Essential Rock Climbing Gear: Scale a Cliff Face Safely

So you started climbing in the gym and are now ready to put your newly learned abilities out on some real rocks. As it turns out, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor rock climbing. With granite slabs, Dolerite ridges, red sandstone routes, and big, coastal trad climbs to choose from, rock climbing is one of the outdoor adventure activities to take on if you want a little rush of blood. Regardless of the level of experience you have, here are a few essential items of equipment that every climber should have on their sport rack for a safe and pleasant rock climbing session.

Climbing Ropes

woman being lowered by rope after rock climbing

In the case of a fall, a climbing rope protects the climber. They are made up of two major parts: a core and a sheath. The core of the rope provides the majority of its strength, the sheath protects the core and makes the rope simpler to manage. They are classified into two types: dynamic and static climbing ropes. Regardless of whether you choose a dynamic or static type, climbing ropes are a must-have buy upon your first climbing session. Elastic dynamic ropes are meant to absorb the force of a falling climber. Static ropes are employed in anchoring systems, transporting gear up a wall, and rappelling, but they are never used to belay a climber.

Ropes are classified into two types: dynamic and static. Dynamic ropes are made to stretch in order to absorb the shock of a falling climber. Static ropes have very little stretch, making them ideal for circumstances such as lowering an injured climber, ascending a rope, or pulling a cargo up. Static ropes should never be used for top-roping or lead climbing since they are not designed, tested, or certified for those loads. If you want a dynamic rope for climbing, you have three options: single, half, and twin ropes.

Single Climbing Ropes

Because single ropes are ideal for trad climbing, sport climbing, big-wall climbing, and top-roping, the great majority of climbers purchase them. The term “single” denotes that the rope is intended to be used alone, rather than in conjunction with another rope, as other varieties are. Single ropes are available in a variety of diameters and lengths, making them appropriate for a variety of climbing disciplines, and they are typically easier to manage than two-rope systems. Some single ropes are also rated as half and twin ropes, allowing them to be used with any of the three climbing styles. It is critical to only utilize a rope in the manner in which it was intended and tested. Single ropes are identified by a circular 1 at either end of the rope.

Half Ropes

These are ideal for trad climbing on multi-pitch wandering routes, mountaineering, and ice climbing. You utilize two ropes while climbing with half ropes. As you ascend, clip one rope to the left protection and the other to the right protection. When done appropriately, the ropes can run parallel and straight, decreasing rope drag on wandering paths.

Twin Ropes

These are ideal for non-wandering multi-pitch rock climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing. Twin ropes, like half ropes, are a two-rope system. With twin ropes, however, you ALWAYS clip both strands through each piece of protection, just as you would with a single rope. Because there will be greater rope drag than with half ropes, twin ropes are a suitable choice for non-wandering courses. On the bright side, twin ropes are thinner than half ropes, resulting in a lighter and less bulky system.

Climbing Harnesses

man climbing with a harness

While all climbing harnesses are essentially intended to distribute weight and catch you if you fall, several harnesses are particularly built to meet the demands of certain types of climbers. Because sport climbing does not need a climber hanging heavy gear from his or her harness, sport harnesses are constructed with minimalist design characteristics such as fewer gear loops. Sport harnesses feature smaller leg loops and waist belts since many sport routes are single pitch and do not need dangling all day in a harness.

By removing unnecessary elements from a harness, it becomes significantly lighter and enabling sport climbers to push harder. While an all-around harness will still function well for sport climbing, a sport-specific harness is ideal for someone who prefers to climb at the gym or at a local sport crag rather than on trad routes, large walls, or alpine ice.


woman climbing with quickdraws

Sport routes are protected by a fixed line of bolts drilled into the rock and a set of fixed anchors at the top, thus sport climbers just require a rack of quickdraws, two non-locking carabiners joined by a stitched sling to protect a route. Quickdraws are generally available in two lengths: a small version 10 to 12 cm long and a long version 15-18 cm long. Shorter pulls are less bulky and lighter on your harness. They work well on straightforward routes. Longer draws are ideal for meandering routes or overhanging cliffs because they decrease rope drag. A set of quickdraws comprised of a combination of the two lengths allows you to employ lengthy or short draws depending on the nature of a route.

A draw is often required for every bolt on a route, two for the anchors, and an additional two or three in case of an emergency. Many sport crags will be satisfied with 12 to 16 draws on average. However, it is critical to consider the places where you will be climbing and how many quickdraws you will need to bring with you.

Belay Device

man putting on a belay devise on rope

A belay device is a mechanical friction device used to keep the rope under control during belaying. Their primary function is to give a simple means to halt the rope if the climber falls. They can, however, be utilized to regulate a rope’s fall when rappelling or lowering a climber.

Passive belay devices are less expensive and lighter, whereas active devices give assistance braking in the case of a fall. These devices are not automated and rely on initial friction from a brake hand to work. Active belay devices, on the other hand, might more readily lead to belayer carelessness because of their supposed automated functioning.

If you’re a newbie you should start with simple tube-style, passive devices to learn and form habits, and then progress to more sophisticated devices with extra functions only after they have mastered the basics. The more advanced gadgets offer some extra safety measures, but only if the fundamentals are followed. Beginners who are given a “safer belay device” are far more prone to make errors.

Climbing Shoes

climbing shoes for rock climbing

Rock climbing shoes are one of the most crucial pieces of equipment since they connect the climber to the rock. Choose a shoe that is built for comfort and all-around performance when purchasing your first pair. Then, as your climbing skills improve, you may progress to higher-performing shoes that are best suited to your unique climbing goals and hobbies. With improvements in materials technology (shoes don’t stretch as much anymore) and shifting climbing techniques and aims, the traditional recommendation to purchase shoes two sizes smaller than your street shoe is utterly outdated.


woman with a helmet climbing

Helmets protect against rockfall, which can happen even in sport crags. They also serve to protect your head if you wind yourself inverted from a fall with the rope behind your leg, or if you clip your foot on a protrusion of rock. A climbing helmet’s principal function is to protect a climber’s head from falling debris such as rock or dropped equipment. In the case of a hard fall and flip, it can also protect the climber’s back of the head from a collision with the rock.

Many sport climbers do not wear helmets, and their use is absolutely optional. However, with today’s lightweight helmets the traditional concerns that they’re way too big, heavy, or hot to wear when climbing hard are becoming more baseless. Helmets are not commonly used indoors, but they are becoming increasingly popular and are now considered an essential piece of equipment in most outdoor climbing.

Chalk Bag

rock climber putting on chalk from a chalk bag

If you’re new to climbing, you might be wondering why everyone uses chalk. When you’re at a climbing gym or at an outdoor climbing area, you would notice that everyone has a little bag hooked to their waist and hanging off their back. These are known as chalk bags, and they are filled with chalk. A chalk pack is essential for every climber. Chalk absorbs moisture from your hands and provides a firm grip on holds. A chalk bag is a simple item but look for one with a waist belt, a drawstring to keep your chalk from falling out, and a soft, comfy inside lining.