The small, vertical world of climbing is growing rather big, which means there’s ever more passionate climbers out there and an increasing array of disciplines that climbers may (or may not) be immersed in.
This makes buying rock climbing gifts quite tricky: how do you know your favourite climber is into a given discipline, and how do you know they actually need that bit of kit? If you’ve looked into buying any climbing kit, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of it, it’s full of jargon and it’s not always that affordable!
That’s why we decided to put together this 2023 gift guide with rock climbing gifts (and gifts for other types of climbers) that they will love and actually use.
19 Rock Climbing Gifts
Here we’ll outline some rock climbing gifts and gifts for climbers in different disciplines, at different price ranges, and we’ll offer some ideas of what not to get. Then we’ll get to the more exciting creative gift ideas that go beyond the standard ‘pair of socks’ equivalent for climbers.
If you know that your favourite climber is into roped climbing, you don’t have to get them a rope. You can’t go too far wrong with a good carabiner, as it’s hard to have too many of them. You can even choose a nice, colourfully anodized one with a locking gate. However, this is quite a ‘standard’ gift, and if they’ve been climbing longer than a few years they’ll know what they like and it’s probably not an exciting present. We should also mention here that if it belongs on a keyring and says ‘not for climbing’ on it, we’re probably not interested.
2. Chalk bag
Almost anyone that climbs (with the exception of winter/ice climbing) will use chalk. Chalk bags that attach to the waist are mostly used by roped climbers, but they’re useful to boulderers too (the folk climbing lower to the ground above pads, instead of ropes). They also come in lots of pretty and fun designs. The climber in your life most likely already has a chalk bag, making this new one an upgrade at best, but it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of novelty in your life. If you know your climber is a boulderer, have a look for some boulder buckets.
Humble magnesium carbonate might not seem like a flashy gift, and honestly it isn’t, but almost every climber will use chalk and you will always run out of the white stuff one day. This makes chalk quite a practical stocking filler which will almost certainly come in handy.
Chalk is one of the most practical rock climbing gifts, and the best part is that almost any type of climber (even if they’re not into rock climbing) needs chalk. You can also find premium chalk that most climbers won’t splash out on, but will gladly receive as a gift.
You might not consider climbers especially booky, but we can be surprisingly nerdy creatures ready to soak up the proliferating information on climbing destinations, history, memoirs and training. Mountain literature has become a significant genre in itself, popular with active climbers and ‘armchair mountaineers’. For rock climbers, guidebooks are indispensable, and if they travel often then they’re likely to have a shelf on their bookcase dedicated to them. Guidebooks also support local climbing by maintaining fixed equipment and access, so it’s a great way to give back to the community.
Most climbers don’t do as much climbing as they would like, so reading about it is the next best thing. An updated guidebook, a new selected guide, a recent release of an autobiography or coffee-table climbing book could be ideal for your favourite climber.
5. Climbing-related gifts
As with any ‘thing’ – be it a hobby, a sport, a passion or a TV show – there are t-shirts, mugs and gift-shop style items you can get for climbers. And honestly, you really might find a good t-shirt from a climbing brand that has a cool design your climber will love. Beyond that, the vast swathes of the internet that fortuitously led you here are unlikely to yield more than a forced smile from your climber with their quirky catch-phrases on their Made In China mugs.
Medium-Priced Rock Climbing Gifts
Surprisingly, there’s not a huge middle ground when it comes to pricing climbing kit.
You might have already looked at some of our earlier suggestions and realised that there are great options that push into this price range. You’ll also see that some of our more expensive suggestions would land in this category if they didn’t belong in sets. Your best bet might be to combine a couple of cheaper gifts, or go for an upmarket version – a more precious coffee-table book, or a fancy fleece instead of a t-shirt.
A quick browse at some of the respected climbing clothing brands (Black Diamond and Rab to name just two) will easily offer some good options. They might even have ‘Gifts For Him’ or ‘Gifts For Her’ style sections.
6. Essential climbing equipment
Occasionally, a harness or an assisted braking device (such as a GriGri or a Click-Up) can be a great rock climbing gift (a great gift for any roped climber, really) and fit into the top end of this price bracket. They tend to last a long time and get used in almost every climbing session, which means your climber will be thinking of you all the time 😉. But usually climbers already have these and only really need one at a time. Of course, equipment doesn’t last forever and newer gear, particularly the devices mentioned above, can really improve someone’s climbing experience if they’re willing to get to grips with them.
There’s definitely more climbing kit, such as trad gear, that makes it into this middle category, but it also belongs in our ‘What Not To Get’ category, which you’ll see below.
You’ll also see that some of our creative gift ideas fit neatly into this category, but we’re saving them for later 😉
Higher-Priced Rock Climbing Gifts
A lot of climbing equipment falls into this higher price bracket. Climbing gear often needs to be manufactured to a high industry standard to be rated for the job of catching a climber’s fall, or for protecting a climber in harsh conditions. That’s why climbers can be quite brand-conscious creatures (we’ve mentioned some trusted brands at the bottom of this article). Beyond the high demands on our equipment, climbing is still a niche sport where manufacturers don’t benefit from the economy of scale that bigger sports do.
Buying something expensive is kind of high risk, since your favourite climber might not need it, or may already have it. There are a few items that almost made it into our ‘What Not To Buy’ section for this reason, but if you know your climber well enough, we think they’re worth mentioning here:
7. Bouldering pads
If you know that your climber is into bouldering outside, they will almost certainly use bouldering pads. Unless you live in a small home, you can usually use more pads, and they do eventually wear out. However, they’re quite expensive and if your climber has been bouldering for a long time, they will know what they like. They’re also bulky, hard to wrap and get in the way if they’re not used.
For roped rock climbers, quickdraws are pretty much always useful. What’s helpful is that they’re only in this higher price bracket when bought in sets of six or so. But we’ve put them here because as climbers we generally want our quickdraws in sets, so we’re familiar with the size of them and their little quirks. What’s more, having too many quickdraws in your kit cupboard isn’t ever really a bad thing – if they’re high quality, they’re always going to be used at some point and they often give you the freedom to do longer climbs or keep trying different ones. The difficulty is knowing whether to get trad quickdraws or sport quickdraws – they can usually be used interchangeably, but it’s best to know your climber for this one.
Most outdoor climbers won’t tire of having lovely clothing to keep them warm or dry on their adventures. Even for the fair weather climber (that’s most of us!) resting or belaying can get you cold quickly. If you know your climber spends time in mild or cold conditions, an insulated jacket is rarely unwanted. If they’re not vegan, a down jacket is a real treat, but if they’re not into animal products then the modern synthetic options are the next best thing. It doesn’t have to be heavy insulation – ’microlight’ or midweight jackets can be just as useful in mild conditions or as a mid-layer.
You might have been wondering when we were going to mention rope… Funnily enough, even rope can be a tricky one, since there are many varieties, lengths, diameters etc. We don’t really recommend venturing into the tricky business of rope, lest you find yourself in a knot. However, indoor climbers can be tricky to buy for since they don’t need a huge amount of kit, and they generally already have what they need. But if they do need a rope, you could look out for a 40m (120ft) single, dynamic rope that isn’t more than 9.6mm in diameter. Searching for ‘indoor climbing rope’ might just do the trick. Failing that, keep reading for our more imaginative recommendations further down.
What Not To Get For Climbers
This is an important public service announcement to all those who love climbers. We often consider ourselves easy to buy for because it’s very clear what we love – climbing. But in truth it’s not that simple, as you’ve probably learnt if you’ve read this far. There’s a lot of kit that every climber already has and a lot of kit that just has to be chosen by the climber, as we’ll explain…
Climbing shoes are very important to climbers. They are the single piece of equipment that has the greatest impact on a climber’s performance, like rackets for tennis players or golf clubs for golfers, and they wear out quite regularly. But they are incredibly specific to the climber. You really need to try a shoe on to know if it fits you just right (which is usually rather tight, so we can’t guess that from the size of their street shoe) and the shoe you require is going to really depend on the climbing you do. Unless you share a footlocker with the climber in your life (and if you do, we’re really sorry about the smell!), or you can get hold of their favourite climbing shoes that have just worn out, then you’re unlikely to get this right. However, if you can get this right, shoes can be a fantastic gift.
12. Trad gear
Traditional climbing requires a lot of equipment, as do aid climbing and big walling. That means there’s almost no end to the kit your favourite climber could need, and they’re most likely quite fond of all their shiny aluminium gadgets. So surely this is a great gift idea? Not really – a large proportion of climbers don’t do trad climbing, so if they’re an indoor climber, a boulderer or a sport climber that only clips bolts, trad gear is quite a useless present. (If you’re not sure of the difference between these styles of climbing, take a look at our trad climbing vs sport climbing article). What’s more, it’s nice to have gear in a complete set, as the sizes and colours work together, and trad climbers can be a touch pedantic about their life-saving equipment.
Second hand equipment? If you’re not a climber it might be hard to tell when second hand equipment is safe to use, and if you are a climber it’s easy to have reservations about a stranger’s gear. There are a few exceptions to this, but unless you know the full history of a piece of equipment, it’s unlikely to give you peace of mind when you’re using it. What’s more, older equipment is often quite inferior to the modern day stuff, even if it isn’t actually unsafe. Metal gear, for example, ages pretty well when it’s left in a kit cupboard, but it’s usually much clunkier and heavier if it’s been around for a decade or two.
Small Business/Community Gifts
There are a number of ways you can support the climbing community and climbers themselves when buying rock climbing gifts. The guidebooks we mentioned earlier are a great way to do this. Although we generally consider climbing to be ‘free’, maintaining fixed equipment and access costs money, despite the many days and weeks of volunteered time good-hearted climbers put in.
13. Independent Outdoors Shops
You don’t have to buy the whole shop, but buying from a small climbing shop can make a real difference. These are often the life of small climbing communities – they’re not just there to sell you stuff, they’ll fit your shoes, let you know where you can climb on a given day and if you ever leave your kit at the crag, it often gets left with the trusted climbing shop. They also employ a lot of climbing folk so that they can keep doing what they love best. In recent years we’ve lost a lot of our treasured climbing shops and we’re just learning how much we loved them. Here’s one example of a UK shop we love.
14. Training Equipment
An often-overlooked idea is training equipment for climbers, particularly wooden training holds. If you know that your favourite climber has a training wall at home, or hang off a fingerboard to get strong, you’ll be able to find some beautifully crafted gifts from a devoted climber. You usually wouldn’t find these in a big outdoors retailer and often they’re unique pieces which are sustainably made, so they make great presents for folk that want strong fingers. Here’s an example of an independent UK hold maker.
15. Podcast Subscription
There’s a lot of passionate climbers broadcasting useful or fascinating information in podcast (or video) form. It’s surprising how much work goes into making a podcast and how hard they are to keep running (we put a lot of work into our podcast!). Supporting a podcast could be a great way to give your climber something they wouldn’t have paid for themselves. Here’s a great example of a hardworking climbing podcaster from the USA.
16. Climbing Artists
You might already know that climbers are quite creative folk that spend a lot of time in beautiful places. It’s not too surprising then that there are some great rock climbing artists out there. What’s more, they make art based on things that climbers love, so you’re bound to find something special from these special people. Here’s an example of a US-based artist we love and another artist in the UK.
Creative Rock Climbing Gifts
Ok.. phew! With all of the necessary caveats and reasoning in place, here’s the really important stuff: Creative gifts for the climber in your life. As we’ve discovered here, climbers are actually quite hard to buy for – most of us know what we like and we often need pretty specific things if we don’t have them already.
This section really caters for all climbers, including indoor climbers who typically have everything they need. These are some more out-of-the-box ideas, many of which don’t come in boxes, which saves the bother of delivering, wrapping or remembering to order the gift in time.
Most of us think of giving a hands-on climber something they can get their hands on, which leaves coaching somewhat overlooked. But climbers are often experience-driven people, and giving an experience, or an opportunity, sets this one apart from the usually materialistic nature of gift-giving. Even for highly experienced climbers, coaching offers an improved experience and an opportunity to learn more in what they’re most passionate about.
What’s more, this is usually an under-appreciated area of climbing, which means it’s not something that’s already lying in their kit cupboard – it’s something new to explore. And we don’t just mean movement coaching: there is a huge psychological component to climbing, from fear of falling to performance psychology, and you might have guessed that this is our speciality here at Strong Mind. Over the years we’ve been demonstrating how our remote coaching and online courses can really improve performance and enjoyment in climbing. We’ve been working with some of the top athletes in our sport to show that mental training really works. If you need convincing, take a look here.
Another great thing about coaching is that it’s suitable for any climber. Both our one-to-one coaching and our online courses are tailored for different climbing disciplines – indoors and outdoors; trad, sport and bouldering.
Remote coaching, as the name suggests, can be done from anywhere with a good internet connection. It’s based around one-to-one conversations on video Zoom which allow our qualified coaches to tailor their coaching to the individual climber. Single coaching sessions, such as troubleshooting sessions, fall into the lower price brackets, but effective coaching for more nuanced cases usually comes from multiple sessions.
Our best value options come from online courses. These run in both DIY fashion (do the course in your own time, at your own pace) or semi-live launches which include support and weekly group coaching sessions. These are especially effective for common fears in climbing, such as fear of falling, or for performance self-coaching.
Mental training is special because it allows us to improve both our performance and enjoyment, which means the climber in your life will love their favourite thing a little more. For most climbers, the psychological side of climbing is a huge reason why climbing means so much to them. What’s more, what we learn in mental training often transfers into other areas of our lives. Take a look at this testimonial, or this student success story to find out more.
If you’re looking for something creative, mental training can really improve a climber’s experience, and it doesn’t need wrapping, delivering or ordering weeks in advance.
18. Gym membership
This is another idea that isn’t going to fill up your climber’s kit cupboard or turn up in the recycling bin a few weeks later. We’re not talking about a conventional gym membership here, we’re talking about climbing gyms. Most climbers will use a climbing gym at some point, and some will climb exclusively indoors. Buying a membership is generally quite pricey, but gyms often offer multiple-session tickets or season passes. If you know your climber goes indoors and climbs at a particular gym, you really could give them the gift of climbing. This can be tricky if they don’t go indoors often, don’t live near a particular gym, or as is often the case, climb at multiple climbing centres. They also may already have an existing membership, or only climb indoors begrudgingly when the weather doesn’t allow them to do their favourite thing outdoors.
On similar lines to our coaching idea, instruction can offer an invaluable experience, even for a proficient climber. Many climbers want to move from indoor climbing to outdoor climbing, or from bouldering to sport climbing, or from sport climbing to trad climbing, but doing this safely is tricky without good quality instruction. Climbers may also want to do some harder or more adventurous climbing that requires an instructor or guide for safety at this level. Our in-house instructor Angus operates in North Wales (UK) and offers in-person fall practice sessions alongside trad and lead climbing coaching, but wherever you go, be sure to find a qualified instructor/guide that comes recommended!
Before you rush off and buy your climber something, see if you can learn something more about their climbing. Have they been climbing long? What sort of climbing do they do? Do they have loads of equipment? What matters most to them?
Climbers can be picky about their equipment and where it comes from. On the whole, we’re more environmentally conscious than average and we prefer not to waste something, or have something given to us that will go to waste. We have a preference for outdoor brands that stick to our values (or at least claim to), and those brands or names might be a little less mainstream than you think. That means that gloves from your favourite department store might not do the trick, even if they do keep your hands warm – the demands a rock climber put on their kit is different from the average department store shopper, and we can be quite nerdy about how stuff performs in harsh conditions. Mainstream sports brands and even some of the big-name outdoors brands don’t cut it with climbers, either because we’re too cool, too niche or have high-spec standards for our kit. If you’re not familiar with the kit, then climbing equipment often seems expensive for what it is. But usually there’s not an enormous mark-up on outdoor equipment and the price is usually high for a reason (even if that reason is simply being a niche sport). If you search around for cheaper equipment, you’ll generally get what you pay for, although there are a few exceptions to this. If you’re looking for an example of real climber brands, have a look at Black Diamond, DMM, Rab, La Sportiva or Scarpa.
And of course, if you’re interested in any of our products, get in touch to see if they’re suitable for your favourite climber. We hope you enjoyed these 19 rock climbing gifts (and the two gifts we don’t recommend for climbers).