Canyoning is exploding around the world as a popular way to get outdoors, stay fit, and get out of your comfort zone. And on top of that, it’s awesome fun and you feel like a kid again jumping and sliding in the water!
Whether you have just started canyoning or are looking to get into it, the question almost everyone is always interested in when starting is this...
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START CANYONING?
It's the question people always ask me. No matter the sport or activity, if people are interested in trying it themselves, they want to know how much it will cost them, among other things of course!
I've made a list detailing all you need to be a self sufficient canyoner. Minus the experience and skills of course, so you should always seek to get proper instruction from experienced canyoners or take a course.
The following items will be listed by importance, based on you starting your canyoning journey with no gear at all. If you are progressing into canyoning from rock climbing, you will have some of the gear already (yay)!
Any non critical safety items, like shoes, bags or wetsuits, are fine to buy second hand. For all safety equipment, buying new is recommended.
With all items, keep an eye out for sales and discounts at outdoor/climbing gear stores. Joining canyoning clubs will often get you discounts year round. Sales can see some items reduced by significant percentages! So make use of them!
Descending The General. Is This One of New Zealand’s Best Canyons?
What is Canyoning? Is Canyoning for You?
A quick note: Some of the links in this post might be affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission – at no extra cost for you, which helps me cover the costs for this blog, or at least, I can buy a slice of cake.
1- Canyoning Shoes
Your footwear is important as canyons are often wet and slippery environments. While there are specialist canyoning shoes you can buy, lightweight trainers work perfectly fine in many parts of the world. In Australia where I started canyoning, Dunlop Volleys are very popular for their superior grip on the wet rock.
I have tried expensive canyoning shoes and cheap shoes and now tend to stick with cheap $30 trainers as my expensive pairs last only slightly longer.
Approximate cost: $30 AUD +
Example: Mens/Womens Trainers / Specialist Canyoning Shoes
2 - Harness
A harness is your attachment point to the rope as you abseil or when you need to connect to an anchor or guideline to stay safe. You can buy a simple climbing harness or use a specialised canyoning harness with vinyl bottom protector. This vinyl sheet stops the abrasion on your wetsuit and harness as you slide and move on rocks, so will make the wetsuit and harness last longer. Either are fine to get.
Approximate cost: $80 AUD +
Example: Simple harness Mens / Womens / canyoning harness
3 - Helmet
Wearing a helmet is important in canyoning as anything moving about the top of the canyon, like animals for example, can dislodge rocks and other debris. A helmet also protects you from general knocks that can happen. You can use any regular climbing helmet, but make sure it fits and you like wearing it. You will be more likely to always wear it if you like it after all!
Approximate cost: $60 AUD +
Example: Mens / Womens
4 - Abseil device with a locking screwgate carabiner
When you first start, you can use a climbing belay device if you already have one since many climbers tend to give canyoning a go. If you are starting with no gear at all, getting a figure eight abseil device is the best choice for the flexibility in the later stages of canyoning, and are also quite cheap as well. As you progress, or if you know you like canyoning, the Petzl Pirana is one of the best devices I’ve used and is highly recommended!
Approximate cost: $30 AUD +
Example: Figure 8 / Petzl Pirana descender
5 - Cowstail with 2 locking carabiners (safety)
A cowstail is important in canyoning as your means of connecting to anchors and guidelines to keep you safe, and is also known as your 'safety'. Using a climbing PAS (personal anchor safety) or sling is not recommended as you need the dynamic rope for a cowstail as the chance of slipping and shock loading your safety is higher in a wet canyoning environment.
You can buy a ready made cowstail from Petzl, or make your own (guide coming soon).
Approximate cost: $60 AUD +
Example: Petzl dual adjust connect / Large locking carabiner
6 - Canyoning pack
A regular hiking backpack will work fine to begin with, especially in dry canyons. But the more water a canyon contains, the more important it is to have a canyoning pack with adequate drainage. As you swim and exit the water, everything drains out quickly and the bags don’t weigh you down. My absolute favourite packs are made by Access Gear in New Zealand.
Approximate cost: $150 AUD +
Example: Mesh Expedition bag / Canyoning Bag (great for lots of rope work)
7 - Wetsuit
Canyons are always cold, even on very hot summer days. For any area in the world with water filled canyons, a wetsuit is very important to keep you warm, which in turn, helps you enjoy your day. For many places, a 3mm thick wetsuit will provide enough warmth and can be bulked up with thermals and spray jackets which add warmth. For places like New Zealand and Europe, thicker wetsuits (4mm+) are recommended as the water is very cold. Any type of wetsuit is fine to get (freediving, scuba, surfing) as long as it will keep you warm based on the area you will go canyoning.
To pick the best wetsuit, try on all the different ones you can find, and buy one based on fit. Ensure you can move reasonably well while wearing it, and that it has tight seals on the wrists, ankles and neck. You can also scout your local trading websites, groups and newspapers for people selling wetsuits as these are often quite cheap.
Approximate cost: $100 AUD +
Example: Canyoning specific wetsuits
8 - Drybag/waterproof keg
A minimum of 2 drybags, one inside the other and closed independently, are perfect to keep the water away from the things you want to keep dry. Using one is no guarantee of keeping your things dry, as they can eventually break and leak! Alternatively, I love my waterproof keg which is 100% watertight and very durable for when you throw your bag around.
Approximate cost: $40 AUD +
Example: Waterproof Keg / STS drybags
9 - Whistle
A whistle may seem like an odd piece of equipment to take canyoning if you have never done it before, but in water filled canyons it is one of the best ways of communicating over the noise of rushing water and when you cannot see each other. It is important to get a 'ball-less' whistle which also works when wet. Regular 'cheap' whistles can fail when water is inside them.
Approximate cost: $5 AUD +
Example: Fox 40 Whistle
10 - Carabiners
You can never have enough carabiners! They are useful for all sorts of rigging tasks and for building anchors. To start with, have at least 2 large locking carabiners spare on your harness.
Approximate cost: $15 AUD each x2 =$30
Example: Large locking carabiner
11 - First aid kit & Survival blanket
It’s important to stay safe in the event something were to happen, so always take a first aid kit and a survival blanket. The survival blanket is especially important as canyons are already cold places, and if you were stuck in there for longer than expected, will get really cold! Consider getting a survival bivvy bag, they retail for around $30 AUD and are far warmer than the blanket. The bivvy bag is a great addition to every outdoor adventure anyway, so is well worth investing in!
Approximate cost: $50 AUD +
Example: First aid kit / Bivvy bag
TOTAL COST TO START CANYONING: $635 AUD ($450 USD)
EXTRA GEAR YOU WILL NEED AS YOU PROGRESS IN CANYONING
While the above gear gets you started, you will require a few more items as you progress. These can be bought over time and will depend on your exact canyoning needs. Not everyone will need a rope as friends or partners canyoning together can share this cost.
Here is the complete list if you want to ensure you are well equipped and self sufficient:
12 - Static Rope
Your canyoning rope should be a static rope. Dynamic rope used for rock climbing is NOT SUITABLE. As well as the increased likelihood of damaging it from sharp edges or abrasion due to its increased stretch, it is also more prone to jam on anchors and in between rocks. Canyons are simply too different compared to the rock faces climbers scale.
A big question is always which rope to get? Basic static rope, either 9-10mm is suitable, and focus on one which has a thick sheath and low stretch versus other static ropes. If you want your ropes to last a little longer, canyoning specific ropes are the way to go, my favourite being the Tendon and Kordas brands. There's no need to stress obsessively over which particular rope to get, just make sure its a rated static rope, is 9-10mm in diameter, and is suitable for abseiling. Always buy well known branded ropes from reputable climbing or outdoor stores, and ask for assistance if in doubt.
Approximate cost: $250 AUD +
Example: Kordas Iris 9
13 - Ascenders
Ascenders are used to get back up the rope and for rescue hauling. This could be if a rope gets stuck, or if someone is stuck on the rope mid-abseil. Prussic loops can be used initially and should always be carried on your harness in both climbing and canyoning sports anyway, but mechanical ascenders like the Petzl Micro Traxion are invaluable in that rare emergency of if you wish to haul something. It should go without saying, hauling and rescue techniques require training.
Approximate cost: $90 AUD+
Example: Petzl Micro Traxion
14 - Knife
A good, lightweight knife is used to cut webbing for anchors. There should be at least one in your group, but it is recommended each person have their own. In severe emergencies, it may be needed for rescues (training required).
Approximate cost: $30 AUD
Example: Petzl Spatha
15 - Wetsuit socks
Cold feet can make the rest of the body feel cold. So for places like New Zealand and Europe, wetsuit socks are well worth investing in and will make a massive difference in your overall warmth!
Approximate cost: $30 AUD
Example: Wetsuit socks
16 - Slings
Slings are used for a variety of tasks and should be carried by everyone. At least one sling is recommended, however, a few extra should be in the group. Webbing material for anchors should also be carried on all trips and may substitute your slings for anchor material.
Approximate cost: $15 AUD +
Example: Black Diamond Nylon Sling
17 - Extra figure 8 descenders for single rope abseil
If using releasable abseils, a extra figure 8 descender is often used for this. You should always be supervised if learning single rope releasable abseil techniques. A munter mule can also be used which requires one of your carabiners. You should aim to learn both techniques to be able to go canyoning with anyone in the world and be familiar with the procedures.
Approximate cost: $10 AUD +
Example: Figure 8
TOTAL COST, INCLUDING THE FIRST LOT: $1,060 AUD ($755 USD)
DOES IT SEEM A BIT EXPENSIVE?
While running the canyoning and abseil events in my adventure group years ago, many people thought this amount of money required to go canyoning is quite substantial. I have always disagreed.
Many people happily fork out $150 + per month on membership based fitness classes. While they offer a great service, I’ve always seen it as money that could be spent of gear that then opens up many new avenues for adventure and spending time in the outdoors.
And other activities such as boating or scuba diving are far more expensive in both startup and ongoing costs. Even just going canyoning with a commercially run group will usually set you back $150-250+. And that's just for one trip!
Think about this: after 6 months of Crossfit, you would have bought ALL the gear you need to continue canyoning independently for 3 years (approximately) before needing to replace some of the gear for safety. Items such as descenders and carabiners (and all gear made from alloy for that matter) lasts almost a lifetime, unless damaged. Helmets tend to last many years as well.
And as mentioned earlier, you will be able to share gear costs with items such as ropes, among friends and partners, reducing individual costs.
This makes canyoning quite affordable in comparison to many other activities or sports, and also allows you far more freedom to have a variety of adventures and see new places all around the world.
Canyoning can be done in many locations around the world and is FREE to do if you are self sufficient. A bit of gas money to get to the canyoning areas is the only extra ongoing cost and the occasional gear replacement when its worn.
Once you have the gear, get some instruction from some experienced people or mentors, or take a course, and then find some canyons to explore! Taking that first step can be hard, so never be afraid to ask questions no matter how silly they seem.
Got questions of your own? Comment below or contact me for more help!
Remember: Safety is your responsibility! No internet article or video can replace proper instruction and experience. Make sure you’re practised in proper techniques and safety requirements before you go canyoning!