37 things may seem like a lot, but most climbers carry this stuff every time they go to the mountains. Generally, climbers bring safety gear, climbing necessities, first aid and other more advanced gear.
I also included a bonus item at the end (#38) that many climbers regret forgetting so read to the end or scroll – I know how you do!
Whether you are looking into getting gear for your first climb or are looking for things to make your climbing experience more enjoyable, here is what you should bring every time you go climbing in the mountains.
Gear to Keep You Safe While Climbing
Possibly the most important gear for a climber, harnesses are what keeps climbers safely attached to the rope so they don’t hit the ground when they fall. There are many types of harnesses, but it is important to get one from a reputable retailer that is brand new. Used harnesses run the risk of microabrasions, which can be invisible to the naked eye and cause gear malfunction and become a hazard.
2. Belay & Rappel Devices
The belay/rappel device is a small device that clips to a belayers harness and control the rope. Depending on the amount of rope between the belay device and the anchor or clip, the rope can be tight or have minimal tension. There are many styles of belay devices such as tubular, assisted braking and figure 8 belay devices. Here is my favorite belay device. The belay device makes it easier to hold the weight of a person on the rope without additional special equipment.
Carabiners are a specialized metal loop with a spring-loaded gate that connects things together. There are multiple types of carabiners in rock climbing such as screw-gate locking, auto locking and non-locking carabiners. Depending on the purpose of the carabiner, there are also different shapes and sizes.
Typically screw-gate locking and auto locking carabiners are used to attach belay devices to harnesses or quickdraws to top anchors when additional safety is needed. Non-locking carabiners are used in quickdraws and to help carry gear as needed.
Quickdraws are a common device that has two carabiners connected with a semi-rigid material. The quickdraws are used to run the rope through and connect to the anchors. Most climbers bring an average of a dozen quickdraws that vary from small, medium and long. The quickdraws are used throughout the climb and on the top anchor. Depending on the reach and the shape of the climb, climbers may use the different sizes as they see fit to make the climbing process easier.
Climbing rope is the main safety component in rock climbing. Without the climbing rope, there wouldn’t be anything to prevent the climber from hitting the ground if they fall. Climbing rope comes in different lengths, thickness and sealants.
The thickness of the rope heavily affects the weight of the rope and many climbers prefer thinner rope to make the hike to and from the climb easier as well as less weight to carry while lead climbing. However, the thinner the rope, the faster it moves through belay devices so make sure that the belay device is compatible with the rope thickness and only use thinner ropes if you have an advanced belayer.
The sealant of a rope changes the durability and water resistance of a climb. If you are climbing on ice or repelling from waterfalls, a dry rope is ideal because it has a special sealant that decreases the amount of water absorption and will make the rope last longer.
Climbing helmets protect belayers and climbers from falling rocks or falling gear. Unlike skating helmets or biking helmets, climbing helmets are made specifically for protecting the top of the head and don’t usually have protection on the side or back of the head. In addition, climbing helmets are commonly very light so that you can move your head and neck freely without resistance.
Basic Climbing Necessities
7. Rock Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing shoes are a climber’s most important tool outside of safety gear. Climbing shoes are made special for distributing weight so you can hold your body on the tip of your toes. In addition, they have a rubber that grips the foothold or rock face allowing climbers to stand on very small holds securely. Here are my favorite climbing shoes for bouldering.
Commonly, climbers will wear a size smaller in climbing shoes than street shoes to ensure that there isn’t any movement in the climbing shoe for their toes to wiggle or ankle to move. Depending on the type of climbing that is done most often, climbers will wear shoes that have different angle toes. There are three main angles, flat (where the toe is flat and doesn’t curve at the toe), moderate (the toe is turned down moderately) and aggressive (when the toe is dramatically/aggressively pointed downward).
8. A Chalk Bag With Chalk
Chalk bags are a climber’s best friend. Climbing chalk’s main purpose is to dry climbers’ hands while they are climbing so that sweat doesn’t prevent them from completing the climb. This helps climbers grip handholds and stay on holds longer so that they can continue climbing without over-exerting themselves or slipping. Here is an article about climbing without chalk. Most chalk is made from magnesium carbonate, but some, such as Black Diamond Black Gold mixes Upsalite with their magnesium carbonate to increase moisture absorption. Climbing chalk also ranges from a super-fine texture to super-chunky texture.
9. Water Bottle
Just like any other sport, you need to stay hydrated to have maximum performance. A lot of climbers focus on hydrating well before they start climbing and then intake water in between climbs. It is uncommon for a climber have a water bottle or drink water while actively climbing because bottles of water can be heavy and climbers only have one free hand at a time. However, if you don’t mind the additional weight, hydration packs are a great way to drink water while climbing because it is hands free and doesn’t get your hands wet.
A sling, also known as a runner, is a cord/webbing that is a multi-functional tool for climbers. Commonly, climbers use slings to carry gear such as quickdraws up a climbing wall, extend the length of quickdraws as needed, run rope through if anchor bolts don’t have chains, etc. Slings are frequently flat or tubular and is made of different types of material. The Mammut Contact sling, for example, is made of Dyneema, known for being the strongest fiber on earth, pound for pound significantly stronger than steel. They also range in cost but are usually less than $10.
Other Helpful Gear
11. Climbing Bag For All Your Gear
Carrying all of your climbing gear is almost impossible without a bag to carry it in. Climbing bags can be basic backpacks or specialized for climbing gear. Many climbers choose to use day-packs or other hiking gear because they are better at distributing the weight of gear beyond the shoulder.
12. Rope Bag/Tarp
Rope bags usually have tarp built into them so that you can not only hold the rope and keep it safe while in transit, the tarp will keep it clean and away from the dirt and rocks on the ground.
A Stiffy is a quickdraw that is long and stiff. It helps you reach anchors that may be further away. This is especially nice if you are tired or can’t reach the next clip. You can still clip in and rest if needed.
14. Stick Clip
Stick clips are used to clip in the rope to the first bolt without risking falling by staying on the ground and using a long pole with a small device on the end to hook quickdraws and rope to the first bolt. There are three main types of stick clips, the Super Clip, the Squid, and the Beta Stick and each of them excel at different aspects of placing the first anchor.
15. Jump Rope
Jumping rope is a great way to warm up and get your blood flowing before you start climbing. Though there are plenty of other ways to warm up, jump rope warms your entire body up from your toes all the way to the tips of your fingers so you can be sure that it prepares you for climbing.
16. Grip Trainer
Hand injuries are one of the most common injuries in climbing. If you don’t warm up your grip prior to climbing, then your risk of injury increases. Grip trainers are a great way to warm up your hands and fingers before a climb. They are small and light so they are easy to bring them with you wherever you go. I recommend ring trainers because they don’t make a noise like the trainers built with springs.
17. Belay Glasses
Every belayer knows that the worst part of belaying is craning your neck up for long periods of time while watching the climber go up. This is especially true if the climber is going up an inclined route. Belay glasses allow you to look straight ahead and still see the climber above you using prisms and mirrors.
“A towel is just about the most massively useful thing,” as per the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. In addition to being great to wipe your hands, you can use it to keep your gear off the ground or use it as a blanket if your cold.
19. Puffy Jacket
Another belayers-best-friend is the most common jacket you will find out in the mountains for climbers, a puffy jacket. They are warm and are great windbreakers, making them perfect for the elevation gain and different weather commonly found while climbing.
20. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are used in rock climbing bags the same way that travelers use them in a suitcase. They are great for separating gear and other belongings. A lot of climbers prefer to pack the heavy things (such as rope) at the bottom of the climbing bag to help with weight distribution so using packing cubes makes it easy to quickly get gear in and out of your bag without spilling it everywhere.
A headlamp is a climber’s best friend. Even if you finish your climbing route before the sun goes down, the hike back may take longer than expected, thus a headlamp can help you safely get back to your campsite or car, hands-free.
22. Belay Gloves
Belaying requires running the rope through your hands constantly and that can rub your hands raw. Belay gloves provide a barrier between your hands and the rope. Something to keep in mind is what part of your hands that you use to hold the rope. Belay gloves that you get from the climbing shop usually have the fingers cut out of them and I use a lot of my fingers, so they don’t work. I’ve used a few different types of belay gloves but I always go back to the $8 working gloves from Lowes.
23. Cliff Bars/Granola Bar
Just like in hiking, it is always a good idea to keep some calories in your pack. Cliff bars and other types of energy bars are a great pick-me-up to keep you moving and having the strength to keep climbing.
There really isn’t a need to explain what deodorant is, only that every climber should have this in their bag. The worst thing that happens when climbing is getting a whiff of your own odor as you reach for the next hold. Let alone, hiking back to the car next to someone that smells. Some climbers are worried about using a deodorant that is harmful to the environment but there are plenty of products that work as a deodorant.
25. Essential Oils
Essential oils are a little different than you may usually expect, but for the mind-game part of the climbing challenge, essential oils can help elevate your focus and “serenity.” Essential oils have also been known to be soothing on muscles or heightened energy.
26. Climbers Tape
Climbers tape is just athletic tape that comes in different widths and colors. The most common use for climbers tape is when a climber’s hands tear or a flapper. They tape up their hand and then keep climbing. Another common use is if a climber has a healing hand, they will tape up prior to climbing to prevent additional tares or pulled ligaments.
27. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer isn’t just because you are out in nature and things get dirty. It is also good for getting the chalk off your hands as well. Though hand sanitizer isn’t the best option for cleaning a wound, it is a mobile-friendly option that would be good for minor scrapes.
28. Climbing Salve
Climbing Salve is a fantastic product for the hands of any climber. After a long climbing session, you can rub a thin layer onto your hands and fill all the dry spots and cracks in my hands creating a soothing/cooling sensation. It also helps increase the flexibility of your skin so that tares and cracking are less likely.
There are multiple types of climbing slaves such as Climb On, Joshua Tree, Climb Skin, or my personal go-to: homemade climbers salve with melaleuca and peppermint as a great antiseptic and cooling agent.
29. Nail File/Sandpaper
The number one way to prevent flappers while climbing is to keep your calluses in-check and sanded down. A nail file and sandpaper are super light and easy tool that you can use to do that. The sandpaper/nail file is a great way to trim down rough spots and snags on skin. In addition, they help keep fingernails in check as well.
30. Skin Clipper/Nail Clipper
Sometimes nail files aren’t enough, you need clippers. Nail clippers are made with rounded edges compared to skin clippers that are a straight line edge. Since the flat edge makes it easy to use on your skin and it can still be used on nails, the skin clipper is a good option. Clippers can be used before and after climbs, as well as during the climb.
I was hesitant to include this in the list because there is a concern for using ibuprofen or Advil while climbing. Since it is a pain suppressor, it may encourage you to keep climbing when you should stop to prevent injury. However, it is still good to keep with you, just in case.
The primary purpose of chapstick is to provide a layer on the lip surface to seal moisture in lips and protect them from dryness such as wind, which is commonly found on the cliffside.
While out in the mountains, your elevation is higher and your risk of sun damage is increased so it is important to wear sunscreen. At the minimum, put sunscreen on your face and ears. Sunscreen is usually greasy, so remove any residual sunscreen from your hands completely before starting your climb. Chalk does help but you should use hand sanitizer or hand soap prior to putting chalk on for the best results.
After washing your hands and removing the chalk, use lotion to help your skin heal. The elasticity of your hands greatly improves your skin’s ability to “take a beating,” which is unavoidable when climbing and lotion helps your skin be more elastic.
35. Bug Repellent
Any climber or hiker knows how important it is to protect yourself from mosquitoes. In addition to the discomfort of a mosquito bite, they can also carry diseases that aren’t worth the risk. Just like sunscreen, bug repellent can be very greasy on your hands so try to remove any from the palms of your hands prior to climbing.
It is very common to scratch your arms or legs while climbing so you need to clean the wound, put some triple antibiotic such as Neosporin on it and cover it with a bandaid. That way you can keep climbing without worrying about the scratches getting infected or blood getting all over the climb. Most climbers recommend bringing a range of bandaid sizes. If you don’t have a bandaid for the climb, at least bring some gauze so that you can tape gauze onto the wound with your climbing tape.
Neosporin or any other type of triple-antibiotic is important to keep on hand because it is highly possible that you get a scratch that needs to be cared for and Neosporin will help disinfect it. Prior to applying Neosporin, clean your hands and then clean the wound. Keep in mind that Neosporin is greasy, so remove any leftover Neosporin from your hands before you put chalk back on your hands and start climbing again.
38. Toilet Paper
Toilet paper is great for if you need to use the bathroom out in the mountains. It is also great for cleaning blood or a runny nose. Before you go out to the mountains, make sure that you know the rules in the area. If you can dig a cat hole and bury the TP, make sure you bring a little shovel. If you plan on packing-it-out, make sure that you bring zip-bloc bags or whatever you would like to use to bring that out.