What are the top few items needed for a new climber?
It depends on the type of climbing you want to be doing, but the best place to start is by investing in a pair of rock shoes. It's important to have shoes that fit your specific foot, and you don't want to have to borrow friends' stinky kicks or be renting them all the time. Several companies make great shoes that are ideal for beginners because they're comfortable without sacrificing performance, and they won't break the bank. The Evolv Defy VTR and La Sportiva Jeckyl VS are excellent inexpensive options that you can wear for bouldering, sport climbing, and trad climbing. Here is some more advice on how to pick out shoes.
For any type of roped climbing (sport, trad, or gym), you'll want to buy a harness. There are dozens of inexpensive harnesses on the market; since you're just starting out, it's great to get a rig that is comfortable to sit in. The better you feel while climbing, the more you'll want to climb. One of our favorites is the Bluewater Flash harness: It's got plenty of padding to keep your bum happy, and it rings in for less than $50. Here is some advice on how to buy a harness.
A belay setup (tube-style belay device and a locking belay carabiner) is necessary, too. Several companies sell biners and belay devices together, or you can buy them separately to get exactly what you want. Here is some advice on how to pick out a device.
You'll want to invest in a chalkbag, too. This is more about personal preference, so get whatever you like. Pure Grit makes some unique and fun patterned bags.
If you're interested in bouldering, it is worth it to invest in a medium-size crashpad. Many companies (Organic, Asana, Metolius, Stonelick, etc.) make excellent and affordable pads that will last you for years to come. The Stonelick Blu is a great pad for not a lot of cash. If you're going to be bouldering a lot, consider durability. If you're going to be doing highballs, consider something with extra padding that also covers a large area. If you're going to be hiking a lot with the pad, consider the weight. Borrowing friends' pads is an excellent option until you decide which one is right for you.
— Gear Editor Julie Ellison