In recent years, rock climbing has become more and more popular, going from a recreational activity to an elite sport, and will even be featured as an Olympic event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Not only does rock climbing improve strength and body control, but it is also a complex, mind-challenging sport. All of these qualities are fantastic for kids. But most importantly, it is a heap of fun!
Most kids get their first taste of rock climbing by attending an indoor climbing gym and these types of centres generally supply most of the necessary gear needed to participate. If you find that your child develops a real love for the sport and wants to get more involved, then eventually they’ll need to get their own full set of climbing gear.
The gear they will need to get started in rock climbing includes:
Rock Climbing Shoes
Proper rock climbing shoes are essential, especially once your child starts to climb outdoors. They protect your feet while providing the friction you need to grip footholds. Most styles are quite versatile, but your child’s climbing ability and where they climb are both factors in choosing the correct shoe.
Rock shoes should fit snugly but not painfully tight. Too much room around your toes leads to sliding inside the shoe and prevents you from being able to use your feet to the best of their ability.
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The harness allows you to tie into the rope securely and efficiently. The type of rock climbing your child will be doing will determine what kind of harness they need. In choosing the one that’s right for your child, the key things to keep in mind are comfort and weight. You should be looking for a nicely padded waist band as well as comfortable leg loops.
Very young children have a relatively high centre of gravity, due to a larger head–to–torso ratio, and should be outfitted with a full–body harness. A child’s full–body harness is considered a type B harness and is designed for weights no greater than 40kg (88 lbs.). Full–body harnesses usually work best for children 5 and under.
It’s very important that your child’s harness fits them correctly, is new and has no defects.
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When climbing outdoors, your child should always wear a helmet made specifically for climbing. Climbing helmets are designed to cushion the head from falling rock and debris, and some (though not all) are designed to provide protection in the case of a fall. They are generally not worn in a climbing gym since it’s a controlled environment.
Climbing helmets come in two main types, Hardshell Helmets and Shell Foamed Helmets. The type of helmet your child will need will depend on the type of climbing they are doing.
A helmet should always feel comfortable, fit snugly but not too tight, and sit flat on your head.
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No piece of gear is more important to a climber than the rope; although when your child is just starting out, the rope will likely be provided for them. As they progress, where and what they are climbing will determine which rope is best for them.
All climbing ropes must pass the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) tests. These tests regulate the number of falls a rope can hold, the impact force and the dynamic elongation.
The belay device is used to help the belayer (the person who controls the safety rope for the climber) to control the rope. A belay device increases friction that helps the belayer catch a fall, lower a climber, feed the rope out gradually as the climber advances, or reel in slack smoothly.
At first your child may not need to have their own belay device as it may be supplied by your climbing gym or guide, but it is one of the essential pieces of gear that they’ll eventually want to own as they get more involved in rock climbing.
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Carabiners are strong, light metal rings with spring-loaded gates that connect the climbing rope to pieces of climbing protection such as bolts and nuts. They are also used to attach your gear to the gear loops on your harness.
Again, there are different types of carabiners for specific climbing situations but for most beginners, the first carabiner you’ll need is a locking carabiner, designed to be used with a belay device.
Chalk and Chalk Bag
Just like gymnasts, climbers use chalk to improve their grip. Your child’s hands can become quite sweaty while climbing, so the chalk will absorb the perspiration on their hands. Chalk is carried in a small bag attached to the waist by a lightweight belt.
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It may seem that your child will need a lot of gear to get involved in rock climbing, however, remember that not all of the equipment outlined above is essential in order to get started. You can add more equipment as your child becomes more advanced in the sport.
If you want to know if your child is serious about getting into rock climbing before buying all the gear, why not give them the opportunity to immerse themselves in rock climbing by attending an Australian Sports Camps 2-Day Rock Climbing Coaching Program.
Australian Sports Camps offer 2-Day Coaching Programs over the school holidays, run by expert coaches. Your child will learn a variety of different climbing moves and techniques to help them develop their own climbing abilities. They will also learn about the different disciplines of climbing and some of the other skills required such as knot-craft, equipment selection, strategy and route planning, all in a top quality indoor facility.