Inspired to climb outside this summer? This is the gear that will help you make the move onto rock.
Fresh air, beautiful places and a dose of adventure – nothing quite compares to the buzz of climbing on real rock. Outdoor climbing is a chance to explore new areas, build confidence and join a great social scene with a past rich in legends. After experiencing the touch and feel of natural rock, whether famous Peak gritstone or the sea cliffs of the southwest, you’ll never look back.
But getting onto rock for the first time can be a daunting experience. What skills should you have? And more importantly, what do you need to get started? We’ve got this – let us get you geared up for your first outdoor climbing adventure.
It’s all about comfort when you're climbing outside. If you’re tackling multi-pitch routes you may wear the shoes for longer; on single pitch routes you might need them for walking off the crag. You’ll also climb a grade easier than at the wall – at least to start – so you won't want the most aggressive pair on the market. Reach for them when you move onto overhanging sport climbs or bouldering problems. Until then, comfort wins.
Check out our Climbing Shoe Buying Guide here for advice on choosing the right shoes for you.
Things have come a long way since the days of tying a rope around your waist with a bowline. Now you’ll find harnesses for sport, trad and alpine climbing, each with its own subtle variations. Knowing what kind of climbing you’re going to do is key. For example, an alpine harness is fully adjustable for getting over big boots, but it has no padding – not ideal if you’re going to push yourself hard on a sport climb and peel off. Fortunately, there are plenty of all-rounders out there.
Read our Harness Buying Guide here to find out which one is right for you.
Durable and versatile, today’s climbing helmets are so light you’ll barely notice you’re wearing one. Meanwhile, female-specific designs are made to fit around a ponytail, so there’s no excuse for not putting one on. Like to try your hand at everything? Many helmets are also rated for via ferrata, canyoning and caving.
Every climber can usually recall their first trusty karabiner and belay plate. It’s where your rack begins. From there, the next step is a set of quickdraws and a sling or two. They all have their design variations depending on intended use. If you’re just starting out, look for versatility. These are our top picks:
There’s nothing quite like carrying a coil of rope to a crag to make you look and feel the part. But with so many different types to choose from, buying a rope can be confusing. ‘Single’ ropes are designed to be used on their own and are mostly for sport climbs, where only one rope is needed. Both ‘half’ and ‘twin’ ropes are used in pairs, mostly for trad climbing and on routes where you need a lot of rope for abseiling.
Most wall climbers heading outside for the first time will instinctively gravitate towards bolted routes on sport climbs. Trad climbing on the other hand involves placing your own gear. Mentally, that’s a step-up but it adds adventure, teaches self-reliance and opens up more possibilities on where you can climb. Any rack begins with a selection of nuts, and wallnuts are among the best on the market due to their design and construction. Placed well, they provide bomber protection.
Don’t forget your DMM Nutbuster to help remove wedged nuts. This one has a wide rubber handle to make it easier to hold, ensuring you don’t skin your knuckles when your hand slips off.
Those used to climbing at the wall bare-chested or wearing little more than a sports bra are in for a surprise. That may be okay in southern Spain, but here in the UK, you’ll definitely be grateful for a hoodie and beanie you can throw on between climbs.