Rock climbing 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 always get fantastic views!
You might be climbing indoors in a gym already and want to go outdoors, or you are starting out fresh as a complete beginner. The question everyone is always interested in when starting is this:
HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST TO START ROCK CLIMBING OUTDOORS?
The following items will be listed by importance, based on you starting your climbing journey in a climbing gym and progressing outdoors, or even going straight outdoors and skipping the indoor. The items are the same and will still be in the same order.
Any non critical safety items, like shoes and chalk bags, 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 stores. Joining climbing clubs will often get you discounts year round. Sales can see some items reduced by significant percentages! So make use of them!
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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.
Almost all styles of rock climbing will involve the use of specialized ‘rock shoes’. These are snug fitting (repeat: snug, not painfully tight) and allow your foot to stand on tiny edges (with practice). There are many styles of shoes; from the aggressive down-turned, to high sided ankle protection, but to start with, go for the most basic shoe you can get that is snug fitting and comfortable. All brands usually offer a ‘entry level’ shoe at an affordable price, so try on as many as you can to get some that fit you just right. And never get a shoe that isn’t comfortable to stand in or is so tight your eyes water!
And as shoes are not critical safety gear, you can definitely buy second hand pairs! These are often found on Facebook climbing groups or gear buy/sell pages.
Approximate cost: $70 AUD +
Your harness keeps you safe and is your tie in point to the rope. A basic harness with padding is good for starting, there’s no need to get top of the line models. Having gear loops is handy as you progress and gather more kit, as you will need places to carry it. I find getting one with gear loops as your first harness is best so as to accommodate your climbing progression from the beginning.
Approximate cost: $80 AUD +
Wearing a helmet is a no brainer. Rockfall outdoors is common, though easy to manage mostly, but wearing a helmet is the smartest thing you can do to protect your head. I recommend buying a model based on fit and how much you like it versus the price. The more you like the look of you wearing it and its comfort, the more likely you will ALWAYS wear it!
Approximate cost: $60 AUD +
Belay device with a locking screwgate carabiner
The belay device is a tube style alloy device that uses friction, and you holding the rope down, so that when weight is applied you can hold the climbers fall easily. Belaying takes practice and is the key skill you need to learn to be a safe climber. Remember, you are literally holding the climbers life in your hands when you climb. Always appreciate this fact and never let go of the rope!
A locking screw gate carabiner is used in conjunction with the belay device. The tube screws over the nose and prevents it from opening accidentally. However it doesn’t hurt to check this periodically while you belay. Getting an alloy D-shape carabiner is best, they are the lightest and best shape for the purpose of belaying.
Approximate cost: $50 AUD +
Example: Black Diamond ATC and carabiner
Chalk bag and chalk
Using chalk stops your hands getting too sweaty when climbing the rock. In hot and humid conditions it’s even more important. Some climbing areas around the world may require coloured chalk to match the rock colour to minimise the ‘visual effects’ of it on the cliff faces. It’s always a good idea to respect the local ethics.
Approximate cost: $20 AUD +
Example: Sukoa Chalk Bag
TOTAL COST TO START ROCK CLIMBING: Approx $280 AUD or $200 USD.
EXTRA GEAR YOU WILL NEED AS YOU PROGRESS IN ROCK CLIMBING
While the gear mentioned above 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 climbing needs. Not everyone will need a rope as friends or partners climbing together can share this cost.
So, what else do you need?
P.A.S (Personal Anchor Safety)
A personal safety, or PAS as we often call them, is your way of cleaning routes and staying safely attached to an anchor.
Cleaning a route means you take your gear off the top anchor, thread your rope through the fixed anchor gear in order to be lowered, or abseil. You should always receive supervised instruction from a guide or experienced individual when learning this. You can see a perfect demo of how this is done on Youtube, HERE.
The key concept of a PAS is you have loops so you can adjust your length from the anchor. Why? Because the most important thing to never do when using a PAS is let slack develop because if you suddenly slipped, for instance, the shock load can actually cause a failure on the sling- they are not rated for shock loads!
You can buy a ready-made PAS, or make your own by tying overhand knots in a nylon sling. I encourage you to buy a purpose made PAS however. Buy another locking carabiner that will permanently go with your PAS. I like to use the Petzl oval carabiner as it fits better on crowded anchors, is less bulky overall, and also has a red coloured strip to make visually checking its closure easy. A D-shape like the one used on your belay device is also fine however.
Approximate cost: $70 AUD + (or $15 + for 120cm Nylon Sling) plus a locking carabiner $15
Example: Metolius PAS
Having your own rope certainly opens up opportunities in climbing and doing your own trips. They generally last 1-3 years depending on use so while they seem like a big investment initially, paid off over each climb they are quite cheap (1/week x 3 years=$1.20 per climbing session approx).
For your first rope, it’s good to get something around 10mm in diameter, and 60 meters (200 feet) in length. Smaller diameters, like 9mm, are more expensive, and should only be used once you have gained some experience.
Brand? Specs? While I encourage reading and learning about all the different rope specs between brands, don’t get too caught up in it all, they will all do the job at the end of the day!
And don’t forget you can often grab bargains on store sales!
Approximate cost: $200 AUD +
Example: Mammut Classic 10mm
These are the means of clipping to the single bolts going up the wall to the anchor at the top when you are ‘lead climbing’. It will take a bit of time top-roping before you will even feel close to ready to lead climb. You should always receive supervised instruction from a guide or experienced individual when both lead climbing and lead belaying, as it is different to top roping and can have major consequences if done incorrectly.
Many guidebooks and online topos for climbing areas will often indicate how many bolts are on the wall so you know how many quickdraws you will need. It’s always a good idea to have more than need of course, so I recommend buying 2 sets if you want to be self sufficient, or pool together sets of quickdraws with your climbing partner.
Approximate cost: $180 AUD + for a set of 6
Example: Black Diamond Posiwire Quickdraw
You can never have enough carabiners! They are useful for all sorts of tasks and building anchors. A good idea is to get another 2 larger ones and 2 smaller ones, all screwgate locking.
Approximate cost: $15 AUD each x4 =$60
Example: Large locking/Small locking
Just like carabiners, you can never have enough slings! Get another 120cm sling for your bolted anchors.
Approximate cost: $15 AUD
Example: Black Diamond Nylon Sling
TOTAL COST, INCLUDING THE FIRST LOT: Approx $820
DOES IT SEEM A BIT EXPENSIVE?
While running the climbing and abseil events in my adventure group years ago, many people thought this amount of money 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 on gear that will then open up many new avenues for adventure and spending time in the outdoors.
Other outdoor activities, such as boating or SCUBA diving for example, are far more expensive, in both startup and ongoing costs.
Think about this: after 6 months of the fitness classes, you would have bought ALL the gear you need to continue climbing independently for 3 years (approximately) before needing to replace some of the gear for safety. Items such as belay devices and carabiners (and all gear made from alloy for that matter) last a lifetime unless damaged. Helmets tend to last many years as well.
And as mentioned earlier, you will be able to share gear and costs with items such as ropes and quickdraws among friends and partners, reducing individual costs.
This makes climbing 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.
Also, climbing in almost all locations in the outdoors is FREE. A bit of gas money to get to the climbing areas is the only extra ongoing cost.
Once you have the gear and some instruction, it's then time to find some routes to climb! Taking that first step can be hard, so never be afraid to ask questions no matter how silly they seem.
Enjoy climbing in the outdoors!
Got questions? Comment below or contact me!
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 climb.