(Newer) Climber Gear, Products and Buying Tips
Newer to the world of climbing, or looking to purchase your own gear for the first time? It can be overwhelming with the variety of brands, options, and endless possibilities, but it doesn't have to be.
We sat down with TRC Morrisville's Front Desk Manager (and TRC Morrisville Gear Shop expert) Morgan Bounds for a Q&A session to shed some light on the wonderful world of climbing gear.
Q: I’m a new climber and want to stock up on my own, personal gear. Where do I begin?
A: "I recommend looking into shoes and a harness. Whether you are bouldering or climbing on ropes, having your own shoes will make a quick difference in comfort and climbing performance. When you have your own shoe that you break in, it will fit more securely and with fewer pressure points than a rental shoe. A harness won't be too important for someone who mostly boulders, but for climbers who focus on ropes it is nearly essential to have your own. Other basic and essential items would be your own chalk bag (we sell a variety of brands and styles at all three TRC locations) and chalk."
Q: When looking for a harness, how should it fit?
A: "The fit is very important both for both comfort and safety:
1) Your waist belt should sit above the iliac crest at your waist, and the waist belt should be the tightest part of your harness so that it can not slide down over the hip bones
2) The leg loops should be all the way at the top of the leg directly under the buttocks... when they are weighted it should feel like sitting on a swing - very balanced and stable
3) When sizing your harness keep in mind that that the largest one that fits you securely will have the most padding where you want it. You may be able to get into an XS and tighten it down, but the leg padding may only go half or two-thirds of the way around your leg. Not the best for working on your project (believe me)."
Q: How do I decide on what type of harness/brand I should purchase? What are the differences between all of the brands/styles that TRC carries?
A: "All of the harnesses we carry at Triangle Rock Club look fairly similar because they're all the sit-style with two tie-in points, a belay loop, and gear loops for equipment. There is, however, a disparity in overall pricing across the board, and it's hard to know what you're getting for your dollars. Largely the differences aren't visible but have more to do with the overall construction of the product. Here are few details about the harnesses we sell at TRC:
• The Black Diamond Momentum/Primrose: This is a great "no frills" harness, but the padding is not very breathable or very rigid. It will be hotter than other options and it will have more pressure points when you are hanging in it for any length of time.
• The Petzl Adjama/Luna: One of the two "do all" harnesses we carry in our TRC Gear Shops. It's fully adjustable with locking buckles on the legs as well as the waist. The mesh foam and endo frame on the Adjama/Luna seeks to maximize comfort and breathability while minimizing weight.
•The Misty Mountain Sonic/Silhouette: Another "do all" harness that is also fully adjustable with locking buckles on the legs and waist. The Sonic/Silhouette is our heaviest harness, but it shows. The padding is stiff enough to support a full trad rack with little deformation to maintain comfort while still cushioning better than any other harness Triangle Rock Club carries. Not something you may notice in a gym session, but a huge bonus when sitting at a belay station on a multi-pitch route. There's also a large, full-strength haul loop to secure any and all equipment with as little reaching as possible.
• The Black Diamond Aura/Ozone: This the lightest weight harness we carry and it's intended for sport climbing. It's a little more breathable in hot weather, but it does not have a haul loop.
• The Misty Mountain Bolt/Volt: Another lighter weight harness we carry. The Bolt/Volt has stiffer padding that will support the weight of full rack better, and the outer layer is Cordura Nylon that is incredibly abrasion resistant. The stiffened horizontal gear loops make clipping a nearly thoughtless process. Throw in a full strength haul loop and you have a lightweight sport harness that can be used for anything including multi-pitch trad when needed."
Q: When looking for shoes, how should they fit? I've heard they're supposed to be very (VERY) tight, is this true?
A: Do not feel like you need to size down too much, especially if you are going for your first pair. Working down toward tighter shoes can be a process. Ideally climbing shoes should fit like a sock. Consistent pressure across the whole foot, no gaps or spaces, but overly tight places either. Try on as many shoes as you can to find the pair that fits you the best!
Q: Like the harness selection at TRC, the variety of shoe brands and styles is overwhelming. Can you help break down the buying process a bit?
A: "The first thing to consider is what type of climbing you want the shoes for:
• Looking for performance without sacrificing comfort? Check out the Evolv Kira/Kronos, a flat shoe with a heel tensioning band, toe rubber, and variable tension velcro closure. You get everything you need for great slab climbing and still tackle heel hooks and some steep climbing.
• Largely bouldering on overhanging terrain or working with super small foot holds on ropes? Look into the down-turned shoes. We carry the Butora Acro, La Sportiva Solution, Evolv Shaman, and still have a handful of sizes in the Evolv Luchador in our Morrisville Gear Shop. In addition, check out the 5.10 Blackwings at North Raleigh. The Luchador and Blackwings don't have as aggressive of a profile as the others and will be a little friendlier on the toes on the longer routes.
The Acro, Solution, and Shaman each give great purchase on steep and roof terrain with a little of their own flair. The Acro has a liner made largely from hemp that allows it to hold its shape well throughout the life of the shoe, giving you a consistent performance. With that in mind don't try to size down much in these, they'll fit similarly after heavy use! The Solution and the Shaman both separate the toe and heel rubber with some mid-sole tension to cut down on the tightening at the toes when you need to smear on something. The Shaman uses a triple velcro closure while the Solution uses a slipper-like fit with their easy to customize Fast Lacing System(TM).
Ultimately, outside of the type of the shoe, the fit (like with a harness) may be the most important part of buying new shoes. Find the pair that minimizes or cuts out gaps, spaces or pressure points. Some brands separate by gender, others use a wide or narrow fit. Typically aside from color, the only difference between a men's and a women's shoe is the fit, with women's being a narrower lower volume shoe compared to the men's.
There you have it! A quick overview about new, basic climbing gear. Each of Triangle Rock Club's three facilities has an on-site Gear Shop equipped with tons of essentials for climbers. In addition to shoes and harnesses, we also carry belay devices, chalk, chalk bags, climber tape, TRC apparal and more. Feel free to reach out to Morgan with any questions!
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