Welcome to the page all about GEAR! Gear is what keeps us safe on the rocks. You will learn to use it, love it and trust it, quite literally, with your life.
- 1 What is Gear?
- 2 What Gear do I need?
- 3 Club Gear
- 4 Racks
What is Gear?
Gear is pretty much any equipment you use when you go climbing, it includes your harness, shoes and chalk, as well as all the various bits of metalwork we use to protect climbs.
Gear varies depending on climbing style, which could be split into 3 categories:
All climbing gear looks very similar (and is often identical to other people's), for this reason we recommend you use coloured tape to mark your gear so it doesn't get mistaken for someone elses. Also, if you lose some gear and it is taped, it is much more likely to find its way back to you.
For a list of what colours/combinations are already taken by club members, see the list here. Be sure to let us know in the thread in the forum so your colours can be added to the list.
What Gear do I need?
As a general rule, there is a short list of things which you should buy if you are serious about wanting to climb regularly.
- A harness,
- A belay device (with a screw-gate to put it on)
- A pair of climbing shoes
- A chalk bag and some chalk
Harnesses come in all kinds of sizes and styles, and can be bare and uncomfortable (like our club ones), or fancy and super-padded. You will most likely want a waist harness, which has a loop to go around your waist and one for each of your legs. It will have a strong loop at the front (the belay-loop) which you use to tie-in as well as attach your belay device when belaying. It will also have several loops around the waist which are used to hold gear (see Racking-Up).
There are also full-body harnesses which attach around your shoulders as well as legs. These are generally not required when climbing.
A belay device (also belay plate, friction device...) is used when you are belaying another climber. The purpose of the belay device is to help hold the rope by introducing a huge amount of friction. If you try to hold a rope with your bare hands, and the climber falls, you will burn your hands, let go of the rope and drop the climber. For this reason, a belay device is used to add the necessary friction into the system to allow you to hold the rope without injuring yourself or others. Belay devices come in many shapes and sizes, but their basic operation is more or less the same.
One of the first things you will be taught as a member of the club is to safely use a belay device.
Climbing shoes, or rock boots, are tight-fitting, high-friction-rubber covered shoes which help you stick to the rock when climbing. As with everything else, they come in tons of styles, each one suited to different styles of climbing. In general, you should buy your climbing shoes a bit smaller than you would an ordinary pair of shoes. This means your toes will be curled up which is a much stronger position to stand on. (Try it - curl your toes and push on the floor, then do it with them straight. When your toes are straight, you will notice they are difficult to hold in position and bend upwards. This is not good for trying to stand on small holds!).
Climbing shoes are not strictly required to climb, but I guarantee you will find you are able to stand on much smaller holds, and generally climb a lot better with a decent pair of climbing shoes on.
Chalk is quite simply powdered chalk (more often Magnesium Carbonate than Calcium these days though). Chalk is used to absorb sweat from your hands to stop them slipping off holds. As with many things to do with climbing, friction is key. Chalk is generally held in a fine mesh bag (a chalk-ball) which is then kept in a small draw-string bag (chalk-bag) when climbing. The bag is attached around your waist, so that you can chalk up your hands whenever needed.
Chalk is also available as loose powder, though many climbing centres do not allow the use of loose chalk because it makes a mess. SSP doesn't allow loose chalk, balls are available from the shop there though and more or less every other outdoor shop in the world ever.
You can get chalk balls which are refillable, which you can then pour loose chalk into. This is a very cost effective way of staying chalked-up!
The club has a decent collection of gear which we use whenever we go on trips. There are racks, ropes and harnesses for use outside, as well as a couple of bouldering mats. There are also harnesses and a lead rope for use at the wall.
- USMC Lead Rack 1 Green/Black/Yellow
- USMC Lead Rack 2
- USMC Lead Rack 3
- USMC Lead Rack 4
- USMC Sport Rack
- Club Ropes
- Bouldering Mats
"What is a rack?" I hear you ask. A rack is a big collection of climbing gear for use when leading, either Sport or Trad. It consists of tens of different pieces of gear, usually all neatly attached to a short piece of rope (tat).
The contents of a rack varies, depending on personal preference, funds, and how difficult you are likely to be climbing with it. Regardless of this, the basic building blocks are the same:
The screw-gate is a climbing mainstay, it is versatile, strong, and secure. A screw-gate is like a normal snap-gate except is usually a little bigger and has a screw on the gate (...it's in the name). The screw, when done up, ensures that the carabiner cannot accidentally open, letting go of whatever it was attached to. For this reason, screw-gates are used wherever you need to connect two other bits of gear together without the risk of it possibly coming undone. For instance, when belaying, a screw-gate is used to hold your belay device to your harness. Whenever you use a screw-gate, ALWAYS make sure the screw is done up, and preferably not rubbing on anything which might make it work its way open.
The snap-gate is your bog-standard carabiner. It has a spring loaded gate which will snap shut when you let go. Snap-gates are used whenever the added security of a screw-gate is not required. For instance as part of quick-draws. Other uses include holding gear to your harness (Racking-Up), attaching your shoes to your bag, key-rings...
Quick-Draws are essentially two Snap-Gates with a short bit of sling connecting them together. Quick-draws are used to hold a piece of placed/fixed gear to the rope. It is important to clip a quick-draw the right way round. Often the gates of the carabiners are colour-coded. If so, then as a general rule "Red to Rope." The other half is often blue, in which case "Blue to bolt" applies. If the gates are not colour coded, you may find that one is curved and one is straight. The curved one should always be clipped to the rope, and the straight one to the gear. You also need to be careful not to back-clip, but this is a concept which should be taught when you learn to lead.
Why does it matter which way I clip?
I'm glad you asked. If you imagine you are leading a route, and unfortunately you fall off (or just sit on the rope for a rest). You are putting weight on whatever your last piece of gear was, usually a quick-draw attached to something metal. The carabiner on the quick-draw which is attached to the metal gear may well get a little dented or scratched as a result of the force you are putting on it. This is not usually a problem as far as the carabiner itself is concerned, but we have to consider what happens next time the quick-draw is used.
Imagine I am now climbing another route, using the quick-draw you just fell on, and I clip it the other way round. This time, the end that was attached to the metal in your case, is attached to my rope. This means any dents or scratches are rubbing on my rope and may cause damage. Damage to ropes, as you can imagine, is a bad thing. That is why you need to be consistent in the way you clip.
Extenders are basically big quick-draws. They will have an actual sling, attached between two [#Snap-Gate_Carabiner|snap-gates]. The sling can be doubled or tripled over to reduce the length when attached to your harness, but then you can 'extend' them to a longer length when you use them. This extra length is useful to reduce rope-drag when you have placed gear which is deep in a crack or crevice, under a roof or simply a little off route.
If you only buy one piece of gear other than your belay device, make it a sling and a screw-gate to put it on. A sling is a length of strong Dyneema or Nylon webbing, sewn together into a loop. It is used to secure you to an anchor, as part of an extender, to thread through holes or over rocks as a piece of protection, and as a vital part of Sock Wrestling or The Sling Game. Slings come in varying lengths, from about 30cm to ridiculously huge.
Nuts are passive protection, they have no moving parts, esentially they are a lump of metal on the end of a metal wire. In the olden day they used to be a real lump of rock with a peice of cord ('tat') put through them, times have evolved slightly but the principle is the same.
Placement of nuts is done in cracks which get narrower the further out you come, if cracks flare the nut simply falls out so is useless as protection. Nuts come in a range of sizes and in a number of different flavours (Curves, Wallnuts and Rocks to name a few), most racks have two sets of different types as they all have different features and make placements easier. When a nut is too small to fit the gap is where hexes take over.
Hexes are often, like the name suggests six sided, they don't have equal length sides and some are often a little curved, but the name is good in principle. They can be thought of as over sized nuts, the largest (#9) Rockcentric for instance is 73mm at it's widest, and are often refered to as a Seagull slayer. They also work in much the same way as nuts, although they can be on Dynema or metal wire, those on dynema can be cammed in to position, giving more placement opertunities.