Outdoors Magazine

8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes

By Perry Hua

The longer you climb, the more you’ll often hear people talk about their climbing shoes. They’ll talk about how well it sticks to the walls, or doesn’t. You’ll hear about how well they can stand on tiny ledges or not. How good their shoes are at toe and heel hooking or if they’re just plain bad. There’ll be climbers who complain that the reason they couldn’t send their project is because they forgot to bring the “right shoes”. Or the thousands of times you’ll hear someone say “I need new shoes”. Or any of that nonsense, really. In fact, none of it matters because climbing shoes should be the least of your worries. There are far more important items you should be bringing with you whenever you climb, which not a lot of people talk about. Here are 8 things more important than your climbing shoes. Take note, kiddos.

8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes

1. Surface Type

Before you go looking at what’s on your feet, take a moment to look at what’s under your feet. How are you going to climb anything if there’s nothing to climb? That’s why having actual rock is pretty important. Whether it’s granite, limestone, sandstone, plastic, or whatever else, you’ll soon learn that different types of surfaces have different feels to them.  Most of the time, you won’t have to pay to climb on rock outdoors, although there can be entrance or camping fees. Climbing on plastic at a gym? Expect to pay as much as a regular gym. Cause you know what they say: mo’ problems (and routes), mo’ money.

8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes
This is rock climbing. You can tell by the rocks the guy is climbing

2. Chalk

Chalk is probably the second most important thing to have while climbing. Without it, you cannot physically grab onto holds. Your fingers and palms secrete oils because they are just too greasy from all the fast food you’ve been eating which makes it near impossible to grip rock. Unless you are vegan, of course. Vegans do not secrete any oils from their glands because all they eat is vegetables and soy. For the rest of us, unfortunately, chalk is a must-have. Coat generously and frequently.

8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes
Chalk, or drugs? I think it qualifies as both

3. Carbs

As a climber, carbohydrates are the most important nutrients for your body, seeing as how they are the key for energy and stamina. Glycogen is what your muscles store as energy, and the best way to maintain glycogen levels is by consuming carbs that raise blood-glucose levels. That’s why Clif Bars are the official foodstuff of rock climbers (there’s even a picture of a climber on the wrapper so you know it’s legit). So always pack one whenever you go climb, especially if you’ll be climbing lowballs or routes taller than 5 meters. And if you’re scared of getting fat because of all the buzz surrounding carbs, ask yourself this: have you ever seen an overweight climber? I mean, we’re all overweight in our own eyes, but compared to the rest of society, we all have eating disorders.

Clif Bars - 8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes - Athlete Audit
A 24 pack of Clif Bars should last you approximately one week

4. Beer 

Clif Bars may be the official food to eat for rock climbers, but beer will always be the official beverage to drink. Whether it’s before you climb, while you climb, or for recovery, beer will always be what your body needs. For every 12 ounces you drink, you are getting 150 calories of filling goodness, 96mg of potassium for hydration, 13g of carbodydrates for long-lasting energy, and even 1.6g of protein for building muscle, which makes it a staple of a balanced diet. Just don’t expect it to be cheap because IPAs tend to cost more. Don’t drink anything else though, unless it’s porters or stouts for recovery.

5. Beanie

Beanies keep your head warm, which in turn helps your brain to figure out problems and routes more easily. They also help to keep your hair out of your eyes and works great as a helmet. Lightweight, inexpensive, and coming in all sorts of patterns (including rasta and tie-dye), beanies will help you send, guaranteed. For even more sendage power, look into getting a balaclava, which makes you look like a ninja and in turn makes you climb like one too.

Beanie - 8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes - Athlete Audit
Can you spot the climber? Answer: they all are

6. Tanks

Tanks allow for the utmost flexibility when rock climbing with their lack of sleeves, and provides optimal ventilation for both men and women. Just make sure that you stay away from cotton tanks, as it’s generally considered to be the most inferior material known to climbers. Go for classier, more breathable materials such as polyester, nylon, elastane, wool, Lycra, mesh, or even modal, but just not poor-man’s cotton. And for even more breathability, you can also poke more holes in your tank yourself.

Tank Tops for Climbing - 8 Things More Important Than Your Climbing Shoes - Athlete Audit
The more holes there are, the better

7. Puffy

While you aren’t climbing in your tank, you should be wearing a down jacket to look the look of a climber. Even while climbing indoors, there’s no excuse not to have one on hand. However, avoid dark and dull colors such as black, navy, gray, and brown, because the outdoors isn’t some edgy fashion convention. Go for the biggest and brightest colors instead, because lord knows no one is going to pay attention to your climbing skills at the crag. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to your firstborn child for a quality puffy.

8. Emergency Contact Number

Remember, climbing is an inherently dangerous sport.

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