10 Essential Gear for Outdoor Climbs
Updated: Aug 5
For many people, outdoor climbing is an incredible escape from the industrialized world, and we highly recommend that everyone tries it at least once. Even if you usually train in the climbing gym to improve your fitness, outdoor climbing can be an exciting way to get in a workout and see your gym training translate into real-world application. That said, many individuals are nervous when planning their first outdoor climb and aren’t always sure about what climbing equipment to bring.
Below, we’ve created a rock climbing gear list so you can have all the necessary things to bring on every outdoor rock climb. Whether you’re out for a short day of single-pitch climbing or you have an extended day of multi-pitch climbing ahead of you, these pieces of equipment are 100% essential for your outdoor rock climbing experience. If you bring all the stuff listed below, you will be equipped to complete any sport climb you encounter (assuming you have the skill to do so). If you’re out trad climbing, you will only need to add a few more pieces of gear.
Make sure all these pieces of equipment are in your bag when you depart on your next outdoor climb.
These ten items are must-packs for your climbing kit:
This one should go without saying, but alas, you will occasionally encounter individuals that don’t wear helmets during their outdoor climbs (especially sport crags). A helmet is like a good insurance policy; most of the time you will wonder why you’re paying for it, but when you need it you need it. Remember, belaying is the most dangerous job when climbing outdoors, so always wear your helmet!
This one might seem obvious, don’t forget to put it in your bag! Also, it’s best to make sure everyone in your climbing party has their harness; this might seem obvious on multi-pitch climbs, but sometimes people share harnesses at the base of sport crags. Sharing a harness can lead to slip-ups and injuries.
Also called runners, slings have a variety of uses from going in direct to clean a route, to attaching protection to your rope, to creating a chest harness. For the most part, it’s a good idea to carry at least a couple of slings. Read ahead on the routes you’ll be climbing to decide how many to bring along, but remember it’s always best to err on the side of caution and carry extras.
The number of quickdraws you’ll need on a climbing trip depends entirely on what you’ll be climbing. If you are doing single-pitch sport, most crags are somewhere between 5-10 bolts. But if you are headed to Greece, some of the single pitch there can reach upwards of 25 bolts! Regardless of where you climb, though, quickdraws are essential protection for pre-bolted routes and are sometimes even nice to have on trad climbs where there is a single bolt in the middle of the climb.
Large Locking Carabiners
Lockers are essential for situations where the rope might unclip your carabiner—these situations commonly include rappelling, belaying, and anchor building.
If you’re climbing at a single pitch crag, you’re going to need a minimum of 2 locking carabiners for your belay and PAS (see #6). However, if you’re multi-pitch climbing the lead climber needs at least three lockers (one for their PAS and two for belaying their follower), plus each member of the climbing party will need at least two (for belaying their leader, and their PAS).
Personal Anchor System (PAS)
If you don’t already know what this is, a PAS is a static line that is used to connect climbers directly to a climbing anchor. The PAS is critical if you’re a lead climber that might be cleaning anchors (even at single-pitch crags) and for any member of a climbing party on a multi-pitch climb.
Everyone in the climbing party needs to have one of these with them. There are many belay devices on the market, choose the one you’re most comfortable with. If you’re going on a multi-pitch climb, everyone needs to know how to rappel/belay BEFORE leaving the ground.
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget the rope at home and are disappointed when they get to the parking lot. Also, always make sure that your rope is in good working order—if you have any concerns that it might be unsafe, don’t climb.
While you could technically leave this one at home, most people greatly benefit from having some chalk on them. If you’re new to outdoor climbing, you might be surprised at how sweaty your hands can get on a hot day (or when you get nervous). If you’re climbing popular routes, it’s polite not to make the holds too sweaty for people climbing after you.
Again, another obvious one. But make sure you bring the “right” shoes! Many climbers end up having different pairs of shoes for different types of climbing. Trust us, you don’t want to end up at the base of a big wall with nothing but your aggressive bouldering shoes.
Check it Off
The list above is a checklist of essential gear to be brought along on any outdoor rock climb. Remember, if you’re doing a trad climb you’re going to need a few additional pieces of gear and other climbing tools.
Don’t attempt any climb if you’re not 100% trained in climbing systems; this checklist was just intended for giving people a starting point to assemble their gear, or to be used as a checklist before heading out on an outdoor climb. Look to your local gym or a local guide for receiving proper training on the use of all this equipment.
Got your gear ready and looking for places to climb? Read Rock Climbing in D.C: Where To Go.