Beginner’s guide to bouldering equipment: What you need to get started

Gear

Visualizing your route before beginning a climb will help you plan out specific moves and holds, leading to a more efficient process.

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Bouldering equipment for beginners

Bouldering has been gaining in popularity throughout the world. The sport is an exciting and rewarding way to strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility and improve coordination while allowing you to explore new locations and meet new people. 

Though it may seem intimidating when starting out, one of the best aspects of bouldering is the minimal equipment required. By investing in just a few core pieces of climbing gear, you can be ready to tackle your next adventure and work your way up a challenging route. 

Bouldering vs. rope climbing: what’s the difference?

While similar, there are a few main differences between bouldering and traditional rock climbing. Most importantly, bouldering doesn’t require the use of any ropes due to the fact that most routes are less than 15 feet in height. If you do happen to fall, you are supported by either a cushioned gym floor or a crash pad in outdoor situations. Traditional climbing requires the use of ropes, a harness, carabiners and often a partner to help belay while you make your ascent. 

Bouldering will often employ the use of slightly different techniques and climbing moves compared to big wall climbs. It can be a great way for beginner climbers to build up their stamina and endurance before attempting longer routes or “boulder problems.” 

Bouldering tips to get started

Know the scales: Most bouldering routes will have a rating that corresponds to their overall difficulty. The two most common grading scales are known as the V-scale and the Font scale. The V-scale is the system most commonly used in the United States and grades the difficulty on a scale of V0 to V16. While V0 is usually considered the easiest, you may sometimes encounter a route rated as VB, meaning it is meant for beginners. 

Start slow: As with most new sports or athletic activities, it’s always a good idea to start off slow and work your way up as you gain strength and experience. While it may seem tempting to tackle a hard boulder problem right out of the gate, overdoing it can lead to an increased risk of injury. 

It’s fine to fall: It is important to take all safety precautions seriously and always use proper safety gear, such as a crash pad when bouldering outdoors. However, the occasional fall while attempting a climb is only natural. As long as you have the proper safety equipment, each fall can be a learning experience, helping you improve your climbing abilities. 

Practice different moves: Don’t get stuck climbing in one particular style. Trying out different moves as well as varying your grip can help improve your skills. This is especially important for beginners starting out in a gym setting before eventually transitioning to outdoor climbs. 

Legs are important: It may seem like bouldering is all about arm strength for beginners, but that isn’t the case. Your legs and core muscles are just as important. Your legs can be used to tightly grip footholds and push your body upwards without relying solely on arm strength. 

Best beginner bouldering gear

The three main pieces of gear you’ll need to start bouldering are climbing shoes, a crash pad and a chalk bag to keep your hands dry. Besides the big three, there are several optional accessories to help improve your bouldering experience. 

To learn more about different types of rock climbing shoes, visit the BestReviews buying guide. 

Climbing shoes

La Sportiva Men’s TarantuLace Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Men’s TarantuLace Climbing Shoe 

Focusing on comfort and design, these bouldering shoes are perfect for both beginner and intermediate climbers. The high-traction Frixion sole means you’ll be able to grip the rock face with confidence, while the quick-lacing system provides a comfortable fit. Women’s sizes are also available. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon 

Scarpa Origin Women’s Climbing Shoe

Scarpa Origin Women’s Climbing Shoe 

Designed with a flat last and heel system that reduces pressure and tension, these women’s climbing shoes are a great beginner option that won’t be painful on your feet after a full day spent bouldering. 

Sold by Backcountry 

Crash pad

Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad

Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad 

This crash pad, with included backpack straps and easy-to-carry handles, is great for transporting to your favorite bouldering spot without being too heavy or bulky. The closed-cell PE foam is ideal for cushioning falls from various heights. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad

Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad

Designed specifically for bouldering, this protective crash pad features 5 inches of padding and can even serve as a comfortable chair when not in use. You can choose between several fun colors. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

Chalk bag

Sukoa Chalk Bag

Sukoa Chalk Bag

This budget-friendly chalk bag is great for beginners as it features two built-in pockets, letting you store important items while bouldering. The main compartment is made from water-resistant materials and is spacious enough to easily accommodate larger hands. 

Sold by Amazon 

Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag

Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag 

This simple chalk bag with a drawstring closure makes it easy to access your chalk with one hand so that you aren’t stuck with slippery fingers halfway through the route. It is also available in several color options. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust

FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust 

Once you have a chalk bag picked out, choosing some quality chalk is just as important. 

This non-toxic chalk prevents any type of moisture from interfering with your climb, keeping your hands dry and your mind focused. 

Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Climbing accessories 

Metolius Climbing Tape

Metolius Climbing Tape

Using climbing tape can be helpful when getting your fingers and hands used to rough rock surfaces. This specific climbing tape is made from durable cotton and can prevent painful scrapes and scratches while building up callouses. 

Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Death Grips Grip Strength Trainer

Death Grips Grip Strength Trainer 

One of the hardest parts when beginning to boulder is increasing your grip strength, which is why this set of strength trainers, featuring multiple resistance ratings, is perfect for building finger and forearm strength so you can master tricker routes. 

Sold by Amazon

Metolius Simulator 3D Training Board

Metolius Simulator 3D Training Board

An at-home training board can help you practice your grips on days when the weather isn’t cooperating, and you can’t make it to the gym. This Metolius model can be installed above your door frame and features a variety of holds in different sizes. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

PETZL Unisex Boreo Climbing Helmet

PETZL Unisex Boreo Climbing Helmet

Not all people who boulder choose to wear a helmet, but they can help prevent a serious head injury in the event of an unexpected fall. This PETZL helmet features ventilation holes for increased breathability and sports a soft and comfortable headband. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

 

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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

 

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