Everything and More: Bouldering Kit Part 1 (Basics)

Bouldering is rad.

-Confucius

So, the quote above might be misattributed, I’ll look into that later. Regardless bouldering is gymnastic, powerful, and simple in its complexity: rock, shoes, chalk, movement, and focus.

But this post isn’t about that side of bouldering; it’s about all the cool shit you can bring with you into the woods to be an ultimate bouldering geek and (maybe?!?) improve your climbing.

Now understand, this isn’t trad climbing or some big wall ascent. There are no cams, nuts, slings, or haul bags full of who know what else. It’s not about safety, it’s about decreasing your chuffer status and using tactics to send boulders!

…That said, we begin! (After shoes, chalk, and pad, of course)

this brush was not sturdy... it has been reinforced with a stick.

this brush was not sturdy… it has been reinforced with a stick.

1. Boar’s Hair Brush: Greasy holds are a fact of life, but a brush can go a long way towards reducing grease. To an inexperienced hold-brusher, a boar’s hair brush looks little difference than a re-purposed toothbrush. But I implore you, do not take the toothbrush route. Anecdotally, a boar’s hair brush will do such a better job at cleaning and degreasing holds. Most decent gyms and gear shops will carry boar’s hair brushes and they typically cost less than $7. Recently, one of my favorite brushes I have seen is the So iLL Classic Brush. It is a great price and has great textured bristles with a sturdy handle.

Final notes on brushing:

  • Never think you are not strong enough to benefit from well brushed holds. Regardless of where you are in your climbing journey, greasy holds are not your friend. Additionally, developing good brushing habits never hurt anybody.
  • I am a proponent of light circular brushing, rather than forceful back and forth scrubbing, to clean holds. Try different techniques and report back.
  • It is nearly impossible dry wet holds by brushing chalk into them. It will only create a nasty chalk paste that is hard to remove and will make the hold greasier when it is dry. IMHO use a cloth to absorb moisture, then a light chalk if you really need to use a wet hold.
  • If you climb at an area that is particularly dirty, muddy, cobwebby, etc. it might be helpful to carry an old brush or toothbush (the horror!) as a designated dirty brush to remove debris before degreasing/cleaning
Pro-tip: Get colored tape. You will instantly feel cooler. Amazon has boatloads of colors for decent prices

Pro-tip: Get colored tape. You will instantly feel cooler and likely obtain more friends. Amazon has boatloads of colors for decent prices.

2. Athletic Tape: Basically the duct tape of bouldering, you can pretty much use athletic tape for everything. Start with taping your fingers after interacting with a finger-munching hold, move on to taping a split tip, then finish off with keeping your lunch tupperware from spilling. Absolutely endless possibilities!

Effective taping could be an entire post in itself, so here are just some salient themes:

  • Tape is not tendon! When taping an injured/recovering finger always consider what you are trying to achieve; even the most effective tape job adds minimal strength to a finger. Generally taping an injured finger is best simply to limit movement to open handed positions or to stabilize a joint.
  • Use thin strips when taping tips. It helps preserve contact strength and seems to pull less on the injured tissue.
  • Use wider strips for taping in between or on the knuckles. It seems to preserve friction between and hand rock and stay in place longer.
  • Taping palm flappers is a pain in the ass. Just accept it and re-tape as necessary.
  • Build good tape karma! Lend tape to climbers in need, clean up your tape waste, and even pick up rogue tape trash you see on the ground.
Do not feel compelled to build good clipper karma by sharing if that grosses you out. You never know who has secret nail fungus.

Don’t feel compelled to cultivate good clipper karma by sharing if that grosses you out. You never know who has secret nail fungus.

3. Nail Clippers: A bit less of a specialized bouldering item than the first two on the list. However, THE NOISE OF FINGER NAILS SCRAPING ON ROCK MUST BE STOPPED! Seriously, do yourself and everyone else a favor by clipping those nails. Also, prevent unnecessary toe pain by clipping those nails too. Additionally, neatly clip injured skin to avoid raggedy skin flaps.

4. Nail file/Sanding block: File your nails if you want, but also file your skin! Smoothing out rough skin edges and filing thick callouses can  can prevent a lot of future skin tearing and taping.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (Tactical Supplies!), Part 3 (Tweak Management), and Part 4 (Having Fun While Freezing Your Ass Off).

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