As rock climbing continues to explode in popularity, the fastest-growing segment has proven to be bouldering (though ice climbing is popping off too, surprisingly). And for good reason. Bouldering offers the lowest barrier of entry—no harnesses, climbing ropes, or certifications required—and arguably the highest fun-to-cost ratio for novice and experienced climbers alike. The only rock climbing gear you really need is a pair of shoes. No need to own any locking carabiners, quickdraws, cams, slings, pulleys, ascenders, descenders, or even a grigri—or even know what those things are. (Though a well-designed chalk bag and cool climbing pants may help.)
With the explosion of indoor bouldering and sport climbing gyms in cities around the globe, the amount of climbing equipment on the market has compounded, too. We've waded through this sea to pick out the 10 most essential staples every boulderer should have in their kit, whether headed to the gym or local outdoor crag. And yes, boulderer is a word. Don’t let the trad dads tell you otherwise.
Finding the right pair of climbing shoes for you may take some testing (check out our top picks for the best bouldering shoes here) but a good place to start is with a pair from a well respected brand like Five Ten, Scarpa, or La Sportiva. These sleek OG slip-ons from Five Ten are super popular, and for good reason. They're comfortable, hold a toe (and heel) well, and don't require a battle with laces ith velcro. The break-in period short-to-nonexistent, and the Stealth C4 rubber is still sticky dozens of sessions in. SHOP NOW
Used to keep climbers’ hands dry to maximize friction holds, chalk is as important whether you’re pulling on plastic in a gym or working through a multi-pitch route deep in the backcountry (well, even more so for the latter). But not all climbing chalk is created equal. Chalk Cartel's MgCo3 is some of the purest stuff out there. Free of drying agents, fillers, and manufacturer guaranteed sends. The entirety of the packaging is 100% recyclable out of respect to Gaia. SHOP NOW
Unless you're one of those weirdos that uses liquid chalk, you're gonna need a bag or bucket for your chalk. This classic bucket from crunchy climbing brand Organic is our daily driver. Features include a zippered stash pocket, multiple brush loops, and a roll-top design, while rugged 1,000-D Cordura nylon construction ensures it'll last a lifetime of use. Plus the OG brand sews all of their infinitely customizable products in a 100% solar-powered facility in central PA. SHOP NOW
Whether bouldering, sport climbing, or trad climbing, there's nothing worse than sliding off a fully-caked hold and taking a whip. Sure, your local gym might have a couple telescoping handled brushes for hard-to-reach spots, but a quality handheld brush lets you scour crimps and slopers until the friction comes back to life. Not into having 9,000 boar hairs in your kit? No worries, Sublime makes a vegan-friendly brush, too. SHOP NOW
Trad climbers haul special rope bags, but boulderers? A dedicated backpack for your gym gear is a smart move, too—namely to keep gym funk and chalk dust contained. The Street Creek 20L is modeled after big wall haul bags with a drawstring, wide-mouth opening. A padded laptop sleeve is convenient if you've got WFH capabilities for days when you can't stop thinking about your indoor proj.
Petzl Alto Crash Pad, $300
Once comfortable climbing in the gym, try real rock. When bouldering outdoors, you'll need a crash pad, an item that is exactly what it sounds like—a big foam pad designed to break your fall, so you can climb without a climbing harness or belay device—and strong mental fortitude, as an outdoor climbing V1 can often feel tougher than an indoor V4, or worse. The latter is up to you, but trust brands like Metolius, Mammut, Petzl, and Organic for the best of the former. This specific pad gets our pick for its folding taco shaoe, zipper closure, and backpack strap carrying system. SHOP NOW
Your climbing shoes are made for climbing and that's it. They're especially not for trips to the bathroom—please don't be that guy. Recovery slides easily pack into any gear bag, and this pair will treat your feet to some serious cush thanks to their extra cushy maximalist foam footbed.
Pulling on plastic might not be as hard on the skin as real rock, but it can certainly take its toll. This small file is handy for keeping in your kit to sanding down callus buildups and smoothing skin breaks after they occur. After a session, treat your skin to a rich mix of essential oils with the Climbskin balm and rehydrate it ahead of the next sesh. SHOP NOW
Take care of your fingers. Protect your tendons. Take time between attempts. Use these funny little massagers to relieve pressure and promote blood flow when your digits feel well worked over. And extend the life of both your session and your climbing career.
(Generic massagers are also available in bulk via Amazon) SHOP NOW