The first thing you need to start bouldering is a good pair of climbing shoes. While cheap, stiff, climbing shoes, and even sneakers, are fine for the gym or easy top ropping, the technical requirements of bouldering require something more specialized.
Look for a shoe that is slip-lasted, a manufacturing method that produces a sole with thinner rubber for a more sensitive feel on the rock. Also consider a slipper or Velcro-closing shoe, which are easier to take off in between climbs.
Price: $69.30 – $114.00 | FiveTen Men’s Anasazi Moccasym Climbing Shoe
Price: $74.95 | Flash Rock Shoe by Mad Rock
Price: $89.95 | Viper Rock Shoe by La Sportiva
2. Crash Pad
You probably wouldn’t climb a route in the gym without a rope; likewise, you shouldn’t boulder without a crash pad. These foam mats protect your feet, ankles, and knees by providing a soft place to land, covering sharp rocks, and flattening the landing zone.
Every pad on the market today should use two types of foam: one thin, hard layer to give the pad support and one thick, soft layer to soften the landing. You’ll see some pads that have a hinge in the middle and some that just fold over, taco-style. Both work well and which you choose is ultimately a matter of personal preference.
Other things to look for include metal clasps on the straps (plastic ones tend to break when stepped on), a quality outer-fabric that will resist tearing, some kind of carpet on the landing surface (useful for cleaning the bottoms of your shoes), and a well-attached carrying system.
Price: $136.45 | Metolius Stomp Crash Pad
Price: $179.99 | Black Diamond Drop Zone Bouldering Crashpad
Climbers use chalk just like gymnasts: to improve grip by reducing sweat. Many boulderers use the same chalk bags attached to a belt that other climbers do, but some prefer to bring a large “chalk bucket.”
Price: $36.95 | prAna Bucket Chalk Bag
Price: $2.00 – $7.00 | Metolius Super Chalk
Boulder problems see a lot more traffic than even the most popular climbing routes. Chalk and shoe rubber build up quickly, making the holds slick and greasy. A brush is an essential tool for cleaning off this greasy buildup.
It’s very important, however, that you never use a brush with metal bristles on a boulder problem. These brushes change the natural texture of the rock, possibly ruining a problem. Instead, look for brushes that have medium-stiffness nylon bristles. Think “old toothbrush” instead of “barbecue grill-cleaning brush.”
Price: $7.95 | Boar’s Hair Bouldering Brush by Flashed Climbing
5. Athletic Tape
Athletic tape is useful for protecting cut fingertips and supporting weak tendons. Though this is more of a tool for advanced climbers, if you spend much time bouldering you’ll want some tape.
Price: $12.49 | Trainer’s Choice Athletic Tape
6. A Positive Attitude
The final bouldering essential is one that is too often forgotten at home. Bouldering can be a competitive, high-pressure pursuit, but it’s important to remember why you started in the first place. Whether you like the feeling of the movement, the friction of the rock, or simply having fun outdoors, a positive attitude will help you stay focused on what makes you happy.
Jonesing to go bouldering? Check out: How to Get Started Bouldering.