One of bouldering’s many attractions is that it doesn’t require a lot of gear. To boulder indoors all you need are a pair of climbing shoes and some chalk, while bouldering outdoors requires a few extra items most critically a bouldering pad. If you are venturing off the beaten track, you should also take a map and compass, food, water, warm clothes and a head torch.
There is a wide range of climbing shoes on the market, many of which are designed specifically for bouldering. When choosing the best shoe for your needs you must compromise between many factors, such as:
- A tight fit gives better performance on small holds at the expense of comfort.
- The stickier the rubber, the faster it will wear out. Stiff shoes ‘edge’ well but ‘smear’ badly.
- Thin soles are more sensitive but less durable.
Most beginners’ footwork is such that their first pair of shoes don’t last long, so there is no point spending a fortune on them. Fit your shoes so that they are snug but not painful.
While a chalk bag isn’t absolutely essentials indoors (you could just use the bag your chalk came in), it’s essential if you are planning to climb outdoor where problems tend to be longer. A simple bag with a drawcord closure will suffice, of couse you can get fancier models with pockets and clever non-spilling closurses.
Consider the size of the chalk bag, there should be plenty of room to dip your hand in when in a hurry. The bigger the better really.
A chalk bucket is a large chalk bag that stay sitting on the ground, they are much larger than a normal chalkbag with a wide stable base and hold a lot of chalk. Commonly used at climbing walls.
Unless you are one of those people who just never sweats then chalk is essential. It comes in a number of different forms: blocks, powder, chalkballs and liquid chalk.
The cheapest option is a block, these are handy as you are able to crumble then into the exact texure that you prefer, I will like to keep some big chunks for tickmarks and then a mix of granules but never too fine. Excellent value if bought in bulk.
Powder is usually quite fine and some brands have different variesties of chalk with varying amounts of drying agents. These agents are good for people with sweaty hands but can cause your skin to get too dry and crack. I find Black Diamond White Gold a good chalk, it’s not too talcy and has a nice rough texture.
Chalk balls are small mesh bags filled with chalk, I find the chalk too fine, nearly talc like but the advantage is that they create as much mess due to spillage etc.
Liquid chalk is just powered chalk mixed with alcohol. You rub a small amount into your hands and the alcohol evaporates leaving a good layer of chalk on your hands. It serves as a great base as you can coat all of your hands and it lasts longer than normal chalk.
A small piece of carpet is very useful for cleaning your shoes before you step onto a problem.
Excess chalk is easily removed with a brush. There are a variety of fancy bouldering brushes on the market, however a plastic bristled washing-up brush works just fine. Some climbers use a telescopic pole with a brush attached to the end to clean out of reach holds. Alternatively, just tape your brush to a stick.
Never use a wire brush as the metal bristles destroy the rock.
Skin Care Kit
The following are worth carrying, especially on trips, to keep your skin in good condition:
- Finger tape – zinc oxide tape – for covering up cuts as well as supporting weak or injured joint.
- Fine sandpaper, emery board or a pumice stone for sanding down small tags of skin so they don’t tear off.
A bouldering pad or mat is a pretty essential piece of equipment for bouldering outdoors especially if the landing are rocky or the problems are high.
Most pads consist of a thick layer of soft foam and a thinner layer of hard foam. The hard foam is usually on top (i.e. the side you land on) as this spreads the impact which is then absorbed by the soft foam. They vary in size and the most suitable pad for you depends on factors such as how far the walk is, how high the problems are, if you boulder alone, how big your car is etc.
Alpkit offer an excellent range of pads at good prices.