Do you want to know how to use rock climbing equipment? Climbing purists will say that the lighter the better, thus fewer equipment will determine higher quality on the sport. Where this is relatively true, there's also a safety component in the equation regarding good use of the equipment.
For this discussion, rock climbing equipment is divided in three main groups:
- Safety equipment. Helmets, harnesses, gloves and crashpads will be in this group.
- Route protection equipment. Anything related to placing anchors along the route together with the rope itself and belay or rappel devices.
- Climbing clothing and garment. Whatever you wear while climbing and hauling your gear has a big impact in your overall performance.
- Your rock climbing shoes do not have to be comfortable. The main purpose for a pair of rock climbing shoes is not looking good or being cushiony, but providing grip, friction and support to your feet. The sizing must feel a little tight, if not a lot. Go to your local mountain shop and try some shoes on. Never wear socks with rock climbing shoes, as you'll definitively lose most of your feel and contact with the rock.
- The pants must be comfortable enough to let you extend and bend your legs all the way, but not too baggy as they can get stuck in pockets, crack or gear.
- Depending on the weather, a T-shirt or a light sweater will be fine. More refined speed climbers will prefer something tighter to avoid friction, but for regular routes, regular clothes are fine.
- If the sun hits the route, sunglasses are a must and a baseball cap under the helmet is a good option.
- The helmet must fit tightly. If your helmet moves back and forth, it can leave your forehead unprotected from falling rock.
- Gloves for rock climbing are out of place. However, gloves can be of great help while belaying.
- The harness has to feel right all around. Remember, you will spend many hours on the rock, so don't save money when you choose a harness.
- Carabiners must be checked every day. Falls and hits during regular use can cause cracks that are not evident in the carabiners aluminum, so check them carefully on a regular basis.
- The rope is tour life guarantee when climbing, so you have to care for it. It is important that the rope is stored and carried properly. This means dry, clean and coiled the right way. Even during the approach hike and the climb itself, the coil must always remain protected by it´s rope bag. If you have no rope bag, any bag that fits your rope can become a rope bag.
- Your climbing backpack must remain dry and clean because it holds many sensitive materials. Just imagine what could happen if you go out climbing using equipment that has been sitting inside a moist bag for months. After climbing, dry and clean your bag, empty it completely and check for sand, dust or oily stains.
- Runners and leashes must be stored uncoiled. If stored too tight for too long, even synthetic runners can memorize the shape or the coil and cause problems while climbing. Store them just as they do in the shop, hanging loose from a rack on the wall.
- When travelling, pack your rock climbing hardware in fabric bags in small groups. This way you will prevent them from chipping each other.
- Last but not least, remember: airlines do not allow metal hardware to be carried in cabin. So check all your gear.
Your safety on the mountain depends on how well you use and keep your gear. So remember, even though it feels awkward, the climb does not finish at the parking lot. When you get home, organize and store your rock climbing equipment properly to ensure that the next climb will be just as fun and safe as the last!