Bouldering for Beginners – What to Bring?

I’ve talked about bouldering quite a bit over the last six months.

It’s a great alternative to a typical gym, and if you’re interested in learning more about it, this interview I did with climber Guillaume Raymond is an excellent place to start. I ask him many questions, mostly about newbies, and we cover many topics.

One of the topics we touched on was bouldering gear, or rather, to put it another way… as a newbie, what should you bring to the climbing gym?

Your First Time Bouldering

I’m not going to discuss climbing or technique in this post, as there’s enough material to cover many other articles, but instead, focus on the day one essential. You’ve just decided that you want to give bouldering a try, and you’re wondering what to bring.

Bouldering requires very little equipment. Reading my interview, you know that a harness isn’t required. You don’t even need rope or a belay device!

woman bouldering
No messing around here.

You do light and stretchy clothing, ideally garments that will breathe. I tend to wear breathable bamboo tees or dumpy tanks. Not precisely classy dinner wear, but you’re here to climb, not to look your best. Do not wear jeans. I’ve seen a few newbies try that, which makes me cringe. They’re not nearly flexible enough for rock climbing.

My next suggestion is probably the most important, and it’s also the least expensive: water. The first time you go climbing, you’re going to become tired and dehydrated very quickly, guaranteed. I don’t care what your background is, how strong you are, or what sports or activities you’ve done. Your muscles are going to hate you in short order. Bring a big bottle of water and drink it frequently. According to just about everyone, hydrated muscles perform a heck of a lot better than dehydrated ones.

What About Footwear?

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned shoes at all.

I know you’re excited about climbing and want to throw yourself at it 100% and buy a fancy new pair of shoes and bouldering pants, but please… wait. Just about every gym rents out various types of shoes, and since you’re new, I suggest starting with rentals. Climbing shoe styles vary wildly, and because you haven’t climbed yet, you don’t know what shoe will work well for you.

old rock climbing shoes

After you’ve gone for a few sessions, you can pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes.

Other than that, get on the wall and have fun. Climbing is one of my absolute favorite activities, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer.

(Photos by Kiliii Fish, Susanica Tam, and Dru!)



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Chad is the co-founder of Unfinished Man, a leading men's lifestyle site. He provides straightforward advice on fashion, tech, and relationships based on his own experiences and product tests. Chad's relaxed flair makes him the site's accessible expert for savvy young professionals seeking trustworthy recommendations on living well.

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