What kind of rock climbing gear do you need? That will depend on your level of experience and where you intend on climbing. Indoor gyms usually offer low cost rentals whereas you’ll probably want to purchase your own if you are climbing in the mountains. Climbing shoes that fit you well, that are comfortable but snug, will probably be your first purchase. Once you’ve tried climbing with a number of rentals, you’ll have a good idea of the brand, style and features you like. Because rock climbing is very foot-intensive, you’ll want a reliable feel before you worry much about your own rope, harness or karabiners. Shoes can cost anywhere from $20 to $200. The price doesn’t necessarily coincide with the quality, but rather the specific uses. Until you are experienced enough to understand the slight variations, choose one with a sturdy sole and very snug fit. Climbing shoes shouldn’t be prohibitively uncomfortable. Once you have a pair of shoes, your next piece of rock climbing gear is likely to be a harness. These cost anywhere from $20 to $100. A harness is the contraption that wraps around your legs and waist, where rope is attached with a figure eight knot. Some harnesses have adjustable legs and some offer padding at the legs, waist or both. Multi-purpose are great for hobbyists, beginners and experts alike. Alpine harnesses typically aren’t padded and have minimal features to reduce weight. Big wall harnesses are for climbers heading out for all day, multi pitch excursions. Competition bags are for those elitists that participate in climbing contests. They are much more streamlined, have little or no padding and few bells and whistles. To add to your shoes and harness, you might consider picking up some karabiners you like. There are two basic styles ovals and Ds. In addition, there are four types of gates (openings) that allow rope or protection in and out. Straight gates are standard. They provide significant safety, they aren’t as likely to wiggle free or become weak. Bent gates are easier to use but are more likely to break and should never be used on a primary piece of protection. Locking gates are the safest but take longer to use, as you must lock them in the closed position. Locking gate karabiners are also more expensive. Wire gate karabiners are relatively new to the market but have been found to be just as reliable as straight gate karabiners. There is controversy among the rock climbing community about the purchase and use of used rock climbing equipment. Some won’t purchase used ropes or harnesses unless they know about how it was stored. The reason for this is that nylon (the material most ropes and harnesses are made of) is susceptible to environmental factors like acidic fumes that will not show on the rope or harness, but will weaken its fibers. Metal gear, like protection and karabiners, are safe to purchase used if they have no rust or wearing on them. Cams should move well. Karabiners should be free of stress cracks and the gate should be in good working order. When in doubt, don’t purchase anything you aren’t sure will perform as it should new or used. Shop wisely and you can accrue a nice collection of rock climbing gear without breaking the bank.
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