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Rock Climbing Starter Kits For Beginners Compared

An all-in-one rock climbing starter kit is perfect if you are just starting to climb or would like to upgrade from renting or borrowing your friend’s gear. Rock climbing starter kits have everything you need (but the rope) to enjoy your climbing adventures. There are a few things, however, that you should consider before purchasing your rock climbing starter kit besides the design of the gear so I put together this detailed article that outlines the top three rock climbing starter kits.

If you want to skip the reading, here is a short summary: I would like to recommend the Black Diamond Momentum kit because that is what I started with but after trying friends’ harnesses/gear and doing extensive research, I recommend getting the Mad Rock Venus 4.0It has the perfect balance between quality gear, premium features, and great cost. 

Mad Rock Climbing Starter Kit
Mad Rock Venus 4.0 Starter Kit for Climbers

The (possibly) more important takeaway from this article is that price doesn’t perfectly correlate with quality and features. You can get a great climbing kit without the need to pay top-dollar. I’ve spent plenty of top-dollar money on climbing gear and highly recommend that you look at the features and benefits that come with the gear you are looking for instead of the logo that is sewn onto the side of it.

What to Look for In a Rock Climbing Starter Kit

  • Harness: The most important part of your rock climbing starter kit is the harness. Since the harness is your number one safety piece, I recommend using brand-new, name-brand harnesses. Harnesses come in different sizes for your waist and legs, so make sure that you pay attention to that prior to purchasing and find one that will fit you. 
  • Carabiner: You will need a carabiner to get started climbing so it is ideal in your starter kit. There are multiple types of carabiner shapes that are proficient with specific types of belay devices. As long as you purchase a climbing starter kit from a name-brand, the carabiners style should fit the belay device.
  • Belay Device: The belay device is necessary for any climbing and it wouldn’t be a starter kit without one. For climbing starter kits, I have found that belay devices are mostly ATCs. Petzl Grigri belay device is my favorite (see why here) and Petzl does have a kit that has a harness and Grigri belay device, but they are much more expensive and you can save a lot of money if you buy a Grigri separate.
  • Chalk: I have found that most climbers use chalk and find that it improves how well you climb (here is an article about climbing without chalk) so a kit with climbing chalk is ideal. If you prefer a specific type of chalk such as chunky or fine, that will narrow the climbing kit options for you. Overall, if you are just getting into climbing, then the brand/type of chalk won’t make much of a difference. You can always buy chalk separately but most kits eat the cost of the chalk to entice you to buy the kit (and get hooked on their brand).
  • Chalk Bag: Having a chalk bag in your starter kit is going to make your introduction to climbing a lot easier. When looking at chalk bags, look at the size of the chalk bag and make sure that your hand will be able to fit in it. The chalk bag shape also makes a difference. If the bottom of the bag is bigger than the top of the bag, then you are likely to fit more chalk in it and will likely lose less chalk (from moving around or smacking the bag against the wall) while you are climbing.

Top Climbing Starter Kits to Consider

If you are getting an all-in-one kit, then you will find that there are very few brands that provide such a convenient service. I found three that are from reputable brands, the Black Diamond Momentum, Petzl Corax and Mad Rock Venus 4.0. 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the three rock climbing starter kits:

Black Diamond Climbing Starter Kit petzl climbing starter kit Mad Rock Climbing Starter Kit
Black Diamond Momentum
Backcountry or Black Diamond
Petzl Corax
REI or Amazon
Mad Rock Venus 4.0
BackCountry or Amazon
Harness: Retail – $99.95
– Black Diamond Momentum
– Well padded
– Easy to put on and take off (even when I’m exhausted) 
– Stores super small
– Closure adjustment is on the left side of the harness
– Plastic leg adjustment clips
– There is a plastic casing around the loops
Belay Device: Retail – $21.95
– Black Diamond ATC-XP
Carabiner: Retail – $11.95 
– RockLock screw gate carabiner 
Chalk: Retail – $7.95

– White Gold chalk A mixture of fine powder and chunky chalk
Chalk Bag: Retail – $16.95
– Mojo chalk bag
– Drawstring and Cordlock closure 
– Can be opened with one hand
Overall Pros:
– The additional plastic casing on the gear loops make them last longer 
– The shape of the harness is very comfortable around the waist
Overall Cons:
– The leg adjustment clips are made of plastic and the right leg adjustment clip on my harness broke after many uses

Harness: Retail – $99.95
– Petzl Corax
– Well padded
– Easy to put on and take off
– Stores small
– Closure adjustment is on both sides of the harness
– Has clips where the back of the leg piece connects to the upper part of the harness 
– Metal leg adjustment clips
– Exposed loops for gear
Belay Device: Retail – $19.95 
– Petzl Verso
Carabiner: Retail – $17.93
– Am’D screw-lock carabiner
Chalk: Retail – $4.95
– Power Ball chalk ball
– A mixture of non-airborne chalk and extra-fine mesh 
Chalk Bag: Retail – $19.95
– Soft Bandi chalk bag
– Drawstring and Cordlock closure 
– Can be opened with one hand
Overall Pros:
– The clips that attach to the back of the harness make it easy to untwist the straps without needing to take the whole harness off
–  The closure/tightening system of the harness is on both sides of the harness so tightening and loosening the waist can be done with either hand easily
Overall Cons:
– This kit is the most expensive compared to the other kits
Harness: Retail – $80.00
– Mad Rock Venus 4.0
– Well padded and feels secure
– Closure adjustment is on the right side of the harness
– Easy to put on and take off
– Metal leg adjustment clips
– Exposed loops for gear
Belay Device: Retail – $13.95
– Madrock Wingman
Carabiner: Retail – $10.55
– HMS Screwgate Carabiner
Chalk: Retail – $7.95 
– Mad Rock’s Addiction Chalk Sock
– Finely cut loose chalk
Chalk Bag: Retail – $16.00
– Kangaroo Chalk Bag
– Drawstring and Cordlock closure 
– Can be opened with one hand
Overall Pros:
– The waist piece is taller than the other harnesses which may make you feel safer and more secure while on the rock/wall
– The chalk bag shape and size gives more space for chalk storage
– This kit is the cheapest, compared to the other two kits
Overall Cons:
– The color/design can be a pro or con, depending on your taste

Estimated Savings: $15.80 Estimated Savings: $22.78 Estimated Savings: $23.45

Why I Recommend the Mad Rock Venus 4.0 Starter Climbing Kit

The Mad Rock Venus 4.0 climbing kit is the perfect balance of quality, features, benefits and cost. It isn’t the most common or most recognized brand compared to Black Diamond and Petzl so you also have the benefit of skipping the premium that frequently comes with the Black Diamond and Petzl logo. 

Here are my top reasons why I recommend Mad Rock Venus 4.0:

  • The harness has all of the right features such as comfortable padding and a secure fit, metal adjustment clips on the legs and a unique design that stands out compared to the other brands 
  • The closure system on the harness is on your right side so to loosen it, you can use your right thumb. This is great because, after a long climbing session, my thumb is usually the least tiered compared to my exhausted fingers so it is less difficult to undo/take off
  • The chalk bag has the most space so you can store plenty of chalk and you don’t have to worry about continuously adding chalk to it
  • You get the most bang for your buck and it is cheaper than the other climbing kits 

The only things it’s missing:

  • I wish that the harness had the clips from the back of the leg to the back of the harness like the Petzl Corax so I could untwist the straps without taking the harness off. This feature isn’t worth the additional $20 for the Petzl kit but it is still something I wish the Mad Rock harness had

Climbing Kit Maintenance Tips

Once you purchase your climbing kit, it is important to take care while using and storing it so that it can last as long as possible. Here are a couple of tips to keep your gear in tip-top shape:

  1. Have a backpack or bag that is used only for your climbing gear. This way as you move things around or go from mountain to mountain, you can be sure that your gear doesn’t rub against anything that may tear fibers in your harness or other gear
  2. Keep the textile case that came with your harness. Most harnesses come with some sort of bag and I have found that keeping it in that when I’m not using it, not only has added protection but it also helps it stay in shape so it doesn’t get stretched or tangled
  3. If your chalk bag leaks chalk, put it in a large zip-ploc bag or some other type of bag that has a closure system for when you aren’t using your chalk. This will be a great catch system for your chalk so that you don’t waste/lose any chalk while in transit

Safety Standards for Climbing Harnesses

The climbing harness is the most important safety piece for rock climbing. Luckily, there is a high standard for climbing harnesses so as long as you are getting a name brand harness from a reputable retailer, then you can be assured that the harness is safe.

Some people find climbing harnesses on eBay or other resale places that are used, but it is not worth the risk of buying. Reputable retailers don’t sell returned climbing harnesses because there is no way to tell (except maybe a microscope over each fiber of the harness) if the harness is safe to use. It is possible that a climber fell in the harness causing unsafe strain on the harness or rubbed against sharp rocks making micro-incisions that ruin the integrity of the harness. 

To be sure that you have a harness that is up to high safety standards, stick to brand new, name-brand harnesses. Your life is worth it.