What Gear Do I Need to Start Climbing Indoors?

Updated on January 20, 2018
Virginia Matteo profile image

Virignia has been climbing both indoors and outdoors for the past 5 years.

You need much less gear for indoor than for outdoor climbing. It is worth investing in your own equipment if you’re planning to climb frequently. The investment will pay off after a few month, and later on you can use the gear you’ve bought for outdoor climbing.

What you need depends on the type of climbing you want to do.

For bouldering look for:

  1. Shoes
  2. Chalk bag
  3. Chalk

For top rope climbing you’ll need all of the above AND:

  1. Harness
  2. Belay device
  3. Karabiner


Let’s break that down further.

Fortunately, you don’t need to go to the trouble of buying all those things separately. Many companies offer climbing kits for beginners, which contain almost everything you need.

If you feel lost in the world climbing brands and companies, I recommend that you consider this climbing kit by Black Diamonds. It has the following:

  1. Harness
  2. Belay/rappel device
  3. Karabiner
  4. Chalk bag
  5. Chalk

That ticks off everything on your list for top rope climbing apart from the shoes.

I bought this kit a few months into my climbing adventure. I found that the harness was really comfortable (it painlessly got me through eight hours of climbing in the Lake District).

Choosing the right size is crucial for your comfort and, in some cases, even for safety reasons. Be sure to measure your waist and the width of your thighs (in the thickest point, below your crotch). Here is the conversion table for the Black Diamonds harness:

XS: Waist: 61-69cm (24-27 in.) Legs: 43-53cm (17-21 in.)
S: Waist: 69-76cm (27-30 in.) Legs: 46-56cm (18-22 in.)
M: Waist: 76-84cm (30-33 in.) Legs: 51-61cm (20-24 in.)
L: Waist: 84-91cm (33-36 in.) Legs: 56-66cm (24-26 in.)
X L: Waist: 91-99cm (36-39 in.) Legs: 61-71cm (24-28 in.)
XX L: Waist: 100-114cm (40-45 in.) Legs: 66-76cm (26-30 in.)

The Black Diamonds belay/rappelling device is also superb, and, what’s most important, the rope never gets stuck in it like in some lower quality products. I’ve used it both for belaying and rappelling (although you shouldn’t do the latter at the beginning of your climbing adventure). If you don’t know what rappelling is, watch the video below to find out:

The only issue I’ve had with the Black Diamond kit is that the picture is misleading. You don’t get a big pack of loose chalk, as the picture suggests, but rather a chalk sock. The colour of the chalk bag is also assigned at random, which didn’t bother me much but can be a problem to those of you who care about design.

Other than those minor aesthetic quibbles, I have no regrets. I have used this kit for almost two years, and the gear is still in perfect condition (apart from some smudges of dirt on the harness).

There are cheaper climbing kits on Amazon, but bear in mind that you’re likely to compromise on quality. An uncomfortable harness and a belay device in which the rope gets stuck can be a nightmare, especially during longer climbing sessions. Don’t buy anything from dodgy sellers and always read the reviews carefully – low quality gear can lead to dangerous situations. It will probably cost you less to buy quality stuff that will serve you for years to come than having to replace lower quality gear in a few months.

Shoes

Buying climbing shoes will probably be the most important decision in your climbing adventure. The wrong shoes can hinder your progress for years.

There are three basic types of shoes:

  1. Neutral
  2. Moderate
  3. Aggressive

Climbing shoes
Climbing shoes

As a beginner climber, you should be really only concerned with the first type. Neutral shoes have the simplest and most convenient design for all-day climbing. Moderate and aggressive shoes have downturned toes for tackling more technical climbs – something you’re unlikely to need at the beginning, especially so as this design makes them less comfortable to wear.

To choose the perfect climbing shoes, you need to physically try on and compare a lot of them. I can’t stress enough how important a good, snug fit is when it comes to climbing. That’s why my advice is:

  1. Buy climbing shoes in a brick-and-mortar shop, OR
  2. Keep an eye on shoes sales at climbing centres

Buying climbing shoes online is certainly possible but not very smart. For one thing, you should try on a variety of brands to see which fits you most. Secondly – the size of your climbing shoes will be different than that of normal shoes. This is simply because climbing shoes have different sizing systems. Conversion tables will give you a clue as to your size but won’t replace actually trying different shoes on.

You can also keep an eye on shoes sales at climbing centres. Sometimes, you can try on the pair you are interested in for a few climbs and only then decide if you want to buy them. There is no better way of choosing climbing shoes! Here you can watch a quick guide on different types of shoes.

Chalk Bag

If you are only into bouldering, you don’t need to buy an entire climbing set. It still makes sense to buy a chalk bag, considering that the cost will pay off within the first few weeks of climbing.

If you don’t care about fancy designs, I recommend that you simply buy the cheapest available chalk bag on Amazon. I bought the MagiDeal Cuboid Rock Climbing Chalk Bag at the beginning of my climbing adventure, and although it’s hardly posh, it does the job. There are some drawbacks; for instance, I can’t adjust the belt to my waist (it’s a bit too loose), but I can put up with this for this price. I’m also quite slim, so that may not be the case for everyone.

Delivery is free, but it also takes some time. I had to wait three long weeks, as it comes from China.

That said, the price is unbeatable. It will be a perfect chalk bag if you are on a shoestring budget or you’re still unsure whether or not you want to commit to climbing.

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