From the perspective of a climber, climbers are super easy to buy presents for. Being a largely gear intensive sport, there is so many things that a climber needs. Despite this a lot of the gear is often at prices that are outside the gift giving range, and it can be hard to know what to get if you are not embedded in the sport yourself. So here are 5 ideas for presents that are all under $50, that are sure to make your climber’s day.
1. Carabiners ($25 - $50)
There is a saying in climbing that “you can never have too many locking carabiners”, and to a large extent this is true. Carabiners are the bread and butter of climbers. They keep us attached to the wall and secure us in everything we do. They make a great gift because of their versatility; a climber can make use of pretty much any carabiner you buy them.
So you have arrived at the store and are looking up at a wall of what seems like hundreds of the things. They are all different colours, shapes, sizes, some with locking mechanisms and some have weird wire things in the middle. What carabiner you purchase from here depends on how well you know your climber’s gear and how much you want to spend. The go to in this scenario is a locking carabiner as they are most commonly used on their own.
By far the cheapest route to go is an ‘offset D’ carabiner (such as THIS ONE). This is the workhorse carabiner which can be used for pretty much anything in a pinch. If you are willing to spend a little bit more though it is much better to get a HMS carabiner (like THIS ONE). These are much larger and are the real do-it-all carabiners. Good for belaying and great for anchors. If you have been able to poke around your climber’s gear a little bit more and you know what they do and don’t have. A belay carabiner might strike your interest (try THIS ONE). These are the ones with the wire ‘keeper’ gates in the bottom of them. They provide the safest way of belaying. This particular style of carabiner has limited uses though and usually a climber only needs one of them. For this reason, it is best to know in advance that this is what is needed.
One hitch with the carabiner buying process is the fact that, by consumer law, safety equipment cannot be returned. This means that once purchased they stay purchased. So its important that you are happy with the decision instore. Despite this carabiners make the list because their versatility means there is almost no reason for a climber to want to return a carabiner anyway.
2. Chalk ($5 - $20)
Chalk is a resource in climbing that always seems to run out when you most need it. Virtually all climbers (and some gymnasts, dancers and body builders) make regular use of chalk. Its purpose is to dry out the hands such that climbers don’t slip off the wall because of their sweat. There are basically four three types of chalk available and personal preference plays a large role in separating them (with one caveat for this year, discussed later).
Chalk Balls (like THIS ONE) are great for newer climbers as they provide an even coating of chalk over the hands, they tend to make chalk last longer and are far cheaper. For those climbers who need a more thorough chalking, there are two options, namely powder chalk and chunky chalk. These are loose chalk styles that differ in their consistency. Chunky chalk (like THIS ONE) gives you something to grab in you chalk bag and results in less wastage whereas powder (such as THIS ONE) tends to give you ultimate coverage. The final option has become more and more popular in recent times. Liquid chalk (try THIS ONE) is essentially powder chalk dissolved in alcohol. This provides the best drying action but is also the most expensive. The easiest way to pick is to go have a snoop inside your climber’s chalk bag and see what their go to is.
This year, with everything going on, has provided climbers with a unique scenario with respect to climbing chalk. Indoor venues banned the use of loose chalk in an effort to reduce the probability of COVID transmission in the air. This has meant that liquid chalk and now chalk balls have quickly become the favourite. If your climber is yet to venture outdoors it is a good idea to keep this in mind and opt for one of the allowed chalk styles. Chalk is another gift that will inevitably be used by a climber, so you can’t really go wrong in this respect.
3. Slings ($12 - $25)
Slings, like carabiners, are one of those things that climbers can’t have enough of. They also expire. This means that not only will slings be a useful addition to a gear collection, they also need to be replaced periodically. Slings are loops of flat nylon that allow climbers to ‘extent’ carabiners, they are what climbers usually use to clip into the wall and they are commonly used for building anchors. There are 3 important types of sling all of which come in different lengths.
Slings come in sewn and unsewn varieties, and sewn slings come in two different materials (nylon and dyneema). Unsewn slings are nylon and are sold off the roll. This means you can get them at any length you want. This type of sling is carried by canyoners more commonly than climbers and so it is probably not the best present idea. The two different materials used to make sewn slings have different properties for different uses. The cheapest of the two is nylon. Nylon slings (such as THIS ONE) are a bit more durable (partly because they are also thicker) and so are best used for natural anchors. Dyneema (like THIS ONE) is lighter and thinner, meaning that it is a good option for less wear prone applications. Both options have many uses for the outdoor climber though. The top picks for lengths tend to be 60cm Dyneema slings or 120cm (or even 240cm) Nylon slings.
Like carabiners though, slings are safety gear and so they cannot be returned after they have left the store. Luckily, they are the second most versatile piece of kit after carabiners and so this isn’t usually a problem.
4. Chalk Bag ($30 - $50)
The above items all come in standard colours and sizes. They are purely practical gifts. Chalk bags are your opportunity to add a bit of personality and flair to your present. They are designed to carry the chalk discussed earlier whilst a climber is on the wall. Chalk bags only have a few differing features which, whilst important, are far outweighed in most cases by the look. This is one case where it IS all about the colour. Try to pick one that suits your climber’s tastes and show them how well you know them.
The main features to look for, if you are tossing up between designs, are the closure system, places to attach a brush and the size. The size needs to be big enough to fit the persons hand but is otherwise not that important. Having an attachment place for a brush is quite important. The need to brush routes before and after climbing them is becoming more and more important nowadays. Finally picking a closure system that will effectively seal the chalk within the bag during storage will lead to a cleaner bag. Almost all chalk bags these days have an attachment place for a brush and an effective closure system. So again, pick one for the look if you can!
Chalk bags last a fairly long time but they do wear out. It is worth checking that you climber doesn’t have a newly bought chalk bag before buying this as a gift as you can only wear one at a time.
5. Psych Items ($20 - $50)
The final gift suggestion is what I refer to as ‘psych items’. Climbing is a sport that feeds on a resource known as psych. Psych is the reason your climber wont stop talking about that route she is trying to climb, or the super strong guy he saw climbing the other day, or her new pair of climbing shoes. It is invaluable in the sport, but from time to time it can waver.
Psych can be found in the form of instructional books, photo books, guidebooks and the like. The trick here is to work out what type of climbing has caught the interest of your climber. Do they like climbing really hard in the bouldering gym or getting a little bit scared on the steep walls of the Blue Mountains? Then using this information, pick a psych item that caters to this. There are numerous good instructional books for training, indoor bouldering or rope skills for example.
A local guidebook (or a not so local one) can be good for a climber who is just venturing outdoors for the first few times. Hard copy books tend to have more of the history of the area than online guidebooks and are also often better researched. Psych gifts are a great way to help support your climber’s addiction.