10 Gear Essentials for Bouldering Outdoors and at the Rock Gym
The best boulder-specific climbing staples for newbies, gym rats, and everyone in between
Bob Myaing is a Philadelphia-based mountain biker, climber, and writer with an unhealthy gear obsession.
As rock climbing continues to explode in popularity, the fastest growing segment has proven to be bouldering. And for good reason. Bouldering offers the lowest barrier of entry—no harnesses, ropes, or certifications required—and arguably the highest fun to cost ratio for novice and experienced climbers alike. All you really need is a pair of shoes. (A well-designed chalk bag and cool climbing pants help too.)
With the explosion of indoor climbing gyms in cities around the globe, the amount of gear on the market has compounded too. We've waded through this sea to pick out the 10 most essential staples every boulderer should have in their kit, whether headed to the gym or local outdoor crag. And yes, boulderer is a word. Don’t let the trad dads tell you otherwise.
We’ve been wear testing these sleek climbing shoes for the better part of a year now, and aside from getting used to laces over velcro and the cumulating stink due to the synthetic upper, we couldn’t be happier. The break in period was nonexistent, and the Stealth C4 rubber is still sticky dozens of sessions in. The shape is aggressive but wears comfortably, and holds a toe especially well on steep, overhanging routes. A great second shoe after you’ve been climbing for a little while.
Take care of your climbing shoes and they'll take care of you. This smart bag is lined with a layer of activated carbon cloth that pulls stank and moisture from your shoes. Reactivate the carbon by heating it with a hairdryer or strong sunlight, just once a year.
All chalk is not created equal and Chalk Cartel's MgCo3 is some of the purest stuff out there. Free of drying agents, fillers, and manufacturer guaranteed sends. The entirety of the packaging is 100% recyclable out of respect to Gaia.
Unless you're one of those weirdos that uses liquid chalk, you're gonna need a bag or bucket for your chalk. This sleak option from Japan's Montbell is our daily driver. The soft fleece interior makes chalking up comfortable in all weather conditions and the exterior stash pocket, brush loops, and secure strap make travel clean and easy.
There's nothing worse than sliding off a fully-caked hold. Sure, your local gym might have a couple telescoping handled brushes for hard to reach spots but a quality handheld brush lets you scour crimps and slopers until the friction comes back to life. Not into having 9,000 boar hairs in your kit? No worries, they make a vegan-friendly brush too.
North Face Base Camp Flip-Flop,
Your climbing shoes are made for climbing and that's it. They're especially not for trips to the bathroom—please don't be that guy. Flip flops pack flat into any gear bag, and this pair will treat your feet to some serious cush thanks to their egg crate EVA foam footbed.
Climbskin Cream and Finger Board,
Pulling on plastic might not be as hard on the skin as real rock, but it can certainly take its toll. This small file is handy for keeping in your kit to sanding down callus buildups and smoothing skin breaks after they occur. After a session, treat your skin to a rich mix of essential oils with the Climbskin balm and rehydrate it ahead of the next sesh.
Take care of your fingers. Protect your tendons. Take time between attempts. Use these funny little massagers to relieve pressure and promote blood flow when your digits feel well worked over. And extend the life of both your session and your climbing career.
(Generic massagers are also available in bulk via Amazon)
There are some solid benefits to having a dedicated bag for your gym gear, namely keeping gym funk and chalk contained. The Street Creek 20L is modeled after big wall haul bags with a drawstring, widemouth opening. A padded laptop sleeve is convenient if you've got WFH capabilities for days when you can't stop thinking about your indoor proj.
Once comfortable climbing in the gym, try real rock. When bouldering outdoors, you'll need a crash pad, an item that is exactly what it sounds like—a big foam pad design to break your fall—and strong mental fortitude, as an outdoor V0 can often feel tougher than an indoor V4, or worse. The later is up to you, but trust Organic for the best of the former. The OG brand sews all of their infinitely customizable products in a 100% solar powered facility in Central Pennsylvania.