What Do I Need For Bouldering?
Bouldering is a fantastic sport for problem-solving and exercising both your physical and mental limits, but it’s also great because once you have the basic equipment and some clothing, there isn’t much more to buy until you need to replace it, making it kinder to your wallet than most other climbing disciplines.
This list covers what you will need and why for bouldering outdoors; from equipment to clothing and the accessories in between. It is by no means exhaustive but aims to give you an idea of what you should be thinking about and the reasoning behind our suggestions.
A bouldering mat, also known as a crash pad is generally several layers of foam covered in durable fabric that you put on the floor underneath where you are climbing a bouldering problem. They are designed to break a fall and help reduce serious injury and come in many different sizes and densities, some have more elaborate features than others such carrying straps, pockets, and shoe wipes as an added bonus.
Rock climbing shoes are a connection between you and the rock, they offer significantly more stickiness and sensitivity than other shoes, so you can achieve sturdy footholds and climb successfully. When choosing the right rock shoe you’ll want to consider how they fit, how they fasten and how sensitive the sole unit is. Our climbing shoe buying guide goes into more depth on this.
When climbing our hands can become sweaty and holds can become greasy, it’s common practice to use climbing chalk to combat this and help increase friction for more effective climbing. Depending on what you prefer you might choose to have your own personal chalk bag that sits on a belt so you can use it mid-climb or you might have a chalk bucket that can be left on the floor to be used between attempts.
A coarse-haired brush, such as boar hair, is a great accessory for cleaning holds. Brushing away debris and excess chalk at tricky holds can improve grip and make for better climbing. When working a route some climbers might take the time to brush key holds before they start climbing others will only brush when they feel a hold is particularly bad.
There is no wrong or right way when it comes to brushing but having a brush might help you tick off those problems in quicker succession.
When bouldering you can find yourself needing to get into some pretty awkward positions, by wearing proper climbing shorts or trousers you’ll be sure to have full freedom of movement in order to do this. They are usually made from particularly durable and stretchy fabrics that can handle abrasion against rocks and they’ll likely have a low profile and minimal features to ensure nothing can snag on the crag as you climb. Trousers often have elastication or a cinch cord at the ankles so you can get better visibility of your feet and where you are placing them.
Bouldering can be a sweaty sport, especially when down at the crags on a gorgeously warm Summer’s day. Thus a wicking tee will help to wick away any excess sweat keeping you comfortable for longer, if it’s a chilly day you might choose a thermal base layer as this will help to keep you warm as well. A proper base layer will also dry quicker between climbs so you can spot your climbing buddy feeling dry and comfortable.
How warm you need your warm layer to be will largely depend on the conditions of the day you go out and how much you feel the cold. For some days a simple fleece will be more than sufficient while other days might require something more substantial such an as a down or synthetic insulated jacket. Either way, something to throw on between attempts or while spotting your buddy will allow you to spend longer at the crag in comfort rather than feeling cold and desperate to get somewhere warmer. If you do feel the cold and opt for a warmer jacket, a hat and gloves would be a good addition too.
A backpack will come in handy for stashing your supplies for a great day at the crag. It’s worth bearing in mind you might be carrying your bouldering mat too so anything too big might be cumbersome. It should be enough for some water, some snacks, an extra layer, a first aid kit and anything else you want to take with you.