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Bouldering Climbing

How Hard is Rock Climbing? And How Hard is Bouldering?

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Climbing Reviews

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review: A simple, cheap beginner quickdraw

No matter if you sport climb or trad climb, quickdraws are one of the essentials. Finding good quickdraws can be quite hard, and especially when you are a beginner it’s hard to find quickdraws with good value for the money. Our Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws review shows if they are a bargain, and see why they’re a great fit for beginners and advanced climbers in our in-depth review.

Our Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 5/5

Price: $14.00
ManufacturerSkylotec
Pros:  Durable, fairly lightweight, cheap and easy to clip
Cons:  The gate closure could be a bit smoother, but for the money spent we can live with it

Quick Facts

Skylotec Clipz Basic Quickdraw
Carabiner Material: Aluminum
Bolt Carabiner:Aaluminum, key lock, solid
Rope Carabiner: Aluminum, nose lock, wire
Weight: 102 g
Closed Major Axis Strength: 25 kN
Open Major Axis Strength: 9 kN
Minor Crossload Strength: 9 kN
Gate Type: Upper carabiner solid, lower wire
Bolt Carabiner: straight
Rope Carabiner: wire
Sling Material: nylon
Available Sling Lengths: 12 cm
Test Locations: Frankenjura, Germany and various gyms
Days Tested: 30

Our Verdict

Skylotec Clipz Basic Quickdraw are ideal for beginners and advanced. They come in 12 cm length, and while we tested them we loved how the combined solid carabiner for the bolt and wire carabiner for the rope side saved weight. The wire carabiner is also great in reducing the whiplash effect that happens on solid closed carabiners when you take a fall. Both carabiners have big enough openings, making clipping easy as pie, and the nylon sling is durable and wide enough to grab for it if you need an emergency anchor or hold. If you’re looking for a good, all-round set of quickdraws that won’t break your bank account, the Skylotec Clipz Basic are a great fit!

Excurse: Gate slap or Whiplash
If you don’t know about the whiplash effect, also known as gate slap, it happens when you take a fall and the weight of the carabiner gate opens from the bouncing force. When open, this means the carabiner of the rope side of the quickdraw is open and under load, reducing the possible maximum load to roughly a third of the original major axis strength. A wire closure on the rope side minimizes this risk because the weight is reduced

Analysis and Results from Our Review

What we liked

Let’s dive into the details of the Skylotec Clipz Basic, we put them through a thorough test in and around our local home mountains in beautiful Frankenjura Germany.

Design

We live at a point in time, where carabiners and quickdraws are pretty advanced in terms of technology. If you look at the differences, you will most likely find only small differences like color, weight and so on. Like many other carabiners on quickdraw sets on the market, the Skylotec come with one solid-gate and one wire-gate. The solid gate carabiner has a keylock and the wire carabiner has a traditional nose lock. They come in only one size, the standard 12 cm you find on many port climbing dogbone slings. The sling, also referred to as dogbone, can be replaced when it wears down.

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review

Carabiner Shape

The shape of the carabiner on quickdraws decides how their action goes. Different shapes of carabiners have a different action, and the shape also influences if a carabiner feels very smooth or snappy. The Skylotec Carabiners are pretty normal in terms of length, neither longer nor shorter than standard Edelrid or Petzl carabiners. And while they won’t come in fancy colors or anodized surfaces, but rather standard aluminum they do look nice.

Both the rope and bolt side are snappy and close tight, yet easy enough to clip without effort. The wire gate of the rope carabiner is great if you’re a beginner and looking for easy and reliable quickdraws. And it’s easy to always grab the right side for the rope if you’re still learning – there is only one wire gate and it goes to the rope.

Weight

The Skylotec Clipz Basic quickdraw is a little heavier than some of the other more expensive quickdraws, but still lighter than steel quickdraws.
Find some references down there to compare.

107 g Petzl Djinn Axess, 12 cm
103 g Black Diamond Freewire, 12 cm
102 g Skylotec Clipz Basic, 12 cm
98 g Petzl Spirit Express, 12 cm
63 g Black Diamond Oz, 12 cm

Durability

Durability is something that is not obviously an issue with quickdraws, as carabiners are made from aluminum. But the snapping mechanism and the nylon slings are nonetheless prone to wear and tear. For us, we couldn’t notice any real wear and tear during our tests. Snappyness of the gates remained good during our test, and the slings remained crisp and clean.  Keep in mind that we climbed in the Frankenjura in Germany, where the rock is not as sharp and unforgiving like in other places where granite and volcanic rock destroy textile materials faster.

For the money spent, Skylotecs Clipz Basic quickdraws were durable enough for all our sport and trad climbing needs. After two seasons of climbing on these draws, we can’t discern any wear to the wire rope bearing carabiners surface. And we have seen aluminum carabiners to develop edges and dents after only some days of heavy use. Especially in areas where the rock is more abrasive like granite or volcanic areas.

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review
No visible wear on the plastic insert of the rope side of the sling after 30 days of testing

What we didn’t like so much

The action of the bolt side carabiner could be smoother. We had a set of 10 quickdraws and noticed some of the gates were not as smooth as carabiners of brands like Edelrid or Salewa. That said, we never had trouble clipping in, so the action was not perfectly smooth, but didn’t interfere with climbing performance. It’s just that if you are used to very smooth high-quality carabiners it might feel a bit rough.

Also, the aluminum color without any anodizing or color looks a bit bland – but can we really complain given the pricepoint? We think no!

Who are these quickdraws perfect for?

While we cannot say anything about big wall climbing or long alpine multi-pitches, we think the Skylotec quickdraws are excellent for normal sport climbing at the crag and moderate multi-pitch climbing as well as light traditional climbing. The carabiners are sturdy, and the weight is average.

If your goal is to climb long pitches on traditional routes, or you plan to do heavy and long multi-pitch alpine climbing routes, it might be better to opt for a set of lighter quickdraws.

Bottom Line

The Skylotec Clipz Basic are terrific quickdraws for a very competitive price. If you start out climbing and look for an affordable set of quickdraws that will serve you well for your first seasons of sport climbing or just need a good cheap allround set then they are perfect. They don’t wear down fast and while there are lighter options out there if you are willing to spend more money, the weight is still good. We can absolutely recommend them.

If you liked this review, check out our climbing pants and climbing shoes reviews!

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Bouldering Foot Placement Basics – 8 Easy Steps and 8 Drills

I want to talk about the basics today. Basics as in basics of bouldering foot placement. It’s one of the most underrated aspects for many beginners.

When people start with bouldering, they usually focus on their hands only. If you’re rested and fresh, nailing a route is easy if you have solid upper body strength. And many gyms are very arm-focused too, as they have lots of overhanging routes with huge jugs to grab on the lower grades. But using only your arms will quickly wear you down, and the sight of beginners finishing their session early after 30 min with arm pump is a common one at any gym or crag.

Once beginners start to focus more on foot placement and leg technique, they feel very wobbly in the beginning. And they make many mistakes – sloppy footwork results in bad foot placement. Try to listen if someone climbs, and you’ll quickly notice if she is a master of foot placement. Silent, quick and elegant movement usually tells that someone knows how to use their feet while beginners are often loud and bang the main portion of their soles on the footholds.

I want to dedicate this complete post only to bouldering foot placement and the basics of proper foot placement. Many posts handle all the different topics of bouldering technique, but I think you cannot overrate and over practice footwork, especially if you want to improve your grades. Good foot placement will also save you lots of strength and energy in your arms. So, keep reading to learn how to build your bouldering on a solid foundation, feet first…:D

Put your shoes on and it’s go-time!

Why Is good foot placement important for bouldering?

Climbing and bouldering are very arm heavy sports. There is no way around it, top professional climbers you will see a certain type of athlete dominate, and they all have relatively strong upper bodies. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a bodybuilder for climbing, that kind of muscle mass is probably more impeding than helping, but compared to other sports, climbers have a relatively high amount of their (overall low body mass) concentrated in the upper body. Why this post then? Why do people tell you foot placement is so important and that it’s the most important aspect in bouldering? When I started bouldering most people told me that my foot placement was more important than what I did with my arms. Here is the answer: foot placement is so important because most people neglect it completely. And if we assume that 60% of bouldering is arms, then you still have 40% that comes down to leg and footwork.

But if you neglect them, you will always be 40% under your maximum ability. Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body by far, and leaving them out means you miss out on potential. Your legs are also much more enduring than your arms, as they are made for holding the majority of your body weight when you walk and stand. If you take walking, for example, your arms are more or less useless while your legs do the work – that’s why they are so strong. Every time you climb a stair, it’s like a little workout for your legs.
By learning correct foot placement and foot placement technique you can achieve your full potential.

Your legs have greater strength, power, and endurance than your arms. To see why that might be, consider the act of walking. While your arms dangle by your side for the entirety of a typical day (assuming it’s not a day filled with bouldering), your legs are carrying your entire body weight around — step after step after step, for thousands of steps each day. In case you don’t believe me yet, just compare the world records for the bench press and squat:

If you have a solid bouldering foot placement technique it will help you save strength and energy in your arms, while using your already strong legs.
There is a famous quote in Better Bouldering from John Sherman where he says that you should let the big muscles of the legs help you reach higher ground, while your arm muscles should actually only do positioning and balancing. I couldn’t add more to this, that’s what bouldering foot placement technique comes down to.

Bad foot placement means your upper body will wear down quickly, you will get forearm pump more often and faster, and your training session length will be shorter. Chances of injury for elbow and shoulder will also grow as you constantly run into the risk of overstressing the small shoulder muscles or elbow joints. Good foot placement will make you tackle harder problems, climb longer and progress faster. That’s why you should work on your footwork technique, and these basics of footwork placement will give you a good starting point.

Know the Different Areas in a Bouldering Shoe

Before we get into our techniques and drills, let’s talk shoes first. Good climbing shoes LINK are the one and only piece of gear that you really rely on when bouldering.
No matter what you think about them, they are your main contact point with the wall and as such you need to understand how they work. For beginners, climbing shoes look like a rubbery mess, but there is intelligence behind the design. If you know how to use which part of the shoe, your foot placement will become more efficient and better. Knowing what to use where will also help you develop a beta for onsighting a project or boulder too, and it’s important to build solid bouldering foot placement and technique.

Toe Section

This is the part where your toes touch the rock. When you climb, you should usually have your weight centered around this area, and try to avoid touching the wall with anything else. Exceptions are heel hooks and side edges. This part of the shoe is not only the most stable part of the shoe, it’s also the most precise area. And when you use it correctly, it allows you to easily pivot and adjust hips and feets. You can also stand on your tip-toes, which is great to keep balance. If you don’t use your toes you miss out on mobility and reach, and also face the risk of slipping. To understand the toe box, lets look at the thee different parts of it.

  • Front
    If you place the front part of your shoe on a hold, this is a frontstep. Frontsteps are the basic moves when bouldering, and mastering them is key to proper foot placement. With the front of your feet you can super precise. Pivoting is very easy when you front step. But there are some footholds, like thin edges for example, where front stepping is not the best idea. On these footholds, frontsteps have a very small shoe-to-rock area, and that makes it slippery. Being perpendicular to the wall is sometimes a problem too, as it pushes your hips away from the wall which makes you spend more energy to hold and limits potential reach. In these cases you should press hips against the wall and utilize the inner and outer edge of the toe box to gain more stable hold.
  • Inner Edge
    If you use the inner or outer edge of your climbing shoe this is called edging, read more the details of it here. Using the inner side of the shoe is a great way to get more contact area on to the rock and increase friction and hold on thin ledges and edges. It also opens your hips and helps you get the hip closer to the wall, which is good for preserving energy and maintaining hip mobility. Close hips are also good to have maximum reach. A disadvantage of this position is that you have less flexibility when maintaining this position, as it impacts your ability to pivot. Inside edging with both feet is called frog legging.
  • Outer Edges of the Shoe
    When you place the outer edge of the shoe on a foothold it uses your small toes. As they are smaller and not as strong as the big toes on the inside of your feet, this kind of edging is not as stable as inside edging. But this kind of foot placement can be used to perform the backstep. If you don’t know what backstepping is, watch the video down below.

Arch

The midsection of your shoe. Generally speaking, try to avoid using this section for footholds. The climbing shoes have rubber here mainly to protect your feet and when you do crack climbing or twisted moves between rocks where you need to lock yourself in position. For normal climbing, avoid using the main sole of the shoe as much as possible. If you watch someone climbing and she or he uses the midsection of the shoe, often with a lot of noise when placing feet, it’s a typical sign of poor foot placement technique.

Heel

This is the back end of your bouldering or climbing shoe. This part of your shoe is used for hooks. Hooks are important for certain moves, but not for stepping on to regular footholds. For most climbers, hooks become important once they reach certain grades of difficulty, as hooks usually require lots of leg strength, flexibility, and core stability.

8 Keys in Order to Build Superior Bouldering Foot Placement

You know which part of the foot to use for certain situations. But now you need to learn the basics needed to have a solid foot placement technique when climbing or bouldering. The aspects presented here are very important and you should keep them remembered. It’s also helpful to think about them before you start your training session to focus on them. My advice is to try and improve single aspects initially.

  1. Use your eyes and look before you place your feet
    Look where you step. Before you do anything, always do a visual assessment if possible. Not only can you identify the quality and potential of a foothold, it will also help you to place your feet correctly. Both things are important.
    a) Identify FootholdsWhen you try hard boulders or climbing routes, identifying a good foothold quick and effortless is priceless. If you cannot do it, you will find yourself in situations where you use a lot of energy just by holding yourself in position and searching for the next foothold. I know i messed up many problems and routes as a beginner because my eye was not trained to identify potential footholds. This skill is especially important when you climb outside, where there are no marked footholds. Good footholds are often hidden under other rock features, and assessing them in terms of weight placement and potential to support upwards movement is crucial.
    b) Watch feet placement
    Keep your eyes on the feet while you place them. It makes a huge difference for good foot placement in bouldering when you keep your eyes on your foot while you move it. Most beginners have only a quick glance at a foothold, and then carelessly slap their foot on it. And they usually pay for it by needing to readjust their feet. You should do it better: Move your feet as slow as necessary while watching them. Eye the exact point of the rock where you want your toes placed, and don’t look away until you place your foot. If you develop this careful attention, you will notice that you slip less and less with time, and soon you will be super confident and precise. You will also be quick once you get started with a route, as you find new footholds effectively and fast
  2. Be precise
    When you place your feet, you should only need one try to do so. This means you place your foot exactly where it belongs at the first try. When you have precise foot placement, you save energy on stalls and re-positioning, as both cost a lot of arm energy. Think about it: While you fiddle around to have your feet placed right, all the energy comes from your arms while you hold yourself in position. And sometimes margin of error on small and thin edges is simply to small to be sloppy, and you take a fall if you mess it up. If you become precise, you will also become elegant and efficient.
  3. Place feet silently
    When you place your feet while bouldering, they should make almost no noise. Noise usually means you had too much momentum and the rock stops your feet, which means you lack control over your movement. Lots of noise mean no control, no noise means good control. If you cannot execute a move fast without making a lot of noise, you need to work on control. Try to climb routes extra silent, even if it means to execute movement slower. Go and climb a lesser grade if needed, but work on that foot placement control. Once you become better and more controlled, you can work on execution speed again.
  4. Trust your feet and legs
    There are many situations where you need to place enough weight on your foot in order to maintain a stable position. If you don’t trust your feet in these situations it will mean you take a fall. Most beginners don’t trust their feet because they are afraid they will slip and fall. And because they lack trust, they don’t place enough weight on their feet, which results in a fall. It’s a vicious circle. But you can break it, by going all in and putting some “blind” trust into your feet. After a while, you will extend your comfort zone easily by increasing the difficulty of the foothold step by step. Keep trying to step on footholds that you don’t tust in a controlled environment, where you gradually decrease the amount of energy of your arms while holding, and increase the placed weight until you have maximum weight on your toes.
  5. Climb with sticky feet
    Sticky or glue feet means that you have the ability to place your feet without readjusting. It’s a consequence of being very precise, to a level where you can place your foot on a hold and it sits almost perfectly – without any readjusting. Constant readjusting burns up precious energy and endurance, and you can easily practice this skill by climbing boulders without adjusting the feet and trying to spend more time before you place your feet and trying to be precise.
  6. Proper hip movement
    All climbing starts in your hip. It’s the single skill most people neglect, and for good foot placement you need good hip technique. Keep in mind to keep your hips as close to the wall as possible and to initiate movement with your hips.
  7. Grab holds actively with your feet
    When you grip a hold with your hand you don’t just lay your hands on them and wait if it works out. You grab and squeeze (but don’t overgrip!). But when it comes to foot placement, many beginners passively place their feet on the foothold and are done with it. What you should do is actively step and grab a foothold with your feet. Activate your muscles, step on your tip-toes if needed and try to really hold and “draw” the hold with your feet. You will notice a big difference regarding the amount of energy needed from your arms to hold a position this way – the more you actively hold a foothold with your feet, the less energy is needed from your arms.
  8. Use the feet to propel upwards movement
    Try to imagine you’re doing a super hard one legged squat when you actually progress vertically. Activate your leg muscles, and don’t just pull yourself up with your arms. Once you feel the burn in your leg muscles you know you are using them correctly.

8 Drills for building foot placement techniques fast

I put together some helpful drills to execute, to make learning proper foot placement easier for you. Include them when you do gym climbing sessions or outside. It doesn’t matter if you boulder or rock climb, they work for both.

1. Drill to train precise foot placement: Corks on Footholds
A great way to practice precision is the cork method. You pick a simple traverse on a nearly vertical or vertical wall and place wine corks on the footholds. Now your goal is to traverse and use the footholds with the cork laying on top of it, but doing it without kicking the cork of the foothold. This way you need to be very precise and gentle when you place your foot. Don’t worry if you are super slow, this is not about being fast. Remember the saying: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It’s all about controlling the movement and being smooth.

2. Another Drill to train precise foot placement: One-time placement game
Climb some boulders with imaginary glue on your feet. Once you place your feet, you’re not allowed to adjust them. Try to find the right position at the first try, then commit for the foothold and continue.

3. Drill to train foot placement and body positioning: Tennis ball drill
This drill helps you train how you position yourself on the wall. You need 2 tennis balls and a slab wall. Now hold the 2 balls in your hands and climb the wall, without holding anything. You are allowed to place the ball with your fist for support. Remember to push on your feet to hold position on the slab. You can also use your fists for this drill if you have no tennis balls.

4. Drill for more calve strength: Tip-toeing
If you need more power in the calves and upper feet, deliberately train tip-toeing. Find a level surface and then press up from the ground to stand on the front part of your feet, if possible only the toes. Hold the position for some seconds, do 10 repetitions for 3 sets, wait a minute between the sets. If you build strength in these muscles, it will be much easier for you to maintain a balanced position on a tiny foothold.

5. Drill for switching feet: Warm up with traverse and switching feet
Find a traverse wall, and use it for warming up. While you traverse it, practice different styles of feet swapping. You can use the foot on top of other foot method or any other method. Some good tricks are shown in the video below.

6.Drill to learn trusting your feet: Tape on footholds (Only do in the gym!)
Put some shiny tape over footholds and then climb them. You will only be able to hold onto them if you put maximum pressure on your feet. This way you will build up confidence and trust in your foot placement, as the friction of the footholds is reduced. But don’t do this on difficult routes and don’t forget to completely remove the tape afterward. Please also refrain from this drill on natural rocks!

7. Drill for accuracy and tension: Toe-stabs
This drill improves both precision and tension in your feet. With you standing away, have a friend to point to a foothold near the ground. You can also chose it yourself. Then balance on one leg and try to touch the foothold with your other feet as quietly as possible.

8. Climb outside
Admitted, this is not really a drill that teaches you a certain part of foot placement. But it’s super important to keep climbing outside. Only there you need all the skills, including the vision to read the different foothold types. So go outside and climb on real rock!

How to Study other Climbers for Good Bouldering Foot Placement

Bouldering is a sport where you can learn from others. Reading about great foot placement is good, but watching good climbers is super important too. Next time you’re at your gym, watch some good climbers climbing and how they place and use their feet. You can also watch some videos of professional climbers. Adam Ondra and Alex Honnold are both super controlled climbers with great foot placement. Keep an eye out for these things when you watch other climbers or videos:

  • Which part of the foot touches the rock
  • How do they use their core and lower body to relieve their arms
  • What are they doing with their eyes and head
  • How long do they keep both eyes on the foot when they place it
  • Are they adjusting the foot placement often?
  • What are they doing with their hips to initiate movement?
  • What kinds of rest positions do they use and how do they place their feet when resting?
  • Which part of their foot touches the wall or rock

Conclusion

Foot placement is a basic skill, and like most basic skills it requires hours of training to mastering it. The good news: It’s a linear process, and even if you only spent 2 hours per week on dedicated foot placement training you will quickly notice gains in the difficulty of bouldering you can do.  Training foot placement and footwork will make you a better boulderer and also transfer to sport and trad climbing. Don’t be like many beginner boulderers who only train their arms, but focus on your legs and feet too. Your legs are your strongest muscles, and they are a great tool that will save you energy and let you climb more difficult boulders.

 

Categories
Climbing Mountaineering

What does it mean to cross load a carabiner? The guide to using a carabiner safely!

Not many other pieces of hardware are so crucial for climbing like the carabiner. No matter if you tie into your harness, build an anchor or connect safety devices for belaying or rappelling – carabiners are use everywhere. They are the one piece of metal in climbing, used to connect ropes and slings, ropes with other ropes – basically everywhere where you want a quick method of connection or moving rope is involved. But what does it mean to cross load a carabiner? Short answer: Every carabiner has a main load direction. To cross load a carabiner means to put a force on it that is rotated 90 degree from the main loading direction. The carabiner is usually much weaker in this other direction. It breaks easier in this direction. I’ll also show you what to avoid, and give some more tips regarding hardware safety.
Most modern carabiners are so easy to use that it’s almost impossible to mess it up if you have basic training. But keep in mind, margins for error are little if you screw up. A  failing carabiner means a potentially fatal problem. One thing you must avoid at all costs is cross loading.

How a rock climbing carabiner works

Engineers design rock climbing carabiner to take loads along one certain axis. This axis is very near to the Arrow pointing up and down in the figure below. We call this line “spine” of the carabiner. This is the direction where the carabiner can withstand the strongest force. If you load it in any other direction, it will be weaker.
You will find how strong it is in this main direction as a marking on the carabiner. The marking includes an arrow that points in the direction of this spinal loading direction. The unit used for these markings is kilo-Newton which equals thousands of Newtons, abbreviated kN. 1 kN equals roughly 225 pounds of force.
To give you an example: 1 Newton equals the force you need to accelerate a block of steel of 1 kg at a rate of 1 meter per second squared. If you accelerate a person of 100 kg at a rate of 10 meter per second squared, it gives 1 kN. 10 meter per second squared is roughly the acceleration on earth when you hang something to the carabiner dangling in the air.
Theoretically, you could use a carabiner that is rated to 22 kN to hold a weight of around 2000 kg – or 2 metric tons. Sounds a lot right? But, keep in mind, if this weight falls free for some time, the forces are much higher, so this is just a theoretical value.

What it means to cross load a carabiner – detailed explanation

Now lets discuss a cross load. The middle picture shows a cross load. Any force in this direction is marked on the carabiner with a left right arrow. A carabiner can usually  take a considerably smaller load in this rotated direction than in the main loading direction. It comes down to the   design of the carabiner: In this direction, there is less material to support the load.

The gate of the carabiner takes some load too, even if you load the carabiner in the main direction. And that’s why you will find another symbol on the carabiner for this. It indicates the possible load when the gate is open. It’s usually much less than with a closed gate, as an open gate cannot load force.

The gate is also part of the reason why the maximum loading force for a a crossload is so low. For the case that the force pulls inwards, the gate is only held in place by the locking sleeve and nothing else. And as a carabiner is only as strong as it’s weakest part, it means you have a low strength when load goes in this direction. It’s higher when you load outwards, as the locking sleeve and the gate itself pushes against the rest of the carabiner in this case.

What does it mean to cross load a carabiner
Three types of carabiner loading: Correct, Crossloading and Tri-Axis loading

Other bad loading scenarios: Tri-Axial loading and nose-hooked carabiners

Another weak point of a carabiner is when you load in directions completely away from the spine. You can find this scenario in the right picture. It’s described in more depth here. The load a carabiner takes in this direction can be even weaker than a cross load. The same applies to the so called nose-hooked carabiner.

What’s a nose-hoked carabiner?

What does it mean to cross load a carabiner
Nose-hooked carabiner – Source: Black Diamond

A nose-hooked carabiner happens when your contact point squeezes open the gate at the nose of the carabiner. It’s a really bad situation, which can result inf carabiners failing at less then 10% of their rated closed gate strength. For our example this is around 227 kg of a load hanging in free air. Source here. This amount of force can happen if you have even just a small fall or bounce test

Why is a nose-hooked carabiner so bad?

Why is the carabiner’s breaking strength all of a sudden so low when nose-hooking it? It’s because this scenario combines an open gate with the design of the carabiner and a weird position for the force to attack. By putting load on it now, you basically create a cantilever that pulls the carabiner basket off of the bolt hanger.

As the load is not in line with the spine axis, which is the main direction to load the carabiner, the carabiner becomes excessively twisted and torque builds up in the material. It then breaks at the weakest point, which is the upper part like shown in the picture.

What does it mean to cross load a carabiner
Broken carabiner due to nose-hooking. Source: Black Diamond.

 

Tips to use a carabiner safely to avoid cross-loading and other dangerous loads

If you want to be safe, you must avoid the scenarios from above. Focus on two things:

1 . Always ensure that the carabiner has a closed gate when it is loaded

If you have a screwing lock sleeve, make sure to screw it closed when you place the carabiner. Make also sure that you have no rope etc. wound up around the screw – it could accidentally open the carabiner. If you use a screw-lock carabiner on your belaying device, make sure to turn the screw lock side away from moving parts – aka your hands handing in or out the rope. For non-screw carabiners, place the carabiner in a way that loads are not opening the gate.

2. Place the carabiner correctly in the direction of the load

This makes sure to avoid loading it from more than one direction. Never load the carabiner in opposite directions, try to avoid tri axis loading as much as possible. If you build equalized anchors, try to move the anchors as close together as possible to minimize off-axis loading

3. Never place a loaded carabiner on an edge or ledge

Placing a carabiner on  a ledge will basically break the carabiner with the force of the ledge pushing against it, creating lots of torque and twist.

4. Avoid bulky knots around the carabiner

Bulky knots can lead to off-axis loading too, if you want to know more about it read here.

Conclusion

If you liked this article, make sure to read my other articles about top rope anchors, how to built perfect anchors, the best climbing shoes of 2020, and why should always wear a helmet when rock climbing. Feel free to leave me a comment too, if you have suggestions and ideas.

Categories
Bouldering Climbing Reviews

Best Climbing Shoes for 2020 for Boulderers and Climbers

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

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.

Velcro

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Lace

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Slipper

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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:

Leather

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.

Important Considerations

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.

Synthetic

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.

Hybrid

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!

SCARPA Veloce climbing shoe (Unisex)

 

best climbing shoes for 2020
Scarpa Veloce

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.

Check prices on Amazon

Pros

  • Downturned beginner shoe – one of the rare ones!
  • Comfortable even for beginners
  • Good for overhangs and boulder problems

Cons

  • No cons known yet


Mad Rock Vision

best climbing shoes for 2020
Mad Rock Vision

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.

Pros

  • 3D molded
  • Inner sock

Cons

  • No cons known yet

La Sportiva Cobra 4:99

best climbing shoes for 2020
La Sportiva Cobra 4:99

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.

Check prices on Amazon.

Pros

  • Comfortable and good for speed climbing
  • Super soft

Cons

  • Less pronounced heel

La Sportiva Genius

best climbing shoes for 2020
La Sportiva Genius

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.

Check prices on Amazon.

Pros

  • Supportive and very sensitive
  • Offset lacing style for a glove-like fit
  • Most excellent edging performance

Cons

  • Very Expensive

Black Diamond Momentum

best climbing shoes for 2020
Black Diamond Momentum

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.

Check prices on Amazon.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Cheap
  • Sizing is not a problem

Cons

  • Less sensitive

Butora Across

best climbing shoes for 2020
Butora Across

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!

Check price on Amazon.

Pros

  • This is available in two types: narrow blue and wide orange
  • Amazing toe hooking prowess due to the integrated sticky rubber uppers
  • Good price

Cons

  • Less sensitive
  • Too much space in the heel

La Sportiva Tarantula

best climbing shoes for 2020
La Sportiva Tarantula

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.

Check price on Amazon

Pros 

  • Reasonable
  • Symmetrical shape
  • The flat style keeps your feet in a calm position

Cons

  • Too soft
  • Not an accurate fit

Take the Time to Do Research

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.

Keep on reading our other review for the best climbing pants for 2020, and our post that shows you how to build a  hangboard set up inside your apartment without drilling walls.

 

 

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Climbing and bouldering hand care – how to tape flappers to the palm?

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

how to tape flappers
I would not recommend to use household 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

how to tape flappers
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, get some Dermabond. At least it’s made for animal skin!

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.

Categories
Climbing

How many falls can a climbing rope take?

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

  1. If you lay safety, try to avoid bends in the rope as much as possible, as long as you can safely position protection gear.
  2. Make sure to protect your stance with multiple runners on multi-pitch routes
  3. Learn how to build proper stances, according to physics and law of force distribution
  4. 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
  5. Don’t leave out clips when you go sport climbing!!
  6. 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

5-10 falls is the typical number of falls a rope can take. If you take longer falls, mark it somewhere in your climbing notebook, and make a mental note after more than 5 big falls to maybe replace the rope at some point. If you liked this article, write a comment. Feel free to have a look at some of our other gear-related articles. We reviewed the top climbing pants of 2020, tested the La Sportiva Tarantulace, a great beginner and allrounder shoe and have a cool guide to build a hangboard setup without drilling any walls in your home.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing Reviews

Best Climbing Pants 2020: The Top 16 for 2020!

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!

UPDATE

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

Short Facts:

  • 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

Pros

  • suitable for any type of climbing, bouldering
  • very durable and breathable
  • stretch a lot, thus comfortable
  • belt included
  • price is reasonable
  • dry quick, robust and abrasion-resistant
  • ventilation top notch

Cons

  • 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

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • best for any type of outdoor climbing, bouldering
  • most breathable pants in the test
  • large thigh pocket
  • cheaper price
  • lightweight and comfortable, almost like wearing nothing
  • surprisingly warm
  • ventilation top notch

Cons

  • style is not super fashionable

Best looking and fashionable climbing pant: Prana Axiom Jeans

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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
  • no reinforced knees
  • no length adjustment possible

Patagonia Venga Rock Pant

Short Facts:

  • Material: 73% organic cotton, 24% polyester, 3% elastane
  • 5 Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear, 1 side
  • Weight: 408 g (14.4 oz)

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.

Pros

  • Great mobility and flexibility
  • Reinforced knees
  • Good pockets
  • Gusseted crotch area
  • Breathable
  • Toothbrush holder loop is practical
  • Robust and comfortable

Cons

  • No ankle cinch
  • Pretty expensive

So Solid Leggings

Short Facts:

  • Material: 78% RECYCLED polyamide
  • No Pockets
  • 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!

Pros

  • stretchiest pant we reviewed
  • abrasion resistant for a leggings
  • you will make new weird friends when you wear them
  • gusseted crotch
  • warm for being so thin
  • suitable for indoor climbing and bouldering

Cons

  • 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

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Arcteryx Gamma pant: Great but expensive

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • Perfect for alpine and trad climbing
  • Mobility is great
  • Warmth is suitable
  • Gusseted crotch and integrated belt
  • Weatherproof
  • Chalk bag loop

Cons

  • very expensive
  • heavy

Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Pant

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Best winter pants: Mountain Hardwear Yumalino pants

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • best  for trad and alpine climbing
  • very warm
  • comfy soft lining
  • durable weatherproof exterior
  • reinforced knees

Cons

  • too heavy and warm for summer climbing or bouldering
  • expensive

La Sportiva Talus Rock Climbing Pant

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Functional and good looking: La Sportiva Talus
Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • comfortable
  • elastic and adjustable waist
  • integrated loops and sleeves for brush and chalk-bag
  • reinforced knees
  • gusseted crotch

Cons

  • expensive
  • no ankle cinch

La Sportiva Arco Pant

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Roomiest pant we tested: La Sportiva Arco

Short Facts:

  • 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!

Pros

  • foldable waist
  • reinforced knees
  • toothbrush pocket
  • awesome ankle cinch
  • gusseted crotch
  • roomy and comfortable
  • breathable

Cons

  • not warm at all
  • not water-resistant
  • not great for trad and alpine climbing

Ucraft Xlite Climbing Pants

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Reasonably price: Ucraft Xlite Climbing pants

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • reasonable price
  • gusseted crotch
  • integrated chalk bag loop and toothbrush sleeve
  • stretchy material
  • breathability good
  • low price alternative to Gamma or Arco pants

Cons

  • 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

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Topo Designs Climb pants

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • stretchy cotton-lycra blend
  • integrated belt with chalk bag loop
  • gusseted crotch
  • enough pockets
  • breathable and lightweight
  • warm enough for longer trad climbs

Cons

  • 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

best climbing pants 2020

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • excellent looking fabric, almost like wearing slacks
  • reflective stripes inside calves, great for cyclists when rolling them up
  • good weatherproofing
  • good warmth
  • velcro thigh pockets and zipped back pockets

Cons

  • mobility not as good as other technical pants due to stiffer material
  • fabric not super comfortable

E9 Rondo Slim

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Personal favorite: E9 Rondo Slim

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • great mobility and comfort
  • lightweight
  • breathable
  • cheap
  • ankle cuffs work really well
  • durable fabric

Cons

  • 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

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Patagonia RPS Rock Pant

Short Facts:

  • Material: 52% nylon, 48% polyester
  • Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear, 1 zip thigh
  • adjustable waist
  • 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.

Pros

  • mobility good, but not perfect
  • breathability good, but not perfect
  • durable fabric

Cons

  • 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

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Black Diamond Notion: Sweat Pants for climbers

Short Facts:

  • Material: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
  • Pockets: 2 hip, 2 rear
  • Drawstring elastic waistband
  • Elastic cuffs

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.

Pros

  • mobility really nice
  • comfortable

Cons

  • 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

Best Climbing Pants 2020
Carhartt Dungaree Work Pant: Not made for climbing

Short Facts:

  • 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.

Pros

  • cheapest pants
  • durable, as it’s a working pant

Cons

  • 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.

1. Flexibility

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.

2. Breathability

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.

3. Durability

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.

4. Comfort

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.

Gusseted crotch

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.

Cuff system

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.

Summary

Here are the best climbing pants with their score:

Happy climbing!

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Climbing – how to project

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.

Step 2: Get rid of your ego

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.

More tips

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.

Conclusion

Working on projects to redpoint is necessary when you become a better climber. Keep yourself motivated, and follow the mentioned tips, and sooner than you think you’ll be able to climb harder routes than ever. Read my other guides about training like the post about edging, how to prepare for climbing and bouldering and my post about systematic training for people if you have a busy schedule.

Categories
Climbing

Cimbing: Are Belay Glasses Worth it? How to use them right to reduce neck strain while belaying.

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.

Are Belay Glasses Worth it
Working principle of belay glasses: total reflection of light. Source: Wikipedia.

 

The Solution

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.

are belay glasses worth it
Y&Y Vertical Glasses – made from a high-quality steel frame, cost around 80$

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$.

are belay glasses worth it
Y&Y Plasfun Basic Belaying Glasses – less than 50$, work great, frame is a bit bulkier than the more expensive models

Conclusion

Hope you found this post helpful if you like it leave a comment and make sure to check out some of my other articles like my review of the classic climbing shoe La Sportiva Tarantulace, my DIY portable hangboard setup guide without drilling holes in your apartment, and why you should take your kids rock climbing.