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Climbing Gear Help & Advice

Belay Devices | Climbing Ropes | Protection | Other Equipment

Rock Climbing is a dangerous, though extremely rewarding sport. All the equipment that we stock is certified to CE (European) standards. To be safe you need to buy the product that best suits your needs. Climbing equipment is designed to include features for different types of climbing such as group use, alpine, multi-pitch and sports climbing. All climbing equipment needs to be looked after during and after use to maximise the lifetime of each product.

The correct choice of climbing equipment is essential at all levels of climbing, from novice to advanced. The following section contains advice and information on the most important pieces of equipment in order to help you make the right decision when it comes to choosing the right equipment to suit your needs.

Getting Started

So, you've had an introduction to climbing either indoors at a local climbing centre or outdoors at a local quarry. Having seen all the equipment on the crag, you now want to sort yourself out with your own kit. Here's what you need to climb comfortably and safely with an experienced partner or group.

Climbing Harnesses

Climbing Harness climbing equipment

The harness needs to be comfortable and should allow freedom of movement. It also needs to give you easy access to all your gear. The harness is the link between the climber and all the other equipment used.

The preferred type of climbing harness is the leg loop style (see picture opposite). Such harnesses typically consist of the waist belt and buckle, plastic gear loops for attaching quickdraws, chalk bag and other essential equipment, a belay loop (a small ring of webbing that the carabiner attached to the belay device is clipped into whilst belaying), and finally, the leg loops which should have a lot of padding in case you want a comfortable fall. All harnesses should be well padded, usually with foam, especially if you plan on hanging in your harness for any length of time - a 'big wall' climber will often use this sort of climbing harness.

The climbing harness is one of the most important pieces of climbing kit used. Beginners should seek advice when purchasing their first harness and make sure they know how to put it on properly before starting to climb. Try the harness on at home before you take it climbing with you for the first time, making sure that it is comfortable and fits snugly. A fully adjustable harness will allow you to wear either t-shirt and shorts or full winter clothing.

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Climbing Shoes and Boots

Climbing Shoes climbing gear

Climbing shoes are specificly designed with performance characteristics to meet the diverse needs of today's climbers. Rock shoes are designed for all different types of climbing including sports climbing, bouldering and multi-pitch routes.

There are two main types of climbing boot, the normal lace-up type (see picture opposite) and the 'slipper' type which is favoured by more advanced climbers. If you are a beginner, we would advise you to try a lace-up boot that fits well. Climbing shoes are worn tighter than a normal pair of training shoes in order to give greater grip and more control on the rock face. Climbing shoes are usually bought one size smaller than the normal shoe size.

Climbing shoes are uniquely shaped and designed to force and focus your feet and toes to the front of your shoe where most of the actual climbing is done. The boot is then fitted with a sticky rubber sole that provides the friction you need for climbing. If you choose slippers, you'll get lighter, softer shoes that are more sensitive to the nubs and holds on rock faces. But they're less supportive and require more foot power to stay on a hold and they wear out more quickly. They are the shoes of choice for indoor and sport climbers and boulderers whose climbing styles demand maximum performance and feel. Lace-ups are the best choice for beginners because of the additional support and range of adjustability (the key to making your first experience a manageable one). They are also the choice for long multi-pitch climbs where comfort is more important.The laces usually extend all the way to the toes, and to the very top of the shoe, making them very adjustable.

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Belay Devices

Belay Devices climbing gear

Belay devices are an integral part of the safety equipment used by climbers. A belay device should be simple and easy to use. The rope should run smoothly through the device so your attention is always on the climber, not on tangled or twisted rope. The sole purpose of a belay device such as the Black Diamond ATC (pictured opposite) is to create friction. If your climbing partner fell while climbing, and you were holding the rope with your bare hands, it would take enormous strength to hold the fall. Belay devices are used as a braking device. The rope is fed through the device and then clipped to the belayer's harness using a locking carabiner. The belayer then feeds the rope through their hands whilst the climber ascends. In the event of a fall, all the belayer has to do is pull the brake hand down to their side. This pulls the rope tight and causes properly, the belayer can hold a fallen climber with minimum effort.

The principal of all belay devices is the same although there are many different varieties including the standard Figure 8 (Clog and Wild Country), as well as more technical devices that have been developed by Petzl.

Belay devices are also used for rappelling (descending safely down a rock face after completing a climb). Again the principal relies on friction. After threading the rope correctly through the belay device, the climber descends by sliding down the rope. To start sliding, simply let off your brake hand, this reduces friction and allows gravity to take over. To stop sliding or to slow down, simply move your brake hand back to the braking position.

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Climbing Ropes

Climbing Ropes climbing gear

A good rope is probably the most important part of any climbing system. All climbing ropes should be dynamic ropes that have a special construction which make them stretch and absorb energy in a fall. When falling on a dynamic rope, you seem to fall quickly, then slowly as the rope starts to absorb the energy before coming to a gentle rest. This reduces the impact force on a climber that would be present in a static line and helps to reduce injuries to the climber. Static ropes should NOT be used for climbing or mountaineering.

Most single ropes are usually between 10-11mm in diameter and 50m in length. These are best suited for single pitch, indoor use or fairly straight climbs. Double ropes are usually 8-9mm in diameter and 50m in length and are best suited to multi-pitch climbs and mountaineering. The larger diameter ropes are slightly heavier, but are worth the extra weight due to their better resistance to abuse and longer life.

It is important to take good care of your rope. A rope can be treated to resist water, this prevents extra weight being added by water being absorbed, allows for a softer, smoother finish that aids smooth movement through the belay device and increases the lifespan of the rope. It is advisable to change your rope if it begins to fray or develope flat spots. You're rope will last longer if you keep your rope clean, keep it away from sharp edges and only use it for climbing.

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Climbing Protection

Camming Device climbing equipment

Camming Device

Climbing protection is placed by the leader in or on rock features / cracks along the taken route. This allows the climber to protect the route and minimise the risk of a large fall.

Cams, nuts and hexes are the three main types of protection. Cams are a little newer than nuts and hexes and are considered safer. Spring Loaded Camming Devices (SLCD) can be used to protect cracks whilst leading and are easier to retrieve than nuts. Cams are inserted into cracks and attached to the climber. If weight is applied to the device, the cam head will spread out wider, wedging itself into position. There are many different types of camming device varying in shape and size (see individual product descriptions for more details).

Nuts form another essential part of a climber's kit. Nuts are wedge shaped and generally made from aluminium or brass. They are placed / wedged in cracks and attached to the climber with a sling. Nuts perform a similar task to cams and again come in numerous shapes and sizes.

Hexes are a variation on nuts, they have six sides of different lengths and again perform a similar task to cams. The main advantage with hexes is in weight as the larger sizes are completely hollow.

Slings are used to attach protection to the climber and are used especially on anchors or overhangs to reduce rocking.

Great care must be taken when placing protection in a rock face. Placing and using protection is a skill of its own, fundamental to climbing and must be thoroughly practiced before venturing out onto the rock face.

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Nut Chock climbing equipment
Rock / Nut / Chock
 
Sling climbing gear
Sling

Other Climbing Equipment

Carabiner and climbing equipment
Carabiner / Karabiner
Climbing Helmets climbing equipment
Climbing Helmet

 

Carabiners (or karabiners) are used for just about anything when climbing. They are strong, lightweight devices, generally made from alloy. They are used to connect protection to ropes, ropes to belays and belays to climbers. Quickdraws are used by leading climbers. The climber attaches himself to the anchor at the top of the climb using carabiners and slings. As with other equipment, carabiners come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There's also a range of carabiner types including locking carabiners, screw gate, pin lock gate and non-locking carabiners (see individual product descriptions for more details).

Climbing Helmets are often overlooked but they are essential for the safety of climbers and belayers from falling rocks and contact with the rock face during a fall. Helmets are generally made from plastic, are very adjustable and contain ventilation holes.

Finally chalk is very useful to improve grip on the rock face or indoor climbing wall when your hands and fingers start to get sweaty. Chalk balls are available to minimise dust and chalk bags can be clipped onto the harness with a carabiner for easy access.

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Quickdraw climbing gear
Quickdraw
Chalk Bag and climbing gear
Chalk Bag

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