When I go climbing with my friends we camp and car pool to keep costs down. This approach works well for everyone but has a downfall. The downfall is the amount of space available for camping gear once the climbing gear and boulder mats and essential camping gear like tents have been packed. Most of the time comfort items like camping seats are left behind. For a short weekend no seat is fine, but for a longer outing a seat makes a big difference.
I am unfortunately still struggling with a neurological problem that has greatly affected how much I am capable of doing. I refuse to sit on the side line so we have learnt how to cater for my condition out at the crag. To cater for my condition we have had to purchase two new pieces of equipment. I now make use of walking poles and a compact fold away seat.
The star of the show has been the seat. I have been amazed at how well the little £18 seat we purchased has handled. I am 6’3” and weigh 96kgs and take this little seat everywhere. I have used it for hrs on end in many different locations and terrain and it has performed brilliantly.
The initial idea was to purchase a cheap light seat that I could use on a climbing trip to Spain and if it broke, well we only wasted £18. In reality it has been a brilliant purchase. The quality of the seat is actually good and is a lot stronger and more comfortable than I thought it would be. It is easy to assemble and folds into a small case that fits nicely into my climbing pack. The case also has many loops to fix the seat to your pack with a carabiner or two if you don’t have space in your pack.
I can only vouch for the seat we purchased which is made by OUTAD, but looking around there are many different options out there. A couple of different options I have found are below.
In summary the cost of one of these small compact seats is negligible and will provide a little comfort at the camp site after a long day’s climbing. I highly recommend getting a similar seat. I am sure you will find as found that it is of great use and that many other people have started taking a little comfort to the crag.
I assume you want to know how to build a climbing wall in your garden or you are thinking about building one in your garden. A couple years ago my wife and I decided to build a climbing wall in our garden as a birthday present for our son. The aim was to build a wall that the whole family could use and not break the bank in process. We managed to achieve the build requirements and have a wall in the garden to train on. Our wall has been up for over two years and has weathered the elements well.
The aim of this article is to take you through the process we went through to show you how we build our climbing wall for less than £300. I hope you will gain some good knowledge and ideas on how to build a climbing wall of your own.
The design of the wall is the most important aspect of the whole project. The design you choose influences almost every aspect of the build, in particular safety and cost. We spent a lot time on the design, coming up with a number of designs to try and minimise costs. I was surprised to see how much the overall cost changed per design. The designs I thought would be more cost effective often weren’t when we calculated the cost to build.
A good place to start is to get some ideas and information from what other people have done. The internet is great place to see what other people have done, feeding your creative mind. We had a location for the wall in mind before starting the process. By looking at what other people had done we suddenly had a number of potential areas to build a wall that we had previously discounted as a potential location for a climbing wall. It is easy to get carried away by what other people have done and come up with an elaborate wall that will never become a reality because it is too difficult or costly to begin. So focus on ideas that are achievable.
To gain more knowledge I purchased a book on building climbing walls at home and read as much as I could on the internet to get a good idea of what to consider when building a climbing wall.
The book I purchased was Home Climbing Gyms and I found it to be of great help. When researching books about building a home climbing wall, I found this book to be mentioned a lot and recommended as a good book. Below are a number of books available to help design and build a climbing wall at home.
Once you know what you think you can achieve in the potential locations you have for a wall you need to choose a location. We had two locations we could realistically choose from. One was to build an outside shed to house the wall and the other was to make use of the Garage wall. We did some quick cost calculations and discounted the shed or any other idea we had to build boulders in the garden due to cost or practical reasons regarding space and safety.
Measuring the area where the wall will be build is critical to making sure the build is successful. We spent a lot of time making sure the measurements were correct and we spent lots of time ensuring we knew what fixings we could use and the type of materials we could use. Apart from making sure you have the location measurements correct you need to make sure you know the measurements of the different materials available to you. For example an 8×4 foot ply wood sheet varies in size by 15 to 20 mm depending on supplier and grade of ply board. This variation could make a big difference is you decide to change grade of board or supplier making your build fail.
Draw the Design
Being an engineer this was a natural step. I used autocad and made a number of drawings for different designs showing all the details required for the build. If you don’t have autocad you can use Google Sketchup or draw the design on paper as accurately as you can. Some the initial ideas we had regarding how to build the wall had to be changed because the drawings I made showed you couldn’t build the wall how we had envisioned. I also found the drawing to help with the costing of the wall and helped my wife visualise the build plan.
The choice of materials you can choose from to build a climbing wall is vast, and each variation of each material can have a substantial variation in cost. We had a stash of ply board we got for nothing that we were planning to use. However the variation in size and thickness meant that we would have to purchase one less of new board to complete the build with free ply verses using all new ply. When looking at the thickness of board we need to match the free boards it landed up being cheaper to purchase thinner new ply board for the whole build.
If cost is not an issue then marine grade ply is probably the best ply to use. However the cost of marine ply is much greater than CDX ply for example. When we were building our wall we found that the cost to build a wall with a steep overhang was much more than the costs involved in building the wall we build. Our wall slopes enough to ensure you engage your core to be able to climb, but doesn’t slope so much that the grade of ply is crucial to safety. Hence we decided to use CDX and use paints / stains to protect the ply from the weather.
The more elaborate you design the more the framing will cost you. Due to our wall being outside the cost to use the pressure treaded wood to make the frame was prohibitive. Framing material looks cheap but when you work out how much you need it becomes a significant cost, and any joint results in an increase in fixings costs. The size of our wall meant that the amount framing materials wasn’t enough to warrant purchasing a bulk batch of framing wood. The reduction of cost for a bulk purchase didn’t pay off. Instead we went for 8 foot long 2 x 8 inch pressure treated boards that were cut in half and then feathered to create the frame and provide some overhang.
Fixings are expensive and vary greatly in cost depending of where they are suitable to be used. Our wall is outside in the elements hence our fixings cost more than those that would be required for an inside build. All our fixings were either EZP coated or Stainless to ensure they would handle the elements.
You will need many Tbolts. They basically come in two forms, ones that have a retaining screw and those that don’t. We went for the ones that don’t have the retaining screw, making sure that we used a good amount of glue and hammered them in correctly. We found them to be sold in Qtys of 500 or 1000pcs. Due to the size of our wall, 1000 was too many and 500 pcs weren’t enough to fill a complete board with T Bolts. So we purchased a box of 500 and only placed T bolts in the upper two thirds of each board. We only use small screw on holds for the feet so haven’t had an issue with a third of the board not having TBolts. Drilling the holes for the bolts is not easy and a time consuming process, so a reduction in TBolts reduces build time and costs without affecting the functionality of the wall.
Painting the wall adds cost, so I would only paint the wall if you need to protect the wall from the weather or you have used a lower grade ply like CDX indoors. In case we used CDX and the wall is outside so we had to paint the wall. We didn’t look very far for a product. Ronseal produces paints / stains used to protect fences and sheds at a reasonable cost. We did get a sample pot of each colour to test before buying the larger pots for the build. Make sure you shop around for the paint, we found ours in one store for 15% less than other stores. The great thing with this ronseal product is that is soaks into the ply without adding a layer to the surface of the ply. After two years the wall is in good condition and still being protected.
The choice of holds you can get is massive. Before buying holds new, ask your climbing centre if they have holds to sell. Lots of centres sell their used holds to customers very cheaply making it a good opportunity to reduce costs. The down side is that you are most likely not going to be able to get the range of holds you require make a decent set on your wall as the smaller holds usually break over time and hence the centre sells the jugs that are left. We purchased our holds from Holdz who provided a very good service and gave us some complementary extra holds. Be careful when choosing your holds. Holds are often sold as a set and size of hold. We found it quite difficult to choose the right size of hold and actually went to our local climbing centre who use the same holds to find out what size they had purchased to make sure we knew what we were buying. We also purchased a set competition feet screw on folds from holds for the harder routes we have on the wall. The remaining holds we purchased from amazon to fill the wall and to provide a range of grip surfaces. Click here to view a customised list of climbing holds at amazon.
Crash mats are key making a climbing wall safe. Some people use mattresses or make bespoke mats for their walls. If you go climbing outdoors you will most likely have a boulder mat or two. We use our boulder mats for our wall. I was building an indoors wall I would look to use outdoors boulder mats for the indoors wall. It doesn’t only make the wall safe, but also provides place to store the mats and an easy way to lift the mats should you need to use the floor. Click here to view the selection of crash mats at Craggear.com
How We Built Our £300 Climbing Wall
The wall we built is below. It took a couple days to complete and proved to be a fun project. We have had great fun using the wall. One of the questions we couldn’t answer when building the wall was how much we would use it, and hence were apprehensive re spending a lot of money. The answer post building the wall is that we don’t use it as much we would have liked. What we have found is that we use the good weather where you can use the wall to go climbing out doors. So I am glad we spent the least amount possible. Having said that the wall has been worth building. It is great fun resetting the wall and making new routes while having a family BBQ and it does provide and area to train when there isn’t enough time to go the centre to train. It appears to be weathering well so we will get our money’s worth by the time it needs to be taken down.
Creating the Feathered Boards
The 2 x 8 inch boards were cut in half at the lumber yard making them easy to transport and work with. I created the feathered boards by screwing a plywood jig to the 2 x 8 inch board that allowed me to guide the board through my table saw creating the feathered board. I then matched them up to create pairs. Each pair was then bolted together with three coach bolts.
I then measured the length of the narrow end of the feathered boards and then trimmed a section off a 3 x 2 board, leaving the board wider than the narrow section of the feathered board by the thickness of the plywood sheets to be used for the wall. We then used 150mm long rawl bolts to fasten the base board to the concrete floor.
Fixing Feathered Boards to the garage wall
The feathered boards are fastened to the wall with threaded bar that goes through the wall. To do this I placed the feathered board on the wall and measured where I needed to drill a hole for the threaded bar. Before drilling the hole through the boards I used a spade bit to create a recess for the nuts and washer. I used two nuts and once tightened against each other I bent the threads over to make sure they could come undone.
We used CDX 4 x 8 foot ply sheets for the wall. The wood used to make CDX ply sheets isn’t as dense as the wood used for marine ply, making it a softer ply than marine ply. Before you start drilling holes for T Bolts you need to make sure you select the side of the sheet you want to be the face of the wall. This is very important as it is almost impossible to avoid breakout while drilling the holes for the T Bolts. To try and avoid breakout we laid each sheet on the floor on top of a sacrificial sheet of ply and used the sharpest drill bit we could find and drilled at the fastest speed our drill could do. The trick is to drill the holes at 90 degrees to the surface of the ply wood. To do this to a level of accuracy that doesn’t affect the fitting of the T Bolts requires some skill. My wife wasn’t able to do it well enough so I had to drill all the holes. The holes need to be accurate so if you know you won’t be able to do it purchase a jig like this one to help.
Placing T Bolts
We used T Bolts that don’t have a retaining screw, so they have to be placed and then hammered in. This also requires a level of skill with a hammer. It is easy to hit the T Bolts in skew and if you don’t correct it quickly you could be left with a hole that doesn’t have enough material around it to hold a bold once replaced. Hence the need to avoid tear out as much as possible. Make sure you have a firm area to place the board when putting the T Bolts in. This is to reduce the amount the board jumps when hitting a bolt in, reducing the chance of displacing bolts that have already been place in the board.
Placing boards on the wall
We then held the boards against the feathered uprights and used EZP coated screws to fast the boards. To prevent the base of the board moving a strip of wood was fastened to the base bar in line with the feathered boards.
To finish the wall I placed a strengthening strip along the top of the wall to provide strength to the top and to provide a place to fasten the wood used to close the wall against the elements. We then painted the wall and sealed the open edges of the ply with epoxy resin.
Below are some pictures of the wall to show how much it has weather over the past two years.
The aim of this article is to cover as many aspects of belay devices to help beginner climbers make an informed first purchase and to help more experienced climbers to choose the best belay device to compliment there current gear.
To start with it is imperative to think of the belay device and the carabiner used with the belay device as one. As a unit they provide a critical safety element to rock climbing. The performance of many belay devises varies according to which end of the carabiner is used to provide the friction surface and the cross-sectional profile of the carabiner.
There is a wide range of belay devices and carabiners to choose from, and as many different scenario’s where one combination of devices will be more suitable than another.
Before choosing a device that suits you let’s talk about belaying.
Standardise Your Belay set-up process
Always use the same procedure when setting up your belay device. To illustrate what I mean I will describe what I do. I always store my belay device on the right hand side of my harness when I am not using it. When I take my device off my harness to use it I use my right hand, ensuring that the spine of the carabiner is in the palm of my hand. That leaves the gate side on the left hand side allowing my fingers to open the gate to remove my belay device. I then clip the carabiner onto the belay loop of my harness and push it forward ensuring the belay loop is at the narrow end of the carabiner. I then put the rope through the belay device and clip it to the carabiner. I then tighten the screw gate, making sure that the dead end of the rope comes out the bottom of the belay device. I then build some redundancy into the set-up by either tying a stopper knot at the end of the dead end of the rope or by tying the dead end of the rope to my harness with a figure eight and stopper not creating a closed system. Finally I perform a buddy check with the climber to ensure both parties are happy that the set-up is correct and safe before the climber starts climbing. It is easy to be distracted when setting your belay device up and make a potentially fatal mistake. Following a standard well practiced procedure builds an element of safety into your climbing when you reach the point where complacency tends to creep in.
Carabiners for Belaying
The shape and design of carabiners means that they can take a much greater load / force across their length than their width. Once a carabiner is set-up and loaded the chance of it being cross loaded (having force applied across its width) reduces. For cross loading to occur the carabiner will need to move.
Types of Carabiners
There are many different types of carabiners to choose from and can be broadly split into locking and non-locking. A locking carabiner must be used when belaying. Locking carabiners come in a variety of designs and use a number of methods to ensure the gate will not open when belaying. Some locking carabiners have additional design aspects aimed at reducing / mitigating the potential safety risks caused by movement. I am pro any device that utilises a poke-yoke (only fits one way) style approach to reduce potential risk. As a result I use a
black diamond gridlock screwgate carabiner for my belay set-up. It is very difficult to set-up incorrectly and easily noticed if it has been set-up incorrectly. To me that is good, I have a level of inherent safety build into by belay set-up.
Below are some examples of carabiners that are designed for belaying.
Belay devices can be split into three categories, Traditional, Assisted breaking and Non-assisted breaking.
Traditional belay devices
These include devices like a figure of eight and devices that are usually associated with abseiling or repelling. It is worth noting that most climbing gyms will not allow you to use a one of these devices to belay a climber.
Below are some examples of traditional belay devices.
Assisted breaking belay devices
These devices include devices like the gri gri and the click-up. This is the area of the market where the new advances have been taking place with new products being released. Over the past couple years we have seen new devices like the gri gri +, wild country revo and the click up released. It is also worth noting that assisted breaking devices usually more complex and more expensive than non-assisted and traditional devices. As with most things in life, complexity increases the difficulty / skill needed to operate the device. The more complex belay devices are initially more difficult to use, requiring more effort and practice to become competent vs simpler devices.
Below are some examples of assisted breaking devices.
Non-Assisted breaking belay devices
These are the most cost effective and most commonly used devices. They are simple and easy to use. They don’t have any moving parts and hence are very reliable and robust with almost zero chance of failing. The down side is that they don’t have any back-up to them, relying solely on the person belaying to ensure the climber is safe.
Below are some examples of Non-Assisted breaking belay devices
What to consider when choosing a belay device
Climbing environment and belay skills
The correct device for your needs is going to depend on the type of climbing, where you are climbing and your belay skills. Most people start climbing in a climbing gym with top rope and progress to sport or trad climbing outdoors. Conditions change and hence you might want to choose a better suited device for that scenario. For instance you would most likely want to choose an assisted breaking device when your climbing partner is working a route and they are going to be hanging on the rope for extended periods of time. If your climber is climbing a route that is pushing their abilities, where they would rely on a quick smooth supply of rope, you would choose your ATC instead of your Gri Gri. That is if you were more competent using the ATC vs the GriGri. The point I am trying to make is that you will most likely require a variety of devices as you progress with your climbing. Having a choice is convenient but also fills a safety element. You never know when you will require a different kind of device. A good example of this was on our last trip to Margalef in Spain. Margalef is a brilliant climbing area that has two to three day’s rain a month and hardly ever has more than two days of rain in a row. We were blessed with six days in row with rain in the afternoon. On one of the days were caught with four routes up in a heavy down pour of rain. When the rain stopped we had the task of dogging up the routes to retrieve the gear. This would have been almost impossible without the use of a GriGri and a clemheist knot with a carabiner and a foot sling.
Manufacturer guidelines and scope of use
When looking at belay devices it is always a good idea to look at manufactures guidelines for use as they often recommend a carabiner that suites the device you are looking at. It is also a good idea to see if the device is sold with a carabiner as a set. This is a good indicator that the device requires as specific carabiner to operate at its best. Examples of this are the edlerid and the clickup which get sold with and without the recommended carabiner.
Most devices have an indication on them stating the range of rope sizes they work with and often the size they work best with. If you are buying your first belay device I would look at ones that handle the larger rope sizes best. As a beginner most of your climbing will be indoors where the gyms purchase thick durable ropes. The issue is that the gym ropes become miss formed and tend to jam a little when passing through the belay device.
Modes of use
A lot of devices provide a number of modes. They often provide different levels of friction and the ability to use one or two ropes. Some provide the ability to anchor the device and use it in guide mode.
For me I always try to spend the least amount of money for the greatest variation / flexibility of use. Before buying an item I like to try it out / test it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who has a device you are looking to buy if you could have a look at it and have a quick test. Don’t forget to ask them what they like and dislike about the device.
In general it makes sense to use a carabiner that has been designed for belaying where the carabiner is used to provide part of the friction surface. A normal locking carabiner can be used for devices like the GriGri, where the carabiner doesn’t provide a friction surface. The difference is that the hole in the GriGri for carabiner is small enough to restrict the carabiners ability move and be cross-loaded. Below are some examples of carabiners that are designed for belaying.
Belay Devices for beginners
In general I would avoid devices built for one rope only. They don’t provide any flexibility in use apart from two levels of friction and the cost benefit doesn’t out way the lack of flexibility when you’re climbing progresses. A good first belay device is the Black Diamond ATC. It is the first belay device I owned and has been a very good companion. However it does lack a couple modes of use. If I was looking to buy my first belay device again I would buy DMM’s Pivot. It offers all the modes of use with great build quality. The pivot is a little pricey compared to the ATC but not that much more when compared to other devices that provide two levels of friction like the black diamond big air.
Belay Devices for advanced climbers
There aren’t strictly devices for more advanced climbers, just devices that require more skill to use and devices that cater for certain scenarios better than others. The idea is to have a variety of devices with you, allowing you to best cater for the conditions you are climbing in. All the more advance devices can be used by beginners and in some cases it would be advisable to purchase one as a beginner. If you know you’re not going to progress to climbing outdoors and find comfort in having an assisted breaking mechanism then a GriGri might be best for you. The aim for more advanced climbers is to minimise the number of devices you own and maximise the number of scenarios you can cater for. For me this means having a simple robust device like the Pivot by DMM and an assisted breaking device like the GriGri by petzl. The combination of these two devices means that I can cater for almost any scenario both indoors and outdoors. I must admit that some of the newer devices like the click up are tempting, but on closer look they aren’t suited for repelling / abseiling and hence less flexible and less attractive.
Above all you need to purchase a device that works well for you. Being comfortable and competent while belaying is very import. Your primary objective when belaying is the safety of the climber. Knowing your gear and using it properly allows you to focus on the climber making sure they return safely to the ground.
In my opinion Belaying Glasses are worth the expense.
Unlike lots of sports injuries belayer’s neck creeps up on you until you eventually have a constantly sore, stiff and unstable / unbalanced neck. I have experienced belayer’s neck and found that it takes a long while to recover from belayer’s neck. I have unfortunately had to stop climbing for a number of months in order to address a neurological condition that has prevented me from climbing. In the past four months I have found my neck to improve from a condition where I was manipulating / cracking my neck at least hourly, to where I manipulate my neck a couple times a week. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that my neck has improved with a subsequent reduction in time spent belaying.
My wife was experiencing a similar complaint re a stiff and sore neck, so I purchased a pair of belayer’s glasses as a Christmas present for her. My wife takes my son to most of his climbing training which amounts to between four and twelve hours belaying for her a week. She uses her belaying glasses religiously and hardly ever complains about sore neck.
I think a perception of belaying glasses amongst the climbing community is that they are difficult / strange to use and an unnecessary expense.
We have found them to be very useful and easy to use. It doesn’t take very long to get used to them and I find they make a massive difference when you are belaying someone who is working a route. We purchased a pair of Y&Y and have been very happy with them. After a year of use they show very little wear. They came with a good quality case that clips easily to a harness. The case is designed in a way that makes it easy to get the glasses out and put them away.
Belaying glasses won’t suit every belaying situation, so a combination of prevention exercises and using belaying glasses is bound to reduce the strain on your neck and avoid belayer’s neck. There are some good articles on web that should help. This one from The Climbing Doctor is concise and has an easy to follow exercise.
LOOKING FOR A STONG VERSATILE VALUE FOR MONEY CLIMBING PACK?
THEN LOOK NO FURTHER
THE DMM FLIGHT IS A BRILLIANT ALL ROUND PERFORMER
My family and I spend most of our free time climbing. We climb indoors up to three times a week and climb outdoors as much as we can and go on climbing holidays twice a year.
One bag facilitates all my climbing needs regardless of location or type of climbing.
I have had my DMM Flight for three years and think I have used it often enough and long enough to give you a good insight into the pack / bag.
I personally think the bag is brilliant. It is well made and houses all my gear with space for additional items depending the type of climbing and location. It is obviously designed to be used for plane travel for which it fits the brief very well. The overall design makes it versatile to the degree where I leave the bag packed with all my gear. All I do is pick it up and go climbing with minimal additions to the contents when going to climb outdoors.
After years of use my bag shows a small amount wear and tear. The bag is made of a very durable material that has proven to be water resistant / water proof when rain ends a days climbing. It doesn’t stain or spoil easily and always stays clean. It has beading at the base to reinforce areas where the zip needs protection. The padded casing maintains the shape of the bag and aids the overall strength.
This bag comes in three colours, red, green and gray, and for those people that don’t worry about colour the functional look won’t be a problem. However I do believe DMM could benefit from using colors that appeal to a greater audience.
The straps, back support and waist support are padded well and provide adequate protection and comfort. Please note that this pack will not be as comfortable as a well fitted walking / hiking bag. I am over six feet tall and find the pack to fit my frame well. Smaller framed individuals might find the pack less comfortable than I do when carrying a fully loaded pack.
The pack has a water bottle holder, additional straps at the top to strap a rope or jacket on that tuck away when not being used. It also has a helmet flap that tucks away into a zipped compartment when not being used. I personally find the helmet flap to be better than clipping your helmet to the bag. It keeps the helmet still and attaches the helmet to a place where it doesn’t get in the way.
The carrying handles are well place and very strong and the bag has a good sized zipped compartment that can be accessed from the outside. The compartment is big enough to fit some crag roll (toilet paper), my lunch, car keys, spare chalk, finger tape a and any other small items I need to store like lemon sole and climb on balm.
The clam shell design with the zipped mesh compartment in the lid of the bag makes it easy to separate your gear and makes it easy to access what you need. In the base of the bag I store my 60m rope and my size 13 climbing shoes (Shaman Evolve).
The bag has straps to hold the rope in place that I don’t use and a ground sheet to protect your rope. It also has a small zipped compartment to keep valuables in. The yellow space between my climbing shoes fits my BCB cook set making it possible to increase the water I take to 2.5 liters and the ability to make hot food during a cold days climbing. If I don’t take the cook set the space is often used for additional clothing. Usually water proofs and a long sleeved thermal top.
The meshed lid compartment is the perfect size. It has a gear rack to clip all your quick draws, slings, harness, chalk bag and belay devices too. The base of the compartment houses a length of static rope I use for setting out doors top rope climbs up.
It is hard to fault the DMM flight. It is a good strong value for money product that is designed well and should suit most climbers needs. If you are looking for a bag you need to seriously consider the DMM flight.
Having said that, I have two minor flaws with the bag and they are minor.
The first is there isn’t a dedicated place to house a clip stick. This is easily overcome by letting the clip stick poke out of the top of the bag.
The second is that the Zip for the compartment that can be accessed from the outside needs to open in the opposite direction. The reason is that you will most likely use the handles on the side of the bag to place the bag in a locker or pigeon hole for bags at a climbing center. When you go to access the compartment the zip will open from bottom to top allowing loose items to fall out more easily than they would if the zip opened in the opposite direction.
To take part in climbing on a regular basis you will need gear. It is more cost effective to purchase your own gear verses renting gear every time you go to a climbing center. At some stage you will accumulate enough gear to need a bag or a place to store your gear. Choosing the right bag is a task you want to get right. I am not one to spend money, so when I do spend money I like to spend it wisely. For me that means buying a product that is value for money. A product that meets as many of my needs as possible and lasts a long time. It is not always easy to identify the correct product at the purchase stage because value for money often depends on how durable the product is, and how well it suits your needs when using it. I often look at products other people have, and find out as much as I can about what they like and dislike about the product to help identify the right product for me.
Below are the bags my family takes to the crag or climbing center for a days climbing. They all meet our differing needs and have proven to be good purchases.
The bag I use is the red DMM Flight on the left. I didn’t get to purchase the bag, my wife gave it to me as a Christmas gift. At the time I was looking into buying a bag and I had done some research and had found the bags I was researching in the shops to establish their build quality. After touching and feeling the bags I narrowed the list down to the DMM Flight. I was hesitant to purchase due to the cost and not finding anyone that had one of these bags to find out their likes and dislikes and to see how well the bag weathered.
The choice of gear for climbing is extensive and the price of similar items varies greatly from brand to brand. I often come across people who have duplicate pieces of gear and when asking why, they often say they rushed into buying the item and didn’t know enough to make the right purchase for them. The question that follows is usually “What made you buy the item you prefer to use now?”. And most of the time the answer is they used a friends, and found it so much better they went and purchased one.
This is where the climbing community is brilliant. Everyone is friendly and willing to help / give advise, so make use of it. If you see someone using a piece of gear you have been looking to purchase, ask them what they like and dislike. In some instances they might let you test the piece of gear so you can see what it is really like.
A lot of climbing gear is safety critical and made to exacting standards which usually results in a good quality product. Climbers tend to build a trust like relationship with the gear they use, and hence land up trusting the brand. The suppliers work hard to keep this relationship strong and hence produce quality accessories like bags.
So we have a wide choice of quality bags to choose from, which is great. The trick is choosing the right bag. It will ultimately boil down to what suits you best. So lets have a look at some aspects to consider when buying a bag for climbing.
Type of climbing you do / looking to do
Climbing grows on you and as you develop your skills and grow as a climber you will most likely go from just climbing indoors to outdoors and then climbing on holiday. The size of your bag and what it caters for will change.
Try and find a product that can cater for the different types of climbing you do and meet as many needs as possible. For instance my DMM flight caters for all the climbing I do. It is permanently packed, just pick it up and go climbing. I use it for indoors, outdoors, and traveling on a climbing Holiday. The only climbing it doesn’t cater fully for is Trad. I only go trad climbing with friends who have racks so I still use my bag. However I will probably need a different bag when I get my own rack and set of Half Ropes.
You need to get a bag that is big enough to take all you gear. When we were looking for my wife’s bag, color and comfort were top of the list. Hence we went through three different bags being delivered over a number of weeks, and a couple trips to different outdoors stores till she found a comfortable bag that housed all her gear and was an acceptable color. The interesting thing was that all the bags were the same size in liters, but varied greatly in shape. The change in shape made a massive difference with regards to what we could get into the bag. Make sure you test the bag with all your gear. Either take all you gear to the shop to test the bag, or order bags online to test at home and then send it back if it isn’t right.
Compartments / Pouches
Having a number of compartments / pouches to separate items is a must and improves the bags versatility. Have a good look at the bag and make sure you have compartments that are sealed and hard to get to that can only be accessed from the inside, and ones that can be accessed from the outside. Are there pouches for specific items like water bottles, helmets, clip sticks. Are their external arears to attached spare ropes or clothes.
Comfort is more important if you are going to go and climb outdoors. Extra clothes, food and water for a whole day’s climbing makes your bag much heavier. The last thing you want is an uncomfortable pack when walking to and from the crag. A weekends climbing with my friends comprises going to a couple crags each day for two to three days in a row. A comfortable bag makes a massive difference on a long walk to and back from the crag. Make sure the bag has lumbar support, a waist strap and adjustable shoulder straps with good padding.
Climbing gear can be expensive and after a while requires replacement. I try to avoid spending lots of money on non safety critical gear. So find a bag that suits as many of your criteria as possible for leased amount of money. Then decide based on the frequency of use if it is better to purchase a more expensive bag that is built better in the hope that it will last longer.