After hanging out inside, you've decided that it's time.
Say goodbye (at least for a weekend) to those plastic holds and hello to that unforgiving porous rock.
The world of outdoor bouldering is exhilarating, offering climbers the chance to work some of the most iconic problems for hours, days, or months on end. It'll make your indoor climbing self question the grading system and your entire identity, but as soon as you leave the crag, you'll already be planning your next trip back.
It's fun out here, we promise.
But before you hit the boulders, it's essential to gear up properly. Use this guide as a starting point to navigate all the must-have pieces of equipment you will need as a first-time outdoor boulderer.
1. Climbing Shoes
Chances are you already have a pair of these guys and whatever you have is most likely fine. Some climbers like to have separate pairs of indoor and outdoor climbing shoes since the outdoor ones can get a little grimey. Some even have specific warm up shoes that they can blow through and "send" shoes that stay a bit more pristine for the harder projects. Either way, make sure don't show up at the crag without 'em!
Pro tip: Try to keep your soles as clean (aka dirt-free) as possible when you're climbing. You can put a little carpet patch or rag next to the crash pad to wipe your shoes or simply take off your shoes in between burns. Doing so will help extend the life of your shoe and also increase your chances on a cleaner send.
2. Crash Pad
A crash pad is non-negotiable when it comes to outdoor bouldering. These cushioned mats provide a safe landing zone should you fall, helping to prevent injuries.
There are a ton of different styles all varying in size, thickness, fold type, weight, and color. This guide is super helpful in deciding what kind of crash pad you'll need. They can be pretty expensive so we always recommending going with a group where you can all contribute a pad to make it as safe as possible!
3. Chalk and Chalk Bag
No one likes climbing with sweaty palms (and trust, it gets really heady outdoors)! Chalk helps to absorb moisture, and a chalk bag attached to your waist ensures you can re-chalk mid-climb.
We recommend starting with a base layer of liquid chalk if you get really sweaty and then chalking up as normal when needed. Need a chalk bag rec? Well, don't mind if we do... these are our faves!
4. Skin Repair Cream
Bouldering can be tough on your hands and those finger pads. A good skin repair cream can help heal small cuts and abrasions and keep your skin in top climbing condition. We love this Skin Beta Climbing Hand Salve from Sundays With You!
5. Bouldering Brush
A small brush is used to clean chalk and debris off holds, making them easier to grip. Brushes with natural bristles are generally more effective and less damaging to the rock. Brushes come in all different shapes and sizes, so choose the type that calls to you!
Pro tip: If you made any tick marks on the boulder (aka obvious chalk marks to point out key holds, make sure you brush 'em off on your way out.
6. Climbing Tape
Climbing tape can be wrapped around fingers or other joints that are prone to injury or to cover up an impending flapper. The tape acts as extra support and can help you climb even when recovering from minor injuries... note that we said minor! If you've really injured yourself, remember to take some time off to heal.
And if you're always a little bit injured, then maybe this pin was made for you.
7. Hydration System
Staying hydrated is crucial, especially during long bouldering sessions. Plus, if the temps are hot, you're gonna get really thirsty. If the temps are cold, you're going to forget you're thirsty. Having a big jug or water bladder to drink out of will help keep you on track!
Whatever you do, DON'T FORGET THE SNACKS! High-energy snacks like energy bars or trail mix can provide a quick boost when you're out on the boulders. You'll most likely be climbing all day so packing a lunch can be nice, too. We notice that we're more snacky on bouldering days because sometimes eating a big meal can make us feel lethargic. We tend to munch on a energy-boosting snacks and then celebrate with a fun meal in the local area after we're done climbing.
9. First Aid Kit
Although we always hope for an injury-free day out, little things can always happen. A basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers is always good to have on hand for minor injuries or emergencies.
10. Guidebook or App
Make sure you have a local guidebook or app like Mountain Project or Kaya that you review before you head out and have while you are there. These guides can help you navigate the often very confusing crag and provide beta on approaches, parking, routes, closures, and more. All of these things are invaluable for planning your climbing day.
Outdoor bouldering is an exciting but demanding activity that requires the right gear for safety and performance. From the basics like climbing shoes and crash pads to extras like skin repair cream and a good bouldering brush, each item on this list will help you get the most out of your bouldering experience.
Okay, so what are you waiting for?! Let's climb!