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Pure Outdoor instructor Jez Martin provides a useful guide to help you make the best decisions in your choice of climbing gear from the vast array of equipment available. You have enjoyed the climbing gym, have some confidence and the climbing ‘bug’ and are thinking of adventures outside of the gym

This guide is split into three sections

1. Basics
2. Beginner’s Equipment
3. Evolving Climber’s Equipment

Basics are Rock Shoes, a Harness and a Helmet. As you progress it will be time to start thinking about your ‘Climbing Rack’

Despite the temptation of getting your hands on some new shiny gear you should hold off buying a rack with the exception of some beginner’s equipment. Ideally you should first gain some proficiency in removing an experienced leader’s gear. Good advice would be to learn to place gear borrowed from friends or professionals whilst receiving instruction. You can then think about some evolving climber’s equipment.


Rock Shoes

Beginners’ shoes don’t need to be high performance models, so for a novice we would recommend a more rounded, high-volume style, suitable for all day use. They should be snug but not overly tight. The most important piece of advice would be to avoid buying online or from sports supermarkets and to visit a specialist climbing shop as they will have experienced staff / fitters and a good range of products to choose from. A good range of products is important as everybody’s foot shape is different.


You should move away from the climbing centre style harness you might have experienced and buy a more widely used central belay loop type harness. A fully adjustable harness, being adjustable at the waist and leg loops might allow wearing with more clothing options so providing all year usage. However a harness with adjustable waist but fixed leg loops would be adequate. The purchase of a ‘trad’ climbing harness might be more suitable in the first instance rather than a specialist sport climbing harness as this would have better arranged gear loops. Good advice again would be to avoid buying online or from sports supermarkets but instead visit a specialist climbing shop as they will have experienced staff to advise together with a good range of harnesses to choose from. This would include female specific models, these having larger leg loops compared with the waist and a higher rise (the distance between the leg loops and waist belt). Most specialists will also have the facility for you to ‘hang’ in the harness to ensure its comfort.


The main feature of buying a helmet is that it is of a specific design for climbing and that it fits well. When choosing a helmet there is really no substitute for trying it on, so it would be worth borrowing a friend's to see how it feels and whether it fits. Again the advice would be not to buy online but rather visit a specialist climbing shop. They will have a good range of helmets to try on and choose from. Climbing helmets generally fit into one of three categories – hardshell, foam and hybrid. Hardshell are generally the most robust and the cheapest with a good choice of models available and more than adequate for the novice climber. Foam and hybrid are less robust and more expensive but the most important issue is that it fits, is comfortable and you wear it!

Beginner’s Equipment 

Belay device: for double ropes as these can be used for both single and double rope belaying e.g. Black Diamond ATC / Wild Country Variable controller /DMM Mantis / Petzl Verso type products.

Belay Carabiner: MUST BE LOCKING, this could be an HMS carabiner, however our own recommendation for this is to buy a directional belay carabiner such as the DMM Ceros or Black Diamond Gridlock which minimise the risk of cross-loading across the gate of the carabiner.

Nut Key: (better known to the writer as a ’broddler’, to ‘broddle’ in Yorkshire is to poke something). An essential part of a trad rack to free fixed nuts and retrieve deeply buried cams when seconding or at belays. You might also want a carabiner to enable you to hang it on your harness.

Screwgate Carabiner: for belays and prusiking

Sling 120cm: for belays and prusiking. Could be Nylon, Dyneema or Edelrid Aramid - a favourite product of mine as knots are easily undone and it can be poked easily into small thread belays.

Prusik Loops (x2): these are best made from two lengths of 5 or 6mm static cord of 1.25m / 1.5m tied into loops with a double fisherman’s knot. Essential for safe abseiling.

Evolving Climber’s Equipment 

Rope: 50m or 60m Single classified of around 10mm diameter. You should be aware that skinny single ropes of 9.8mm diameter and less should only be used by more experienced belayers. If heading abroad to some of the sport climbing hotspots then a 70m or even an 80m rope should be considered but on the flip side of this something around 40m would be adequate for the gritstone edges of Derbyshire and so much less weight to carry to the crag.

Wires: Wild Country Rocks sizes 1 to 10 or the equivalent from other manufactures such as DMM (Wallnuts) or Black Diamond (Stoppers)

Hex's:  Wild Country Rockcentrics. ‘Larger sizes for those larger cracks’, sizes 6 to 9 would be good. Again DMM and Black Diamond do an equivalent type product.

Quickdraws: Eight quickdraws would be a good number. For trad climbing longer quickdraws are better than shorter ‘sport’ draws as they tend to not lift gear out so easily. I would recommend a selection of sizes. Say, 2 x 12cm 4 x 18cm 2 x 25cm

Slings: For spikes, threads, extenders (alpine draws), block and tree belays

2 x short slings 60cm with two snap gate carabiners on each. This configuration, known as an Alpine Draw, are very versatile as they can be used for small threads and spikes as well as a long quickdraw for a route that winds around therefore avoiding excessive rope drag. Especially useful when using a single rope. They can also be shortened / doubled for use as a normal-length quickdraw in situations where you have already used all your others.

1 x long sling 120cm as an addition to the one recommended in the beginner’s equipment list.

Locking (Screwgate) Carabiners: For setting up belays and use with Slings 3 x of a standard type 1 x HMS

Chalk bag: With waist cord or belt (a length of 5 or 6mm static cord is a good idea as this can be used as an emergency prusik or as abseil ‘tat’) together with chalk / chalk ball.

Camming Devices: The above listed equipment will get you up your first easy routes however, Camming Devices (or ‘Cams’ or ‘Friends’ as they are more widely known) are a great addition to a beginners rack. They tend to be expensive but deals can be found online with reputable specialist shops.

To start with some medium sizes would be a good addition to a rack and I would suggest the twin axel models manufactured by brands such as Wild Country, DMM and Black Diamond as these give a greater range of placement size than single-axel units. An idea for your first four friends would be


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This article was written by Jez Martin from Pure Outdoor

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