There are way too many equipment that aids climbing in the world today. Just like food, when choices are a plenty, you may end up wanting a piece of everything.
Have you been frustrating over what, or how, to pick your first set of equipment? We, too, have gone through that phase, and we know how painful it can get.
Having seen countless beginners getting started on their climbing career, here are some suggestions from our experienced coaches and instructors on what you should look out for. Let’s keep it simple this time and narrow your choices down.
Even though this could be the most important factor of all, it should be the least of your worries. Majority of the climbing equipment you see in the market today go through stringent tests by accredited and independent third parties (not the manufacturers). Each individual piece of equipment must satisfy the requirements set by UIAA, before the UIAA Safety Label or certification number can be printed or engraved on the equipment.
However, if you do not see any UIAA safety label on a equipment, that does not mean it is of inferior quality. You should still at least find the CE mark on the equipment. Just like the UIAA standards, CE (which translates to “European Conformity”) sets the requirements for many products in the world, and certify only if they meet or exceed the standards. Just having the CE mark, albeit less stringent than the UIAA standards, is usually good enough as an assurance of quality to consumers.
And… if you don’t see either of them? You would have to trust your own guts to use it! …but we recommend stashing them in that remembrance box.
► Ease of use
This pointer should be rather straight forward; being someone new to something, and something as complex as climbing, you would rather start out easy, right? The idea is to NOT get something that would require you hours and hours of practice to get things right. Your first set of stuff should already be familiar for you to use, or take at most several minutes to familiarize. Probably something that you have used or tried during a certification or climbing course you attended. This applies to all that you’re getting your hands on ‒ harness, shoes, and most importantly, belay device. If you have friends who already own what you’re intending to get, borrow from them and try it out! Getting first-hand experience before purchasing definitely helps decision making easier.
Side note: Using devices that you are not familiar with can certainly be deadly! We just can’t stress this enough. Here’s a humorous video from Petzl on the dangers of bad belaying techniques or possibly an unfamiliar device.
Certain harnesses have multiple buckles everywhere, such as on leg loops and waist belt. Though they may fit you better due to the higher adjustability, some beginners might, instead, overlook and not secure all the buckles properly. Some may even find it a hassle having to loosen and tighten all the buckles before and after each climbing session, and they may opt for the one with the least buckles ‒ just one on the waist belt. Also, the harness should have the necessary number of gear loops for your intended type of climb. If you visit climbing gyms more often, just one gear loop (on each side) is probably more than enough. If you intend to advance in your climbing (e.g. lead climbing on a natural rock), more gear loops would be necessary for all the climbing equipment you have to bring along!
Again, another point that is often overlooked by beginners, or that they’re unaware of. This would be more applicable to climbing shoes and harnesses. You have probably heard this somewhere that, “the climbing shoes should be somewhat comfortably tight on your feet.” Or that “you should try one size smaller.”
Truth is, only you would know your fit best. Nobody can actually ‘be in your shoes’ when helping to choose your shoes.
Some of us have wider feet; some of us narrower. People with wider feet will find that they generally need a bigger pair of shoes just to even fit their feet into the shoes, let alone getting the right fitting size. To make things worse, every brand and model of shoes were probably made with different lasts (moulds), so it is not uncommon to find that a size 8 of brand A fits you perfectly; yet, you have to squeeze every last ounce of energy just to fit in a size 8.5 of brand B.
If a harness still feels too loose after you have tighten all the fastening buckles, it is definitely too big. Likewise, some harness will go out of symmetry when it’s tightened too little, having the belay loop slanted to either side. Although this poses little risk, your groin will thank you if your harness fits nicely.
General rule of thumb here? Try on the products physically before you purchase.
Just like any other occasion, each climbing session is important to…, well, climbers; and looking good while climbing is also important to some. Some prefer to dress up flamboyantly, some just simply T-shirt and jeans. Donning your preferred attire and/or equipment just to stand out from the crowd, or so that it represents your unique self, is what some climbers want to do.
Photo: Vertical Life
So, that pair of shoes or that beautiful harness that catches your eyes? Or that striking 3/4 pants you’ve always wanted? Go get them as long as they also meet all your other considerations as mentioned above. What we want climbers to do is to really climb happy!
Check out some of our newly imported apparels here!