If you are considering getting into climbing or trying climbing for the first time, you may wonder if climbing is expensive. Like any other activity, you have to buy gear to get started so how much do you have to spend if you want to get into climbing?
This article goes into the cost breakdown for everything including ways to save money and how to save money but if you don’t like reading, here is a quick summary:
The cost for getting started in rock climbing can range from $200-$800 depending on the climbing discipline, the gear you use and if you plan on climbing outdoors or indoors. Once you buy the first bit of gear, however, climbing is relatively cheap compared to other sports.
Basic Costs Of Climbing:
When it comes to climbing, you have bouldering and sports climbing as your most popular types. With each type of discipline, there is the different gear you need so the cost to get started is drastically different. However, there are a few things that every discipline requires, shoes and chalk.
Climbing Shoes: $70-$170
I noticed that some of the top-ranking articles for the expense of climbing suggest that the average cost of a good pair of climbing shoes is $170. In reality, the top of the line climbing shoes that Olympic climbers use is $170.
Most climbing shoes are between $100-$140 and beginner climbing shoes are around $100.
The thing about climbing shoes, however, is that you have to replace them if they wear out. If you boulder indoors, you will wear through your shoes much faster than if you boulder outdoors. Most climbers find that if they boulder indoors 5-days per/week all year then they will likely need to buy at least two pairs of shoes per year.
You can save money on shoes by just getting the shoes resoled for $40-$50 instead of buying a new pair of shoes each time they wear down.
Climbers that boulder outdoors on the weekends for 6-8 months out of the year usually only replace their shoes every two years or so.
Climbing Chalk Bag: $10-$45
Climbing chalk is essential for most climbers but you need something to carry the chalk in, which is where the chalk bag comes in handy. For sports climbing, chalk bags attach at your waist and you can usually only fit one hand in at a time (because your other hand is holding you on the wall). These chalk bags are usually around $15-$25 but you can get them pretty cheap online for around $10.
Some climbers like to get the fun fuzzy climbing bags with a face on them and those are usually around $30-$40.
As for bouldering, you can use a sport climbing chalk bag or you can use a chalk bucket which is meant to stay on the ground while you climb. It is made big enough to fit both hands in at a time and many boulderers prefer this since they don’t usually chalk up during the climb.
Chalk buckets usually cost between $30-$45 but you can go online to find them cheaper.
Climbing Chalk: $7-$25
The cost of climbing chalk is mostly dependent on how much chalk you get at a time and if you buy it as loose chalk, a chalk ball, a brick or liquid chalk. You can usually buy a chalk ball for under $10 but you usually get more chalk for your money if you buy loose chalk or a brick.
Loose chalk is exactly what it sounds like, a package of chalk that you put your hands into and it is the most common chalk purchased. Depending on the brand and how much chalk is in the package, most chalk is between $10-$25.
Chalk bricks are usually the cheapest in comparison to the amount of chalk you get, but as the name entails, it is a brick of chalk that you have to break apart before being able to use it. Chalk bricks usually cost between $10-$20 ($20 gets you A LOT of chalk).
Liquid chalk is different from the rest of the chalk listed as you can tell by the name. Liquid chalk is applied like lotion and then you wait for the liquid to evaporate until it leaves a dry chalk residue. It usually matches the cost of loose chalk and depending on how much you get, it’s between $10-$25. If you haven’t used liquid chalk before, I recommend purchasing a smaller amount of liquid chalk to test out if you like it.
Bouldering Total Gear Cost: $100-$400
This is the cheapest discipline in climbing because the safety gear that you need is minimal. For example, in lead climbing, you need belay devices, carabiners, quickdraws, rope, etc.. In bouldering, all you really need is a good pair of shoes, a crash pad and chalk.
Crash Pads: $100-$400
Crash pads are the only safety gear that you use for bouldering and it is intended to prevent you from breaking anything when you fall. Crash pads cost depends on how much land it covers, how thick it is, and the brand. Most crash pads are under $300 but many climbers prefer purchasing more than one pad, which boosts the costs up a lot.
The nice thing about crash pads is that you usually don’t have to replace them. They aren’t lifetime guaranteed, but unless you are dragging them across razors, they should last you a very long time.
Sport Climbing Total Gear Cost: $125-$495
Sports climbing is usually more expensive than bouldering because it requires a lot more safety gear. The gear does usually last a long time, so one nice thing is that once you purchase it, it should last for a very long time and you probably won’t need to buy more for at least two years, that is if you take care of your gear.
Rope Cost: $50-$300
The rope is one of the most important safety gear equipment for rock climbing. The cost variation for a climbing rope is dependent on the type of rope you get, dynamic or static, the length of the rope and the diameter of the rope.
How long you need the rope will be dependent on the climbs you intend to do. In my area, most climbs are at least 30 feet and go up to 90 feet. Then you have big wall climbing which is significantly higher than that. Climbing rope is measured in meters, so consider that as well when you are converting your climbing routes to how long you need the rope to be.
The cost between static and dynamic climbing rope isn’t usually significant.
A static rope is great for repelling and top roping but if you are lead climbing/sport climbing then a dynamic climb will make falls much less impactful.
A static rope is cheaper than you can find for a dynamic rope. For example, you can usually find static rope that is 30 meters long for under $75 and the dynamic rope is between $75-$90.
In addition to the type of rope, you also need to consider the diameter of the rope. A 10.5mm rope is cheaper than a 9mm rope, but it is also much heavier so consider that when you are looking at how far you have to hike with it.
The diameter of the rope also affects the interaction with the belay device. Make sure that the rope will fit in your belay device and vice-versa.
The PETZL – Volta 9.2 mm dynamic rope that is 30 meters long is around $130
The X XBEN 10.5 mm dynamic rope that is 35 meters long is around $90
Harnesses are what attach you to the rope and are essential for your safety while rock climbing. The cost of harnesses is dependent on the features such as padding, loops for holding quickdraws, and sizing adjustment features. In general, you can get a nice harness for around $50.
If you really want to save money, you can purchase the same harnesses that they use at climbing gyms for less than $20. However, there is no padding, you don’t have loops for holding quickdraws, they don’t have any padding and the sizing clasps aren’t comfortable.
A better choice if you are trying to save money on a harness and still get the nice padding features and other necessities for climbing comfortably, is a starter kit.
Starter kits are around $60 and include the harness, a belay device, carabiner and chalk bag/chalk. If you want to learn more about starter kits and what to consider when choosing between the two, check out this article (Rock Climbing Starter Kits: Harness, Belay Device, Carabiner & Chalk Bag – The Best of the Bunch)
Carabiners attach the harness of the belayer to the belay device that controls whether or not you fall to the ground when you slip, thus it is another one of those important safety devices. Carabiners range in price depending on their shape, size, weight, locking mechanism and brand.
The locking mechanism is either auto-lock or screw-lock and they are both equally safe. The difference is usually additional effort to screw the carabiner shut and to unscrew the carabiner if you screwed it too tight but the cost difference is minimal, maybe $1-$2 difference.
The same is true for the pricing differences for the shape, size, weight and brand, though that cost of $1-$2 adds up.
A good base price is about $10 for two carabiners that are a heavy screw-lock and can go up to $20 for two carabiners that are a light auto-locking carabiner device.
Rappelling/Belaying Devices: $15-$120
Belay devices, as you can see from the price range is probably the most variable safety gear that you buy. This price range is based on safety features that range from a basic ATC device, passive-assisted-braking and active-assisted-braking devices.
If you want a device that meets the standards of most USA climbing gyms but is as basic as it gets without any additional features then you can get a basic ATC for around $15. If you want that basic ATC to have teeth that provide additional tension then you can get that for around $20.
Some countries require assisted-braking devices in their climbing gyms and these devices are either passive or active. Passive just means that the shape of the belay device prevents someone from falling by moving its position on the rope and these devices range from $40-$60.
Active means that there is a part of the device that pinches the rope. Active braking devices also have assisted lowering so you can easily control how fast a person is lowered compared to any other belay device. These devices usually range between $80-$100.
If you don’t know if you want to invest in an assisted-braking belay device, check out this article (Should You Upgrade To An Assisted-Braking Belay Device?)
Set Of Quickdraws: $20-$75
Quickdraws are what attaches the rope to the wall as you are climbing up. If you are top-roping then you may only use the quickdraws for the anchor. If you only need two for the anchors, then you can save money by purchasing the quickdraws individually instead of in a set.
Quickdraws mostly range in price by the length of the quickdraw and the type of closure system they use and, of course, how many quickdraws are in the set.
The length of the quickdraws needed is dependent on the shape of the climb. In many cases, you can just use the same size quickdraw for each part of the climb but sometimes if you are doing a climb that has bulges or certain types of overhangs you may need longer or shorter quickdraws so if you fall you don’t ram into the wall.
You can usually get a set of quickdraws that are all at the same length cheaper than a set that has different sizes.
The closure can also make a difference with the cost as well. Wire closure systems are popular because they easily open when you are trying to put it into a bolt. Some even have hybrids like this one from Black Diamond that has one for the rope part and for the bolt part.
The biggest cost-changing part of purchasing quickdraws is how many you need to complete the climb. Anchors are generally six feet apart so if you are climbing a 30 ft wall, you will need at least four to get up the wall and a two for the anchor at the top.
Unnecessary But Common Expenses
So the gear listed above is necessary for climbing but there are a couple of things that make climbing more enjoyable or that aren’t necessary but some choose to get it to get started with climbing anyway.
Climbing Brushes: $5-$15
Though brushes are “unnecessary” they are very nice to have on hand. Especially if you are climbing a route that is popular and has a lot of oil or chalk residue on it. However, many climbers (maybe ‘most’ climbers) don’t use a brush and some even use a toothbrush instead of buying a climbing brush (though, if you want to use a brush, I’d recommend a climbing brush – there is a significant difference).
Brushes are usually under $10 but if you want a lifetime warranty or one that has a secret compartment to attach a painters extension pole to it, then you may be spending closer to $15
Approach Shoes: $60-$150
This is one of those products that is nice for hiking out but it really isn’t necessary and won’t affect your climbing very much. However, they can help you stay comfortable while walking long distances on uneven trails like hiking shoes do and prevent you from slipping on the rock without the extra weight that most hiking boots have.
Gym Pass: $40-$80/month
If you live in an area that doesn’t have mountains nearby or you want to go climbing on a daily basis and outdoors isn’t feasible, then a gym pass is a great option to get climbing in.
Most climbing gyms have a monthly membership that can save you a lot of money in the long run.
The cost of the climbing gyms usually depends on how many gyms are in your area (competition), the square footage of climbing walls, the hours that the gym is open, what equipment or classes are available and whether or not they have staff on location.
One nice thing about a climbing gym is that they usually have all the gear, or at least most of the gear you need so you don’t have to spend as much money on the gear listed above.