vast choice of equipment and kit that is used when rock climbing. What you’ll purchase will depend on the types of activity you undertake and the kinds of location you visit.
Equipment Will Vary Between Disciplines
In addition to ropes and climbing shoes which we’ve talked about already, you’re going to need a helmet, a harness, a belay device, carabiners, a camming device, slings, hexes and nuts and that’s just for starters.
If you’re serious about taking up rock climbing, you may also wish to consider additional equipment such as knives and other multi-functional tools, a GPS device and a compass – the list can be endless. There will also be more specialist equipment tailored for a particular discipline such as bouldering or indoor climbing.
For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll focus on the traditional items that most rock climbers would need, although there are even variations in each piece of equipment.
Many unforeseen accidents can occur when rock climbing and it’s crucial that your head is protected from injury. This could be as the result of a fall, or being hit by other equipment or falling debris from above. Therefore, you need a helmet to protect you. The first thing you should consider is the fit. Those made from carbon and fibreglass tend to have a closer fit but you can also get plastic and nylon varieties. A helmet should protect your forehead as well as the top of your head and it will be secured with a chin strap. Other things to consider are the weight, ventilation and clips, for example, if you wish to clip on a headlamp.
A harness provides support and security to the climber but there are many variations in weight and padding that are suitable for different climbing disciplines so it’s important to make sure that your choice is suitable for what you intend to use it for.
There are many different variations of belay devices specific to the activity you wish to undertake so you should get one that most suits what you intend to do. For those not familiar with what it does, the belay is there to hold you should you fall so it is a crucial piece of equipment for your protection.
They are used to fasten the rope to an anchor or to connect two ropes together. Sometimes abbreviated to ‘biners’, not all of them are suitable for climbing so it’s important you choose the correct ones.
These act as anchors. Once again, there are variations such as active and passive protection depending on the nature of the activity and some are spring-loaded (active protection) which enables them to be secured within a crack or fissure on a rock face as the spring will then expand to secure the anchor.
Hexes, Slings and Nuts
These also act as anchors but are classed as ‘passive protection’, unlike camming devices, as they don’t contain moving parts and they are also cheaper generally.
Hexes are lighter to carry than cam devices and are suitable for use in large cracks.
Nuts are light and cheap and climbers will often carry around 20 with them on a trip. The idea being that when placed deep into a crack, the crack inevitably gets wider the deeper into the rock face so when strain is placed on the nut, it can’t slip out as the crack gets narrower towards the surface.
Slings are used to carry equipment if there are insufficient loops to carry any more items on your harness.
The key thing to remember when buying any of this equipment is to seek expert advice and to make sure that the equipment you buy is specifically tailored to the nature of your activity as these items are not multi-purpose and some can only be used in certain specific situations.