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Top 10 Gym Essentials Every Beginner Needs in Their Bag

Updated: Apr 26

It is easy to overpack your climbing bag, so how do you know what is essential and what to leave behind? Having the right gear in your climbing bag is crucial. The first step of having a production climbing session is coming to the rock gym adequately prepared.

These ten items will help you feel ready for any situation in the gym, and they’ll all serve a useful purpose (no unnecessary shoes or ropes).

10 Gym bag essentials for beginners

Gym Essentials Every Beginner Needs in Their Bag

1. Climbing Shoes

Yes, it’s obvious, but if you want to climb, they’re a pretty important piece of gear to have handy. Most climbers, even beginners, will have more than one pair of climbing shoes. Whether they have different styles of shoes based on what type of climbing they’ll do that day or whether they like to rotate through other pairs, always have at least one team. Feel free to keep multiple pairs in your bag, but for a beginner, you’ll likely be able to use the same pair of shoes for all your climbing. So, for space and backaches, only put one team in at a time. And, if you switch out which pair you take to the gym, make sure you grab matching shoes. Showing up to the gym with two left shoes or an aggressive, neutral shoe will make for an exciting session!

2. Climbing Harness

If you consider yourself a die-hard boulderer and vow never to touch a rope, you can leave this item out of your bag. But, even if you don’t fancy rope climbing, there may be a day when a friend asks you to belay, or the new auto belay routes are calling your name. In those situations, having your harness is much nicer than using a rental harness.

3. Chalk bag

Unless you’re anti-chalk, this is a must. They are great for packing on trips as they are smaller than a chalk bucket (see #4) and sufficient for bouldering or rope climbing sessions. Even if your gym only allows liquid chalk (annoying, but some do), sooner or later, you’ll end up climbing where you might need powdered chalk to dry those sweaty hands.

4. Chalk bucket

Continuing with chalk is a chalk bucket. Now, if you’re a die-hard ropes climber or know you’ll never boulder, a chalk bucket isn’t a necessary investment. However, for those who enjoy bouldering or find themselves bouldering more frequently, a good quality chalk bucket is an excellent item to keep in your climbing bag. Unlike a chalk bag, it can hold a large quantity of chalk, so you don’t have to refill it as frequently, and it’s easier to put both hands in at once. Unlike rope climbing, where you usually chalk up one hand at a time, boulders are so short you cover both hands in chalk before you start and then rechalk between attempts.

5. Leuko Tape

A must for any climber. While various medical and climbing tapes exist to cover raw skin, cuts, flappers, etc., Leuko tape is the one to get. Each roll will last a while and stay sticky, so you won’t find the tape unraveling mid-climb or five minutes after putting it on. And, if you find yourself climbing sharp holds, Leuko tape is the least likely to rip or break!

6. Nail Clippers

If you’re new to climbing and haven’t figured it out, keeping nicely manicured-fingernails and toenails is a thing of the past. Instead, climbers tend to keep their nails trimmed so that their feet are more comfortable in their shoes, and so they don’t scratch or rip their nails on the climbing wall. To some, nails on a chalkboard or grating sounds aren’t irking. But we can promise that even if the sound doesn’t annoy you, the feeling of your nail scraping down a textured climbing wall is unpleasant.

7. Belay device

Like harnesses, using a belay device will depend on whether you climb ropes. However, it’s a fundamental piece of climbing gear, and the basic type, ATCs, go for about $20. They are small, light, and take up little to no space in your bag. If you spend more time rope climbing and belaying, it is likely worth investing in a Grigri, an assisted breaking device. If you have a Grigri and an ATC, it doesn’t hurt to keep both in your bag, but if you only want to lug around one, pick whichever you are most comfortable using.

8. Bandaids

Eventually, the wall bites back. Well, not really, but most indoor climbing gym walls are textured, and the climbing holds themselves. This makes picking up elbow and knee scrapes or finger cuts relatively easy. A good climbing gym should have free first aid to cover up the open wounds, but having your own is a good backup in case you need to change band-aids on your way to or from the gym.

9. Water Bottle

Hydration is essential for any physical activity, but forgetting to pack a water bottle is easy. Leaving one in your climbing bag (take it out and clean it at least once a week) ensures you’ll always have water available. Even if you forgot to fill it up, gyms typically have a water filling station or fountain you can use! Just remember to pack it away when you go to leave. Rock climbing gym lost and found bins are treasure islands of water bottles.

10. Slip-on/Slip off Shoes

Flip-flops, slip-on flats, or any other shoe that’s easy to take on and off is always helpful to keep in your bag. While some climbers might show up to the gym in flip-flops, others might come from corporate jobs and have on dress shoes. Throwing on slip-on shoes for those mid-climb bathroom breaks is easier than washing your hands to keep chalk off your fancy shoes or having to lace up sneakers. (Please don’t wear your climbing shoes in the bathroom; that’s gross!) Additionally, some rock climbing gyms use stones rather than mats on the floor in the rope areas because they are safer if someone takes a ground fall. If this is the situation in your home gym or you visit a gym with a stone floor, you won’t want to walk around in your climbing on the stone shoes between climbs or stand barefoot.

And that’s it! There are only ten essential items to keep on hand in your climbing bag, and some of them may not even be necessary, depending on your climbing preferences. However, these items serve a specific purpose and are frequently used by climbers, making them a worthwhile investment if you don’t already own them. If you have any questions about these items or want to suggest something else that you think is important to keep in your rock gym bag, let us know in the comments below! We, and other beginner climbers, would love to hear from you!

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