Essential Climbing Gear

April 13, 2015

webbingEssential Climbing Gear

While recreational climbing in the Tampa Bay region may be mostly confined to rock walls and climbing gyms, there are still a multitude of uses for climbing gear. Such gear can be used for maintaining and working on sailboats, window washing, stage production work and tree work, to name a few.

But before you head out for any climbing adventure or work, take some time to familiarize yourself with some essential gear that will ensure your safety and enjoyment.


ropeThe harness is your body’s connection point to safety, so a properly fitted harness is one of the most crucial pieces of gear you will own. The harness is essentially a web that goes around your shoulder area, waist and/or upper leg area. There are shoulder harnesses, which are often worn by those doing tree work; there are full body harnesses, often worn by kids; and there are regular waist/leg harnesses. Get assistance from an expert to achieve a comfortable and safe fit because you will be spending a lot of time in it.

Ropes and webbing

Ropes fall into different categories (dynamic and static) and come in many diameters. Dynamic ropes stretch; static ropes do not. The stretch in a dynamic rope absorbs the energy of a sudden load, such as a falling climber. This reduces the peak force and the chances that the rope will fail.

rappellingStatic ropes are good for “top roping” and descents. An example of static rope use would be someone dropping over the side to work on a sailboat hull. (Bill Jackson’s carries only static ropes.)

The diameter of typical climbing ropes fall into the range of 8 to 13 millimeters, and the diameter should be matched to your activity. If you are using rappelling devices, make sure it can handle the diameter of the rope you will be using. Webbing straps, which come in varying widths and thicknesses, can be used in conjunction with carabiners to set up anchor points.

Carabiners and other devices

carabinerCarabiners are a connection point. They connect a climber’s harness to the rope, and they are used to set up anchor points. In a broad sense, carabiners are one of two types, either locking or unlocking. An unlocking carabiner allows the gate portion to move any time pressure is applied. A locking carabiner has a mechanism, such as a screw gate, that can prevent the gate from opening.

Rappelling devices, such as a Figure 8 device, allow a climber to descend or hold his position, while a device such as the grigri allows a climber to go down, hold a position or go up.


helmetA rock knocked loose or a falling tool becomes an immediate danger, so helmets should be worn by climbers and anyone working below them on the ground. Helmets should have a snug fit but not so tight that it gives you a headache if worn for hours at a time. Many helmets have some form of venting to prevent overheating.


Shoes should be matched to the type of surface that will be climbed. One important aspect is the sole, which provides the needed friction for gripping the surface. Many climbing shoes come to a more narrow point in the toe portion of the shoe to allow for toeholds. Aside from climbing shoes, approach and bouldering shoes are suitable for hiking and some climbing. (Bill Jackson’s sell approach and bouldering shoes by such brands as Vasque and Salewa.)


When choosing clothing, climbers can go with either tight-fitting or baggy. Either way, the clothes should allow freedom of movement and be made of durable-enough materials to withstand abrasion.

Optional equipment

Chalk keeps your hands dry and your grip more secure. Chalk bags can be attached to your harness as a handy place to store chalk.

Beyond equipment: Know your knots

grigriThe best ropes in the world are of little value if you do not know how to tie secure knots. Some common knots in climbing are the Figure 8, bowline and the various butterfly knots. Visit for step-by-step instruction on dozens of knots.