Understanding Gear: Shoes, Harnesses, Belay Devices

The climbing industry isn’t always as user friendly as we’d like. Use this guide to aid in your understanding of climbing equipment, and also remember to take a look at Understanding Gear: Carabiners and Quickdraws.

Introduction to climbing shoes

If you’re buying shoes for the first time, t’s best to visit a store to try them on to truly get a feel for different models. As you go through your selection process, try to find a pair that suits your climbing style:

 

Related: Styles of Climbing

 

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Introduction to climbing harnesses

When purchasing a harness, comfort is paramount. You’ll be spending many hours in this piece of equipment, so make sure you really love it. A couple other considerations include the weight (the heavier the harness, the comfier the padding) and the number of gear loops. For newer climbers, extra padding is often nice while hanging on the rope and four gear loops is recommended. Serious sport climbers may choose minimalist harnesses with only two gear loops for ultra light weight, and trad climbers generally look for harnesses which strike a balance between weight, padding, and four or more gear loops to secure lots of equipment. Also note the adjustability of the harness, as some leg loops will be more adjustable than others. Weight savings will come with a high price, but excellent first harnesses can be found under $75.

 

Introduction to climbing belay devices

There exists some debate over which style of belay device is the best first purchase. While auto-locking belay devices such as the GriGri 2 (industry standard auto-locker) have a built-in mechanism to auto-lock in the event of a fall, many feel that ATC devices (which stands for Air Traffic Controller, but don’t go around saying the full name! Just A-T-C is appropriate lingo) are a better starting spot to ensure appropriate belay technique.

Although the Grigri 2 is a remarkable device, it can sometimes lead to poor belay habits if proper technique isn’t first established. Our recommendation is to learn from an expert or in an AMGA-certified course and try to get experience on both devices before making a decision. If the budget affords it, many climbers carry one of each device because although a GriGri 2 is excellent for belaying, an ATC is typically required for rappels.

grigri___atc

 

Guide and REVERSO modes

ATCs such as the Black Diamond ATC Guide (pictured), and the Petzl Reverso 4 also include a mode called Guide or Reverso  mode. This is used when belaying a second climber, and if you foresee yourself to soon be climbing outdoors and lead climbing than we recommend a device with this capability.

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