Outdoor bouldering requires very similar equipment to indoor bouldering, but there are a few other considerations when climbing outdoors.
What you’ll need (alphabetical):
- Balms & Tape – Balms will help to soothe, heal and soften sore hands. Climbers will use tape wrapped around fingers to protect sore skin or injury and allow them to continue climbing. Skin injury is much more likely on some rock types than others, so know what you’ll be climbing before leaving or just be prepared.
- Boulder Mats – Unlike indoor bouldering, the ground is not padded or flat should you fall or drop from a route. Climbers therefore provide their own padding in the form of boulder mats. These are generally made of foam and come with carry straps to allow it to be carried like a rucksack.
In order to ensure you land on the mat if you fall, you may also need a spotter – a friend to watch and give you a shove in the right direction if dropping off the mat. Many climbers boulder in groups and take several boulder mats between them. Some climbing clubs and climbing centres may loan these out to members, for a charge.
- Boulder brush – In some areas the rock must never be brushed, especially the case for soft rock like southern sandstone. In areas with harder rock then you may use a brush to get rid of chalk, mud and other debris from the holds. You can also use them to clean your route of traces of your own chalk before you leave. #leavenotrace
- Carpet – A piece of carpet to stand on while you are putting on or taking off your shoes can be really useful and prevent your climbing shoes (and your socks) and your boulder mat from getting dirty or muddy. When not in use it can be folded inside the mat. Some boulder mats actually include a little pocket for such carpet pieces to go in.
- Clothing – Not only does it need to be comfortable and stretchy for climbing in, every weather eventuality will need to be covered whilst out – so dress for climbing, pack to be warm and dry. Boulders may be a long walk-in from the car park, meaning you’ll also need sturdy approach shoes and good bag/rucksack for carrying everything you’re taking.
- Chalk – Chalk is used to help keep the hands dry and grip the rock. 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, but too much can be as bad as none at all. Also, when climbing outdoors, chalk will be left on the rock – climbing etiquette is to remove it where possible.
- 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 ground 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.
- Climbing shoes – These can be the same as the ones used for indoor climbing but some climbers choose to have an indoor and outdoor pair.
- Essentials – food, water, first aid kit, sun protection, tissues/loo roll and bags to take away all rubbish. The area may be quite isolated and must be left as if you never visited.
- Guide Book – without a guide book or similar you not even find the boulders. A good local guide book allows the day to be planned and will provide assistance on the day.
- Mobile phone – Essential for emergencies as routes can be well off the beaten track, they can also hold the guide book and of course provide a camera to get the perfect images/videos of your trip to share on social media.
- Towel or cloth – Something to clean your shoes before you make an attempt. The ground around the bottom of boulders can be muddy and/or gritty so, to preserve your shoes and the rock and prevent routes from becoming polished, give them a wipe before you start.
Enjoy your climbing!