Bouldering for Beginners: Gear You Need to Start Bouldering

Bouldering is a sport similar to rock climbing but with the need for much less equipment. Traditional and sport rock climbers need ropes, harnesses and gear to connect them to the face of the rock wall, but boulderers don't need any of these things.

While bouldering involves climbing vertical or inverted routes similar to (or more difficult than) rock climbing routes, bouldering routes are much shorter. This close proximity to the ground is what allows boulderers to get away with less safety equipment.

essentials to start bouldering

So what gear is needed to start bouldering? Pick up these bouldering essentials to try this fun sport.

Bouldering Shoes

If you're serious about tackling bouldering problems, you need to invest in a pair of climbing shoes. Sport and trad climbers take their climbing shoes off after completing each route, but it's common for boulderers to wear their shoes throughout an entire session. For this reason, finding shoes that are comfortable is important.

gear to start bouldering

Climbing shoes in general aren't known for their comfort; they are meant to have a snug fit and be worn without socks. However, some are more comfortable than others. Look for a shoe with a flat last (straight shape) or a very-mild cambered last (curved or downturned shape) when shopping for bouldering shoes. A shoe that is board lasted -- meaning it has a stiffer midsole -- is also great for comfort. The alternative to this is slip lasted, which gives the shoe a more glove-like fit and works well for advanced climbers who need that extra sensitivity.

You should be able to walk in bouldering shoes without feeling too much pain in your toes or feet. Keep in mind that most climbing shoes stretch over time. Many indoor bouldering facilities rent shoes, which is a good option for first-timers.

bouldering shoe fit

climbing shoe fit

climbing shoe fit

Want to learn more about climbing shoe fit? Read our blog post on how to choose climbing shoes.

Chalk Bag

Climbers use chalk to absorb sweat from their fingers and hands, allowing them to get a better grip on the rock. While chalk isn't necessary, those who do use it need a chalk bag. Chalk bags are usually lined with fleece and feature openings that can be cinched shut to prevent a mess. Some chalk bags have a belt that climbers can use to secure the bag around their waist.

gear to start bouldering

Indoor bouldering facilities often require climbers to use chalk balls rather than carry loose chalk in their bags. This helps contain the chalk and prevent major messes. Chalk balls can be purchased, or you can create your own refillable chalk ball with this simple tutorial.

Bouldering Crash Pad

What goes up must come down. Crash pads are large, cushioned pads that soften the landing of boulderers when they fall or jump off their route. This piece of bouldering equipment is required for outdoor bouldering, especially when the alternative landing is usually hard, rocky ground. It's also standard to have a spotter watching the climber and moving the pad if necessary.

Crash pads are not necessary for indoor bouldering. Indoor bouldering facilities usually have cushioned floors that are soft enough to make falls and dismounts comfortable. Often these facilities also have crash pads available for climbers to use on more difficult or higher problems.

Since bouldering doesn't require as much gear and technical knowledge as sport and traditional rock climbing, it's a great way for beginners to get a feel for the sport. So grab some shoes and start bouldering!

You might also be interested in How to Boulder in a Gym: Indoor Bouldering Basics
posted by
Lauren Seidl
Blogger at Sierra Trading Post
Lauren enjoys hiking, camping, climbing and exploring the outdoors. She's always up for trying something new, especially if it involves getting outside. When Lauren isn't out finding adventures in her home state of Colorado, she can be found writing as Sierra Trading Post's blogger.
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