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Aron Bosworth | 04.16.2019

Climbing. Of all the outdoor pastimes, climbing may rank as the most peculiar. What drives us to scale upward, fighting the force of gravity and leaving the safety of the horizontal world behind? Perhaps it's the places that climbing takes you. Perhaps it's the balance between the mental and physical challenge. Or the meditative state that climbing taps into.

Or maybe it's the gear. Nothing quite compares to climbing when it comes to nerding out on gear. How deep into the climbing gear world you go depends on how much bandwidth you have for learning the various disciplines: sport climbing, trad climbing, aid climbing, glacier mountaineering, to name a few. 

Gear really is at the center of climbing, both in terms of its inherent life-saving purpose and ascent-facilitating qualities, which makes it a fitting choice for our 2019 summer gear guides. While many dream about scaling a big wall or ticking off a 5,000-meter peak in our lifetimes (and we hope you do!), the reality is most of us will stick to crag climbing and glacier mountaineering. As such, we've tailored the gear below to cover those two focuses.

 

Rock

La Sportiva TC Pro

Don’t be fooled into buying a shoe that doesn’t fit your feet just because it bears the initials of a certain climbing celebrity. First things first: The TC Pros are versatile, but they best fit feet on the narrower side. For those lucky climbers (and they are legion), the TC Pros are stiff, legendary edging specialists that remain, in spite of their precision, surprisingly comfortable. You won’t need this much shoe for a fix at the gym, but you’ll love it on a tricky technical multi-pitch.

$190 • La Sportiva ​​​​​​ | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Five Ten Anasazi VCS (Men’s) + Anasazi LV (Women’s)

Stylistically, the Five Ten Anasazi is a step in the opposite direction from the TC Pro. Specializing more in sensitivity than edge, it sacrifices its edging potential with an extremely sticky outsole that performs best on touchy smears. With a wider toe box, it’s extremely wearable—a seeming paradox—for just about any climber. That makes it ideal for beginners buying their first bona fide climbing shoe.

Men’s: $165 • Five Ten | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

Women’s: $165 • Five Ten | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

 

Petzl Grigri

A mainstay for any climber. For safety concerns, there isn’t a better belay device, and you should consider the Petzl Grigri an absolute essential for any level of sport climber. No, you can’t rappel with it, meaning you’ll probably need to buy an ATC anyway, but for its self-locking safety and its smooth, precise control, it’s the best belay device for any route that stops after one bolt—especially for beginners to lead climbing.

$109.95 • Petzl | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Black Diamond Camalot C4

Its 19-year legacy ranks among the highest echelon of pro on the market after several updates and upgrades, and the Black Diamond Camelot C4 anchors (so to speak) trad racks for all levels of climbers. More specialized gear will be useful for more technical climbs, but the Camelot has been the best all-around cam since its introduction in the 1980s, and its newest version trimmed another 10% of its weight. The double-action design that allowed climbers to climb on a greater range of cracks with the same gear was a novelty back then, and it aged well. It’s a workhorse and a centerpiece for anyone who looks to build out their trad rack for climbs to come.

$64.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Beal Booster 60m 9.7mm

A tough, gritty rope with a low price point makes the Beal Booster an ideal rope for sport or trad climbers looking for a valuable, everyday rope. Its durable sheath withstands wear far longer than most ropes, and its low impact force rating, which speaks to how much the rope lengthens under tension, is among the best in its class. In other words, it’s stretchy, and likewise your catches will be softer than other ropes. Its price point is lower than comparable ropes on the market, making the Beal Booster a solid buy for anyone immune to top roping—in which case, those soft falls become a bit more hazardous.

$209.95 • Beal | Amazon | REI

 

Petzl Spirit Express

Another mainstay, the Petzl Spirit Express is a beefy, durable draw that should form the backbone of your sport rack. Offered at a slight premium relative to other draws, they remain reliable after wear and tear, they continue to close tightly after the inevitable accumulation of dust and dirt, and their ergonomic design fits into tight bolts as easily as the palm of your hand. Two options, a 13 centimeter and 17 centimeter, offer solutions for straightforward and meandering lines.

$23.95 • Petzl | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Black Diamond Solution Harness

There’s no better value in harnesses than the Black Diamond Solution, and it costs less than half of high-end harnesses in its class. Best applied to sport routes, its value does come at the cost of functionality, but not comfort, and the Solution is widely regarded as the most comfortable harness on the market. Without adjustable leg loops, it won’t be ideal for ice climbers, and it lacks the gear loops that a climber with a full trad rack might crave, but for every other purpose the Solution stands out.

Men’s: $69.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

Women’s: $69.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Black Diamond Vapor

Consensus suggests that the Black Diamond Vapor probably isn’t the most ideal buy for the hard-line crushers. Its carbon rods and thin polystyrene foam, however, make it one of the lightest and most comfortable climbing helmets on the market. That bodes well for the casual climbers, for whom the wear and tear of a dirtbag climbing habit wouldn’t imperil the Vapor’s lightweight durability. If you’re looking for something comfortable and light to wear for a weekend climb, look no further, just don’t leave it on the ground unattended.

$139.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Snow/Glacier Mountaineering

 

La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX Mountaineering Boots

Another of La Sportiva’s storied shoes got an update this year, and the product is a shoe that more closely resembles the value of the Trango Evo Extreme. It’s been modernized with a synthetic upper that repels water like an umbrella, and all reports point to a shoe that keeps its warmth as well as anything on the market. It struggles to prevent snow from penetrating the boot interior, so mountaineers are advised to use the Trango for steep approaches.

$475 • La Sportiva | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

 

Black Diamond Serac Crampon

A classic crampon, the Serac is designed for alpine ascents in the Cascades—non-technical approaches to technical glacier travel and moderate to steep summits on heavy snows that turn to concrete come August. The Serac handles both comfortably, and its stainless steel resists rust for a crampon that can handle the everyday mountain ascent.

$184.96 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

 

Petzl Glacier Ice Axe

Economically speaking, the Glacier is the best bang for your buck in the ice axe category. It performs well, but not exceptionally well, in self-arrest and weight, and there are those who would say its appearance leaves a lot to the imagination. But ice axes routinely cost $150 or more, and that’s too much for an entry-level or every-day ice axe.

$99.95 • Petzl | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Petzl Corax Harness

This versatile, solid-value climbing harness from Petzl is a jack-of-all-trades for all types of climbing. What makes it particularly well suited for snow and glacier mountaineering are the adjustable leg loops, designed for comfort, and the gear loop and carry options that all your glacier pro needs, from pickets to pulleys to ice screws.

$59.95 • Petzl | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI 

 

Osprey Mutant 38 Climbing Pack

Fully featured and clean, the Mutant 38 is a versatile pack for alpine ascents above base camp. A clean exterior design with an ice tool attachment, gear loops, its 38-liter capacity integrates storage for a rope and helmet with room to spare for other summit-day essentials. It lacks storage for crampons, but above base camp it might be safe to assume they’ll be strapped to your feet. A high-value, all-around pack for the alpine.

$170 • Osprey | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Black Diamond Vector Helmet

Like the Vapor, the Vector is a lightweight foam helmet. Like the Vapor, the Vector is similarly fragile. That’s the cost of lightweight foam. On the other hand, the Vapor is fully adjustable, and its comfortable fit is (again, like the Vector) ideal for entry-level mountaineers on a mission to climb their first summits. We only wish the price point were more manageable.

$99.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Julbo Explore 2.0 Glacier Glasses

Alas, these aren’t the Julbo sunglasses of yore, whose design provokes flashbacks to 90s-era baseball. Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing, and the Explorer 2.0 carries a modern vintage look that we appreciate. Ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing, they also have the category four lenses you need on an alpine ascent and the little things that count: adjustable temples, a nose grip, and removable side shields that—gasp!—might allow you to wear these glacier goggles in the “real world.”

$149.95 • Julbo | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

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