Bouldering Guide

Although bouldering as a sport is regarded as a fairly recent development, it has been around far longer than most climbers would know. The 1st documented bouldering competition was conducted by British engineer Oscar Eckenstein in 1890 in the village of Askole within the Karakorum mountains.

Previously viewed as a warm-up prior to "real" climbing, this dynamic sport has recently burst onto the scene and is now more popular than ever, with the latest stats showing that 5 million climbers in the UK participate in the sport.

It is a style of climbing that combines a series of powerful, dynamic moves, normally over a short distance, without the protection of a rope. In fact all you need to get you off the ground is a pair of Rock Shoes, but a Bouldering Mat, Guide book, Chalk & Chalk Bag, a toothbrush, and an old bit of carpet or mat are very useful as well.

Inspirational climber Ben Moon has paved the way, not only in the bouldering world, but also in the clothing industry. Check out here for the latest offerings from Moon clothing.

For an idea of the kind of kit that would be ideal for any bouldering trip check out the list below compiled by our Outdoor Buyer - Andy.

Recommended Kit for Bouldering

Rock Shoes

Finding the right rock shoe for your bouldering is a tricky task. The shoe needs to be radically curved, with a stiff supportive sole for overhanging powerful moves and yet soft, sensative and less curved for delicate balancy moves. Most importantly it needs to fit your feet. The kind of shoe to look for depends on what type of rock (or plastic) you are climbing, the paragraphs below contain some details:

For steep powerful boulders you will look for something radically curved to force your toes into the rock, something like a Boreal Storm or Red Chili Matador will do this. These shoes are also extremely asymmetric allowing you to place your toes precisely. The downside of this type of shoe is they become uncomfortable to wear after a short period of time so Velcro closures are a must. We refer to this type of rock shoe as a "Steep Line Shoe".

Boulders with delicate or slabby sections, or circuits where you'll want to keep your shoes on for longer a precise "performance" shoe is what's needed. These shoes aren't so radically curved as a steep line shoe and often have a softer more sensative sole allowing you to feel the small delicate foot placements better.

An example shoe that bridges this gap is the Boreal Krypto Velcro Rock Shoe.

Click here to see our range of Rock Shoes.

Bouldering Mats

Bouldering mats are used to cussion falls and protect the user from landing on rough rocky ground. It's still recommended to down climb or fall in a controlled maner to reduce the risk of injury.

Mats come in a vairety of shapes and sizes, the key trade off being size against cushioning. Your circumstances, length of walk in, and probably the size of the boot of your car will dictate how large a mat you can use. Smaller mats also make great adidional mats to a standard large one to cover other areas on traverses or high ball problems.

A mats ability to absorb impact is down to the foam in the "core" of the mat. Firm foam will absorb more initial force but not provide a comfortable give, while softer foam will provide a better give but could bottom out before absorbing the impact. Most mats will be made to compromise on this trade off by using single, two, or three layer foam. Single layer mats will be made out of a firm foam to absorb impacts - don't expect them to be comfortable to fall on from a large height. Two layer mats should be used with the firm foam at the top and the softer foam underneith. This provides the maximum amount of impact absorption. Three layer mats work in the same way as two layer mats but can be used with either side facing up.

Black Diamond Impact Crash Pad

Click here to see our range of Bouldering Mats


As you climb your fingers will start to sweat. Sweat causes two problems; firstly it is slippery, secondly it softens the skin. Slipping is obviously not a good thing when climbing, not only does it make the climbing harder but it also is the most likly time to pull a muscle or tweak a tendon. The second problem of softening skin is less obvious but still as important. Soft skin is more suseptable to being torn and becomes soar quicker. Chalk helps prevent both these problems by drying the skin out. It comes in various forms which are each good for different jobs; Chalk balls last for a good length of time and don't spill chalk everywhere in a strong wind or confind environment, this makes them the most popular form of chalk; Loose chalk gives a better coverage on tough climbs where there isn't time to dip for long, it also alows the back of the hand to be coated for jamming; Finally liquid chalk lasts for a long time and gives a good coating but isn't portable or dipable, this makes it ideal for use alongside other chalk types on a hot day to keep maximum coverage. As an everyday chalk we recommend the Metolius Eco Chalk Ball as it doesn't leave unsightly white marks on the rock.

Click here to see our range of Chalk

Chalk Bags

With all that chalk you need some where to keep it. For bouldering its great to have two chalk bags. One that can be carried for long problems and traverses, and a second chalk bucket so that you don't run out. A chalk bucket will also alow you to get better coverage and the best ones come with a place to store nail files, clipers, finger tape and a brush. We recommend the DMM Font Chalk Bucket

Click here to see our range of Chalk Bags

Finger Tape

Having chalked up and climbed hard you may still find your skin getting soar or you may have torn a flap of skin (often refered to as a "flapper"). Finger tape will allow you to keep on climbing by taping over the damaged area. Finger tape is also useful for forming a glove on routes with a lot of jamming to prevent damage to the hands. We stock DMM Finger Tape

Other Items

The following items are also useful, but not essentail - They become more or less important to have depending on where you intend to boulder.

Water Bottles

You'll need to make sure that you stay fully hydrated while you're climbing. Do so with our range of water bottles and hydration packs made specifically for active people. We recommend the Camelbak Podium Bottle

Click here to see our range of Water Bottles

Torches + Lanterns

We stock all sorts of light sources, from candles, to lanterns, to headtorches. Headtorches are particularly useful around the campsite, as they provide a powerful blend of long and close range lighting, but have the added bonus of being handsfree. You could even get up to some moon lit bouldering! We recommend the Black Diamond Spot

Click here to see our range of Torches + Lanterns

First Aid

Whenever you're out and about, there's always a chance of picking up scrapes and grazes. Be prepared for any eventuality with our comprehensive range of first aid kits, each geared towards different levels of first aid expertise and type of trip. We recommend the Lifesystems Pocket First Aid Kit

Click here to see our range of First Aid

Insect Repellant

Insect bites are an annoyance when you're trying enjoy your weekend. Keep insects away with our extensive range of preventative measures, or treatments if you've already been bitten! We recommend the Lifesystems Natural Plus 40+ Insect Repellent

Click here to see our range of Insect Repellant