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Rock Climbing Essentials: A to Z

Rock climbing essentials: what to pack

The ultimate packing list for any day out rock climbing

Whether you are prepping for an ascent of the Diamond Face on Longs Peak, a mellow day rock climbing in Boulder Canyon, or an all out birthday marathon sport climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, this A to Z list has you covered!

A - Approach shoes

Good choices in footwear really pay off in the mountains! Sticky bottomed approach shoes work great both for hiking and scrambling to the base of the crag or firing the approach pitches. Heck, many people climb the Boulder Flatirons in just approach shoes. Just be sure you don't size these too snug or your feet will be screaming on longer approaches.

B - Backpack

What more needs to be said? Rock climbing takes a lot of gear and we definitely need something to carry it all in. A few of our preferred backpack systems are: 1) a 15L pack stuffed inside a 40L pack for climbing long, multipitch routes, 2) a 20L pack for big up and over alpine missions, 3) a 32L for a solid day out cragging.

C - Carabiners

With so many different types of carabiners on the market nowadays, it can be hard to choose which ones you like best. We recommend that every person climbing have at least 5 pear shaped locking carabiners like the Petzl Attache and 3 non-locking carabiners like the Trango Phase. A typical climbing kit that every person should have may look something like the picture below (self rescue cordellette, self rescue kit, belay device, and anchor material)

Personal rock climbing gear

D - Dynamic climbing rope

This is a biggie! We definitely want to make sure we are climbing on a dynamic rope versus a static rope. Dynamic ropes stretch and act like a giant bungee cord that absorbs the force of a fall. If we were to fall on a static rope, well let's just say it would be bad news. So which dynamic rope is right for you? We use many different ropes depending on what we are planning to climb. For long multi-pitch routes, we like bicolored 60m ropes in the 9.0 to 9.4mm range, while we use 9.8 to 10.2mm 60m for our endless toprope sessions. Dry treatments can be a nice addition as it extends the longevity of a rope. We love the Sterling Nano IX 9.0mm and the Sterling Velocity 9.8mm.

E - Energy

We all need fuel to keep us going and it's really hard to find a quality burrito in the mountains! Bottom line on this one...make sure it is food you will want to eat during a long day. Dried fruits, gels, peanut butter and jelly, nuts, jerky, and energy bars are all good choices.

F - First aid kit

Let's face it, the mountains can be a dangerous place and we need to be prepared. A first aid kit doesn't take up much real estate in the bottom of your pack, and is added insurance just in case. Don't forget to restock it after use! Most of our guides have two different first aid kits they carry depending on the day of climbing. Smaller "bare-bones" kits are great for multi-pitch climbing while a larger kit is great for cragging days. Some of the most important things to keep in a first aid kit are: bandages and dressings, adhesive tape, gloves and other personal protective equipment, an Ace bandage, and something to cut material with (scissors or knife).

A first aid kit is a must while rock climbing

G - Grigri (or other belay device)

Without one of these, not much climbing is going to happen. Belay devices come in all different styles with different locking mechanisms. They all generate enough friction to stop a falling climber. While these are great tools, sooner or later you will drop one and should know how to belay and rappel without a device. This is a topic we cover in our Self Rescue Course!

Helmets are an essential piece of rock climbing gear

H - Harness and Helmet

Arguably, two of the most important pieces of climbing gear. In order for the system to work, we have to attach the rope to a harness. Find one that is comfortable and has some padding around the legs and waist. Additional features could include molded gear loops, extra belay loop, ice clipper slots, etc. Don't forget the helmet either! Newer climbing helmets are made of foam and absorb shock instead of sending it directly into your body. If we were to choose the most important piece of gear, it would be a helmet! It will undoubtedly save your life one day! Imagine the scene if the person to the right wasn't wearing a helmet when a football sized piece of ice fell!

I - Inform a friend

Remember that movie "127 Hours"? Don't let this be you! Always tell someone where you are planning to climb with the route name, backup routes, crag and area, and when you are planning to be back. Often times on bigger days, it's nice to leave a little note on your dashboard with this information just in case.

J - Joshua Tree Climbing Salve

Scraped up hands and fingers are par the course for a day out rock climbing. Help the healing process begin and climb again sooner. Joshua Tree Climbing Salve works wonders, but is a little on the pricey side. Try O'Keefe's Working Hands for a cheaper alternative.

K - Knife

Truly a multi-purpose climbing tool! Use it for cutting and replacing tat, and chopping off a core-shot end of rope. There are a few companies out there that make a knife that clip right onto your harness, but they are pricey. The tried and true method is to keep it in your first aid kit stuffed at the bottom of your backpack.