Indoor bouldering is perhaps the easiest entry point for new climbers. Very little equipment is required and any that is can usually be hired, at little cost, from the climbing centre until you know whether you want to get your own and what equipment you want to buy.
What you’ll need – the basics
- Comfortable, stretchy clothing – Arms and legs will need to reach at full stretch and a pair of shorts that are great for running may actually restrict full movement in one of the strange positions you end up in on a boulder problem.
- Climbing shoes – Shoe rental at walls is usually just a couple of pounds. These are very specifically just for climbing – you just won’t be able to climb the same in a pair of trainers. They will not feel like a normal shoe and that’s because of what they are meant to do on the wall. Shoes differ a lot and what is right for one person or one type of climbing won’t be right for another. That’s a whole article right there, just on all the differences between shoes!
- Climbing Chalk – Chalk is used to help keep the hands dry and grip the holds. Most chalk is a ground magnesium carbonate powder that is rubbed over the hands, but brands do differ. The chalk can be purchased loose or in a ball (fabric bag filled with chalk) or as a liquid. Chalk is used liberally and gets everywhere, however too much is as bad as too little.
- Chalk Bags – There are two main styles and it depends on climbers preference. Boulder Buckets are large freestanding bags that hold loose chalk. They are left on the mat and also work well to share in a group. Chalk bags are small pouches that are worn on the waist on a belt and can hold loose chalk or a ball. As it’s with you on the wall you can then top up chalk if you need it. This is more common when on high routes with more holds but some boulderers prefer this too. Some centres will hire chalk bags out too, but they generally cost less than £10 to buy a basic one and a few pounds more for some chalk.
- Boulder brush – All that chalk and grease from other climber’s hands can build up on the hold and reduce ability to grip. Climbers carry a boulder brush (looking like a large toothbrush) to get rid of this build up. For high holds climbing centres generally have a boulder brush on a long stick knocking around.
- Balms & Tape – Not essential for first timers but all that friction and chalk can be really tough on hands. Balms will help to soothe, heal and soften sore hands. You will see climbers with tape wrapped around fingers to protect sore skin or injury and allow them to continue climbing. These can normally purchased for a few pounds from climbing centres if they’re needed. At the point you need to buy these – you know you are on your way to becoming seriously hooked on climbing. Enjoy!