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First Look: The Kilter Home Wall

Basics

The Kilter Home Wall is a 7-foot-wide by 10-foot-tall LED, app-driven setup meant for home users. The Full Ride kit includes the Mainline (165 bolt-on holds) and Auxiliary (140 bolt-on holds) sets, lights, and the computer/box that interfaces with the app on your phone.


Pros

Huge variety and remarkable density of holds (305 holds packed into a 7'x10' space // Great, tight-grained, sandstone-like friction // Beveled upper-backing on holds means holds have a consistent texture no matter what kind of panels you have // Ergonomic shapes, even on the small grips, make for comfortable, non-tweaky climbing

Cons

Spendy—but what app-driven home wall isn't? And they all eventually pay themselves off by letting you save on gym passes and memberships. // 7'x10' doesn't have a kicker panel, which can be either good or bad depending on how you feel about kicker panels (tall climbers often use kicker footholds to their advantage to extend high on the board and/or skip moves) // Given the high hold density, you need to take care not to dab/drag your feet onto neighboring footholds


Our Thoughts

The Kilter Home Wall is among the most user-friendly and newer-climber-friendly home-wall setups on the market, both for the overall ergonomics of the holds and their sheer density. The lighting system, which lets you add feet with minimal impact to the hand sequence, makes for problems that will be similar in grade for users of all heights, getting away from some of the "morpho" issues that can plague LED walls. For home users, having 305 grips makes for endless setting possibilities and lets you simulate just about any crux or foster any kind of movement you can think of. The Full Ride setup (both holds sets + lights) is spendy at $6,600, but, really, none of the LED walls are cheap, and it feels like it would be money well spent for the variety you get with all those grips.


Size Reviewed

fits a 7'x10' wall

Weight

n/a

Price

$0

Brand

Kilter


Kilter HQ, right in my neighborhood…

Here’s a thing: I actually pass right by Kilter’s headquarters every morning when I’m walking the dog, here in the Gunbarrel suburb east of Boulder, Colorado. I can see their red banner in the window, and I’ve been friends with the business’ co-founders, Ian Powell and Jackie Hueftle, for years. Powell is a legendary sculptor, hold-shaper, and product designer whose far-reaching impact on plastic-pulling stretches back decades and whose shapes, like the iconic Teagan Kaiju Stalactites, can be found in gyms and on comp walls the world over. Hueftle is a top, veteran setter with decades of experience in gym and comp setting, and is a co-founder of the Routesetting Institute, a collective of setters looking to bring best practices and top-level setting to the indoor-climbing industry.

In a phrase, these guys know their stuff!

I knew about their Home Wall, which came out in October 2020 and has since sold about 120 units, but even given how close they are to my house (and to Climbing’s offices), I didn’t get a chance to have a look until now due to the pandemic. In any case, some friends and I stopped by, in early June, to session both the Home Wall and the original Kilter Board (the big daddy, at 12’x12′), which I’d climbed on previously in a gym. Unless you had a ton of space, as with a three-car garage, the original Kilter Board at that size was likely too big for most home users, though it has become wildly popular in gyms, which have the space for adjustable walls and big installations. Kilter’s new Home Wall seeks to address the gap by offering a downsized wall that fits well in a garage or high-ceilinged bedroom.

Major Density…

I hadn’t been boarding in four or five weeks due tendonitis issues, so it was with some trepidation that I got back on the board, wondering how I’d do on the typically powerful, jump-and-catch, high-tension problems these walls generate. Fortunately, the Home Wall provided a great re-entry, perhaps because there are just so many holds (305 total!) that problems can still be challenging, by using small holds and ticky-tacky sequencing, without resorting to the usual, caveman “big move = hard” style you get on the boards.

As to that density—it truly is remarkable. With both hold sets on (Mainline and Auxiliary), there really is no part of the wall that goes unused. Yet there still seems to be just enough breathing room between the 305 holds on the 7’x10′ wall that you can grab onto each one without overlapping onto other grips—though with sloppy footwork, you can certainly dab  other footholds, which works to your advantage (unless your friends call you out!). Compare this to the 198 holds on the MoonBoard’s 2019 set on an 8’x12′ wall with 198 holds studding an 11×18 grid, and it’s clear that you can up the density in a way that still makes sense.

A grip on the Kilter Home Wall, showing the beveling/backing that gives it a consistent grip from wall to wall, regardless of panel texture. Photo: Jackie Hueftle

Another great touch that Jackie pointed out is that all of the holds bevel down to a flat surface—flush with the panels—that essentially rings the grabbable portion of the hold. This ensures that, where your fingers or toes buck against the grip, they are still contacting the hold itself and not the panel surface, which makes for a much more consistent climbing experience from board to board. Consider the difference between textured panels, and how you can smedge fingers and toes into the crease between the grip and panel for extra purchase, versus smooth panels, where you don’t get that advantage, and you can see why this might matter—in some cases by a V-grade or two from one board to another.

As for the climbing…

The Home Wall was a true pleasure to climb on, for the reasons mentioned above and also just the friendliness and ergo shapes. All of the 305 holds felt usable at 35 degrees, though you’ll need your A-game for some of the flatter, more slimpy holds and micro crimps—Jackie told me that Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb had set elite-level problems on these holds, which makes sense, though with an adjustable wall, kicking back to 20 degrees on down would make them more usable.

Kilter Jackie
“Kilterjackie” (Jackie Hueftle), a co-founder of Kilter, cruising up the Kilter Home Wall tilted at 35 degrees. Photo: Matt Samet

I really dig Kilter’s lighting system, with green holds to start, blue for the hands, purple to finish, and yellow for footholds only. Versus some of the vicious, tracking-style problems you get on the MoonBoard, this made for setting that felt friendlier to climbers of all heights and sizes—in other words, it’s easier to add multiple feet options without affecting the hand sequence, so that problems end up less morpho. The Home Wall I climbed on didn’t have a kicker panel, though other versions do. I’m a shorter climber, at 5’6″, so I have mixed feelings about kickers—plenty of problems set by taller climbers seem to rely on extending high off the kicker or moving your feet along it on a traverse. And if you’re too short to use the kicker feet with the assigned hands, you’re basically screwed or you’d better love jumping. On the flip side, having a kicker panel often lets you set longer problems that move horizontally or diagonally across the lower third of the board before moving up, which is better for power-endurance training. There are pros and cons of each…

The grips themselves had a pleasant, tight-grained, sandstone-like texture, brushed clean of chalk nicely, and were kind on the skin even during a multi-hour session; most were in the half-pad or three-quarter-pad range, though there were some jugs, big-boi full-pad edges, and micros. Some holds had interesting, slightly incut beveled cups that your fingers settled nicely into, while others were complex in a way I found super-appealing, with crimp lips that go all the way around so you can use the hold in multiple configurations (downpulling crimp, sidepull, pinch, etc.). For some reason I think of holds like these as “Lego blocks,” and they reminded me of the complex, water-sculpted, multi-directional pockets and edges in Ten Sleep, Wyoming.

The pronounced lips on the grips and foothold-only option allowed me to climb in my preferred “little-person style”: jacking a foot way up to highstep on a crimp, and then locking off for the next handhold with a turned-out hip. This made for technical, tensiony climbing that did a great job of mimicking outdoor bouldering and sport cruxes—but there were also plenty of problems set with the standard punchy, big-move movement you associate with LED walls, if you so desire. At 35 degrees, the problems demanded a lot of core engagement and tension down through the toes—it was great training, especially for the sport climber who, like me, mainly boulders to have power at sport-route cruxes.

Compared to the mammoth 12’x12′ Original Kilter Board, the Home Wall obviously doesn’t facilitate the same sort of long, swooping-move problems you get with all those grips and all that surface area. But that’s not its intended goal nor market. I’d look at the Home Wall as a concentrated “dose” of the Original Kilter Board for the home user, distilled down to its bare essence of power and crimping, forcing smaller but more technical moves. And really, at 7′ by 10′ it’s not actually that small anyway—just smaller. Meanwhile, the Home Wall has so many holds that the setting possibilities feel endless, and you could probably mimic the crux of just about any climb on this setup.

I’m looking forward to putting in more training and testing time on the wall as my arms heal. The Kilter Home Wall is an exciting new addition to the genre, one whose full possibilities are still being revealed as it develops a fanatic user base and more problems get added to the app.