So you want to start climbing… Now what?

So you want to start rock climbing at your local gym but you’re not sure what to do or where to start: What clothes do I wear? What shoes do I wear? What do I bring? How strong do I have to be? How fit do I have to be? Well, here are all of your questions answered!

Clothing: Just go ahead and empty out your Amazon shopping cart right now. You do not need any of that fancy athletic wear from Patagonia or North Face (unless you really want it). You can wear clothing (normal or athletic) that you would wear for other physical activities: t-shirts, basketball shorts, sweatpants, athletic leggings… You want your clothes to allow you to move, stretch, and bend because you will be doing a lot of those things.

Shoes: No fear if you do not own your own climbing shoes. Climbing gyms will often have climbing shoes that you can rent for a small fee in addition to your participation fee. My only suggestion is to bring socks. While many gyms spray out rental shoes with an anti-fungal foot spray, you don’t know whose little piggies have been stewing in those shoes before they were handed to you. “What if I want to climb in my sneakers?” you ask. Climbing gyms have different policies when it comes to climbing in non-climbing specific shoes, so I would call the gym you plan on visiting before hand. My advice, though, is to use the their rentals over your sneakers: climbing-specific shoes make climbing easier. Trust me on this one.

Gear: In line with shoes, the gym that you visit should have all the necessary gear that you need for climbing (likely for another small fee). This includes a harness, a belay device, and a chalk bag.

Physical Abilities: A lot of people think they need to be very strong to start climbing, but the truth is that you don’t even have to be able to do half a pull up. Sure, being able to do 20 pull-ups would make certain parts of climbing easier, but it is not a required skill to have. I couldn’t even do one pull up before I started climbing, and three years later I have only successful completed seven pull-ups. Once. Just remember, you have these two long sticks coming out of your hips. They’re called legs, and they have supported you your entire life. Don’t forget about them now.

On a similar note, you do not have to be able to complete a 7 minute mile to rock climb. While good cardiovascular fitness will make climbing easier, it is not mandatory.

Come as you are! Bring a friend to learn and climb with. By the end, you will likely be sweaty and your forearms will definitely be sore, but you won’t regret it. Probably. I hope.


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