Bouldering and Training Gear

Bouldering is a pretty simple sport, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require essential gear. From crash pads to hang boards and other training equipment, Climbing magazine's reviews will guide you to the highest-performance gear and the best values.
  • 6 Must-Have Climbing Apps

    6 Must-Have Climbing Apps

  • HPCreatineGuide

    Climbing Nutrition: Creatine Supplement Guide

    Creatine is probably the most effective ergogenic supplement available to climbers, here's why and how to get the most out of it.

  • HPCNSportsDrinks

    Climbing Nutrition: When Should You Use a Sports Drink?

    Sports drinks have their time and their place. As eager as I am to extol their performance benefits, they are not helpful in all situations. Like any other aspect of nutrition (or training), it’s worth understanding the context of timing sports drinks so you know when it’s good to use one and when it may not be useful.

  • Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear picks for your favorite climbing partner.

  • Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    As editors of a climbing magazine, part of our job description includes traveling to cool climbing areas with the latest and greatest gear and putting it through its paces—all in the name of “testing.” Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. We eventually have to decide which products are worthy of a mention, and which are better left on the shelf. Every year there are several items that shine brightest, proving themselves to be absolutely must-have pieces of gear. We bestow those top picks with the gear world’s premier prize: Editors’ Choice. This year, we winnowed a field of hundreds of products to select these 15 coolest, best-performing, and most drool-worthy gear picks.

  • HPECBassecamp

    Gear Guide 2014: Basecamp

    Whether your digs are a sleeping bag under the stars or a shiny new Sprinter, here are 31 of the best new things to improve any climbing trip.

  • Gear Guide 2014: Bouldering

    Gear Guide 2014: Bouldering

  • HPEC

    Gear Guide 2014: Editors' Choice Awards

    Innovative, smart, lust-worthy, and just plain cool: 10 new must-have products that topped our testers’ lists.

  • Soto-Windmaster-OD1RX-158

    Soto Windmaster OD-1RX

    Integrated cook systems like the JetBoil or MSR Reactor do a great job of deflecting wind and maintaining quick boil times, but you can’t use multiple pots or frying pans. Meanwhile, many pocket stoves suffer in the face of a stiff breeze.

  • Scarpa-Stix-Shoe

    Scarpa Stix

    Instant-classic alert! Cobbler genius Heinz Mariacher (the man behind some of the sport’s most notable shoes like La Sportiva’s Mythos and Testarossa and the Scarpa Boostic) has struck gold again. The Stix packs top-end performance in a surprisingly easy-to-wear synthetic-leather slipper.

  • Metolius Session Crash Pad

    Winter means one thing to some climbers: prime bouldering season. Whether you’re a dedicated boulderer or a beginner, the Metolius Session Pad is an ideal mat to fit every dirtbag’s car, needs, and budget.

  • How to Buy Approach Shoes

    Building a quality approach shoe is an art—and a science. Manufacturers take wildly different materials and delicately press, weld, glue, or sew them together into a cohesive unit that should get you from your car to your climb as efficiently as possible. To better understand each component, we’ve broken down the layers and examined how they work. Plus, we highlighted our testers’ top five picks.

  • Patagonia-Rover-660

    Get There: Have it all with these 5 approach shoes

    It’s no easy feat to build a shoe that offers support for long hikes, precision and “feel” for technical scrambling, and comfort to keep feet happy. This year, we thought outside the box to see what we were missing in the realm of approach shoes. What we found was a host of light hikers that not only competed with our favorite approach-specific kicks, but a few that also offered more comfort and climber-friendly details at a lower price.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Backdraft

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Backdraft

    “The chimneys and offwidths of the Utah desert are some of the toughest proving grounds for apparel, and if anything functions well and emerges unscathed, it’s a winner in my book,” said one tester after rocking the Backdraft for several pitches of wide (and wider) cracks.

  • Avex Highland Autoseal Stainless Travel Mug

    Climbers are serious about coffee. And this tricked-out travel mug is a seriously cool addition to the scene. With a large and easy-to-push button on the top side, you can effortlessly press the button down.

  • Swiftwick-Aspire-Socks

    Swiftwick Aspire

    Compression socks for climbing? Believe it. After shivering for a few hours on Castleton Tower near Moab, Utah, one tester decided to try the Aspires the next day for Washerwoman Tower, and she was immediately sold.

  • $59;

    Summit or Bust

    Whether you’re stuffing a five-ounce model into a larger pack or you’re leaving the car with one pack on your back, we’ve got a choice to suit your needs.

  • Five-Ten-Team-Shoe-660

    Five Killer Rock Shoes

    Before any epic alpine rock route, redpoint burn, or warm-up boulder, there sits the climber: slipping on, lacing up, or strapping down a pair of rock shoes. We know the bond between a climber and sticky rubber is nothing to make light of, so we called in 12 pairs of brand-new kicks for this fall to find the top models for every kind of adventure.

  • apparel-guide

    Fall 2013 Apparel Guide

    Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.

  • Carhartt-Force-T-Shirt

    Carhartt Force T-Shirt

    This 65/35 cotton-poly blend offers the comfort of cotton with the wicking properties of a syntheticperfect for climbing in the arid mountain West. “This simple T-shirt is great for roadtripping, too,” said one tester. “You always look somewhat classy even when you’ve been climbing without showering for a week.” Credit simple colors and a stain-release and anti-odor treatment.

  • Mountain-Equipment-Eclipse

    Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee

    Three testers raved about this midweight fleece after using it across the world, from bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, to climbing alpine routes in Patagonia. “It was the most efficient midlayer I’ve ever worn: It warms without overheating, and it breathes in all the right places,” one tester said. The Pontetorto Technostretch fleece provided plenty of insulation in the torso and arms, while a lighter version of that fabric allowed more airflow under the arms and around the hips.

  • La-Sportiva-Cham-Down

    La Sportiva Cham Down

    “Forget every other down puffy you’ve ever worn—this will beat them all,” one tester declared. The 750-fill down kept us warm in single-digit temps throughout the West. “Belay puffy, around town, skiing… I wore this every day this winter,” another tester said. The superior warmth and airy feel of this 23-oz. jacket (men’s M) was the foundation of our testers’ obsessions, but it was the climber-centric features that sealed the deal.

  • Ibex-Synergy-Pant

    Ibex Synergy Fit Pant

    “You will see me in these at least five days a week in the winter,” one female tester said. “Thanks to the merino wool, they’re warm enough to wear outside, but they breathe so you can rock them for hours in a muggy gym without fear of sweat stains.”

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Guide-Pant

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide Pants

    Light, thin, and stretchy enough without fitting like yoga pants, these 94 percent nylon/6 percent spandex technical pants were perfect for a month of December bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas. “Kneebars, falls, rock and cactus scrapes, leg scumming… Nothing could put a hole in these,” our tester said.

  • Organic-Climbing-Jean-660

    Organic Climbing Jean

    “I’ve worn these bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado, in the gym, flying across the country, and out to dinner,” our tester said. These climbing jeans are at home in any situation. A fully gusseted inseam (from crotch to ankle) provides “the mobility of synthetic pants with a fabric like durable denim.”

  • La-Sportiva-Galaxy-Hoody

    La Sportiva Galaxy Hoody

    Labeled as a “do-everything hoody for the do-everything athlete,” this full-zip midlayer really does all mountain sports well. Our testers took it (and the women’s version, the Avail Hoody) from boulderfields in northern California to the long multi-pitches of Red Rock to ski slopes in Colorado.

  • Optimus-Vega-Stove

    Optimus Vega Stove

    “I could churn out hot water at a fast clip, but dial the heat back to simmer sauce,” said our resident camp chef. A standard screw-on canister attaches to the stove via a flexible hose, so the squat, 7-inch-diameter burner sits only two inches off the ground, making it stable on uneven surfaces and under fat pots.

  • La-Sportiva-Helios

    La Sportiva Helios

    “These will become the only approach shoe you’ll ever wear,” one tester said after a few weeks of use at NorCal bouldering areas and around the Front Range of Colorado. Thanks to the shoes’ airy comfort right out of the box, all other testers agreed. Designed as a follow-up to the lightweight Vertical K trail runner, the Helios is a bit burlier with a thicker midsole and a slightly beefier upper for added foot support for long distances, weighing in at 8.9 oz. per men’s 10.5 shoe.

  • North-Face-Alpine-Shorts

    The North Face Alpine Shorts

    We gave these to a Tennessee tester, and the lightweight, stretchy, DWR-treated fabric proved extremely breathable day in and day out. “These shorts gave me excellent freedom of movement with just the right amount of stretch without being too baggy,” he said.

  • Mountain-Equipment-Calico-Hooded-Zip-Tee-158

    Mountain Equipment Calico Hooded Zip Tee

    When it’s slightly too cold for a T-shirt but too warm for a full-on midlayer, the Calico Hooded Zip Tee is just right. This pullover had enough technical features for hard climbing on winter days in Colorado’s Eldorado and Boulder canyons but enough comfort and style in the sun at crags in Utah.

  • Nemo-Spoon-Nocturne-Sleeping-Bag

    Nemo Stratoloft 25 and Nocturne 15 Spoon Bags

    Cheers to Nemo for making two of our favorite bags of the year. The Stratoloft 25 (right) is a down comforter that pairs with an insulated air pad (sold separately); the combo is the perfect setup for car camping and weekenders. “The pad with integrated pillow and lofty down bag with elastic in the seams made for a better night’s sleep than I get at home,” said one tester.

  • Eton Rukus Solar

    Charge this device before you leave for the weekend, and you’ll have eight hours of music for the crag or campsite. Link your smartphone via Bluetooth to conjure anything from your playlist. “Surprisingly deep and rich,” said one tester.

  • Moving-Comfort-Urban-Gym-Capri

    Moving Comfort Urban Gym Capri

    When you find clothing that is comfortable, versatile, stretchy, and flattering, it’s a winner. The Urban Gym Capri has a wide waistband for a slimming effect, but, more important, it keeps the pants in place. “These never slipped down—with a harness or without,” one tester said.

  • SICgrips-Gstring-660

    SICgrips Gstring Climbing Grips

    No more excuses: Train hand and finger strength without a hangboard, on the road, or away from the gym with the Sic Grips GString. Hang ’em over a closed door, on a standard pull-up bar, or from a tree branch in base camp with the strategically knotted 5mm polyester static cord.

  • Asana-Pro-Spotter-Pad

    Asana Pro Spotter Pad

    This four-in-one pad may have more uses than your Leatherman. At first glance, the Pro Spotter Pad looks like a typical sit-start pad at 36” x 22”, with three inches of sturdy and supportive closed cell foam. Then you notice the handles on the back, designed so the pad can be used for its namesake: a spotter pad that will safely and comfortably push the climber onto stacked pads.

  • Tip-Juice-Hand-Balm

    Tip Juice Hand Balm

    Despite splitter weather, maximum strength, and high psych, bad skin sidelined our tester on a trip to the Buttermilks, California. “I couldn’t warm up without that throbbing pain you get from climbing on tattered skin,” he said. “One night with Tip Juice slathered all over my splits and tips, and I healed up enough to try my project the next day without causing more damage and pain.”

  • So-iLL-Brush-Kit

    So iLL Brush Kit

    If you’re a serious boulderer, you need an arsenal of brushes. Now you don’t have to search the world over—or pay upwards of $50—for a complete set. For less than $30, you get five brushes—two are dual-sided, so it’s actually seven different styles, sizes, and textures for whatever type of hold or rock you might encounter.

  • Scarpa-Instinct-VS

    Scarpa Instinct VS

    From a V9 slab to a steep 5.13c in Red Rock, Nevada, the Instinct VS earned our commendation: an amazing shoe that masters all angles. “I’m just gonna say it: This is one of the best shoes I’ve ever worn,” said our experienced tester, who has almost 100 shoes in his personal collection. “They’re versatile, comfortable, and outperform almost any other shoe on every kind of terrain.”

  • Stonelick-Blu-Crashpad

    Stonelick Blu Crashpad

    This relatively new Northeastern pad company came right out of the gate with a 2012 Editors’ Choice award for their Yose pad, which sported a unique “step-hinge” design that eliminated ankle-twisting weak spots in the middle of the pad while maintaining ultimate foam durability.

  • Mad-Rock-R3

    Mad Rock R3

    “When I needed this pad, I needed this pad,” said one tester who used it for a month in Hueco Tanks, Texas. “The separated tubes of foam wrapped around those hard-to-protect obstacles that tend to be right in the middle of your landing zone, so my ankles (and ass) were protected when I fell.”

  • Metolius-Contact-Board

    Metolius Contact Board

    “This board trumps all other boards,” said our injured tester who has been relegated to hangboardonly training for the past few months. It’s a beast at 32.5” x 11”, and every square inch is utilized with valuable edges and shapes. Two standout features: variable pinch sizes and rounded edges on all ledges and pockets. Multiple pinch sizes mean you can easily train no matter your hand size, and you can dial in the difficulty by choosing whatever width you need.

  • Moon-Bouldering-Bag

    Moon Bouldering Bag

    If you’re not content just throwing all your odds and ends into a crashpad and calling it good, then this multipurpose messenger bag is perfect for you. While it sports many organizational components—two internal sleeves for shoes, inner zippered pocket for small sundries, and outer pocket for guidebook and snacks—the double-carry system is really what satisfied testers.

  • Five-Ten-Aescent

    Five Ten Aescent

    The Aescents have become an integral part of our testers’ Colorado alpine bouldering sessions. “Whether hiking up to the Dali Wall at Area A on Mt. Evans or trudging through feet of snow to brush off a spring project, the Aescents held their own through it all,” said one tester. Reliable and sticky Stealth Mystique rubber adhered to granite and sandstone flawlessly, even after getting wet.

  • Escape-Climbing-Power-Balls

    Escape Climbing Power Balls

    Pull-ups are the standard climber’s exercise, but a plain, straight bar doesn’t do much to simulate a real climbing situation. Add the Power Balls to your training regimen, and those 40 boring pull-ups might turn into four targeted and climbing-specific workouts. We tested them as a supplement to regular hangboard training, and found great results for lock-offs, slopers, pinches, open-handed exercises, and core workouts.

  • Blank-Slate-Slim

    Blank Slate Slim

    With an Editors’ Choice Award in 2012, the original Blank Slate was simple yet ingenious: a hangboard that utilizes a doorway leverage system and doesn’t require a single drilled hole. Now they’ve made a smaller version to fit in even more locations. The setup takes about 15 minutes (even for the assemblyimpaired), and you can mount your training tool of choice to the 29.5” x 8” wood board, which fits a medium to small hangboard or up to eight separate climbing holds.

  • Tenaya-Ra-Tested

    Tenaya Ra

    “I’m in love,” said our longtime shoe tester of the Tenaya Ra ($140; “I’ve worn them on everything from slab to dead-vertical to slightly overhanging to roofs, and they perform perfectly everywhere.” Whether you’re running a few dozen endurance laps or trying to redpoint your hardest boulder problem in the gym, you’ll find high-performance edging, hooking, and smearing.

  • Sanuk-Enduro-Boot-

    Sanuk Enduro & Flurry

    Water-resistant, ultra-warm, easy on-off, and anti-microbial to prevent the stank: that’s our list of essential qualities for the perfect shoe to wear to the gym day after day during the slushy cold season. It’s also exactly what you’ll find with Sanuk’s Enduro (men’s) and Flurry (women’s) ($110 and $120, respectively;

  • Nuun-All-Day-Hydration

    Nuun All-Day Hydration Tablets

    “I drink more than a gallon of water in a day of climbing, feel thirsty the whole session, and can tell my body isn’t absorbing the fluids,” our chief tester complained. So we gave her Nuun All Day Hydration tablets ($29.95 for a 4-pack;, and she noticed a difference right away: “Drop a tablet in 16 ounces of water, and my thirst actually feels quenched.”

  • Alchemy-Arm-Sleeves-

    110% Alchemy Arm Sleeves

    The joint-crushing and tendon-aggravating hours of gym training are incredibly hard on the body because of the high intensity and repetition, so much so that recovery techniques have become just as important as the hours spent pulling plastic. Since rest is sometimes out of the question for obsessive-compulsive climbers, those people need an alternative solution that expedites healing. That’s where the 110% Alchemy Arm Sleeves ($125; come into play.

  • Biolite-Campstove-660

    Wood Power

    The BioLite CampStove ($129.95; seemed like an impossible paradox at first: a wood-burning stove (outdated) that charges your electronics (futuristic), but after a fall season of car-camping trips, our testers were sold. One Joe’s Valley tester was able to brown a pound of ground beef and vegetables in just a few minutes on a 40°F night. But because it’s real fire and not a regulated gas stove, boil times for one liter of water depended largely on the outside temperature, ranging from 6.5 to 14 minutes.