Before any epic alpine rock route, redpoint burn, or warm-up boulder, there sits the climber: slipping on, lacing up, or strapping down a pair of rock shoes. We know the bond between a climber and sticky rubber is nothing to make light of, so we called in 12 pairs of brand-new kicks for this fall to find the top models for every kind of adventure.
Rock Climbing Gear
From one ultra-slim tester to a wider-hipped lady climber, this fully adjustable rig fit several body types and shapes with complete comfort. Plus, it comes in six sizes from XS to XXL. We took the Guru to Rocky Mountain National Park for some long alpine routes and then to Shelf Road, Colorado, and Ten Sleep, Wyoming, for sport climbing sessions, and the Guru was just as good for hanging belays as it was for catching long whippers.
They say the best offense is a good defense, and the same goes for shielding your most valuable tool: your hands. These belay and rappel gloves protected testers’ mitts from rope burns, cold weather, and other abuse during cragging from Ten Sleep, Wyoming, to Eldorado Canyon, Colorado.
Drop it right in the dirt, unzip, and go—a full-length zipper against your back (we promise you won’t even feel it) allows the Roxback to lie on the ground in a more accessible and clean position (no more putting the grimy side against your sweaty back). The frameless design keeps the weight minimal at 1 lb., 10 oz., but the 40-liter capacity still easily fits a day’s worth of sport climbing gear and then some.
The climbing rope is a unifying piece of gear. Primarily, it connects a climber to his belayer, but every tribe member who wants to get higher than 15 feet off the ground ties into one, whether he’s toproping or big walling. (The Honnolds and Crofts of the world don’t count!) However, a toproper and a big waller will be looking for two very different cords. Our testing crew visited nearby Colorado areas, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, half a dozen Utah crags, and California’s High Sierra to find the five best single ropes on sport, trad, and alpine routes.
Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.
What makes a pant superior isn’t just about what it does do, but also about what it doesn’t do. It shouldn’t hinder upward progress; be too tight or too baggy; make you sweat or itch; look unstylish; have too many or too few pockets; or interact poorly with your harness and other gear. From the Alps of Switzerland to Boulder Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado, the Miage didn’t do any of those things, acting as a perfect all-around pant.
With around 30 backcountry testing days, from climbing Utah ice to teaching avalanche courses and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, the Helix proved its worth as a perfect “quiver of one” waterproof/breathable shell. Polartec NeoShell’s updated membrane is more permeable than the previous version, allowing air to pull moisture away from the skin at the first sign of sweat, rather than building up moisture before it’s released (which causes that clammy feeling).
“Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.
Three testers raved about this midweight fleece after using it across the world, from bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, to climbing alpine routes in Patagonia. “It was the most efficient midlayer I’ve ever worn: It warms without overheating, and it breathes in all the right places,” one tester said. The Pontetorto Technostretch fleece provided plenty of insulation in the torso and arms, while a lighter version of that fabric allowed more airflow under the arms and around the hips.
“Forget every other down puffy you’ve ever worn—this will beat them all,” one tester declared. The 750-fill down kept us warm in single-digit temps throughout the West. “Belay puffy, around town, skiing… I wore this every day this winter,” another tester said. The superior warmth and airy feel of this 23-oz. jacket (men’s M) was the foundation of our testers’ obsessions, but it was the climber-centric features that sealed the deal.
All harnesses do the same things—keep you from hitting the deck and tote gear—but how they do it can be staggeringly different. Some are mega-plush, built for hours of hanging, while others are slim and trim for sending projects. Then there are those designed with special features for ice climbing or mountaineering. You’ll probably have your harness for years—you won’t replace it as often as a rope or rock shoe—which makes it all the more important to choose the right rig.