Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
As gear gets lighter, more durable, and more refined—with updated versions of time-tested favorites like the Grigri, Inferno quickdraw, Camalot, Instinct slipper, and more hitting the market—we found ourselves in a testing maelstrom. The editorial staff at Climbing, plus our valued team of testers, hit the vertical hard, from the limestone cliffs of Cayman Brac, to the hidden backcountry ice of the High Sierra, to the sandstone boulders of remote New Mexico, to the walls of Yosemite, to the splitter cracks of the South Platte, to the frozen gullies of New England. We punished our fingers, feet, and the gear, comparing notes as we went. We’ve compiled it all in our 2019 Gear Guide issue—73 total items—with field-tested feedback based on each piece’s intended usage, unique technical specs, and its performance in the vertical. As usual, the standouts, listed here, have received our coveted Editor’s Choice award. Check out our top picks in each category below, and click through to read the full reviews. Want more gear coverage? Listen to an interview with Black Diamond climbing category director Kolin Powick in the latest episode of Basecamp: A Climbing Magazine Podcast.
Note: Reviews are arranged alphabetically; the order does not reflect a preference on the part of the Climbing staff.
Every good climb begins at basecamp, and it’s here that you return at the day’s end to refuel, recover, and rest for your next adventure. From cooking gear, to camping gear, to crag-to-town apparel, to crimptastic refrigerator magnets and more, our Basecamp section covers the climbing lifestyle.
Review: Evolv Rebel
“Coming in leather and vegan versions, this light, über-comfy tennie-style approacher went gangbusters on rocky trails, slabs, and techy terrain.” Read full review.
Review: Foehn Brise Pant
“Our tester wore the Brise for sport, trad, and bouldering at pretty much every climbing area in Boulder, CO and fell in love.” Read full review.
Review: Outdoor Research Hybrid Refuge Hooded Jacket
“This is among the most climbing-friendly hybrid shells I’ve worn, striking a perfect balance between light weight, warmth, water resistance, and stretchiness.” Read full review.
Review: Tension Climbing Block
“Tension has upped the portable-hangboard ante with The Block, a 9oz piece of cherry wood with over nine different hold positions.” Read full review.
Review: Warmlite Custom Climbers Two-Person Tent
“Slide two poles into the sleeves, stake out the front and the back, and the double-wall tent is up—no fly—and able to withstand 160mph winds.” Read full review.
Psssaaattt! Rock climbing’s most accessible yet arduous discipline demands the right accessories, from sensitive, downturned shoes, to thick, cushy foam underfoot, to chalk that keeps your precious fingers dry. Here, we’ve covered our top new pebble wrestler’s picks.
Review: Five Ten Aleon
“The concave toebox provided power and precision for toeing in and thin edging, without needing a radical downturn, and the breathable Primeknit upper molded to my foot.” Read full review.
Review: Friction Labs Bam Bam
“Friction Labs’ Bam Bam, their chunkiest blend (“grape to golf ball sized”), has become a go-to in all my chalkbags, from my gym bag to my cragging bag to my multi-pitch bag.” Read full review.
Review: Kinetik Newton 4.0 Crashpad
“The 48” x 36” landing zone felt durable with its 4” of foam, and provided a good landing when I punted on the last move, 12 feet up the boulder.” Read full review.
Review: Rhino Skin Solutions Repair
“Applying the non-greasy lotion on a regular basis has helped my skin recover more quickly and consistently from hard bouldering sessions.” Read full review.
Review: Scarpa Instinct SR
“The new SR keeps the same Bi-Tension active rand of the Instinct line, that funnels power into your big toe, but steps things up big time in the heel and toe departments.” Read full review.
This year, we tested a wide array of crag-worthy sport accessories, including slippers, clippers, and smooth-handling cords for whippers. A big trend in metal gear—biners, belay devices, etc.—was toward ergonomics, which is crucial at your physical limit.
Review: La Sportiva Cobra Eco
“Made from 85 percent recycled material, the new Cobra, like its predecessor, is an amazing all-arounder.” Read full review.
Review: Metolius Climbing Inferno II Quickdraw
“I used them pretty much everywhere, from demanding multi-pitch trad and sport, to sea-cliff climbing, to onsighting, and was impressed by their versatility and performance.” Read full review.
Review: Petzl Kliff
“Petzl’s Kliff was designed with sport climbing in mind. With 36 liters of storage, there’s plenty of room to carry the essentials, such as a rope, draws, shoes, and food and water.” Read full review.
Review: Tenaya Ra Woman
“After two months in the Women’s Ra, I’m convinced they’re an all-around performance shoe that doesn’t sacrifice comfort.” Read full review.
Gearheads, rejoice: This year’s Trad section includes some of the best offerings yet, including streamlined cams, trad-specific shoes, ultra-light helmets, and even sticky gloves to take your crack-climbing game to the next level. It’s time to get tradical with the latest hardware.
Review: Black Diamond C4 Camalots
The C4s are now 10 percent lighter, the triggers are wider for easier pull, and the Nos. 4–6 can be racked with the lobes retracted among other smart updates. Read full review.
Review: D4 Full Portaledge
“The newly designed bullet connectors make setup and breakdown a breeze, while the unique curved corners add rigidity, eliminating the need for a spreader bar.” Read full review.
Review: Fixe/Roca 9.0 Monkey Endurance Rope
“Extremely friendly hand and a perfect blend of glide and friction on the sheathe that is great for climber and belayer alike.” Read full review.
Review: The North Face North Dome Stretch Wind Jacket
“Loaded with climber-specific features, the North Dome has been a stalwart companion, from wind-whipped Cayman Brac to the Flatirons on yet another blustery day.” Read full review.
Review: Scarpa Maestro Mid Eco
“The Maestro Mid Eco is a solid contender for the best trad shoe on the market, best suited for mid-to-wide cracks and long routes where you want solid edging performance.” Read full review.
Nowhere are climbers as reliant on gear—down to every last piece of clothing—than in the alpine where equipment failure can derail a big objective or even prove fatal. For 2019, Climbing tested an amazing array of ice tools, ice pro, weatherproof alpine apparel, featherweight harnesses, and more.
Review: Black Diamond Ultralight Ice Screw
“With instant bite, smooth boring, and easy-action handles, there was no need to run it out.” Read full review.
Review: Edelrid Aramid Cord Sling
“While you could certainly use the 6mm Aramid slings solely for V-threads while ice climbing, I quickly found them to be much more versatile.” Read full review.
Review: Petzl Nomic
“The new Nomic excelled on vertical ice, where the included Pur’Ice pick both penetrated deeply and removed easily thanks to the 3mm tapered steel point.” Read full review.