Whether searching for your own gear or perusing for a loved one with a new interest in climbing, these recommendations will point you in the right direction. We have searched high and low to find the best entry-level gear, with a specific focus on safety, performance, and value. Recommendations are unbiased, based on community reputation and our staff’s personal experience. Your purchases support our free content.
This guide was last updated on September 27, 2016.
In deciding what type of gear you’ll be needing, it’s important to first take into account the style of climbing you’ll be participating in. Most indoor gyms offer both bouldering and roped climbing in the form of top roping and lead climbing.
Outdoor destinations may offer any combination of bouldering, sport climbing, and trad climbing. You can learn about the styles of climbing here.
Indoor and outdoor bouldering
Bouldering necessitates the least amount of gear, only requiring shoes, chalk, a chalk bag, and if you’ll be bouldering outdoors, your own crash pad.
Indoor roped climbing
For indoor roped climbing, you’ll need: shoes, a harness, a belay device and locking carabiner, chalk, and a chalk bag. If you eventually begin lead climbing in the gym, you may need your own rope and a rope bag/tarp to keep it clean.
Outdoor roped climbing
Climbing outdoors, there’s an endless supply of gear you could use. In addition to the indoor roped climbing gear, you’ll likely also need quickdraws and a helmet, among other optional additions.
Black Diamond Momentum and Primrose Harnesses
In deciding on a first climbing harness, we suggest looking at comfort, functionality, safety, and affordability. Taking these factors into consideration, Black Diamond’s men’s Momentum and women’s Primrose lines offer an excellent starting spot.
Both harnesses are very comfortable, with sufficient padding throughout both the waist straps and leg loops. Four gear loops on each harness offer plenty of space for quickdraws, belay devices, and even cams if you begin trad climbing. In terms of safety, Black Diamond is the gold standard here in the United States, so you can be assured that these harnesses are rigorously tested to withstand extreme loads. And finally, these harnesses are available at a fantastic price.
For an all-around entry-level harness, Black Diamond’s Momentum and Primrose are hard to beat.
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
When climbing outdoors, whether you’re leading, belaying, or just walking around the base of the crag, wear a helmet! While many sport climbers and professional climbers will often forgo the use of helmets, that decision is informed by years of experience. Beginning climbers should wear helmets without exception until they can properly identify the times when climbing without one may be appropriate.
Add your name, an emergency contact, and any drug allergies you may have to help rescuers in the event of an emergency.
Petzl GriGri Belay Device
The GriGri is an assisted-braking belay device that works by pinching (and significantly slowing or stopping) the rope whenever it moves quickly through the device. During normal rope movement, the internal cam isn’t engaged, allowing for smooth rope handling. But as soon as the rope begins moving quickly (think “falling!”), the cam engages, pinching the rope and helping to brake the fall. We endorse the use of assisted-braking belay devices as an added form of redundancy during belays.
Alternative pick: Mad Rock Lifeguard
The Mad Rock Lifeguard uses the exact same belay technique as a tube-style (ATC) device and slack can be easily fed out without deactivating the cam. Additionally, the Lifeguard is the lightest and cheapest camming belay device on the market. Mad Rock has exceeded all expectations and created an exceptional alternative to the industry-dominant GriGri.
If climbing outdoors, an ATC-style belay device is generally needed for rappels (it can also be used for belaying, although it doesn’t offer assisted-braking security). We suggest Petzl’s Reverso, which is not only great for rappelling but can also be set up in Reverso mode to belay a partner up on multi-pitch climbs
Black Diamond PosiWire Pack
The Black Diamond PosiWires boast exceptional quality and durability at an affordable price. As a beginner, you don’t need absolute top-of-the-line gear, nor should you search for the cheapest equipment on the market. The PosiWires fit the bill for quality entry-level quickdraws that will last for years, without breaking the bank.
Petzl Mambo 10.1 Rope
The Petzl Mambo is a perfect beginner’s climbing rope. Its 10.1mm diameter and durable sheath will stand up to the abuse typical of the learning years, yet it handles like a rope much thinner. Additionally, the bright color of the sheath contrasts well with the middle marker, and the ends of the rope have been treated to improve handling and durability. This rope is full featured and will handle top roping, sport climbing, and trad climbing with ease. The 60m length is most appropriate for new climbers but if your budget affords it, 70m does have added benefits on long outdoor routes (alternatively, if you’ll be mostly climbing in a gym, the Mambo comes in 30m and 40m lengths as well).
Keep it clean
Ropes can get dirty quickly, so keep your Mambo clean and organized with a dedicated rope bag. Our favorite is the Metolius Ropemaster—it’s built with unbreakable buckles, has a built-in tarp, and special tie-off points help you easily identify rope ends.
Black Diamond Magnetron RockLock
Many locking carabiners suffer from a critical flaw: you have to remember to lock them. While spring loaded auto-locking carabiners are out there, they tend to be heavy, clunky, and difficult to operate. Black Diamond received multiple industry awards for the Magnetron, which uses two magnets in the gate to automatically lock the carabiner when it is closed. The carabiner is not cheap, but purchasing one or two Magnetron RockLocks for use in personal anchor systems affords a significantly improved margin of safety. Learn more about these wonderful carabiners in this article.
Petzl Connect Adjust
Personal anchors can be a contentious piece of equipment, but let’s make one important piece of information clear: don’t use a daisy chain as a personal anchor! Most purpose-built personal anchors still suffer from a crucial flaw in that they are made of nylon or Dyneema, which do not absorb any energy in the event of a fall onto an anchor. To solve this, Petzl created the Connect Adjust, which uses dynamic rope to better handle an accidental fall. Additionally, it features an adjustable arm that makes repositioning a breeze.
Alternative pick: Metolius Personal Anchor System (PAS)
While we love Petzl’s Connect Adjust for its dynamic fall absorption and easy adjustability, the Metolius PAS offers a safe tethering method at a more affordable price.
Sterling Rope HollowBlock
It would take an entire article just to describe the benefits of this little piece of cord … so thankfully we have one right here! The HollowBlock will keep you safe on your rappels and it will allow you to perform essential self-rescure techniques. Put it on your harness every time you leave the ground—it’s that important.
Goda Acupressure Finger Massage Rings
Climbing is hard on the fingers. Goda Massage Rings provide relief by promoting blood flow and breaking up scar tissue. They’re so useful that even professional climber Ethan Pringle always keeps a few in his pack.
Metolius Chalk Sock
Chalk socks help minimize the mess from chalking up, while ensuring an even coating on the hands. Being refillable, you can always add your favorite chalk when the initial batch runs low.
Additionally, chalk balls help prevent spills when your chalk bag is unintentionally flipped upside down. Using a chalk ball benefits both you and those around you; nobody wants to breathe in a small blizzard of chalk.
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