Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

Bouldering Walls: What Bouldering Gear Do I Need To Start Climbing?

You don't need much gear to start climbing at your local bouldering wall...

You don’t need that much gear to start climbing at your local bouldering wall. Photo: iStock

You’re about to visit your local bouldering wall for the first time. What climbing gear do you need to start bouldering?

First of all, there is no such thing as bouldering gear. It’s just climbing gear. Some brands just make climbing shoes that are particularly good for bouldering.

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The beauty of bouldering is you don’t need that much gear. Bouldering walls are low to the ground, so you don’t need a harness or climbing ropes. Wear a t-shirt plus shorts/leggings. Then you just need a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag. That’s it!

Once you’ve honed your climbing skills on an indoor bouldering wall, you can take them outside. Then you’ll need a crash pad because funnily enough, open forests don’t have safety mats already installed for you.

Ready to learn more about beginner climbing equipment? Read on….


La Sportiva Solution are one of the best pairs of climbing shoes for bouldering walls. Photo: La Sportiva

You can go bouldering in trainers but they won’t work as well. It’s best to buy a proper pair of climbing shoes to go bouldering.

If it is your first time, you will be able to rent a pair of climbing shoes from the indoor climbing wall for around £5.

When you are looking to buy a pair of bouldering shoes, brands like Sportiva, Four Ten and Evolv make excellent climbing shoes.

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You will see plenty of the best climbers wearing a pair of La Sportiva Solution. Even free solo legends like Alex Honnold wears them. They are made specifically for bouldering, so they hook very well onto holds.

They are made with super soft and sticky Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, which means you can feel exactly where you foot is on the rock or hold.

If you have wide feet, you might find La Sportiva too narrow. Try a pair of Evolv Shaman. They were designed by pro climber Chris Sharma. It edges and hooks really well and you’ll find the rubber super sticky.

Read our full guide to the best climbing shoe models here.

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Chalk bags are cheap and essential for any climber tackling bouldering walls. Photo: Moon Climbing

You’ll also need a chalk bag when you are tackling a bouldering wall. Chalk is essential for dusting your hands to avoid sweaty, slippery fingers that will hinder your climb.

There are two types of chalk bags – small ones worn around your waist or bigger, bucket-shaped bags that you leave at the bottom of a boulder problem.

Boulderers tend to use the bucket-shaped bags that they leave on the floor because they aren’t away from the floor for that long (compared to rock climbers), plus it’s a communal bag so you can all use it.

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La Sportiva have a good boulder chalk bag that’s large enough to fit both hands in at once. Moon Climbing also have a great range of chalk bags from trad bags to bucket-style.

You can buy loose chalk or a chalk ball to keep in your bag. Some indoor climbing centres don’t like loose chalk because it can go everywhere if you’re not careful, so it’s often better to buy a chalk ball instead.


Photo: Black Diamond

Once you’ve progressed beyond indoor bouldering walls, you’ll want to take your bouldering outdoors. If you are heading off into the wild looking for bouldering spots, you’re going to need to take your own crash pad with you. This will protect you and lessen the shock when you fall off a bouldering problem.

They vary in size from small 36″ X 48″ mats up to XXL 72″ x 48″ pads. Most people buy a 36 X 48 mat. Thickness varies too, depending on how much protection you want.

You want to make sure that your crash pad is made from a durable material as it’s going to take a beating. Shoulder straps are useful for when you are carrying your mat on your back, plus pockets to slot your chalk and shoes into.

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Crash pads aren’t cheap but you can buy them with a friend because you’ll both be using it.

Mad Rock make excellent bouldering mats but they can be hard to get a hold of in the UK. You can buy them from stockist Be Boulder in the UK. They stock the Mad Rock R3. It is made from recycled EVA foam shavings and will protect you from even a 4m high fall.

Black Diamond Impact is also a good mat for those venturing into outdoor bouldering for the first time. It’s a large-ish with four inch thick foam, ideal for low to medium boulder problems. It’s semi stiff and has a good strap system for carrying.

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