Ask Answer Man: Why Can't I Boulder Shirtless With a Beanie?


I’ve heard about an “unspoken” code against bouldering shirtless with a beanie. Makes me wonder at what point style interferes with climbing? —R. Robinson, via email


In most cases, style doesn’t interfere with climbing. But it can make you look like a twat to your fellow cragsters. It’s kind of like hipsters in the original Brooklyn sense of the word, back before the masses regarded every bearded flannel-wearer with cuffed jeans as such. Those hipsters, with their cropped tank tops, painted-on jeans, shutter sunglasses, and poorly executed irony (did they even understand the term?) were an embarrassment for everyone. But however lame it may be, style is generally accepted as a personal choice, and they were doing no real harm. So they flourished.

Consider when your questionable choices might be harmful or become burdensome; this is when they do one of two things: 1) put your nether regions on display in a way that is prohibited by whatever law your state happens to employ, or 2) are inconveniencing to your friends. By that I’m referring to the function clothing has. Here’s an example: When you set out for the crag in cold weather, pack and dress in layers. Be mindful of the weather forecast, and remember that a change in elevation alters the temperature significantly. You might be hot while you’re hiking, but you’ll be cold when you stop. Pack a rain shell and a puffy jacket. Most of all, remember that a beanie keeps your ears warm and, short of stuffing it in your pants, not much else.

My partner tosses banana peels and apple cores when we’re at the crag because they’re “biodegradable.” I think it’s environmentally irresponsible. Who’s right? —Will D., San Francisco, CA

If we are to trust the highly lauded paragon of personal responsibility in the wilderness, i.e., Leave No Trace (and we should), their official stance has little wiggle room. According to the “Dispose of Waste Properly” section of LNT’s Seven Principles, “Pack it in; pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.”

Litter is an eyesore and attracts animals. I walk through enough trash in this God-forsaken city on my way to Answer Man Headquarters every day. Tell your friend to pack out those peels—or I’ll start chucking my trash in his yard.

Gear is expensive. Do you have any tips for extending its life? —Alison F., Phoenix, AZ

Considering what climbing gear does for us, I think it’s actually a steal. Have you considered the cost of a trip to the ER? But I sympathize and won’t leave you hangin’ like a Death Triangle on a desert tower. In my excessively dirty experience, I can say that dirt is enemy number one to our gear. Here’s how to keep your shit clean.

Soft goods: ropes, harnesses, slings, draws, etc. Get a rope bag with a good tarp and keep your draws and harness in your pack, on your body, and off the ground. Inspect things each time you come home. Looking grim? A nice, manufacturer-approved rope wash like Sterling’s Wicked Good Rope Wash ($2) can go a long way.

Hard goods: cams, biners, belay devices. Dirt and grime can gum up the action on anything with moving parts (cams, biners, Grigris), especially in the desert. Dip in near-boiling water (the metal only!) and brush with a toothbrush. Let them dry and re-lube with WD-40. Or don’t fall on them; that’s Answer Man’s method.

Shoes: The price of shoes seems to have steadily risen so much that Answer Man has had to start a separate investment portfolio just to keep my doggies in sticky-rubber style. I use an old pair as my gym shoes and keep a pair or two pristine for outdoor use only. Since any publicity surrounding gym ascents is only met with derision, I don’t care how good the edge is when inside. Check out some shoe-cleaning tips here.

Take care of your gear, and it will take care of you.

And other topics...

Where should I take my next road trip? Valmont Canyon

Who’s your favorite climber? Three letters: SBC. She’s having the most fun.

Are you going to try out for American Ninja Warrior? What are you, 12?

Who makes the best chalk? Crayola 48-count washable. Leave no trace, y’all.

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values? Email