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All the Beginner Rock Climbing Gear You Actually Need

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Indoor and Outdoor Rock Climbing Gear Every Beginner Needs

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While rock climbing is an alluring sport, it's not really the most accessible adventure activity. You can't exactly head out and start scaling walls willy-nilly without any prior training or gear. (Well, technically, you can—it's just risky and we would advise against it.)

But don't let that scare you away from getting on the wall. Stock up on the essential beginner climbing gear listed here, then brush up on all the rock climbing basics you need to know before you coordinate a plan of attack—whether that's in an indoor gym or with an outdoor climbing group.

 

Photo: nullplus / Shutterstock

A Super-Safe Harness

beginner rock climbing gear harness

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Sure, you can rent a harness from your climbing gym—but once you feel the difference between those one-size-fits-all loaners and this cushioned, made-for-your-butt Petzl harness, you'll never go back. It comes in sizes XS to L and has adjustable waist and butt straps for a guaranteed snug fit. Still need more incentive to invest? You're trusting this thing with your life every time you're on the wall. Need we say more?

($70; petzl.com)

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Photo: Petzl

Ultra Grippy Climbing Shoes

elektra evolv rock climbing shoe for beginners

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If you think climbing is all about doing pull-ups on the rock, you're wrong—and these shoes will prove it. The ultra-grippy bottoms let you toe your way up onto the tiniest holds, and let you learn to trust your feet to do the work. (Your fingers and forearms will thank you later.)

Velcro closures may remind you of kindergarten days, but you'll be thankful for this pair's easy-on, easy-off nature when you want to rest your feet between climbs. (Pro tip: Climbing shoes are intended to be super snug on your foot for easier climbing. If at all possible, go try some on in person to make sure you get the right size.)

($89; evolvsports.com)

(Related: Try these exercises for rock climbing newbies.)

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Photo: Evolv

A Versatile Chalk Bag

chalk bag beginner rock climbing gear

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While chalk might seem like it's for hard-core climbers, you'll quickly realize how important it is to have dry hands. (You'll also want to improve your grip strength.) This chalk bag can be strapped on just above your harness to hang off the back or side of your hips for easy access while on the wall without interfering with your footwork.

The main drawstring pocket fits any type of chalk you like (keep scrolling for options) and there's a back zipper pocket perfect for stashing other small essentials, like your iPhone (for top-of-the-wall selfies, of course).

($25; thenorthface.com)

Photo: The North Face

A Helmet for Heading Outdoors

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While most indoor climbing gyms don't require helmets, they're key for outdoor climbing, where falling rock is a potential hazard for the climber, the belayer (person handling the rope at the bottom of the climb), and spectators down below. This beginner-friendly helmet gets the job done and can be used for both climbing and mountaineering.

($70; petzl.com)

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Photo: Petzl

Mountain-worthy Climbing Wear

rock climbing apparel clothes

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While you can totally wear your usual gym clothes to climb both indoors and out, you may want to tailor your fashion toward climbing chic. What that means: Consider super-high-rise pants (so the area under your harness is totally covered), and a supportive but comfortable sports bra that gives you full range of motion (and shows off your hardworking back muscles), and a top layer that's warm yet breathable to deal with whatever weather rolls through while you're on the wall.

Pro tip: If you're climbing outside, you may want to leave your favorite pair of leggings at home, since climbing on rough rock may risk some tears. Instead, opt for material strong enough to withstand the occasional brush up against the wall. (Consider this pair of climbing-specific pants that already have faux chalk marks on them, so you don't have to worry about where you wipe your hands post-climb.)

(Bra, $65; Pants, $100; Sweatshirt, $120; thenorthface.com)

(Related; Get inspired by Margo Hayes, a young, badass climber and The North Face athlete.)

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Photo: The North Face

Chalk—Your Way

rock climbing chalk ball, cream, powder

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Stock your chalk bag with the OG chalk chunks and powder ($5 to $9; petzl.com) or a chalk ball—the perfect size for a quick squeeze and reapplication when you're on the wall (and no floating chalk dust). ($5; petzl.com)

If the feeling of chalk gives you that cringe-worthy, nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling, consider liquid chalk or chalk cream: a squirt bottle of magnesium carbonate that comes out like lotion and dries almost instantly to form a consistent coating of chalk on your hands. ($19; shop.frictionlabs.com)

Photo: Petzl, Friction Labs

A Carry-All Pack

backpack rock climbing gear for beginners

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Whether you're hitting the trails to find an outdoor climb or schlepping through the city to get to your climbing gym, you'll need a no-fuss backpack to hold all your gear. (Plus, having a climbing-designated bag will keep pesky chalk residue from creeping into all your other stuff.)

This backpack was designed in partnership with pro climbers to address every climbing need you may have: a convenient top pocket for valuables (spoiler: climbing with rings on is not fun), a hydration pack sleeve, chest and waist straps that make it run-, bike-, and hike-approved, and a top-lid pocket design that gives you easy access to every inch of the inside without letting your stuff tumble out.

($80; thenorthface.com)

(Related: 12 Places to Go Rock Climbing Before You Die)

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Photo: The North Face

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