Rock Climbing Gear to start and advance
Climbing: all you really need is your body and a rock. But then you'll see the advantages rock shoes offer, then you'll find yourself more than 10 feet off the ground and need a rope and harness. Eventually a portaledge looks like something you really, really need...
Note: This is merely intended to offer suggestions for climbing gear essentials as climbers advance their skillset. You should take classes, and carry the 10 essentials, first aid, food, common sense, etc.
Your goal is to touch a rock, artificial or real, and to get your feet off the ground.
You don't need a lot:
Black Diamond's Momentum Climbing Shoes come in Men's, Women's and Kid's sizes, are cheap (sales as low as $46), decent shoes for beginners. Outdoor Gear Lab and REI agree. You can also rent shoes from a gym, or buy a used pair.
Chalk & Bag
Your goal is to tie into a rope and get to the top of a wall.
You'll need a rope and a belay lesson, so find a gym or a friend who knows what they're doing, and get started. All you need to add is a:
Nothing beats the Momentum Harness for value. Like the Momentum Shoes, it comes in Men's, Women's and Kids sizes as well as a full body variation for the very young. "Women’s" harnesses are made with larger leg loops and smaller waists if that matches your figure. You can also rent a harness from the gym.
Your goal is to climb outside.
You've tried bouldering and top roping at this point, so now you have a choice. If you enjoyed bouldering, all you really need after the shoes and chalk is a:
If you loved roped climbing, you will need a few more items:
Buy what you learned to use. I like the ClickUp, but most people learn on a GriGri or ATC. Also consider your goals: leading on a GriGri is harder than an ATC but toproping is immeasurably safer with an assisted braking device. Will you be rapelling? Multipitch climbing? Outdoor Gear Lab has a good roundup of the top devices and their uses.
My favorite is the Mammut Infinity, it also scores well with OutdoorGearLab, but there are a variety of choices. You generally want a "dynamic", "single" rope, medium diameter (9.2mm-10mm), and 70m long for the most versatility. Do not get a half, twin or static rope, you'll learn why later.
Anchor building supplies
Finally, a lesson or guide. I cannot stress this enough: Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity. If you build your anchor incorrectly, don't know how to belay, or wear your harness wrong, you can die. Go with someone who knows how to stay safe and learn from them. Many gyms plan outside events, REI hosts classes and events around the world, AMGA has a list of certified guides and there are Meetups for beginner climbers everywhere.
Now go find a crag. Follow your instructor's lead to build the anchor, set the top rope, tie in, check your belay and climb on.
Your goal is to lead a route (climb without a toprope!).
It is time to take off the training wheels: no more toprope. This makes climbing even more dangerous so first take a lead climbing class from your local gym. Learn to clip, learn to rest, learn to fall. Learn more advanced anchor building. The draws are usually fixed in the gym so you already have everything you need (except expertise) to climb a "sport" route. When you're ready to try a sport lead outside, you'll need:
More quickdraws. Buy as many as your route requires, usually 6-12, sometimes as many as 24. The guidebook or online beta will list the number of 'bolts', one draw per bolt, plus the anchor if you're using draws to build that. It never hurts to carry a couple extra. The Indicators are excellent for ease of clipping but can be heavy on long routes or long approaches, for those I switch to .
Anchor building supplies
Most routes don't have a fixed anchor with nice bolts, so you'll need anchor building gear to adapt to everything from trees to rock features to trad anchors. An 7-10m length of 8mm cordelette or 11mm diameter static rope is highly versatile. 1-inch webbing is also great, easier on trees and vegetation, and is cheaper. More slings are always useful!
Find an easy sport route, a partner or guide who can belay and teach you, and go send it!
Your goal is to climb a route without bolts: a Trad Route.
You will absolutely want several more lessons: trad anchors are difficult to build and can kill you. Trad gear placement is hard and can kill you. Trad leading is hard and can kill you. You'll need a lot more gear to "build your rack":
At least one full set of nuts is a requirement on any rack. BD's Stopper Set Pro is the 'old classic' set and a great value, but even nuts can be redesigned and have features added so there are a variety of options today.
Quickdraws don't work for trad routes, you need more play and flexibility while your route meanders the rock. Slings are the first component of an Alpine Draw, you need one per piece of pro you place, plus a few spares – so about 6-12 to start. Singles and Doubles both have uses, so get a variety.
Your goal is to climb a multipitch trad route.
Multipitch climbing is single-pitch trad, then do it again and again. Except now the consequences of failure, lack of beta, bad or missing gear, etc. are much higher. You absolutely need a good partner for this part – arguing the techniques of rope management while in a hanging belay 600 feet above the ground is hard. You'll also need to add a few things to your trad setup:
On multipitch routes you'll need a belay device with a belay-from-above or Guide mode and probably a rappel capability. The GriGri can belay from above, but not rappel. The ATC-Guide is the standard and generally the best, simplest and smoothest for belaying from above, and when used in guide mode adds an auto-block ability – be sure to learn to use this on the ground before trying it out!
Anchor building supplies
Your rack should already have a versatile collection of webbing, slings and 'biners to build an anchor anywhere. Now you need to double it: you'll have two anchors at any given moment as you move up the wall. Cordelette is generally the most versatile to build trad anchors with so buy a few 7-10m lengths and plenty of lockers.
A Prusik cord, hollow block, or emergency ascender is essential for the long rappels and can help in emergency and rescue situations you may encounter on a multipitch route. You should know how to build your own from a length of 5-6mm cord and should always have one on your harness.
Thats it for now. The follow-up to this post will go through gear needed for Aid climbing, Rescue gear, Big Wall and Expedition climbing, and even Ice climbing gear.