Must-Have Indoor Rock Climbing Gear Before You Hit the Climbing Gym

Grab These Goods Before Hitting the Indoor Rock Wall

Collage by Laura Williams

Indoor rock climbing is a casual, fun, and challenging activity, and it's a relatively safe way to acclimate yourself to the sport of climbing before harnessing up in the more formidable elements.

While there are no hard and fast rules about what climbers should wear, especially indoors, there are a few things you should consider before hitting the gym. Namely: you should call ahead and ask what gear the gym provides, what they offer to rent, and what you should bring from home. 

With those answers in mind, consider picking up a few of the following items before hitting the wall. 

Good Climbing Shoes


Many rock climbing walls provide climbing shoes for rent. They're sanitized after every use (like bowling shoes), but if you don't like the idea of sharing shoes with... who knows who, then consider buying your own pair. La Sportive offers indoor Oxygym shoes for men and women for $99. They're completely washable and stand up to repeated use, both indoors and out.

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Hand Balm


Just because you're not climbing on actual rock doesn't mean your hands won't take a beating. This Metolius Hand Repair Balm is perfect for cuts, scrapes, and chapped, dry hands. At just $10 from REI, it's a minor investment you'll be glad you purchased.

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A Chalk Bag


Indoor rock gyms will most likely provide harnesses and ropes for use on the wall, but you can't be guaranteed they'll provide chalk or a chalk bag. Chalk provides extra friction when holding onto grips, and it helps soak up sweat and oils from your hands. It really does make it easier to climb effectively, and if you want to be able to chalk-up whenever your hands get sweaty, you're going to need a bag to attach to your arness. Go ahead and pay the $22 for the prAna Geo Chalk Bag, or for one like it.

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A Chalk Ball


A chalk bag's no good without chalk. Rather than buy loose chalk that's guaranteed to get all over everything, opt for the Metolius Chalk Sock ($5) from REI. It helps contain the chalk, but still enables you to simply squeeze the bag to release a light chalk dusting onto your hands. Simply refill when the bag runs out.

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Men: Pants You Can Move In


While you can climb in practically any athletic attire, these Modus Climbing Jeans ($89) from prAna are something special. Not only are they stylish - perfect for wearing out for drinks after the gym - they're designed with a stretch cotton blend for durability and softness and an inseam gusset for full range of movement. Not to mention, you won't have to worry about scraping up your knees on the climbing wall.

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Women: Pants You Can Move In


Ladies, you'll want a great pair of pants as well. Stonewear was founded in the '90s by a climber frustrated with the options for climbing gear available to her. The Rockin' Pants ($78) are one of the stylish and effective pieces she's designed to fill the gap for athletic "uber" women looking for beautiful fitness attire. The Rockin' Pants are wicking, stretchy and double-stitched for durability. Plus, you can purchase them in three inseam lengths - petite, regular and tall.

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Men: A Great Top


One of the challenges with rock climbing in a gym setting is that gyms are often kept cold. This is great when you're the one on the wall, working up a sweat as you try to make it up a route, but it's not as great when you're doing the belaying for your partner. The trick to staying warm when belaying and cool when climbing is to choose a moisture-wicking, lightweight long sleeve tee, like the prAna Orion 1/4 Zip Shirt ($75). You can throw it on over another tee, or wear it alone.

Women: A Great Top


Just like the guys, almost any top will do while climbing, but that doesn't mean you should settle for just any top. Choose something close-fitting - that won't get in the way of your ability to see or move - wicking, and quick-drying. One option is the Lululemon Just Breathe Tank ($58) - it's cute enough to wear out after your workout, and its high-tech features make it great for the climb.

Women: Long Sleeve Coverup


And also like the guys, if you're climbing in a gym, you're bound to get cold when you're not actually climbing. Go ahead and throw a cute coverup on over your close-fitting tank or tee. This Vitality Top from Athleta ($69) offers the perfect combination of style and comfort.

Cross-Training Slackline


If you decide to get serious about rock climbing, you can set up a fun cross-training station in your own backyard. Slacklines are great for balance training, proprioception and coordination, all of which play an important role in rock climbing. This 50-foot eno Slackwire System from REI costs $70.

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