Rock Climbing Gear

Rock climbing is a gear-intensive sport, and choosing the right equipment can make all the difference on a hard ascent. Climbing magazine's expert gear testers deliver in-depth field reports on the latest rock climbing equipment and clothing, along with detailed advice on how to buy climbing shoes, harnesses, belay devices, cams and other protection, ropes, and everything else you need in the vertical world.
  • Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear picks for your favorite climbing partner.

  • The Carabiner Handbook

    The Carabiner Handbook

    Surpassing chalk, puffy jackets, and beer (OK, and ropes too), carabiners are the most essential piece of the climbing life. These small metal clippers are both the staple of any rack and the icon by which non-climbers identify our sport. Once a simple concept—a metal oval with a spring-loaded gate—the intended uses, designs, and details of the carabiner have grown exponentially from their original purpose: helping soldiers carry their inventory efficiently. Below, we outline the history of the carabiner, important vocabulary, and the rest of the basics of these clippers’ designs so you can pick the best biner for the job.

  • HPGearGuide15Alpine

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Alpine

    Weight, versatility, durability, and weather resistance are of the utmost importance in the high country. Here are 12 products that meet and beat all the requirements.

  • 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.

  • HPECAlpine

    Gear Guide 2014: Alpine

    Rock, ice, or snow, these 12 tester-approved toys will get you to the top.

  • HPECTrad

    Gear Guide 2014: Trad Climbing

    From cams to carabiners to shoes, here are 18 of the best new products for plug-and-chuggers.

  • ECSport

    Gear Guide 2014: Sport Climbing

  • 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.

  • mountainhardwear

    5 Super-Light Shells For Spring

    Precipitation is the enemy of the rock climber, and few things are as disappointing as watching your project get drenched in a spring squall. Sport climbers and boulderers need an emergency shell for surprise storms, while ice and alpine climbers rely on these jackets to keep them dry and warm—a dire necessity—in their bad-weather battlefields.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Power-Vs-Hand-Drill

    Smackdown! Hand Drills vs. Power Drills

    Equipping a route with bolts, no matter the number, size, or type of hardware, is no easy task—you still have to drill a hole in solid rock. What tool you use, however, can either ease or aggravate the already-difficult task. We pitted the two bolting options (hand and power) against each other to see which drilling method is king of the mountain.

  • 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.

  • autumn1

    Autumn Awesomeness

    Six top gear items that will make your fall climbing season the ultimate experience.

  • $59; outdoorresearch.com

    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.

  • Singing-Rock-Guru-Harness-660

    Singing Rock Guru

    From one ultra-slim tester to a wider-hipped lady climber, this fully adjustable rig fit several body types and shapes with complete comfort. Plus, it comes in six sizes from XS to XXL. We took the Guru to Rocky Mountain National Park for some long alpine routes and then to Shelf Road, Colorado, and Ten Sleep, Wyoming, for sport climbing sessions, and the Guru was just as good for hanging belays as it was for catching long whippers.

  • Liberty-Mountain-Cowhide-Gloves

    Liberty Mountain Cowhide Rap Gloves

    They say the best offense is a good defense, and the same goes for shielding your most valuable tool: your hands. These belay and rappel gloves protected testers’ mitts from rope burns, cold weather, and other abuse during cragging from Ten Sleep, Wyoming, to Eldorado Canyon, Colorado.

  • Camp-Roxback-Pack

    CAMP Roxback Pack

    Drop it right in the dirt, unzip, and go—a full-length zipper against your back (we promise you won’t even feel it) allows the Roxback to lie on the ground in a more accessible and clean position (no more putting the grimy side against your sweaty back). The frameless design keeps the weight minimal at 1 lb., 10 oz., but the 40-liter capacity still easily fits a day’s worth of sport climbing gear and then some.

  • Mammut-Serenity-Rope

    Your Lifeline: 5 New Ropes for Sending Season

    The climbing rope is a unifying piece of gear. Primarily, it connects a climber to his belayer, but every tribe member who wants to get higher than 15 feet off the ground ties into one, whether he’s toproping or big walling. (The Honnolds and Crofts of the world don’t count!) However, a toproper and a big waller will be looking for two very different cords. Our testing crew visited nearby Colorado areas, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, half a dozen Utah crags, and California’s High Sierra to find the five best single ropes on sport, trad, and alpine routes.

  • 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.

  • Millet Miage Pant

    What makes a pant superior isn’t just about what it does do, but also about what it doesn’t do. It shouldn’t hinder upward progress; be too tight or too baggy; make you sweat or itch; look unstylish; have too many or too few pockets; or interact poorly with your harness and other gear. From the Alps of Switzerland to Boulder Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado, the Miage didn’t do any of those things, acting as a perfect all-around pant.

  • Eastern-Mtn-Sports-Helix

    Eastern Mountain Sports Helix Jacket

    With around 30 backcountry testing days, from climbing Utah ice to teaching avalanche courses and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, the Helix proved its worth as a perfect “quiver of one” waterproof/breathable shell. Polartec NeoShell’s updated membrane is more permeable than the previous version, allowing air to pull moisture away from the skin at the first sign of sweat, rather than building up moisture before it’s released (which causes that clammy feeling).

  • North-Face-Verto-Hoody

    The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie

    “Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.

  • 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.

  • May-Harness-Review

    Harness the Power: 5 Performance-Minded Picks

    All harnesses do the same things—keep you from hitting the deck and tote gear—but how they do it can be staggeringly different. Some are mega-plush, built for hours of hanging, while others are slim and trim for sending projects. Then there are those designed with special features for ice climbing or mountaineering. You’ll probably have your harness for years—you won’t replace it as often as a rope or rock shoe—which makes it all the more important to choose the right rig.

  • Thermarest-NeoAir-Dream

    Thermarest NeoAir Dream

    Take the comfort of your bed at home with you on car-camping trips. That’s what two testers did for the last six months, and the result was many fights about who got to sleep on this bit of heaven. “This is the most comfy pad I’ve ever slept on,” one tester said.

  • Big-Agnes-Wyoming-Trail-4

    Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 4

    When you’re car camping next to the crag, weight is less of a concern than luxury, which is where this 14-pound beast comes in. Two two-person tents are connected by a floorless storage area that’s large enough for a six-person game of Twister—trust us, we played the game—and makes a great covered “porch” when weather comes in.

  • Black-Diamond-Revolt-Headlamp

    Black Diamond ReVolt

    The Volt has been our go-to headlamp for two years. Now there’s an updated model with a built-in USB charger for its rechargeable batteries. On long trips, you can swap in alkalines to ensure you won’t be stumbling in the dark.

  • Goal-Zero-Sherpa-50-Kit

    Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Kit

    This solar recharger has been around for a few years, but it got a sizeable downgrade (in a good way) this year, now weighing just 1.1 lbs. The whole kit (recharger, Nomad 13 solar panels, AC inverter) can charge anything from a smartphone to a laptop.

  • Cassin-X-Draw

    Cassin X Draw

    For sketchy aid or trad placements and ice screws, a load-limiting quickdraw can provide a margin of safety and confidence. These runners are sewn into a compact bundle with stitching designed to break under a heavy load, absorbing some of the impact force. (The expanded runner retains full strength.)

  • 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.”

  • Stanley-Classic-One-Hand-Mug

    Stanley Classic One-Hand Vacuum Mug

    Leak-free, bombproof, sleek, and keeps drinks hot for up to six hours. Our testers carried this mug everywhere from daily bike commuting to a week in Yosemite, and it survived a dozen drops on rock and concrete and one downhill bounce through a boulderfield— and remained unscathed.

  • Wild-Things-Custom-Insulight

    Wild Things Custom Insulight Jacket

    “That was fun!” said one tester after designing his own jacket from colors to materials to fill. “And the jacket has proven to be a bombproof performer, too.” Wild Things lets you select from a range of features and fabrics at a competitive price, with a 14-day delivery turnaround.

  • Millet-Prolighter-38

    Millet ProLighter 38 + 10

    Shoulder season in Colorado is an all-around climber’s dream—and this might just be the ultimate all-arounder pack. Whether targeting remote trad lines at Lumpy Ridge on crisp fall days, early-season water ice, or wintercondition alpine in Rocky Mountain National Park, the ProLighter handled every load well and was comfortable and stable to carry. “A rack, helmet, layers, food, and rope easily disappear in this pack,” said one tester.

  • Black-Diamond-Speed-22

    Black Diamond Speed 22

    Somewhere between a bullet pack and a full-sized cragging or alpine sack, the frameless Speed 22 is ideal for stripped-down missions where deftness and agility are more important than pure carrying comfort. “This was my favorite pack for solo scrambles when I needed to carry a rope and harness for the rappels,” said one tester.

  • 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.

  • Helly-Hansen-H2Flow

    Helly Hansen H2Flow

    A simple polyester shell with elastic cuffs and a drawstring hem houses a brushed interior of 200g Polartec fleece. Sounds uncomplicated until you look at the inside of this jacket: The fleece—lining the chest and back—is pocked with dozens of dime- to quarter-sized holes that trap heat when you need it and ventilate when you don’t.

  • Marmot-Sphinx-15

    Marmot Sphinx 15

    “I normally loathe taking packs through chimneys, but this one held up really well to abrasion, and the compression straps on either side make cinching it down easy,” our tester said. Hopping from crag to crag in Eldorado Canyon, she comfortably carried water, two jackets, and a guidebook.

  • Millet-Axpel-42

    Millet Axpel 42

    Swiveling waistbelts and “dynamic suspension” are becoming pretty common among packs, but for its new line of mid-sized packs, Millet is doing something unique. The pivot point lies several inches above the lumbar pad, in the middle of your lower back. Our testers said these innovations significantly increased stability and carrying comfort: “It moved with me when I was boulder-hopping on the way to the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park,” one tester said.

  • La-Sportiva-Pegasus-Primaloft

    La Sportiva Pegasus PrimaLoft

    “This hooded, midweight jacket quickly became my go-to piece for chilly days at the crag and while navigating alpine terrain,” says one contributing editor. “It’s the climber-oriented fit that won me over: The torso is trim while the waist and arms are long, so the Pegasus stayed tucked under a harness and always covered my wrists when reaching overhead.”

  • Trango-Simple-Sling

    Trango Simple Sling

    The name says it all: This is one simple gear sling. And that’s a good thing. Constructed of black webbing that’s double-width over the shoulder to distribute the load, it weighs only 2.5 oz. and hangs the rack just above your hip. (It’s available in two sizes: 20” and 24”.) “Initially I was concerned about a lack of padding, but the webbing was wide enough that it was adequately comfortable, especially over a jacket or other layers.

  • Brooks-Range-Cirro-Pant

    Brooks-Range Cirro Pants

    Puffy jackets keep your upper half warm, so why not don some puff in the southern hemisphere? Our tester wore these PrimaLoft-insulated pants winter camping in four western states and raved about the light weight (11 oz. for a medium), packability, and warmth in temps as low as 8°F.

  • Pieps-Alpinist-Pro

    Pieps Alpinist Pro

    A “workhorse for a variety of climbing” is how our main tester described the burly, 36-liter Alpinist Pro after using it for everything from ice routes in Washington’s Cascades to rock climbs in Arizona’s Cochise Stronghold. Despite weighing only 2 lbs., 10 oz., the pack has plentiful features.