Walk into any climbing shop or browse a climbing website and you’ll be confronted with lots of different climbing equipment. Huge amounts of shiny, colourful, anodised and often expensive gear, hanging there just waiting to be purchased. So what equipment do you need when starting out? How do you choose which rock boots to buy and just what is a Gri-Gri?!? Well look no further. Below is a brief introduction to the key pieces of equipment you’re likely to need when starting out in Hong Kong, what they looks like, what they’re used for and what you should ask your local climbing shop or web retailer before spending your hard earned cash.
What you need to get yourself underway for trips to the climbing wall or heading out to the crag with friends who are experienced climbers.
Rock shoes should really be the first piece of equipment that you purchase. The shoes have a special rubber sole that helps the climber to apply maximum friction when climbing, making climbing considerably more enjoyable than trying it in normal sports shoes. The sole of the shoe also has a definite edge cut into it and to some degree a pointed toe. This allows the climber to stand on very small ledges (known as “edging”) or use tiny features for foot holds. Rock shoes are usually worn tighter than normal shoes, with your toes fitting close to the end. This again helps to use small features, whilst giving your feet an excellent “feel” for the hold you are on. You may hear that it’s important to buy rock shoes a size smaller than the shoes you would normally wear, so that your feet are literally crammed in. This is not the case and it’s recommended that the shoes feel tight but comfortable. Rock shoes are generally worn without socks (except rental ones of course).
Rock shoes are available with lace fastening, velcro fastening or slip-on styles. Lace up shoes tend to be preferred by rock climbers because they can be tied very tight, ensuring a really close fitting shoe. Boulderers often prefer a velcro fastening or slippers as this allows them to slip the shoes on and off quickly whilst moving between boulders. Before purchasing a pair of rock shoes, it is vital to try on as many different brands and styles as you can as good fitting shoes will help you progress quicker, not to mention make your climbing a more pleasurable experience.
Recommended brands readily available in Hong Kong include Five Ten, La Sportiva, Evolv and Red Chilli
At first glance, most climbing harnesses look the same. They all consist of two leg loops and a waist loop connected together with a small, fourth, belay loop. This is not actually the case though. Some harnesses are made for regular rock climbing, some for alpine style climbing (e.g. those with detachable leg loops), some harnesses have a lot of padding making them very comfortable to climb in all day long, while others (usually at the budget end of the scale) have considerably less. There are male and female specific designs available as well as many unisex ones. Some harnesses come with a large number of gear loops (usually plastic “D shaped” rings), which are attached to the side of the harness and used to clip your climbing gear onto when climbing.
Before buying a harness it’s important to know if it feels comfortable, you’ll likely be spending considerable amounts of time dangling around in it so it’s worth trying a few harnesses on to see which one feels the most comfortable.
Recommended brands readily available in Hong Kong include Black Diamond and Petzl
Climbers use chalk to keep their hands sweat free and increase their grip on the rock, an import aspect in the heat and humidity of Hong Kong. There are many different versions of chalk bag available on the market today, however they all follow the same principle. They’re usually a hand sized pouch which is attached to the climber and can be used to apply chalk whenever, wherever they are. Most chalk bags have a fleece lining which traps chalk dust and a drawstring closure to stop the chalk from coming out during transit. They are available in different sizes, colours and designs, so take a look around at the shops and websites to find one that suits you.
Chalk bags are often fastened around the waist on a thin belt or can be attached to a belt loop with a small karabiner. Chalk buckets are also available for bouldering. These are large communal chalk bags allowing a number of people to share the same chalk. As most boulder problems are short, the re-application of chalk whilst climbing is not typically required and therefore boulderers often leave their chalk bags on the ground.
Belay devices are the pieces of equipment used control a rope, allowing the belayer to control the speed of the rope simply and efficiently. When used correctly after proper instruction a belay device will allow a lighter climber to control the rope and, when required, the fall of a much heavier climber. Most belay devices work by looping the rope around a series of tight bends. The rope can be paid out or taken in as required. If the climber falls, the rope can be locked (stopped) to prevent the climber from falling any further than the amount of slack rope already paid out. There are many different types of belay device on the market today. The most common are:
ATC Air Traffic Controller is a very popular and inexpensive belay device. It is lightweight, easy to use and allows good control of the rope. Black Diamond also offers a slight variation on the ATC, known as the ATC XP. This offers an increased friction option as well as the standard option available on the regular ATC. In addition there are also a number of other “tube” type belay devices on the market from other manufacturers. These look very similar to the ATC and operate in much the same way.
Gri-Gri The Gri Gri is a belay device which automatically locks in the event of a fall. Because of this it can be slightly harder to pay out the rope, however many climbers are happy to overlook this as the Gri-Gri is a very good belay device. Many indoor climbing walls use Gri-Gri’s when teaching youngster to climb because of the auto-locking feature.
There are many different types of belay device out there. Before buying one, it may be worth trying a few different types out at your local climbing wall or asking a reputable climbing shop to demonstrate the different ones that they stock.
Recommended brands readily available in Hong Kong include Black Diamond and Petzl.
The following equipment is the next batch to consider once you’ve mastered the basics and are keen to put your newly acquired skills to use out on the crag
Modern climbing ropes are made of an inner core consisting of many strands of rope and a protective outer core. Climbing ropes come in a variety of different lengths and diameters, the most common of which are 50m and 60m in length. There are two main types of rope, either dynamic (stretchy) or static (not stretchy). Dynamic ropes are used for rock climbing as the stretchiness of the rope takes some of the strain in the event of a fall. Static ropes are generally used when rope access work, abseiling, or other cases where the climber will not fall on to the rope. Standard rope thickness for ‘sport climbing’ vary between 9.8 to 11 mm, with the thicker ropes commonly proving slightly more durable (but at the expense of extra weight being pulled up a climb).
Each rope comes with a fall rating. This is the manufacturers guide to how many “factor 2” falls you can take on a rope before it requires replacing. The fall factor is worked out using the distance fallen, divided by the amount of rope available to absorb the fall. A factor 2 fall is actually quite a large fall and most climbers would think about retiring a rope after having such a large fall. The rope fall rating is more an indication of the ropes strength, rather than it being an actual guide for use. Before purchasing a rope it is worth considering what type of climbing you are going to use it for, the height of the climbs you wish to try and the conditions that you will climb in. As with all the expensive equipment listed on this site, we recommend you have a chat with your local climbing shop or preferred online retailer to discuss your requirements, before spending your money.
A Quickdraw comprises two clip or wire type karabiners connected together with a length of dynema sling. Quickdraws are used to connect the rope to either the placed protection in trad climbing or a fixed bolt in sports climbing. Quickdraw’s are sold in different lengths that vary depending on the length of dynema between the two karabiners and come in different weights. Multipacks of Quickdraws are available if you wish to purchase these. Bulk buying often works out cheaper than buying them individually, but we would recommend you talk with your local climbing store or online retailer to discuss the type of climbing you intend to do before making a purchase.
5/F & 6/F Oriental House
24-26 Argyle Street
t: +852 2390 0980
2/F, Kin Tak Fung Commercial Bldg
467-473 Hennessy Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
t: +852 2390 0020
Chamonix Alpine Equipment
G/F & 1/F
6A Nelson Street
t: +852 2388 3626, 2384 8190
Hong Kong Mountaineering Training Centre
G/F & 1/F
1K Fa Yuen Street
t: + 852 2770 6746
Mountain Services Ltd.
52–56 King’s Road
North Point, Hong Kong
t: +852 2541 8942
General Outdoor Shops
The Outdoor Shop
Shop 210, 2nd Floor, The Galleria
9 Queen’s Road Central,
Central, Hong Kong
t: +852 2545 9009