So you want to be a climber.
You’ve been out to the gym a few times. You’re super stoked on finishing a couple of projects. The people are all very friendly and you’ve found a community that feels like home. Maybe it’s a way to experience nature in a way that most people will never understand. WELL GUESS WHAT now you’re hooked. This sport has changed my life for the FAR better and if you’ve come this far there is no going back. So you may as well dish out the scheckles to join your new found compadres in the outdoors, because this ride is going to be sick. What is the bare minimum you can get away with once you’ve found a crew?
Harness ($60 – $160): Any harness will do you at this point as you will likely be top roping most things. All those fancy harness loops and leg adjusters aren’t going to affect your ability to climb. Only your ability to carry extra unnecessary gear that will make more experienced climbers snicker at you behind your back as your cams and draws dangle uselessly from a top-roping newbie. Make sure it is comfortable BEFORE you buy it. Every harness is different as is every body type, try them out sit in it for 5 minutes because when your 220lbs friend hangdogs his project while you’re belaying off your harness you may be sitting there for a while. Most harnesses these days have auto double backed adjustment straps, but be sure yours has this as it’s a useless headache to be without. Generally keep this for 4-5 years of use. After which throw it away.
Rock shoes ($60- $160): At the store and at the gym everyone will tell you “If your feet don’t hurt then your shoes aren’t small enough”. Disregard this nonsense. Unless you’ve been climbing for a while and you have specific V10 boulder problems where your feet keep slipping off chips you’ll be fine learning in something that doesn’t cause you to amputate toes. You’ll probably end up with 3-4 different pairs for different styles of climbing and one go to pair that never seems to last long enough. But for your first pair, make sure they are snug and comfortable without socks on so that you can wear them throughout your session.
ATC ($20-$30): Any ATC will do Petzl reverso is great as you can belay from above very easily and swap leads once you get into to multipitch climbing.
Chalk bag and chalk ($20-$30): Pick something sexy to attract the opposite sex.
Prussik ($5): You will use this to rappel into climbs and when lowering off after you clean an anchor. Two can also get you out of a bind if you need to ascend a rope. Get proper instruction before rappelling for your first time.
Helmet ($30): If you’re climbing outside you need a helmet. It is probably more important for the belayer than the climber. If a climber kicks off a rock or drops gear and the belayer is hit this is seriously dangerous. Just wear your helmet and stop complaining about how cool you think you are.
That should do you! The beautiful thing about climbing is that for the most part you can always find free areas outdoors to climb (contact your local climbing organization or guidebook). So after this initial investment it’s a fairly cheap activity to participate in (as long as you have friends with ropes and anchor gear). Be safe and respectful and help keep access to the climbing community open for all!