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Climbing shoes are one of the essential climber gears. That is why you need to make sure you buy the best pair for your style of climbing. On the other hand, with tons of different styles of climbing shoes available to select from, it can be overwhelming to choose the best pair that will suit your preference and budget. To help you pick the right climbing shoes, here are the tips you need to follow. We also put the best climbing shoes for 2020 for boulderers and climbers to the test!
Climbing shoes have a short history, they were only invented in the second half of the last century. But they have gone a long way from there, and for 2020 there are some interesting new concepts like 3D molded climbing shoes with inlay socks and really aggressive beginner shoes, targeted for gym climbers.
What Sort of Climbing You Do Most?
The first and perhaps the most essential factor to consider when buying a climbing or bouldering shoe is to know what kind of climbing are you into. Are you into bouldering, alpine climbing, or sport climbing? Crack climbs, face climbs, or slab climbs?
Different kinds of rock climbing need different types of equipment. What is more, they also need various features and properties in bouldering or climbing shoes. Like for instance, boulders often use tighter shoes which they can pull off fast between climbs.
Choosing the Best Type of Closure
The most popular shoe closures are Velcro and lace, even if slippers are slowly becoming a new style. Selecting the best kind of closure is a personal choice and somewhat about fit. Start by choosing a type of closure and then searching for bouldering shoes which fit your fit. You can also try on many shoes and from the ones which fit, pick the type of closure that meets your needs and preference.
For those with an average foot, ho big toes or crazy archers but the small middle section, this type of closure fits excellent.
Velcro is faster than lacing, and three straps will provide further adjustability
Velcro’s that has split tongues help fit a wider foot.
Often, this material can be loose when you are climbing at a high grade for a continued amount of time.
Sometimes Velcro’s can loosen (compared to a lace-up) when you’re climbing at a high grade for a sustained amount of time.
The closure of Velcro might add bulk while climbing and cause pressure points
Who Can Benefit from Velcro Shoes?
This is ideal for everyone, most especially boulders because of the speed in putting on and taking off.
This type of shoe is useful when you have oddly, fussy shaped feet as you can customize the fit, like tighten the lace at the toe. You can also loosen in the mid-part to have a room for high volume feet or high arch feet.
It takes time to put on and take off
Who Benefit from Wearing Laced Shoes
This is ideal for trad climbers who need a versatile fit. This is also perfect for sport climbers who climb aggressive routes.
Extremely fast to put on and take off
It is an automatic fit, so there is no closure to stress about
Some models come with a strap made of Velcro, which adds more safety to keep your heel in the right place and lessen slipping.
Climbers with wide foot might find restrictions to the elastic
If the only closure is made of stretchy material, you may find limitations in performance during aggressive maneuvers because the shoe might stretch or slip.
Wide-footed climbers may find restrictions to the elastic.
When the only closure is stretchy material, one may find performance limitations during aggressive maneuvers as the shoe may slip or stretch.
Who can Benefit from Wearing Slipper Shoes?
Boulders love the quickness of this shoe in getting it on and getting it off. While trad climbers enjoy less bulk as well as pressure point while rock climbing.
Choosing the Best Material
Boulders shoes are available in various materials, so it is important to choose one that meets your needs and preference. Some of the best materials are:
In case you have fussy or oddly shaped foot which does not seem to like a climbing shoe, then leather might be the best choice. Leather expands when there’s pressure so that it can provide a comfortable fit as this match to your foot over time.
The disadvantage of this expanding is that it makes it challenging to know the right size. It depends on the kind of leather, and it will be more or less stretchy. In general, the leather shoe will expand .5 to 1 shoe size. However, there is an exception, and the LA Sportiva Mythos are renowned for quickly stretching additional 1.5-inch sizes. How big the shoe stretches depend on how tightly it is fitted to start with- a tighter one will expand or stretch more.
Leather is breathable compared to synthetic components. So, your foot minimizes sweats and the shoe airs more, which reduce the smell. This doesn’t alleviate all odors. However, it helps. This material can smell just as gross when aren’t aired out properly after using. So, carry and store your climbing shoes in an open area with lots of fresh air to dry out properly.
When your shoe does get disagreeably smelly, it is harder to clean a leather model as it stretches when wet. Lined leather climbing shoes do not extend as much. However, they are less breathable.
A synthetic bouldering or climbing shoe is more accessible to size compared to leather models as it has minimal stretch. If you are looking for a boulder shoe which will not alter sizes in due course, then synthetic is the best choice. On the other hand, the lack of stretch does not mean it is vital to get a precise fit-out of the box.
Even if this material can get smells caught in them easier, they are easy to maintain. Most synthetic boulder shoes available will not acquire water damage. Like for instance, the famous LA Sportiva Oxygym’s, this were made to be submersible and washable. A lot of synthetic bouldering or climbing shoes are vegan-friendly as well.
A hybrid climbing shoe can be a good choice because it is easier to size with less stretching. However, it conforms to the exceptionality of your foot in specific areas. However, it all depends on the situation as well as the ratio of leather to artificial materials.
The way you will take advantage of this type of climbing shoes is to look for a model which fits well all through your feet, but could be a bit tighter in the leather parts. This is perfect as those leather parts are able to stretch in order to have a room for knuckles and wider hear.
Sizing Tips on Climbing and Bouldering Shoes
Bouldering and climbing shoes must feel completely snug in your foot. There should be no spaces or dead gaps, which will lessen sensitivity. Spaces or gaps under the arch or in the heel can cause your shoe to slide and slip in when your cam your toes or heel hook into a splinter.
Try-ons should be done around the time when the feet is a bit bigger.
Pay attention to concise climbing shoes. The upper part will stretch; however, the shoes will not get longer as you get them in.
Keep your mind to the rear of the heel. Stand on your toes to ensure the shoe does not press devastatingly on Achilles tendon.
Every model or brand has its sizing. Begin with your standard shoe size down or up to get a comfortable fit.
Try on many different styles and brands. The best bouldering and climbing shoes are those which fits you perfectly. Therefore, take time and try out many pairs.
Unisex Climbing Shoes
A lot of bouldering shoes available on the market today are unisex. When the female’s specific version is on hand, the choices usually are less. Some manufacturers provide women version available in purple and pink color, whereas other manufacturers market a gender-neutral low volume option. Men have low volume feet and decided to buy bouldering shoes for women for a perfect fit.
Top Climbing and Bouldering Shoes Available
The best climbing shoe depends on your chosen fit, closure preferences as well as climbing styles. It is extremely hard to choose, so we have made it simple for you. Below are the top picks for the best climbing and bouldering shoes for 2020. Check this out!
This is among the top climbing shoes for 2020. After going a lot of shoe demo’s SCARPA figured out something interesting, first time climbers would attempt on the most progressive climbing climbing shoes and like those best, although they would be using those advanced shoes sized much too big.
Conventionally, beginner climbing shoes have been reasonably stiff without downturn and asymmetry. This is better when a climber is learning to climb outside on tall concrete walls. The stiff sole helped to feet keep on the smaller holds.
As of 2019 and 2020 however, many rock climbers start to climb at climbing gyms indoor. The holds there are usually much bigger and on overhanging walls— climbing shoes which are downturned and flexible help for these kinds of grips. Therefore, SCARPA made a shoe intended for this type of beginner climber. Also, they made a new last which will encourage climbers to acquire the right fit in this comfortable and softer downturned shoe.
For many years, Mad Rock has been creating compression-molded pieces in their climbing shoes, from three dimensional molded rubbers which cover big toe-patches to three-dimensional molded heel cups. At this point, the company has taken a big step and has created a climbing show with an outer layer that is 3D molded. This essential feature allows for a considerable reduction in wasted rubber. What is more, it also allows the designer to move the rubber easily if they want to make thinner and thicker parts on the shoe to make sure a right and comfortable fit. This results in a more comfortable shoe that performs well too.
To have a room for this rubber construction, there is an inner sock which will integrate the midsole. The inner sock offers either a hard or soft midsole option. It also comes with closure made of Velcro. Still, there are lots of special details to come like the price and the release date.
La Sportiva Cobra 4:99 is the first shoe ever made intended for speed climbing. This began from the La Sportiva Cobra, and the company cut down all the bulkiness. The 4:99 is extremely light as the sole rubber goes halfway. The rear has been stripped to have small structure because this is not needed for climbing the speed road. It also comes equipped with less heel pressure, super-soft heel for an ideal and comfortable fit. It also comes with non-sticky rand on the side to avoid catching on holds.
From the people who initially brought you climbing shoes, this La Sportiva Genius is indeed the result of climbing shoe technology’s many developments and ingenuity. More than just the advancement of the No Edge idea, this Genius model lends the best characteristics from the arsenal of La Sportiva for its style and design. The outcome is a climbing shoe which can edge with precision and support while providing edges as well as barely-there nubbins. On the other hand, this is also perfect for steep climbing.
A lot of shoes made for steep climbs are sensitive and soft but doesn’t have enough fit for its incredible softness when it comes to techy on-feet-styles. For La Sportiva Genius, it does outstandingly well at both.
Black Diamond is one of the best makers of climbing. In fact, they have been in the business for many years and recently released a new model, the Black Diamond Momentum.
This shoe is intended for beginners- providing an easy on and off style, flat shape design as well as superb breathability. It comes with exceptional knit uppers- helpful where you want is and loose when you want to breathe. It is made of synthetic materials which mitigates stretch. Therefore, sizing will be not a problem opposed to climbing shoes made with leather uppers.
Loop and hoop tabs make this shoe easy to get on and off. It comes with soft midsoles flex, which allows the wearer to get familiar with the sense of holds under the feet whether you are smearing or climbing . The outsoles come with Neofriction rubber, which provides for the same sensitivity and thickness. You can wear this climbing shoe all day without pressuring your feet.
It has Velcro closure that might not be perfect for all, however for a newbie gets the task done. It is cheap, which makes it appealing for newbie climbers who are buying their first-ever climbing shoe.
Are you searching for a climbing shoe which is not only convenient and high performing, but also available for a reasonable price? Then look no further than Butora Acro. A lot of climbers praise the box fit of this model. A lot of users are noting that there is a similarity with La Sportiva Solution. Butora integrates “F5 rubber sticky” to harden micro features as well as slabs to make it superb.
This shoe has unwanted space in the heel. Butora Across is not as sensitive as many of the boulder shoes available; on the other hand, the stiff integrated sole offers an excellent edging platform. No pain when climbing rocks!
For those starting rock climbing, La Sportiva Tarantula is the best choice. Few climbing shoes are reasonable at similar quality as well as versatility. A lot of advanced climbing shoes place your foot in a hostile position, which is painful as well as not necessary if you are only starting. Even if this shoe does not have the accurate style of the other expensive models, that can be a benefit. The La Sportiva Tarantula climbs almost everywhere; cracks, gym as well as multi-pitch routes.
Reading this guide emphasizes the idea of how to look for the best and perfect climbing shoes.
On the other hand, you have to ensure that you do a bit of research, as well. Keep in mind that climbing shoes are considered a big investment. Take a look at the nearest gym or crag. Ask climbing partners or friends what they are using and why they choose them.
You are encouraged to read previous clients’ reviews (climbing shoe companies provide customer reviews on their website) for the designs you are considering.
Buying climbing shoes is a time-consuming task. However, it will be worthwhile once you get the best pair.
If you talk about climbing and secrets to become good, one of the surprising things good climbers speak about a lot is skin. It seems that the condition of skin makes a big difference when climbing, which makes sense. It’s your main contact point to the rock (together with your feet). Skin injuries are common, and flappers are one of the most annoying injuries. A flapper is a large piece of skin ripping open on your skin, often caused by blisters opening up due to friction. They are painful, and the sensitive, open skin they expose make climbing painful. Typical advice is to tape them, but how to tape flappers to the palm if they happen? What’s the best way to keep the skin in a working condition – taking a break is sometimes no option. Read on for details.
This post is not (mainly) about healing flappers
Note that this post is not how you prepare your skin for fastest healing. Keeping climbing and making the skin heal in the fastest time are actually two very different things. And they contradict each other: Preparing to continue climbing might introduce further damage to your skin while preparing for healing requires rest at some point. Whenever you continue climbing with skin injuries, you risk extending the amount of time needed to heal up. You introduce the chance of more skin injury to the already soft, damaged, and exposed tissue.
Ask yourself the question: Do you want to continue climbing now, or make sure you heal up as fast as possible. And then act. I’ll present you some strategies to continue climbing in this post.
What is a flapper
You can get a flapper from most grips and holds, but they typically arise when you hold large jugs, etc. where lots of palm or finger area is involved.
Flappers usually occur because calluses on fingers or palm become too thick. While calluses are great, and the hardened skin protects from injuries, if the callus is too thick, it can get pinched between the hold and your finger, and eventually rip open.
You even feel this, when you put big forces on your grip on large holds. Make sure to grip properly when you hold big holds – aka use a shallow hold and try not to put a lot of force on your palm. This also trains your fingers more.
Longterm flapper prevention
Some words of advise: Long term it’s better to prepare your skin to prevent flappers as good as possible. You can do many things for your skin, but there are 3 things that are top priority:
1. Sand down your callused pads and fingers before climbing. Flappers come from climbing in large jugs, and gripping holds them with as much hand as possible. That’s why they rarely happen on routes with tiny handholds and often happen in bouldering gyms, where the easy routes consist of super big jugs. The smoother your skin is in terms of calluses, the less risk of flappers.
2. Harden your skin – climb a lot. By climbing a lot your skin hardens, and if you keep sanding down your calluses you will have very hard but “flat” skin, which minimizes potential surface for flappers to happen.
3. Keep your skin moisturized – chalk and rock climbing make your skin super dry. Super dry skin is also more prone to calluses and flappers, so make sure to use a hand balm. I love “climb on”.
Quick 2 minute routine before bed for Longterm flapper prevention
I usually sand down 2-3 calluses with 80 sandpaper for 3 minutes, until there is still hardened skin left, but the skin is not excessive. I then apply a good layer of the balm for the night. This quick routine helps two ways: I keep calluses small, minimizing risk for flappers. I also keep the hardened skin beneath the calluses in good condition, as to climb on works wonders to heal little abrasions and micro-cuts. By doing it before I go to bed, I also don’t have to worry about some of it spilling on my clothes, etc. – I can use a good portion, and overnight my hands will soak it in. Try it; your skin will feel really good in the morning.
When the flapper happens
Sometimes flappers happen, even though you try to prevent them. There are two options now: Skin is still hanging on your palm or skin came off. If skin came off, there’s not much you can do to tape it as it’s already gone. If there is skin left, it can make sense to cut it off too. Especially if you want to keep climbing.
Cut off edges
Try to cut off the edges of the flapper with a nail clipper or scissors, or even chew them off when you’re outside. This is crucial to prevent further tearing, as excess skin can keep tearing. It’s like a bag of candy – if you open it the wrong way, it tears down to the bottom. Dry the exposed fresh skin and apply some chalk to it if you want to keep climbing. Note: This will be painful, and it’s better to take a break and let it heal for the night. But sometimes, you need to keep going, take multi-pitches, for example. In this case, you can also apply the following techniques for flappers WITH some skin left.
Tape it up to keep climbing
If you intend on climbing more that day, then tape it up and go but once you’re done, take the tape OFF. Letting the air at your wound is one of the best things you can do speed up recovery.
If you wonder how to apply the tape exactly – the best way is to tape a long piece to your wrist, then go around your fingers and go back to the wrist. Go in a line that covers the flapper. This way the tape is anchored to wrist and finger and does not come off so easily. I made a photo of how you should apply the tape below.
Glue it up – the smart alternative to taping flappers
Gluing the open skin is another good method. While tape can come off, and it will do it even faster if you sweat, the glue holds much longer.
The skin under the flapper is ultra-sensitive; that’s why it makes sense to put another layer on top. You can use medical glue for this. This acts as a skin replacement and also seals off the wound. Medical glue comes in two ways: Made for human use and made for animal use. While the animal use is non-toxic too, it’s technically not FDA approved. That doesn’t mean its harmful; it just means there have been no human tests or the company had no money and resources to go through the excessive FDA approval process.
Stay away from household super glue
Don’t use Krazy glue or super glue. While Super Glue and medical glue are chemically pretty similar to each other, I would still stay away from Super Glue and Krazy Glue. They most likely have no damaging long term effects (and there are many climbers using them to glue skin and cuts, split fingertips, etc.), but they can irritate your skin and cause foreign body reaction. And their fumes have been found to cause liver damage and eye irritation. And they haven’t been tested for use on skin (neither animal or human use), nor have they been tested for human use. I would instead opt for either Dermabond or Vetbond.
Expensive: Get Dermabond or something similar
Dermabond is made to close wounds and skin abrasions as well as surgical incisions. It is approved and safe to use, but a package costs 150$+. If you have the money, go get a package, it’s great stuff.
Cheap option: Vetbond or liquid bandages
Vetbond is made for animals, so it’s non-toxic for use on skin. It’s not FDA approved – so, I cannot give you medical advice. As the name says, Vetbond is designed for animal use. But the glue works well on both human and animal skin, keep in mind it works for pigs and monkeys – and pig and monkey skin is as close to human skin as you can get.
But as it’s not FDA approved for human use, it means it hasn’t gone through the long and tough process of the FDA. If you read about the topic, there are many people using it for human wounds too, including me.
A lack of an FDA approval does not mean it’s toxic. It just says the company didn’t want to go through the expensive process of approving it, which also includes approving the packaging and so on.
Let it dry out on the air when resting
Letting the air at it will dry it out, and that’s what you want for flappers like these. I find that often I can climb on it again even when the wound is only halfway healed because it’s so dry — it doesn’t hurt or get torn further.
How to use Skinglue like Dermabond and Vetbond for flappers when to continue climbing or bouldering
This is not a longterm treatment. But if you need a quick and dirty fix to keep climbing with a flapper, follow this method. It works decent and keeps you finish your day of climbing. But you should try to rest and heal up afterward nonetheless.
1. Clean the area around and inside the flapper
Make sure your flapper or abrasion is clean enough. Let blood push dirt and bacteria away; you can also use some wound disinfection.
2. Stop bleeding if there is any
Stop bleeding with gauze or tissue by applying pressure.
3. Keep palm skin slack while applying
Make sure your palm skin is slack, so don’t tense your hand.
4. Apply the first layer of glue
Line up the skin (if there is skin left) with the wounds outer edge and apply a layer of the glue to the exposed flapper. It will seal the wound directly and immediately. If you have no skin left, apply a patch of Vetbond over the exposed fresh skin – it will act as a skin replacement, and protect the sensitive skin below.
5. Let harden, repeat 2 times
Wait a few minutes, repeat the process 2 times, to have 3 layers of glue.
6. Keep glue away from wool, cotton, etc.
Make sure to keep the glue away from cotton, leather or wool. These materials will cause a heat reaction with the liquid glue, causing burns.
7. Use water or saliva to harden the glue
The glue hardens by contact with water and thus will harden when in contact with blood. If your flapper does not bleed, spit on it while gluing. You can also moisturize the area of the flapper with some water.
The glue will come off over the course of 5-7 days.
You can reapply it if you like.
How many falls can a climbing rope take? Short answer: A typical ISO approved climbing rope can take a minimum of 5 falls. But what is a fall according to the norm? There is a standardized way to test ropes for falling safety, and I will give you some more details in this post. After reading this post, you will not only understand how many falls a climbing rope can take but also why this number can be misleading. You’ll also know how to avoid falls which can damage your rope.
Whenever you take a fall climbing, your rope absorbs most of the fall energy. You probably noticed that climbing ropes stretch under tension, and this stretch is absorbing your fall energy. If the rope wouldn’t stretch, any fall higher then 3 feet would very likely result in devastating injuries to your spine and intestines, as your harness would stop you in fractions of a second – delivering the energy of the catch to your body.
The Fall Factor – a useful metric for testing ropes for safety
In order to absorb energy, the rope needs to stretch freely, i.e., the rope is only absorbing energy if it is not constrained by rock or cliff edges.
The fall factor is a ratio used to describe this: It is the distance fallen over the length of free stretching rope. If the length of the free stretching rope is very high, the number becomes small, and a small fall factor means good. Good as in Your body doesn’t absorb a lot of energy when the fall is caught. If the amount of free stretching rope is short, the fall factor becomes high, which is bad for you, as your body absorbs a lot of energy in this case. Lower fall factor means safer fall; it’s that simple. Keep in mind: A high fall with a lot of free stretching rope can sometimes be safer than a short fall with no free rope available. This is a little surprising to many people, as they think shorter falls are generally safer.
What happens if the fall factor is high?
If the fall factor is high, a lot of energy from the fall is not absorbed by the rope, which means it will be absorbed by the anchor and your body. Both are bad.
What fall factor is used to test ropes?
When you buy a rope, it says it can take X amount of falls. But how do manufactueres or the UIAA they come up with the number? They usually test the rope with a normed weight and falling distance, as well as given out rope. The given out rope for these “Normated falls” is 2.8m, with 0.3m of this between anchor and carabiner. The falling distance is a free 2.3m over the redirection point, which means that the free-falling distance is 2.3m + 2.8m – 0.3m = 4.8m. Take into account that these tests are done with a pre-stretched rope of 0.3m and you have a real free fall length of 4.5m for the test.
The given out rope is 2.5m without stretch, 2.8m with stretch, so the fall factor for this kind of normed fall is ranging between 1.7-1.8.
According to the ISO norm, it needs to be able to at least withstand 5 of these normed falls without snapping. So 5 is the minimum number for a rope to become ISO approved, with most ropes number of falls ranging between 5-10. If you want some more info about climbing rope norms, read on. here
Small Examples for Fall Factors
The illustrations show different falls with their fall factor; they are typical situations you can encounter.
Fall factor 0f 0.2 – pretty soft fall
The climber takes a 2m fall and has 10m rope given out. Fall factor is 2/10, 0.2, which is a soft fallen
Fall factor of 0.15 – high fall from the top part of the route
If the climber would be higher up and fell 3m, the fall factor would even be less than 0.2. Although he was actually higher and also fell further.
Fall factor of 1.0 a hard fall from low in the route.
Climber falls 3m but very low in the route; in this case, there was only 3m of rope given out. This would result in a fall factor of 3/3=1.0, which is a hard fall with a high fall factor.
Fall factor of 2.4 – a fall past the belay
This example can only occur in a multi-pitch route when the climber sails past the belay falling. With 6m of falling distance and only 3m of rope given out absorbing this fall, the fall factor is 6/3 = 2. Even worse: The initial reaction of most belayers is to take in slack when a fall like this happens. In terms of fall factor, this makes it worse: If the belayer took in 0.5m of slack rope, the fall factor would increase to 2.4, which is a hard fall, and above the fall factor of rope tests (which is between 1.7 and 1.8). This kind of fall is a problem, as you will never really know how much of a fall factor your rope can take, and what happens after this fall occurred – you basically overstressed the rope, and no one can really tell how many of these falls the rope can handle.
This also explains why most people are worried when multi-pitch climbing to fall past the belay, as it automatically increases the fall factor a lot.,
Falling in the real world – friction, overhangs, and ledges
Now that we talked about the fall factor, we have a usable tool to understand how forces acting on individual spots at the rope become stronger depending on the amount of free stretching rope.
Ideally, the rope should gradually stop a climber – in contrast to a binary full stop. But keep in mind that we did simplification on the examples above; in reality, the rope would run against the carabiner and the rock. Both reduce the ropes ability to absorb force to the full extent.
Have a look at a typical example with four 20 degree bends in the rope, which can often occur due to the way safety bolts are lined up on a route. In this case, because of the added friction, the fall factor is doubled from 0.3 to 0.6,
And these are just bolts, now imagine hard points of friction like ledges, lips or overhangs. If the protection has not been sufficiently extended by using a slip, it can double forces on the top piece of protection, leading to material failure.
Are longer falls always safer than short falls?
As we’ve seen, there are some situations where a long fall can be safer in terms of the fall factor. But don’t think that any long fall is safer in general. Quite the contrary, if you fall further chances are higher you hit something with more force like the ground, ledges or sections of rock that protrude. And you will swing further too, increasing chances to hit something while swinging.
Remember that fall factors can be high, transmitting a lot of force to the climber’s body, even when falling distances are short.
Tips to minimize falling factors and distances fallen
If you lay safety, try to avoid bends in the rope as much as possible, as long as you can safely position protection gear.
Make sure to protect your stance with multiple runners on multi-pitch routes
Learn how to build proper stances, according to physics and law of force distribution
Make sure to extend the top piece of protection, so you don’t introduce ledges and lips into your rope – otherwise, it may increase falling factors a lot
Don’t leave out clips when you go sport climbing!!
For belaying: If it’s safe and the climber is up high enough, keep the slack when the climber takes a fall and don’t hastily take in rope while he is falling. But don’t do this when the climber is near the ground – a hard fall that is caught BEFORE a ground hit is better than a “comfortable” fall that ends as a grounder.
Conclusion: Minimize the Fall Factor and keep track of big whippers
We put 16 of the best climbing and bouldering pants on the market through the wringer for 2020. Prana Stretch Zion (women’s equal counterpart is the Prana Halle Pant) is our winner, closely followed by the AP pants of Mountain Hardware. We also included a low budget option to find the best climbing pants in 2020.
Climbing uniquely challenges clothing, especially once you climb on real rock. You basically use your pants in a way that would destroy regular clothing within a short time. An ideal climbing pants pair should be both very durable, breathable, and maintain mobility.
Our 2020 Review
These goals are usually going towards opposite directions, but thanks to excellent fabrics and smart design, there are many top-notch climbing pants for 2020. Our top 16 climbing pants of 2020 are mostly great picks, and if you stick to our recommendations you won’t go wrong!
Some of the pants we tested won’t be continued in 2020, but you can still get them at a huge discount online, and they offer the perfect opportunity for a bargain. We have marked these as discontinued, so you can go bargain hunting!
As new pants are released by the different brands, we reviewed these and continue to review new models, so this list will grow over time! That way you will always find an updated list of the top climbing pants in 2020 here. Some of the pants we tested have been on the market for some time but experienced minor or major improvements, so we felt it’s worth to retest them in their current version.
Choosing the perfect pair of climbing pants comes down to what type of climbing you are doing in which climate and under what circumstance, that’s why we included a little guide as well. Read more for details!
Use the quick list to directly jump to the review:
Prana Stretch Zion Pants /Women’s: Prana Halle Pants – 97/100
Material: 97% nylon, 3% spandex
5 Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear, 1 zip thigh
Weight: 385 g (13.6 oz)
A built-in belt that is adjustable
Leg snaps can be rolled up
Prana Zion pants are well designated and crafted with perfectionism. Being both functional and good looking, they have the potential to be the all-rounder pant for 2020. No matter if you go rock climbing, bouldering, traditional climbing or just hang out at the crag.
What we really liked about them is the stretchy material, which feels very polished and is abrasion-resistant. On top of that, it dries fast when it gets wet, which makes it perfect for spring and autumn climbing. They don’t cost a lot and are both warm and breathable.
And they come with ventilated inseam gusset, a built-in belt, five pockets with mesh inlay to store whatever you need and some roll up legs for more ventilation in the summertime.
Prana made a real candidate for the best rock climbing pant with the Zion, this doesn’t change in 2020. If you compare them to pants like the Arcteryx Gamma pant, they offer better value for the money
suitable for any type of climbing, bouldering
very durable and breathable
stretch a lot, thus comfortable
price is reasonable
dry quick, robust and abrasion-resistant
ventilation top notch
not as warm and insulating as some of the other pants
The best outdoor climbing pants of 2020: Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Pant / Outdoor Research Women’s Ferrosi Pant
Material: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
5 Pockets: 2 hip, 2 zip rear, 1 zip thigh
Weight: 345 g (12.2 oz)
Cuff closures with draw cords
A close follow-up to our top pick, the Ferrosi pants are a favorite of our testers. They feel ultra-comfortable, almost as if climbing naked. Thanks to the thin and light fabric, they offered perfect mobility and breathability.
They were the best pants in terms of breathability and mobility!
I personally would wear them even when relaxing on my couch in favor of sweatpants.
To our surprise, they also were pretty abrasion-resistant and durable, as well as protective. Weatherproofing was top-notch, and even when climbing outdoors in colder air, they felt warm and comfy. Ferrosi pants are reasonably priced too: If you can get them on a discount, they are a steal.
Plain and simple
Our only complaint is that they lack additional features. They do have a cinch system for the leg cuffs, but it works not so great, and the waist is non-adjustable, which means you need a separate. Some might consider this a plus, but the design was almost a little too simple for our taste. But if you prefer minimalistic, no-frills pants, Ferrosis are your go-to pants.
A debatable topic is their look – they are not very fashionable, but we think for a technical climbing pant, that should not be your main focus.
For the all-round best pant, the Ferrosis didn’t make it by an inch. But they are the best climbing pant for outdoor climbing, no matter if you boulder, sport climb or trad.
best for any type of outdoor climbing, bouldering
most breathable pants in the test
large thigh pocket
lightweight and comfortable, almost like wearing nothing
ventilation top notch
style is not super fashionable
Best looking and fashionable climbing pant: Prana Axiom Jeans
Material: 99% organic cotton, 1% spandex
4 Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear
Weight: 306 g (10.8 oz)
While the Mountain Hardwear AP Pant does look slick too, Pranas Axiom Jeans are still the best looking climbing pants.
Fitted, stretchy jeans are stylish, and there no way around it. And we have to admit that they excel in mobility too. It was almost surprising, but Prana somehow managed to blend denim with stretchy material. The result is pants that look like jeans but climb like every other good climbing pants. Thanks to the diamond gusset crotch, your legs are pretty movable too, and stepping high on a difficult boulder or when topping out of a route is easy and comfortable.
Their other big plus is the looks: If you take your time and try them on, they look pretty sharp thanks to their fitted cut.
Get the looks
The obvious additional strength is the looks. Appropriately sized, the Axioms have a straight but fitted cut that sits nicely and looks sharp. If you don’t know it, you will not even be able to pick them out from normal jeans.
As they are denim, however, they are not as comfortable as regular climbing pants. And if you have thick quads and calves, or are overweight, you need to size them one size bigger than normal.
Everyone else should size them one size smaller than normal, as they are cut pretty loose.
When it comes to outdoor climbing and weatherproof, they are not that suitable. While they are still comfortable to wear when hiking, as soon as things become humid or wet, the denim fabric is mediocre. And it is not as abrasion-resistant as some of the nylon blends. As such, we cannot recommend them as hardcore outdoor climbing pants. But if you need a versatile all-rounder to wear to the gym, bouldering and for the evening beer to your local pub, they are our top pick.
very flexible and stretchy material, although being denim
gusseted crotch area
best looking pants in the test
fitted cut is sharp and sizes well
lots of leg mobility
not so great weatherproofing, which is to expect for denim
abrasion resistance on the surface is only mediocre, although the inner part of the pants are durable
If you look for an eco-conscious pant, don’t look further than the Patagonia Venga Rock Pant. This one looks so good, you can even wear it when going to the pub, but comes with a breathable and stretchy finish. They are also good to climb in, although they lack an ankle cinch, which we think is a bit of a downer.
They do have a gusseted crotch, a toothbrush holding loop, and reinforced knees. Makes them an excellent choice for people who love to boulder and climb cracks, but not so great for long alpine routes due to the missing ankle cinch, which means you cannot close them.
Great mobility and flexibility
Gusseted crotch area
Toothbrush holder loop is practical
Robust and comfortable
No ankle cinch
So Solid Leggings
Material: 78% RECYCLED polyamide
Weight: 200 g (7 oz)
These eco-conscious pants are made of 78% recycled polyamide. So Solid makes Leggings for boys and girls. Granted, you have to be a bit of an extrovert to rock these pants as a guy, but this is something we liked.
When it comes to performance, it cannot get any better than against-the-skin tight – they so comfortable and stretchy, that it’s like you’re climbing naked. As stretchy and thin the material is, it’s still relatively resistant to abrasion, although you shouldn’t expect it to work like a thick pair of pants from jeans fabric.
With their gusseted crotch and breathability, they also give you a nice level of breathing. It’s up to you if you like the style and the colors, but these pants work!
stretchiest pant we reviewed
abrasion resistant for a leggings
you will make new weird friends when you wear them
warm for being so thin
suitable for indoor climbing and bouldering
a bit pricey
don’t wear if you don’t like attention
no pockets whatsoever
less warm and durable than the other “real” pants
Arcteryx Gamma Rock Pant
Material: 84% nylon, 16% elastane
3 pockets: 1 rear, 2 hip
Weight: 362 g (12.8 oz)
These pants are a little bit heavier than some of the others but other than that they are fantastic. Water-resistant, flexible but warm and very breathable they tick many of the features we wanted.
The nylon material makes them also durable, and the designers cleverly implement features: A chalk bag loop, integrated belt, four-way stretch, gusseted inseam and lots of pockets work well in day to day climbing.
Thanks to the protective knee area, you have some protection here as well.
But they are expensive, and one pair of these pants cost you twice the amount of the other pants, so be aware.
Perfect for alpine and trad climbing
Mobility is great
Warmth is suitable
Gusseted crotch and integrated belt
Chalk bag loop
Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Pant
Material: 88% nylon, 12% elastane;
5 pockets: 2 rear, 2 hip, 1 side
Weight: 550 g (1 lb 3 oz)
This is the perfect pant for autumn and winter climbing. They’re easily the warmest pants we tested, and are made with a super comfy soft fleece lining.
Thanks to the softshell exterior shell they’re also water repellent and great for cool weather outdoor climbing. The gusseted crotch makes them mobile as well, combined with the stretchy material. For further protection, MH reinforced the knee area.
But they are the heaviest pants in our test, and the material makes them unsuitable for summer climbing. If you’re looking for a cold-weather, durable and warm alpine and trad climbing pant these are perfect for you. If you have the change to spare, they’re pretty expensive.
best for trad and alpine climbing
comfy soft lining
durable weatherproof exterior
too heavy and warm for summer climbing or bouldering
La Sportiva Talus Rock Climbing Pant
Material: 96% Nylon, 4% Spandex
4 pockets: 2 rear, 2 hip,
Weight: 420 g (14.8 oz)
La Sportiva’s Talus pants look awesome and are functionally designed.
Including protected knees, gusseted crotch and integrated sleeve for a toothbrush, they also sport a handy loop for your chalk bag.
Made from 100% synthetic material, they’re breathable and comfortable. As the elasticated waist has a string-tie included, they also fit really well with harnesses – no belt needed!
We liked these features a lot, but the pants are pricey, and the material felt a tad less high-performing compared to the Gamma, Venga or Zion pants from above. They also lack an ankle cinch.
elastic and adjustable waist
integrated loops and sleeves for brush and chalk-bag
no ankle cinch
La Sportiva Arco Pant
Material: 97% cotton, 3% lycra
4 pockets: 2 rear, 2 hip
Weight: 360 g (12.7 oz)
Our secret tip for 2020. They’ve not continued anymore, but if you can get them on a discount, they’re a hot tip. They have more flexibility and comfort than almost all of the other pants, and if you look for roomy pants, these are your best bet.
Coming with a foldable waist, reinforced knees, integrated toothbrush pocket as well as a gusseted crotch we think they’re intelligently designed.
Fit is super relaxed, offering maximum movement range, and it makes them very comfortable.
Thanks to the bottom hem cinch you can also adjust them easily and while they are not really warm and water-resistant, we still can recommend them to boulderers, gym climbers and summertime crag climbing.
If you look for alpine and trad climbing pants, these are not the best choice. They come in nice and bright colors too!
awesome ankle cinch
roomy and comfortable
not warm at all
not great for trad and alpine climbing
Ucraft Xlite Climbing Pants
Material: 92% polyester, 8% Spandex
4 pockets: 2 hip, 2 side, zipped
Ucraft Xlite are a nice pair of pants, which are made from super light and stretchy material. They’re priced affordably, and although they’re not the most durable pants out there, our testers liked the features they had. For the money they pack a lot of nice extras: Elasticated waist, reinforced knees, zipped side pockets and breathy materials.
Ucraft also gave them a chalk bag loop and a sleeve for your toothbrush – a nice addition!
With the ankle drawstrings, you can also convert them to 3/4 length pants or even shorts in the summertime. We think these pants are solid all-round pants if you don’t want to go alpine climbing.
integrated chalk bag loop and toothbrush sleeve
low price alternative to Gamma or Arco pants
not warm enough for cold-weather or alpine climbing
not really rugged materials, fabric peels of easily
front pockets a bit too shallow for our taste
Topo Designs Climb Pants
Material: 98% cotton, 2% spandex
4 pockets: 2 hip, 2 side, zipped
Topo Designs’ Clim Pants are another solid all-rounder. We don’t see them perform on the same level as their competitors in terms of materials or stretchiness, but they are a bit cheaper too.
Features are good, with a gusseted crotch, lots of pockets, integrated belt and a nice chalk bag loop. Breathability and mobility are pretty decent too, but if you want to tackle really nasty boulder problems, you might want to look for other pants.
For long alpine and trad climbs, they are solid though, although they lack water repellency.
stretchy cotton-lycra blend
integrated belt with chalk bag loop
breathable and lightweight
warm enough for longer trad climbs
not as flexible as similarly priced competitors
not water repellent
Almost number one: Mountain Hardwear Men’s AP Pant / Mountain Hardwear Women’s AP Skinny Pant
Material: 75% cotton, 23% nylon, 2% elastane
Pockets: 2 hip, 2 zip rear, 1 velcro thigh
Weight: 204 g (7.2 oz)
leg snaps to roll up
These pants are not winning any particular awards, but they were strong in all areas and really versatile.
They look excellent, and the fabric feels durable and pretty technical. They’re very warm and weatherproof and still look like slacks. In terms of fashionability, these are the close follow-up of the Axiom jeans. You can comfortably take a stroll around town in them.
Featurewise, they come with velcro thigh pockets, two zipped rear pockets. An exciting feature is the reflective stripes inside the calve area, which is really handy when you roll them up for cycling or hiking at night times.
Although they lack an adjustable belt, they still fit snug if you size them right.
Problematic is the stiffness, as it meant they sometimes rode up or down when climbing longer routes – we had to adjust them from time to time. Not a significant problem, but compared to the other pants, they were not as strong in terms of fit.
The fabric also felt a little less comfortable and breathable compared to some of the other pants.
excellent looking fabric, almost like wearing slacks
reflective stripes inside calves, great for cyclists when rolling them up
velcro thigh pockets and zipped back pockets
mobility not as good as other technical pants due to stiffer material
fabric not super comfortable
E9 Rondo Slim
Material: 97% cotton, 3% elastane
3 Pockets: 2 hip, 1 rear
adjustable waist with elastic band
cuff closures with cords, work well
E9 offers its classic Rondo pant as a slim version this year. They come with a chalk bag loop, 3 deep pockets, and offer premium flexibility. Despite the slim cut, they are still roomy enough to tackle hard boulder problems and challenging sport climbing routes.
They are not the warmest pants out their, although they are very breathable. And if you plan on climbing outside in humid conditions, stay away from them, as they are made from cotton and not waterproof.
But if you need a reasonably priced (they can be founder under 50$), boulder and sport climbing band with an awesome ankle cuff system and sporty slim-cut offering good mobility the E9 Rondo Slim might be the right pick for you.
great mobility and comfort
ankle cuffs work really well
no closure on pockets, not so great for alpine or trad climbing
not really warm
not water repellent
Long-Term Test Notes
I, Arne Henricks, owned my personal pair of E9 Rondo for years. I actually have 3 pairs of them and wear them on any occasion be it in the alps on via ferratas or my local crags and to the gym.
They still hold up, even after years of abuse, and I haven’t treated them really good, tearing over rock, scraping on boulders or plastic. I love how they are super comfortable and get the job done without being pricey.
The deep pockets are tight enough to fit a phone snug, and while they’re not perfect for alpine climbing or wet conditions, they pretty much can do anything else. In winter I wear some thin panties to stay warm, it works for me. I even have a pair of shorts from E9.
Patagonia Men’s RPS Rock Pant / Patagonia Women’s RPS Rock Pant
Material: 52% nylon, 48% polyester
Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear, 1 zip thigh
cuff closures with drawcord that do not work however
We didn’t really know what to think about the Patagonia RPS pants.
Yeah, they might be comfortable, but Ferrosis way more comfortable. They are mobile, but the Zions were way more flexible and offered greater mobility. In terms of style, the Axioms and AP pants looked better.
The Patagonia RPS are not bad pants, they have good features and ar well designed. But they don’t excel in any area. They are protective and breathable, but they lack a good cuffing system. The cinch on the ankle could not keep our testers ankles free of dangling fabric.
And they are not cheap, so as a result, they range somewhere in the middle of our contenders. We cannot recommend them as the first pick for any category, however.
mobility good, but not perfect
breathability good, but not perfect
won’t really excel in any area
price is not really cheap
cuff system won’t work too well to keep cuffs away from ankles
Black Diamond Notion Pant – Men’s / Black Diamond Notion Pant – Women’s
Material: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear
Drawstring elastic waistband
Black diamond created a weird pant here, using soft cotton and a drawstring waist. There are no zip pockets, which makes them not suitable for longer outdoor climbing or hiking in our opinion, and the cuffs are simple one-size-fits-all elastic.
These pants want to live indoors. For gym climbing, the stretchy cotton is fantastic and offers great flexibility. If you want, you can also use them for yoga or any fitness class. Breathability: Check! Comfort: Top notch!
But that’s it, they’re neither waterproof nor warm, and we wouldn’t recommend to use them for longer trad or alpine climbing – the soft material would just rip – the Notions were the least durable pants in our review. And the missing pockets might be nice indoors when you don’t need them, but outdoors the lacking zip pocket is a real problem.
mobility really nice
not really suitable for outdoor climbing – least weatherproof pants of the test
not really durable
cuff system won’t work too well to keep cuffs away from ankles
Budget Option: Carhartt Washed Duck Dungaree Work Pant
Material: 100% cotton
Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear, 2 utility, hammer loop
We included these work pants as a budget option, and in fact, you won’t need to buy them from Carhartt, but any other brand will probably work.
But to be honest: They are no match for the other pants. The fabric doesn’t stretch, the fit is not forgiving nor cut in a way that suits climbing moves, and they have no breathability.
Looks are not great either, with wide thighs and calves you will look bulky even if you’re athletic. They come with six pockets, which are all utterly useless as they have no zip, no closure and tend to loose whatever you store as soon as you go vertical or overhanging.
Since they are not particularly comfortable, their only strong suit is durability – as they are working pants, they won’t rip easily. The lack of a cuff system is annoying as well, given the wide cut on the calves.
If you look for climbing pants, don’t buy them. They might be good for work, but even for the price they come at we cannot recommend them as climbing pants.
durable, as it’s a working pant
not that mobile, as they are not really made for climbing
heavy fabric does not stretch
fit is restricting motion
utility pockets are not really much use when climbing
no cuff system
Match your climbing pants to your climbing style
Sport climbing, bouldering, and indoor climbing
All the above types of climbing involve moves that are fast, dynamic, and athletic. And these moves require a greater range of motion from the climber and thus the pants. Pants for these types have a gusseted crotch and maximum flexibility by using materials with high elastane percentage.
Alpine and trad climbing
While you need flexible and stretchy pants when you go climbing alpine and traditional routes, these features are not the most important ones here. On long traditional or alpine climbing routes, you need warm, comfortable, and breathable pants. They can be a bit heavier but should feature closable pockets, maybe even microfleece lining and a durable, water-resistant finish.
Materials for the perfect climbing pant – things to consider
The materials decide how your pants will perform. Besides the cut and features like gusseted crotch area, materials are your number one thing to consider.
If you try to go cycling in a ballroom dress, you will fall. Same goes for climbing, if you wear the wrong pants, you won’t have a good time. Flexible pants are king, and if you have pants from a flexible material, it will allow you to make super stretchy moves. Levis 501 might look cooler but trust us: When you bomb your project because you lack 5 inches of movement on the last move, you’ll quickly consider climbing plants.
Stick stretch Cordura and lycra or elastane.
Not just in summer, but also warmer spring days need breathable pants. If you’re on the wall on a longer route, things quickly become warm when exposed to the sun. Good climbing pants offer a high level of breathability and come with smart ventilation features.
In the past, you had to choose either heavy, durable pants or lightweight linen style pants that ripped easily. Today, this changed, and you have both lightweight and durable pants thanks to synthetic materials
But the general tradeoff of a stiffer, heavier and more robust or ultra-flexible and thin pant is still there. Trad and alpine climbers usually prefer less flexible but more durable pants, and boulderers and sport climbers like their pants more flexible.
How comfortable your pants are, come down to the discussed points above as well as features like gusseted crotches, ankle cuffs, and elasticated waists. Another factor is built quality – wrongly placed reinforcements or seams can chafe your skin after long climbing sessions. In general, if you want comfort, go with stretchy pants.
5. Main materials of the pants we tested
All the pants we tested had a wide array of different fabric types and material blends used, and they behave differently. Most pants were however made from either nylon or cotton or some mix of both. It makes sense to discuss the differences between these two material types.
Nylon is the gold standard of outdoor clothing. It comes in all kinds of different proprietary mixes, but nylon fabrics usually offer low weight, excellent breathability, and a high level of elasticity. They also dry easily, and many are waterproof. It is a synthetic material, so this means it starts to smell if it’s not washed correctly.
Cotton, on the other hand, is natural and softer than nylon. It’s also very breathable and relatively durable, although there are many blends of nylon that offer supreme durability compared to cotton. Cotton is also heavier than nylon. You can also dry it in a commercial dryer, which is an advantage.
If you need breathable pants, you should try a lighter pant like the Ferrosi or Notion. If you need a very functional pant with lots of features and protection, you should try the Prana Stretch Zion or the AP pants.
Keep in mind that the fabric will also change the fit of the pants. If it’s possible, try the pants on in person, and refer to our fitting guide.
The warmth of the pants
Hypothermia sucks, even if you save some weight in your pants. Don’t skimp on weight if you tend to feel cold. Climbing outdoors is a serious sport, and hypothermia is no fun. If you go trad and alpine climbing in colder weather, stick with warm pants and forget about weight savings.
If you go crag climbing and bouldering, it’s ok to opt for thinner pants, but for alpine climbers, we recommend fleece-lined pants, unless you climb somewhere really hot. Mountain weather can change quickly!
Features on climbing pants
These handy features are nice to have and can be really helpful. Also if you still wonder why climbing pants are a good idea when you boulder or climb, read my post or watch this video.
A gusseted crotch means added material in the crotch area, which is fantastic for male climbers – as it’s anatomically better. Especially when you do yoga moves or dynamic climbing moves.
Drawcord or ankle-cinch
This is needed to adjust the length of the pants, and you can also use it to convert them to shorts or 3/4 length pants.
Toothbrush holders/toothbrush pockets
A brush is perfect for cleaning footholds and handholds in a route, which is important on some more frequently climbed routes. A holder for your brush is handy.
Zippered pockets and/or closable pockets
If you climb alpine routes or multi-pitch you definitely want a closable pocket of some sort, be it zip, velcro or buttons. Searching for small items in your backpack quickly becomes cumbersome otherwise. All of the pants we tested to find the best climbing pants 2020 had at least two pockets in the hip area and one in the rear. Except for the leggings, but they kind of run in their own league.
While some of them had zippers on the pockets, this is actually a debatable feature, some like it, some hate it. We think closable pockets are a must for alpine or trad climbing pants.
What we find essential is the thigh pocket, this pocket adds safe storage for cellphones or keys by having a closure system. A feature all of our testers loved, as it keeps valuables safe and does not interfere with a harness.
A cuff system keeps loose and too-long fabric away from your ankles.
This can be to ventilate, but also if you want to avoid to step on your pants all the time when precise footwork is needed. And it’s also nice to see your feet without flaps of fabric blocking the line of view. Pants like the Zion, AP Pants and some others have cuff snaps. Other pants like the Rondo slim or the RPS and Ferrosis sport cinch systems, with is nice. Other pants have roll-up cuffs, but no closure system. While the Stretch Zion pants and the RPS pants have an integrated belt, some other pants have either elasticated waist or drawstrings.
If no fitting system is given, you need to try them on for exact fit.
Chalk bag loop
An integrated loop for chalk bags on the rear or the side is very nice, especially if you boulder or free climb without a harness.
How to find the Best Climbing and Bouldering Pants for Your Needs
Climbing and bouldering pants are no magic, the manufacturers usually take some very flexible and mobile pants which are made from a durable material. Then they add some pockets and things like loops and cinches and change parts of the pant like the crotch area for even more mobility.
We would choose a very mobile and flexible pair of pants with lots of freedom of movement over a stiff and clunky pair of pants any day. But the next priority should always be the comfort and good features. When it comes down to these aspects, there are some differences to keep in mind.
How We Test Climbing Pants
When we test pants, we usually wear them doing routes and problems in the gym. That’s our first line of testing, to see how the pant performs in a controlled environment but without the environmental influences like cold weather, rain, and real rock.
After the gym test, we wear them bouldering outside and doing some sport climbing and/or trad climbing. This is our test where we also test how warm the pants are if they are rainproof and how abrasion resistant they are when you do crack climbing etc.
We also wear them for other activities sometimes, such as hiking, walking, mountain biking, and yoga, to see how they perform in day to day activities. Then, after testing, we rate them in these three categories.
Freedom of movement & mobility performance
Could we move easily wearing the pants? Did they resist certain moves when climbing or bouldering? Was stretching the legs possible without the pant interfering?
Level of comfort and breathability
Were the pants comfortable even when wearing them for longer periods? Did they breathe, or did we feel clammy or stiff when wearing them? Did they cause rashes on certain parts like the crotch area, ankles, etc.?
Bonus features, versatility, and practicability
Good pants should be versatile, so we review and rate how easy you can use the pants for different styles of climbing, bouldering, and so on. Bonus points if they hike and approach well. We also adjust the rating if they make our live exceptionally easy or hard, for example, if they need special care when washed.
Here are the best climbing pants with their score:
Most of the new routes you tackle need training, and if you try hard routes you will almost never climb the first try. Look at the pros when they redpoint climb a route (unsure what redpoint means, read my article), they almost seem the flow through the route. Precise legwork and sequences of moves are not just coincidence, top climbers spend hours and days of work to study the route and perfectly execute every tiny move. I’ll write about some of the tips that have helped me in the past, to make projecting a bit easier for your future new climbing goals. If you’re unsure how to project most efficiently, read on.
Misconceptions about projecting a route
Working on a project route is not just trying the route time after time until you can climb it “somehow” to the top. Projecting a route is an art, and I’ll break the process in different phases and steps. A lot of the thoughts also apply to boulder problems, so feel free to apply the knowledge there too.
Climbing new routes and understanding that your resources are limited
If you climb, it’s all about how you manage your resources. Climbing is a big game of resource distribution and dedication after you understand the basic moves and trained them enough. Strength, energy and mental focus are precious and limited, and if you burn them up on the first feet of a route you’re doomed for failure. That’s why you need to allocate these resources in an effective way – it pays off! Some of these strategies took me a while to learn, but when I did it clicked.
Step 1: Learn the beta in order to learn how to project
Beta is all the knowledge about the route you can get. This does not necessarily mean to deliberately start scrambling and going full power to reach the anchor. Instead, it can be smarter to tie in toprope and have a look at some of the difficult sections. Think about how you would place yourself ideally for maximum efficiency. Are there any holds that could support these positions? If not, can you change a position a bit, to make it possible to hold it, sacrificing some efficiency but gaining a new way up the wall? Once you figure out a good position, find consecutive holds, maybe even write them down in a notepad. After a while, you will have a sequence which you can then link together with other sequences already found.
Whatever you do while researching a route, get rid of any false ego you might attach. This is research mode, there is no room for ego games or a false sense of pride. Use your clip stick, and possibly top rope wherever possible. When you approach a route this way, it will feel awkward initially. You will hang there in toprope like a beginner, but you need to escape from this feeling. After a while, you will check different ways to grab holds, connect moves and sequences, and your climbing will become more efficient. Make sure to take all the time you need in step 1, and don’t worry if you look stupid while you do it. Fewer people will care about it than you think, and if you send the route later on – it was worth it!
Step 3: When you have a sequence, work through it
If you find a sequence that feels good, try to climb it in one approach. Your route will actually consist of a sequence of sequences, divided by really tricky moves and rests. So, make your way through the sequences and use the rests to rest up.
If you completed this, and have a mindmap of cruxes, sections and rest points you can continue with step 4.
Pro tip: Take a break from your project
Continually working on single moves or hard sequences wears you down, not only physical. Make sure to take a break from your new project every now and then. Don’t be afraid to leave your project alone for some days. It’s better to stay away from a project for some days, then letting it destroy your optimism and fun.
Step 4: Success is a chain of small accomplishments
Every hard section in your project can be considered a route in its own regard. Begin with the easiest sections and work your way up, ending with the hardest parts. Once you can do all the sections isolated, try working on connecting them. Doing it this way keeps you in the loop for repeated accomplishments, and you stay motivated. And it’s easier to analyze failures too, as you see which part of the route is hardest for you.
You can then start optimizing your approach for that section.
Step 5: Divide the route into 2 parts and finish them isolated
If you can do all the single sections, and also worked on connecting them, it’s time to divide the route into two sections and do it this way. Only once you are able to finish the route successfully this way, you should move on to try sending it in one go.
Step 6: While you work on the send attempt, if you fall that’s most likely your personal crux
Since you are able to do the sections individually, and also in two parts, if you still fall while redpointing the route, this is your personal crux. You need to work on the section where you fall again. Chances are high that you need to work on endurance of mental focus, as you can tackle the section when climbing it isolated. The easiest way is by using overlapped climbing. This means you start below the crux, and make your way to the next rest, and then again to the top.
You also might need to find a more efficient way to climb it when doing the route in a redpoint attempt. What works for isolation mode or two-section split, might not work for redpointing.
When you finish the overlap climb, increase the overlap, that is starting from further below the hard part. The logic behind this approach is that you usually never start a hard section fresh, but with some built-up fatigue, so it makes sense to train that way. Continue to grow the overlap until your overlap starts from the ground – voila, you’re now redpointing the route.
Step 7: Isolation mode
If you need to work on an isolated part of the route, keep things like bodyweight placement in mind. Are you using the holds the right way? Should you flag instead of going frontal?
Step 8: Tackle mental issues and problems by freeing yourself from your beta – change is good!
Sometimes you can train and practice as much as you want, but you still fall in the section when trying the redpoint. This can have multiple causes, maybe something physical needs to be changed? Your beta might also not be correct for a redpoint, so step back and approach the route in a different way. Someone once said that a crazy person tries something the same way over and over but expects different outcomes. This is especially true for climbing and bouldering. You need to realize that your way of trying a route is not always the best. Some of your moves are only in your sequence because you started the route with certain moves. If you change your beginning, you might end up finding a smarter way up. This applies for the complete route, so stepping back from your tunnel-vision or “perceived the only solution”, talking to other climbers and just brainstorming will help you out of this rut.
Manage what you expect and relax
Don’t always expect to send a route. It’s about the process, not the outcome. If you master the process and get used to accepting the perfect execution of a smart process as a reward, ultimate success will come over time. Your goal should be to do your best to try and climb hard and smart. Relax into a redpoint attempt, nothing good ever came from overly stressed tryhard climbing. Instead, remember why you climb: To be outside, tackle hard problems and have fun.
Many pieces of equipment enhance your experience when rock climbing. Are belay glasses worth it? They totally are, they will help you reduce strain and tension in the neck, making belaying more comfortable while still keeping a keen eye on the climber. And that way, they make climbing safer too. I will give you some more details in this post, and some tips on how to use them and get used to them if you try them for the first time.
Some are vital for safety, some more for convenience. Some are critical for both, and some don’t really fit any category. Belay glasses are one peculiar item, where I’m not sure if its just for convenience or also for safety. What belay glasses do is they deflect your field of vision upwards, which means you can belay and keep the climber in your field of view without turning your head up. Keeping a level head helps to reduce neck pain from staring up for long periods. Anyone who has ever belayed for hours on end knows what I’m talking about – stiff neck is a real problem when belaying.
By reducing belayers pain, I would also attribute them to be safety-relevant, as a pain-free belayer is usually more concentrated as well. The working principle of these glasses is straight forward: The image of the climber, which is just light enters the glass, reflects at the bottom mirror to another mirror in front of your eyes and voila, you see what’s above you without tilting your head. Read more here.
The Problem – Stiff neck when belaying
If you ever belayed someone for longer periods of time, or spend your day at the crag you know what I’m talking about. Belaying is a pain in the neck, literally. Even when you are used to it, the constant tilt of the head, to extreme extents when facing high vertical walls, makes your neck stiff and painful. When I started climbing I was a regular patron of physiotherapy.
My neck muscles became really sore and I had major neck cramping after a while. Unfortunately, there is no other option than raising your head – keeping the climber in your eye of view is essential, especially when belaying a lead climber. It’s the first thing you should learn when you learn to belay. Communication and attention to the climber are above all. You need to quickly react if things go south for the person climbing, so when I learned about belay glasses I was stoked, and they worked great for me.
I talked to many other experienced climbers about this, they all told me they suffered from neck strain from time to time. So it’s not like you will get quickly used to it – which is the case for your hands and palms for example, as they have blisters in the beginning but quickly adapt to climbing. Your neck is a different story if anything I noticed it becomes worse or even chronic for some older climbers. It can also lead to migraine and headache, thanks to built-up tension in your neck muscles and tendons.
Belay glasses work by reflecting the climber to a mirror in front of your eye, you can keep the climber insight without raising your head constantly. This reduces neck stain you will otherwise suffer and can make a full day of crag climbing and belaying surprisingly easy on your neck. The lenses are made from prism-shaped glasses, which bend the light and lead to total reflection so you always see what the climber does above you.
Use them in most climbing situations, although I recommend them for easier routes where you don’t need to pay very close attention. This is because, in theory, they shouldn’t introduce any distortion, in reality, most glasses do, however. So sometimes it can be nice to not wear them when you need to figure out details on the crag etc. I used to not see a lot of belayers wearing them, then some years ago older climbers started, and nowadays many people in Germany and Europe wear them. While they do look a little funny, they absolutely work and any friend I introduced to them was convinced 100% after a session of using them.
Belay glasses make belaying more comfortable
is of course comfort and for the belayer: your neck position is much more relaxed. This isn’t just for old people, anyone will agree it’s just more comfortable to be looking straight forward than craning the neck up.
Belay glasses make belaying safer
A belayer with pain in the neck, looking away every 10 seconds to have less pain is unsafe. If a belayer can comfortably watch their climber, they are way more likely to keep watching their partner. This way the belayer can do a better job at belaying: He or she can see the climber ready to clip if the climber is about to take a fall etc. This means easier clipping for the climber and less hard catches when lead climbing.
Disadvantages of belay glasses
In theory, the total reflection mechanism used by belay glasses is not distorting your field of view. In reality, most cheaper glasses introduce a little bit of refraction and distortion. That can lead so some dizziness for people not used to wearing belay glasses. This effect usually only lasts a few minutes initially, when your eye adapts to the glass. It’s caused by the way your head movements will affect your field of view when you wear the glasses.
Our eyes are not designed to look through prisms. That’s why it will take some time to map muscle activation to the field of view the belay glasses give you. When you become accustomed to the new way to orient the vision, any previous dizziness tends to disappear. For some people, it can stay, however. If that’s you, get another pair of glasses or don’t wear them. You don’t want to be dizzy while your partner’s life is in your hands or at your belay device.
How to wear them right
Some things to keep in mind when trying belay glasses.
Start out by wearing them without belaying
Get slowly used to them, start wearing them without belaying someone. Deliberately move your head around in different directions and concentrate on how your vision changes. Simulate belaying, that is, without someone actually climbing, position yourself how you would if you were belaying, and keep your eyes fixed to the route. Slowly raise your head as if the climber was making his or her way up, notice how you have to adapt your head movement to the field of vision on the wall. It’s good to try these things before you actually have someone on live belay.
Learn to ditch them quickly
Try out how to quickly don the glasses and get rid of them, in case you need an unreflected field of view
Use a cord
Wear a cord around your neck, this way you can quickly discard of the glasses or don them if you need them
Don’t wear them while the climber is near the ground
I usually try to do a couple of routes without glasses every day. It keeps my muscles somehow activated in the neck, and when it becomes painful I start wearing the glasses to reduce further stress.
Pro tip: Keep the belay glasses around your neck (or lower on your nose) for the first 2-3 clips, where you can still see the climber directly. Then put the glasses on quickly around the third clip or so when it becomes painful to crane the neck up
Know when to not use them
While belay glasses work great for most people you should try them out yourself before you decide to buy. If you don’t know someone who has a pair, try them out in a shop.
Two Good Belaying Glasses
Here are some recommendations for belaying glasses. It’s pretty easy: Go cheap or expensive. The expensive ones are nice if you are serious about these things, offer less distortion, etc. But the cheap ones work well for beginners. It’s up to you and your wallet! I will write a more in-depth review about different belay glasses in the future, but for now, i recommend to stick with the brand Y&Y. They are trusted, work well and affordable.
Y&Y Vertical Glasses
Good pair of belaying glasses, easy to use and frame fits many different noses. The design is minimalistic, and the price is 79$. Get the metal frame, and you can bend it to fit your face.
Y&Y Plasfun Basic Belay Glasses
The cheaper Y&Y glasses, made from plastic but with a good field of view as well. Design is a little larger than the Vertical ones, but the vision works just as well. People with smaller heads might have a problem with the mold piece around the nose, so try them on. Can be found under 50$.
Want to send harder routes climbing? Tackle new problems when bouldering? Well, you need to know how to use your lower body, specifically how to edge. If you can place your feet properly, your arms will have less weight to hold, and finding the right position for your feet is half of the game. But what is edging? It’s when you place the side of your foot, either from the big toe down or from the pinky toe down on a narrow step of rock, often not ticker than a finger. Edging is a great tool for any climber or boulderer. It helps you to not only send harder routes but also to preserve energy on long climbs. Read on to learn it, i also added some really helpful videos to get you started, credit goes out to the guys who made them!
Becoming an efficient climber or boulderer means you know how to place your feet. This means not only to put them softly and quietly but also knowing how to make use of small footholds. Most beginners don’t know how to efficiently use and trust their feet, which is usually showing when they try out footwork heavy routes – notice how shaky your legs sometimes get when trying a new route? This is a lack of trust and confidence in your own feet. Give it some training and time, and you will become ultra-confident in your feet, trusting shoes and footholds. That’s when you will become balance and elegant too.
What is edging exactly?
Edging is a type of feet position when climbing. It’s called edging because you place your feet on tiny narrow edges of rock, often thinner than 3 fingers.
Typically you need edging when you try to place your feet on a foothold that’s too small to fit your whole foot. You basically have two options here: You either decide to use the tip of your feet, which is usually the area around your big toe, or you employ the edging technique.
In some scenarios, the big toe makes more sense, typically for pockets and corners. But if the step is narrow and stretched, like a stair, edging can become really valuable. Especially if you are working in a turned position. You can use either the inside edge or the outside edge of your shoe. Inside means, your big toe gives you stability on tiny holds, which is preferable to the outer edge. But the inside edge might face in the wrong direction, depending on where you want to move next, then you should use the outside edge.
How to edge correctly?
As I said, most times, you’ll want to use your inside edge. As it is where the big toe is, it’s stronger and more stable. You can put a lot of pressure on your feet this way, even when the edge is tiny, thanks to the excellent grip on climbing shoe soles. This makes inside edging perfect if you want to go vertically up, preparing the next move and stabilizing yourself after reaching for a new handhold.
The outside edge is better to be employed when you want to traverse a route. As it is naturally weaker, it means you cannot really use it to stabilize yourself or position for vertical movement. Outside edging is therefore usually consisting of small, quick steps.
Both types of edging need you to have a lot of feet and ankle strength to keep your heels up in the air under tension. Otherwise, there won’t be enough pressure on the tiny part of the foot that actually rests on the edge. You’ll also need balance to keep yourself positioned perfectly. All these skills need constant work to be learned.
Things to keep in mind when Edging
Keep these following footwork tips in mind when edging:
1) You should always keep your feet directly under your body’s moment of inertia, which is usually below your core. If you can, try to find footholds that are placed directly under you, even if they might not be as big as another foothold to your right or left. You can maintain your balance much easier this way, and better balance means less force needed to hold yourself. Remember that a lack of balance when climbing will usually be counteracted by employing more force on your arms as you need to hold yourself. Do a pullup if you don’t believe me. If you cannot stay balanced, your arms and endurance will suffer.
2) Once you set place your feet on an edge,e keep them there. Unless you positioned them completely wrong, chances are good that you will save more energy by not fiddling around with the position then you would gain from slightly bettering the positioning. Do drills to learn correctly, placing your feet at the first try.
3) Keep your heels high enough, so that you have enough pressure on the edge. IT might be harder on your calves, but the plus of friction will make it easier for your arms to hold you as you have a stable foothold.
Further tips to improve your edging game.
1) Don’t forget your hips. Most beginners keep their hips at a distance from the wall, as it feels safe. But this actually pushes you away from the wall and puts a lot of stress on your muscles.
2)Bring your hips close to the wall instead. It will not only help you put more weight on the feet and keep your arms straight and relaxed but also minimize the chance of getting peeled off the wall. And it closes your shoulders on your back, which makes the angle you need to pull from to make a powerful move with your arms better suited and more comfortable to grip.
3) Look at the edge – your eyes and brain are a powerful tool. You should analyze potential footholds with some scrutiny, as you will find places to do a quick rest etc. And try not to search only for chalk stains, as there are a lot of good edges that most people will never use with their hands.Doing this, you can preserve a lot of power and arm strength by using edges to find good resting points.
Climbing Shoes – What are the best climbing shoes to edge?
Some shoes work better for edging, and some don’t. Aggressively downturned shoes tend to not do very well on edges, as they don’t have a lot of contact face with the rock. Really soft shoes are not doing good on edges either, as they make it harder to grab the rock with your feets’ edge. If downturned and soft shoes don’t work well, what does then? A really stiff and flat shoe. You can use them perfectly on tiny edges, as they will absorb a lot of pressure, relieving your feet of some of the forces, and giving you a stable foothold.
My conclusion on edging
You need good climbing shoes, but also enough training in terms of foot placement. Once you have these things down, and you can put enough pressure on the edge, it all comes down to rock quality and cleanliness of the route.
Go out, get some good shoes, maybe borrow from your buddies, and head out to a local bouldering rock with an edge. Then work on the technique until your feet burn, rinse, and repeat. Once you become better at edging it’s a game-changer. Every tiny narrow edge will give you new ways to attack old problems, and you will very likely be able to send more challenging routes.
And using a tiny surface to do a powerful move to reach a new crux just feels so good. It’s a feeling of maximum use of the resources. And after all, that’s one of the things climbing, and bouldering is all about right? Solving problems efficiently and effectively with what you have at hands – or in this case, feet.
Climbing gyms are expensive, most charge more than 50$ per month for a monthly membership. And a day pass isn’t cheap either with at least 10$ or more. So, it seems they must be a goldmine, right? I mean, if they have 1000 members, this means 60,000$ per month – WOW that’s a lot of money, and we didn’t even account for day pass sales. Have you ever considered opening a climbing gym? Read on; I’m going to debunk some of these myths. As it turns out, running a climbing gym is a tough and expensive business with some very risky assumptions, huge upfront investments, and monthly costs higher than the yearly salary of many folks. It’s time to take out a pencil and calculator and answer the question: Are climbing gyms profitable after all?
Your own climbing gym – a dream job?
To most of us, owning a profitable climbing gym seems like the ultimate dream job. You hang around at your gym all day, go climbing whenever you like, sip coffee or beer in between while making a ton of money from all the climbers. I’m sure you have done some math as I did before. “There are 100 people here right now, take this times 8 for 8 hours operation per day. Then multiply by 10$ per person, times 30 days per month, and you rake in about 240,000$ per month. Wow, seems like a pretty sweet deal right, I guess I could do that too”.
Reality looks WAY different than that, though, opening a climbing gym needs a hefty sum to invest upfront because of the climbing wall that needs to be custom-built.But since you cannot just build a climbing wall inside any commercial space. A climbing wall typically goes up to 30 ft or higher – finding a building for this usually involves old industrial real estate. This might include further cost for remodeling the interior of the building etc.
After signing a lease, we still need to build the gym, and even afterward bills keep piling as we need to pay staff members continually for example. And i’m not even talking about rental equipment, maintenance, utilities, insurance and upkeep cost of walls and ropes.
How i wrote this post
I’ll analyze some of the costs and profit opportunities when running a climbing gym. I did my research using public posts from rock climbing forums and also asked friends and fellow climbers. They either run gyms or work in gyms about typical cost metrics and averages. Afterward, we’ll run these values through a cost/profit and calculation. The short result: Are climbing gyms profitable? They are, given the number of gyms in populated areas that have been in business for decades. But a profitable climbing gym needs to get down the membership game correctly, as recurring membership is what makes the profits.
I will walk you through some math and estimations in this post, and open a hypothetical gym. I’ll explain my assumptions and why some of them are risky and not necessarily correct. In the end, we will see if a climbing gym is profitable or not, and which assumptions are critical for its profitability. Note that I’ll refer to “you” and “we” in this article, kind of like we are a team planning business start-up.
Some Assumptions about the potential gym.
Assuming we’re not already millionaires, our gym will be a smaller gym, around 5000 sqft. We will need some 35 ft+ high warehouse to have high enough ceilings and with 5000 sqft space. This will give us enough climbing area (around 5000 ft assuming we have four sides with each 70 ft length and can use half of them for climbing walls.) We could probably expand it by installing a platform in the middle of the gym with further climbing walls.
This gym will be small but functional. But as the gym is relatively small, there cannot be more than 20 people climbing on the wall at each time. This is an estimate assuming each route takes up space of 7 ft so that we can have ten routes per climbing wall, with two climbing walls in our gym. Makes 40 active people if you take belayers into account.They usually take turns with the climber. Which means we are somewhat limited in terms of maximum visitors at any given day.
How many active people can a climbing gym accommodate?
I assume 40 people at each given moment can be in the gym actively belaying or climbing. Each climber will stay on average for 2 hours. So we can accommodate 160 people per day. Why? Around 8 hours of operation, with 2 hours staying time, means we have 8 hours / 2 hours = 4 different “sets” of people, with each set consisting of 40 climbers. This means 4*40 = 160 people per day active in the gym. Assuming most people will climb 1-2 times per week, this means we can have around 7/1.5*160 =~ 750 different people climbing per week or around 2000 per month.
This calculation also gives us a maximum limit of how many members we should let join the gym, as anything more than 2000 can become a problem crowd wise. Nobody wants to wait long lines to climb in the gym where they pay a monthly membership.
Upfront cost: Equipment, climbing wall, remodeling of property: ca 250,000$ one time.
Opening a climbing gym will mean you have to invest substantial money upfront. A climbing wall is not going to build itself, and you need specialized staff to build it due to the height of the ceiling. You might need specialized modular panels, which are often building-specific or even completely custom-made (source). The actual climbing walls also require good routes with draws, holds and crash-pads, which need to be planned by professional route setters (source). If you’re going to rent industrial real estate, like an old warehouse, for example, you will also likely need some substantial remodeling.
Otherwise, it won’t be pleasant for visitors. Think bathrooms, amenities, sauna, etc. And if you want to offer yoga and fitness classes, you’ll also need a fully equipped gym. All in all, the cost of remodeling, building the climbing wall, and other fitness-related equipment will likely cost you between 200,000$ and 300,000$, but this depends on your business expertise and experience too.
Pro tip: Saving some money with used gear where it makes sense
You could probably save some money by opting for used fitness gear, as barbells and machines don’t have to be new. Same goes for climbing foot and handholds – although newer is nicer in many cases, as some of the 80s style climbing gym holds were nasty on fingers and palms.
Around 200,000$-300,000$ means an average of 250,000$, split on 4 years = 48 months. We end up with ca. 6000$ per month including some interest as you take a loan.
Recurring cost: Staff, insurance, utilities, rent: ca 45,000$ per month.
Now that we have initial investment down let’s see what a climbing gym costs you per month. The good thing is, less than prime real estate is needed for the site – this means you can get relatively cheap real estate in most cases. Let’s assume you get a good deal for 5$ per square foot, which is a reasonable price for commercial real estate.
Good property costs a lot of rent per month.
It also seems a reasonable number for industrial/commercial estate in an accessible area visible from main streets etc. A typical smaller climbing gym will be at least 5000 sqft, which means at 5$ per sqft you’re looking at a monthly lease of 25,0000$.
As the gym is still a large building, even with 5000 sqft being on the smaller slide of climbing gyms, it’s still a lot of money. And this is at an excellent rental rate. I know that in places like Los Angeles, commercial real estate is more likely to be at 10$/sqft. You’ll also need a warehouse with high enough ceilings. Which means utilities and facility fees will be higher than regular office space due to the cost of upkeep during winter times.
Upkeep will be a monthly recurring thing.
Don’t forget about climate-controlling the building. Sweating people will need air conditioning and heating in winter. But heating a big and tall warehouse in winter becomes expensive quickly.The good thing is that repair costs will be relatively low as climbing walls have a long lifespan, as does fitness equipment.
Furthermore, the climbing walls themselves, as well as the equipment used, are more expensive than most people would expect them to be. Take in costs like cleaning and safety-checks which are low compared to rent, but still ongoing costs.Equipment such as ropes, climbing harnesses and even climbing shoes eventually will break. They will then need to replaced, so it’s only fair to assume a monthly upkeep for these things too.
Thanks to great word-of-mouth marketing, you’ll most likely need no or very low paid marketing.
You’ll also have some staff, but staffing needs per customer are very low for a climbing gym. If you want to keep it cheap, you’ll only need someone at the counter and a person to supervise the climbing area. Both can be optimized by hiring students and having volunteers help out whenever possible. So let’s assume to manage utilities, facility fees, rent, repair, equipment and staff compensations by a healthy 20,000$, which will cover insurance too.
Extraordinary cost: Replacing part of the climbing ball, expand to new equipment and so on: 50,000$ every two years
Let’s say this is around 50,000$. It will include things like buying new climbing walls, expanding parts of the gym, and event costs for special occasions. Lets also split this cost on 24 months as it will likely only occur every two years or so, so it’s around 2,000$ per month.
Total cost per month, including credit payment for the initial investment: 55,000$ including buffer.
Total cost per month, if we add up all the above costs, will be 5,200$ + 45,000$ + 2,000$ = ca 55,000$ with some buffer included. This is your monthly “burn rate”, meaning if you don’t make any revenue, you will accumulate over 50,0000$ of debt per month. Pretty steep right?
Despite the high upfront investment, the recurring costs take up the main portion of the costs. Of the 55,000$ per month, more than half of the cost is from renting large enough real estate, and another considerable part is upkeep, insurance, and staff compensation.
If you can find a good and reasonably priced real estate, it means you drive down that cost.
Same goes for staff compensation: Try to employ students and part-time workers, maybe even pay them with perks and benefits including some fair but lower wage and you have a vast potential to save money here.
Sources of income and how much profit to expect.
Now that we know how much a gym costs us per month. Let’s see how we can generate money from it; after all, it’s a business. When you run a gym, you can have your revenue come from different sources. It’s not only a “day pass only” business. But every climbing gym is a unique business for itself, so it’s hard to find an average “revenue mix”. What is an average revenue mix? It means your income does not come from a single source. Instead, it’s a mix of revenues from different sources with a certain percentage coming from each source.
Some gyms make 80% of their money with day passes and events like kids birthday parties but have almost no members. And then you have hardcore gyms where 90% of the revenue comes from monthly memberships. So, take the following breakdown with a grain of salt. I tried to gather information from anecdotes and experiences of people in the industry both from online forum posts and real life, and then do sensible “guesstimation” to come up with reasonable values.
So let’s break down our sources of income:
50% Memberships makes most revenue by a long shot.
– 50% “Non-climbing” Yoga and Pilates, spin, CrossFit, etc. bring half the members.
– 50% Climbing members
– Amenities like showers and sauna bring members.
10% from having a portable wall to rent out, which makes good money and brings new customers.
Competitions lose a lot of money and attract very few memberships.
Retail and food loose money, especially shoe sales.
Gear retail loses unless you’re running an REI.
5% Youth programs do okay but drive family membership.
15% Day passes pay the desk staff but don’t bring in much.
5% Belay classes make very little.
5% from climbing lessons, which make less than most think.
– The course setting is expensive if you do it right.
5% from certain special events profit if you have celebrity climbers etc.
5% from summer camps, which do okay usually
Active member numbers – what to assume, how to find the right location for the gym
The number of members in your gym is highly dependent on where you open a gym. Some gyms have 200 members; some have 3000 or more. According to Andy Laakman, who runs a company selling climbing gym software and talks to many gym owners, the average number of members is around 300 (source).
For a profitable gym, we need to find a population center where there are not already ten other climbing gyms. And we need enough middle and upper-middle-class individuals, usually between the age of 19-50, which are your typical clientele. They also need to live in a 20 minutes drive radius and should be scattered around that area without high points of concentration.
This makes it easier for one gym to bundle them and harder for the competition to open their gym. If the target demographic were bundled to one area and your gym is not directly located there, it might be easy for competition to open up shop in that area. They could easily steal the main business. Active member numbers break or make your business, as you will find out in the next section. It’s where we calculate how profitable climbing gyms are.
Calculating profitability – it all comes down to how many members your gym attracts.
With our estimations for the income mix and the average member counts, we can calculate our revenue. And we can then deduct the projected costs to see our profitability. We will also estimate when we are debt-free (remember, you need to invest around 200,000$ to 300,000$ upfront). With the calculation, we could also do further things such as liquidity estimation. We need a monthly fee for membership as estimation first.
Let’s assume 60$ per month for membership in our gym. That is a fairly average price for a monthly membership. Given that our hypothetical gym is not huge, but an exceptional rock climbing gym with proper walls and lots of routes, its totally justifiable.
I’ll assume memberships make up 50% of the income, which seems a reasonable value from experiences posted and gathered. We can use this percentage to calculate other income sources in our mix. Just multiply it by 2 (remember 2*50% = 100%). And if we assume a number for best, medium, and worse case active members, we can calculate the membership fees per month.
Worst case scenario: 100 members: You go bankrupt soon.
Let’s start, with the worst-case scenario. Our gym attracts 100 members who pay monthly subscriptions. Our monthly revenue from memberships is thus 100*60$=6,000$. Given that memberships make up around 50% of the income, we can assume that our total revenue is around 12,000$ per month. Sounds like a lot, but with 70,000$ monthly burn rate, you will go quickly out of business.
Break-even scenario: Ca 600 members + Side incomes all maxed out, or 1200 members and no other income sources.
I call this scenario “ramen-profitable”, which means you can pay the bills, pay your credit, and still have between 2000$-3000$ per month to buy some ramen and gas and not sleep inside your gym. You’ll need at least 58,000$ for it, which means 29,000$ (or 50%) should come from members and another 29,000$ from side income streams. You’ll need at least 483 members actively paying 60$ per month (83 x 60$ per month = 29,000$ per month) or around 900 if you don’t rely on the side income streams.
In this scenario, things take a turn for the better. If we can attract around 500 members and have decent other income sources like discussed above, we can break even and at least buy some ramen for ourselves. But you won’t become rich with this scenario, and it will take you four years to become debt-free. There’s also no real margin of error here, if your member numbers drop for some time you will suffer.
Good scenario: 1000+ Members with fully fledged side incomes or 2000 members without side incomes = 120,000$ revenue per month. After cost of 65,0000$ we still profit 55,000$.
Once you reach these numbers, your climbing gym rakes in a lot of money. After paying your cost, you still have around 65,000$ leftover in profits, which is a hefty profit. And at these numbers, you won’t have to worry about a slow month anymore, as you can easily put away some money to have a buffer. One thousand active members should definitely be our goal in terms of member numbers. Keep in mind, though our planned gym has a maximum capacity.
At some point, we will have too many people visiting it per day than the climbing walls can handle without having long lines. So if you keep growing, you will need to put away further liquid capital to be able to fund an expansion gym once you’re large enough. If you look at climbing gyms in business for 10 or more years, you will notice that there is a trend to expand to multiple locations. It’s typically a good sign and means the first gym was profitable enough to warrant an expansion. But that’s a different story, and for now, we can finish our analysis as this scenario means you’re profitable and things go well.
As you saw, opening a climbing gym costs a lot of money upfront, and the upkeep costs are not small as well. Thanks to the large real estate you need, rent will likely be well above 20,000$ per month at least in the U.S. Running a profitable climbing gym is not easy but hard, probably way harder and far costlier than most people think.
If you have access to a profitable and well-run gym should consider yourself lucky.
The best gyms are run by people who excel at both business and customer service skills, as you need to be top-level to be able to sustain a climbing gym profitably. And you’ll likely need to take out another mortgage on your house to open one!
I hope you found this article useful. I wanted to shed some light on why climbing gyms are charging 60$ or more per month for membership. The amount is substantially more than most normal fitness gyms, but as you can see, these fees are definitely warranted and required to make a gym profitable as a business.
When I started climbing, I actually started with bouldering in a gym. I didn’t know how to find a rock climbing mentor, and for that meant no outdoor bouldering, let alone rock climbing with a rope and harness. For me it felt like the safest way of starting and made me independent from other people, as I have a busy schedule with frequent late-night work, making long trips to the crags during the week almost impossible.
But at some point, I wanted to go outside and climb real rocks, and when I picked up rock climbing, it became apparent I needed a belaying partner.Thankfully my wife is into rock climbing, so she was the obvious first choice as a belaying partner.After some hairy situations lead climbing some easier routes, with not-so-great first anchors (think of first anchors in 15+ feet), I quickly realized that I needed not only a belaying partner but a mentor as well. Someone with experience and skill to pass on to you and started to also climb with more experienced climbers.
An experienced mentor for outdoor climbing techniques is like a knowledge gold mine, but how to find a rock climbing mentor? Someone willing to share this knowledge, without you being burden to them? Let me share some thoughts with you, as I try always to make climbing a win-win situation for the mentor and me.
What’s a mentor?
A mentor is an experienced climber who is willing to take you under his or her wings, teaching you while you go climbing with them. It can be a paid coach or someone you know personally and who is willing to train you. Mentoring usually starts with you asking someone for advice and might become a regular thing after a while.Don’t be a flake if you make plans to climb with a more experienced climber – or anyone in general!
Where I come from, many experienced climbers love to share their knowledge if you’re respectful and reliable. Some older climber once told me it’s ok to be a newbie but don’t be an asshole. And it stuck with me, as I noticed myself a lot of climbers being incredibly flaky sometimes. So, if you make plans to go climbing with someone SHOW UP, or at least give them a call and notification if you have to cancel upfront. Nothing annoys climbers more than making plans to climb and being stood up in the last minute.
There are a ton of people passing on shit for knowledge. Sometimes this sketchy advice is downright dangerous. That’s why you should read up, educate yourself, and learn about climbing. Read blogs, books, and watch how-to-guides. Become critical and ask questions if you feel unsure about something. But make sure to do your best figuring out stuff on your own, as it shows respect for peoples time and resources. Practice what your mentors teach you and train at home, then after training, ask them to evaluate if you’re doing it right. To a potential mentor, this shows willingness and self-reliance, which is an excellent skill to possess not only in climbing but anywhere in life.
If you want a book recommendation, get the Book “Self-coached climber” – it’s the best place to start. I read it, and it has a ton of really valuable knowledge to self assess your climbing. Many actually consider it to be the one book you should read if you try to train for yourself, so definitely have a look at it.
Don’t be a know-it-all.
You should read and educate yourself not to be an annoying know-it-all, but to recognize if someone is passing bullsh*t to you, and politely ask them about it. Never do things you feel uncomfortable with, and if you’re in doubt then ask your mentor why they did it that specific way.
Learn to belay a lead climber and socialize.
If you want to climb with experienced climbers, you need to be able to belay a lead climber. This is usually not negotiable, and many lead climbers are taking this especially serious. Read this excellent reddit thread for more info. If you socialize with the local crew at the gym and show them you’re a competent lead belayer, it won’t be hard to find someone to mentor you. Most experienced climbers love fast learning new talent as it’s a great feeling to help someone new in the sport.
Sweeten up the deal for the mentor!
Most people like to climb with more experienced climbers then them. But if you pick someone older who maybe even has a family, there might be a good chance they don’t always find themselves a partner with time on hands to climb. It won’t take a lot to convince them to climb with you. Yes, you might be inexperienced and ask a lot of questions, but you’re a competent lead belayer and decent human being. Plus three are some other things you can do to make climbing with you attractive. If you own a car, offer to drive, everyone likes to save gas and chill while driving out to the crags. You could also buy a good rope and other gear and suggest to use it.
If your mentor is inclined, you can also offer them to carry the gear while approaching, which might be a nice gesture. Extra hiking training for you, convenient for your mentor.
If you can, bring some food and drink or even bake some cookies, take them out to dinner after climbing, anything really to make them have a good time with you.
Bring stoke – and beers!
If you’re out to climb, make sure to be motivated and stoked and fun to hang around with. Don’t be a mood kill, but rather make sure to lighten the mood up and maybe even bring a beer or two if you and your mentor like to have a few after sending it.
Learn how to clean an anchor.
Cleaning an anchor is important, even for experienced climbers as they need to get their gear back. By learning to do it, you basically offer them to do the time-consuming tasks for them, which is always lovely.
Go out and ask more experienced climbers. I know a ton of excellent and experienced climbers who invited newbie climbers who were to shy to ask because they felt they were not good enough. Most people actually just enjoy climbing with helpful and friendly people. And there are only so many pro climbers who need to send the hardest routes continuously. The rest of us is perfectly fine with climbing a grade lower than usual if it means to have fun company.
Oh here we go again, how should climbing pants fit, or how I say: The endless struggle to find the perfect pair of climbing pants. Most people who start climbing focus way too much on their arms. But in reality, footwork and leg movement is one of the most essential skills in rock climbing and bouldering. The more power and strength you generate with your legs and feet and core, the easier climbing becomes on your arms. Climbers with proper leg technique and excellent mobility in their core have an easier time with endurance. They also experience less arm pump and can send harder routes. But to be really effective, the climbing pants you wear should fit your climbing style.
I discussed the pros and cons of climbing pants in another article, in short: There are no real cons except for the price (if you don’t buy them on a discount). But how should climbing pants fit? Between ultra-tight leggings that look like spiderman, jeans with stretch, cotton pants, and mc-hammer style baggy pants there are vast differences. In short, pant fit comes down to your preference and your subjective experience. Nonetheless, there are facts that are objectively important.
Let’s discuss different fitting styles and materials, and I’ll give you some tips and recommendations to make sure you chose the right fit and material for you. There’s much to gain here, as too tight or loose pants can hinder your climbing style and performance. Likewise, pants from the wrong material make you sweat too much or when climbing in cold weather are not insulating enough.
Quick facts about fitting styles and materials of climbing pants
In general, it’s up to you what you wear, but there are some objective points to keep in mind about fit.
1) It comes down to your preference and your subjective experience of how impeding tightness or loose fit feel to you. 2) Tight climbing pants restrict leg movement and maximum leg spreading distance unless they are made from a material with stretch. If climbing pants are too tight, and made from jeans without stretch, that’s a problem. And it doesn’t matter if you’re used to wearing tight pants in this case. 3) Loose climbing pants usually don’t hinder movement, but might get in the way if they are too lose
Same goes for materials, it’s about your own preference but there some objective facts to keep in mind. I’ll write a more in-depth guide about this soon!
1) Pants from synthetic materials are easy to wash and care but might feel shit on your skin. 2) Cotton is durable, but not the best fabric for humid weather, and if it has no stretch material woven in it feels stiff and can hinder your movement 3) Jeans are ultra-durable, but 100% jeans fabric feels like a shell when climbing. Ultra tight skinny jeans are severely impacting your maximum leg movement if no stretch material is blended in.
Let’s have a look at some of the fitting styles in more detail, what they are suitable for, and what their disadvantages are.
This used to be trending some years ago, just look at some of the older climbing videos from the early 2000s. Loose fit has clear advantages, as it does not impact your maximum leg movement and feels comfortable. But it also means more material to drag with you, which becomes an issue if you’re wearing pants made from heavy fabric. Loose-fitting pants from 100% cotton feel like a lot of dead weight, and become even worse when they become humid or wet. And the extra fabric can get stuck to cracks and gear too.
Ever tried edging or cramming a tight corner with your toes while you had 2 feet of climbing pants block a clear view of your shoes? Then your pants are too loose. It definitely makes sense to get baggy pants with a tie around the ankle. This way you can restrict flapping fabric around your foot.
Tight fit (leggings, jeggings, etc.)
Most girls I know climb with yoga pants style climbing pants, and leggings are a trend for boys also today. My wife solely uses tight climbing pants, she swears on them. I tried it once, and it feels really odd at first, but once you get used to it, it’s great. It’s almost as if you climb naked, you feel no weight at all. If tight pants are made from a stretchy material, they’re probably the best choice when it comes to movement freedom. They come with a downside though: If it gets cold, you start to feel it really fast, as most of the tighter climbing pants are not good at insulating.
Same goes for hot weather, climbing in tight leggings makes you sweat a lot. And usual leggings and yoga pants are not durable at all, so if you do crack climbing or routes with tight corners, etc., you will rip through them really fast. There are some options from brands like E9 and Prana, which are made from a more durable fabric thankfully, so if you’re serious about getting tight climbing pants to consider one of these options: Prana Rockland Leggings , an amazing pair of pants for girls. My personal favorite is the E9 Rondo Slim (affiliate link to buy on Amazon) as it is a perfect pant for medium-framed guys. I’ve owned one for years now and while they’re not a strict hardcore alpine pant, they’re insanely good fitting and breathe. They’re technically not leggings but they do fit really slim – slimmer than any other pair of climbing pants I ever owned.
Medium fit: Tighter on the ankles, looser on the thighs
This is what I personally prefer. Medium fit pants give you the right combination of the above styles. They have enough fabric to insulate when it gets cold. And they have reasonable freedom of leg movement as they are usually made from a material containing cotton and some stretchy material blended in. They are shaped to narrow down on the legs and calves, so no material is in the way when you climb cracks, etc.
But medium fitting pants are a bit harder to find the right size, so make sure when you try them on that they are not too tight on the lower legs and wide enough in the hip area. In doubt, go one size bigger than usual, it’s better to err on the larger size. It’s not too tight to restrict movement, but tight enough to make climbing feel streamlined and fluent.
Extra: Short climbing pants
A special category are short climbing pants. These pants are basically shorts which are made from the same material like normal climbing pants. When trying on these types of pants, fitting becomes much easier. Leg movement is usually excellent, as not much fabric is used and the material is stretchy like normal climbing pants. Just be careful to get the waist size right, as many of these climbing shorts come with fixed rubber band holding your waist – if you lose a couple of pounds the pants are not adjustable and might become to big and slip.
Which fit is right for me?
You need to ask yourself whether you feel more comfortable wearing tighter or looser pants. Most people I know who like baggy or loose-fitting clothes in their day to day life also prefer them while climbing. Vice versa with tight-fitting pants. Most girls I know actually love yoga pants or leggings no matter if they’re out climbing or relaxing at home. I suggest to try out three pairs of pants representing the different style and see how they feel.
A good way to test is to do some leg stretches and jumping jacks as well as leg skipping when trying the pants on. Can you quickly move your knee to your chest without the pant interfering? If yes, that’s a sign of proper fit, if not you should get a size bigger or try another model.
Another useful test is to squat down wearing the pants. Then see if the pant is feeling uncomfortable or restraining while sitting in a full squat. If it does, get a size bigger and or try another model. If you can do these exercise comfortably, try some movements like flagging, etc. if you’re in a store with a climbing wall, and if the pant still feels right, you might have a candidate to buy.