Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Best Gifts For: The Climbing Bum


Wondering what to get the climbing bum on your holiday shopping list? Our expert gear tester knows exactly what they want. 


Scarpa Vapor Lace

If there’s one climbing shoe to do it all —and that does it all really well— the Scarpa Vapor Lace might just be it. The Vapor Lace, which is available in both men’s and women’s models, dishes out high performance with its bi-tensioned rand that keeps the shoe secure and supportive under the arch of your foot. It’s medium-stiff sole delivers enough support for long outdoor routes with sustained edging. Above all, it’s just really comfortable. | Vapor Lace $159


Patagonia High Alpine Kit

For the last several years, a group of professional alpinists, including Steve House, has been working with a team at Patagonia to completely re-think layer-ing for high-end alpinism. In a sport where aerobic output in tough conditions is the name of the game, Patagonia has put together a really compelling, if not game-changing, system for layering in the mountains. The Patagonia High Alpine Kit is an entire line of products, from base-layers to mid-layers, in-sulation to weather protection, and even an ultra-light bivy bag that takes the “disaster” out of “disaster-style” alpine climbing. It’s all designed to work together seamlessly. Some of the products you may recognize from past seasons, but what stands out most this year is the new Nano Air Light pants and hoody, and the Hybrid Sleeping bag.

The Nano Air Light pants/hoody combo are the ultimate “crosslayer”—meaning they can be worn under waterproof/breathable layers or insulate layers when necessary; but most of the time, they work on their own as you main outer layer. Nano Air Light breathes incredibly well for high-output climbing, dries incredibly quickly, and keeps you warm at belays.

The Hybrid Sleeping bag, meanwhile, is a weight-saving half bag, in which all the 850-fill down insulation is reserved for the lower half of your body. Pair the Hybrid Sleeping bag with a big, fat, warm down jacket such as the Patago-nia Grade VII Down Parka, and you should be toasty during those open alpine bivys, all while saving a bit of weight. | Nano Air Light Hoody $249 | Nano Air Light Pants $149 | Hybrid Sleeping Bag $299


Arc’teryx Carrier Duffle

If you ever wanted just one pack for life, travel, or cragging, I’d recommend the Arc’teryx Carrier Duffle bag. The only problem is, you’re going to want more than one. These bags come in three sizes —40 liters, 55 liters, 80 li-ters— and they are incredibly simple yet surprisingly technical. They’re con-structed of heavy-duty nylon and given a polyurethane coating that makes them virtually bombproof. All the seams are sealed, and the zipper, which runs the length of the center of the loaf-shaped bag, is also watertight. Most impres-sively, they’re super light and super compressible. Versatile enough for use as a daypack for climbing or trips to gym, as well as weekend getaways, these duffels are durable enough to survive wind, rain, snow, and repeated thrash-ings on airline tarmacs, and still keep going strong! | Carrier Duffle Bags $175-$225


Yeti Hopper Flip 12

There’s nothing worse than returning back to the tailgate of your truck after a long day of climbing and having to crack open a warm beer. Well, OK … there are a lot of things we can think of that are worse. But still, there’s no ex-cuse for serving your climbing partner a hot beverage after a big day, and with the Yeti Hopper Flip 12, there’s no reason your beer won’t be ice cold. This thing is the perfect size for any day of cragging. It’s small and light enough to carry in on a hike, and durable enough to last years. | Hopper Flip 12 $279



Hans Florine, who has made it his lifelong mission to continue to improve his speed record on the Nose of El Capitan, has designed one of the best knives I’ve ever seen for climbers. The NIAD (or, “Nose in a Day”), from knife manu-facturer CRKT, is a .6 ounce minimalist serrated blade that is designed to be clipped with a standard carabiner to your harness, and kept there for those moments when you really need it, whether that’s cutting tat from anchors or trimming the end of your core shot rope. This is a sweet, spartan tool that should be on every climber’s rig. | NIAD $39.99


Friction Labs Chalk

Friction Labs claims that their secret proprietary process of making their brand of climbing chalk removes fillers typically found in other brands/blends, which purportedly makes theirs the purest composition of magne-sium-carbonate that you can get. We don’t understand the science behind this chalk, nor do we care. All we know is that it really works. The best way to describe Friction Labs chalk is that it’s noticeably a bit better than every other type of chalk on the market. Your hands will stay dryer, longer. As a byproduct, you’ll also end up using a LOT less chalk overall, which helps jus-tify the cost. There are three different textures you can buy, from extra fine to extra chunky. Our recommendation is the chunkiest: Bam Bam. | 10 oz $25


Beastmaker 1000

The best hangboard is the one that you’ll actually use. But beyond that re-quirement, a good hangboard should offer a high training value, not trash your skin, and take up as little room as possible. On those accounts, the Beast-maker 1000 gets our recommendation for the best training tool you can hang over any doorway. With a plethora of jugs and edges that aren’t ridiculously small, the Beastmaker 1000 allows you to progress quickly, especially once you start hanging weights off your harness. An accompanying app, for Android or iOS, that feature a variety of workouts and built-in interval timer, will also help you make the transition from weakling to beast. | Beastmaker 1000 $99



Say goodbye to pumped forearms and elbow tendonitis with the Rolflex, a simple self-massaging tool that will smash out your arm tissue and prevent those gui-tar-string tendons from snapping. There are other similar devices like the Rolflex, but this one is by far the cheapest. And, having used the more expen-sive ones, we can attest that the Rolflex works just as well, if not better. You’ll appreciate how light it is, too, meaning that it’s no problem to throw this torture device into a climbing pack, and start your recovery right away. | Rolflex $59.95

rhino skin

Rhino Skin Solutions

Let’s face it: finger skin is one of the most important factors that determine climbing performance, and that’s true whether you’re Chris Sharma or the token noob at the gym. Few climbers, however, really understand how to leverage the plethora of creams and essential oils out there to optimize performance and speed recovery. Enter Rhino Skin Solutions, a small company started by two Smith Rock locals who wanted to offer a complete line of topical products that will keep your skin tough enough to handle day after day of sharp rock, but also, moisturized enough to prevent tears and speed re-growth. There are four products: Repair, Performance, Dry, and Calm. Repair is a non-greasy condi-tioner that you can apply immediately after climbing. Performance and Dry are antiperspirant creams that toughen up the skin and prevent it from overly sweating; they should be applied the night before climbing. Calm is an essen-tial oil for mental relaxation, perhaps to be used anytime you want to visual-ize the moves on your project. Every person’s skin is different, and experi-mentation is required for individuals to determine frequency of use. But bot-tom line, Rhino Skin is the best—and healthiest—stuff out there for optimizing your skin for high performance. | Sample Pack $41


Send Kneepads

For some reason, the climbing technique of “knee barring” as well as the use of specialized climbing kneepads — which are, essentially, orthopedic neoprene sleeves to which climbers have glued sticky rubber — has historically been controversial. But that seems to be changing as more sport climbers and boul-derers are wising up to the fact that knee barring with kneepads is simply just another technique in one’s arsenal — it just happens to be a really, really good one that can make harder routes feel much easier. Enter Send, a company based in El Paso, Texas (home of Hueco Tanks) that sells the best kneepads you can get. What makes Send’s kneepads better than the normal home-made versions are the inclusions of straps that allow you to tighten the knee-pad down without the use of duct tape. Women, climbers with shorter legs, or those who just would prefer a smaller kneepad would benefit from the MINI (two-strap) size. New this year is the SLIM versions of the kneepads, which use thinner materials and feel less bulky on the leg. Sport climbers seem to prefer the SLIM versions, while boulderers may prefer more protection with the CLASSIC pads. | Knee Pads $69-$79


Suspended Stone Design

Kate Rutherford is one of the leading female alpine and trad climbers in the world, whose career highlights include completing the seven summits of the Fitz Roy skyline in Patagonia, and free-climbing El Capitan via Freerider (VI 5.13a). She also makes gorgeous stone jewelry that has gained a cult following among women in the climbing world. Hand-selected stones from beaches on the west coast are used in her pendants, strands, earrings and bracelets. Each piece tells a unique story, and speaks to Rutherford’s love of the sport as both a lifestyle and an art form. | Prices Vary


Castleton Tower Skyline Flexfit Hat

Peter Gilroy is an artist, jeweler, and climber from Taos, New Mexico, who works with metal to create some unique, colorful, climbing-themed accessories. By far, our favorite pieces from Gilroy are his Flexfit hats, which sport a titanium plate that serves as a canvas for some of the most iconic mountain skylines in the world. His latest work is the Castleton skyline, one of Utah’s most important and popular climbing areas. He creates the shades and colors by running an electrical current through the titanium plate in a detergent bath, which oxidizes the metal. Also, it’s worth mentioning that a portion of each sale goes to the Access Fund.

Peter W Gilroy | Mesh Skyline Flexfit Hat $35


Totem Cams

Totem Cams might be the most underrated pieces of climbing gear on the market. This Spain-based company has slowly earned a following in the climbing, first among big-wall climbers. Now, even free climbers are beginning to recognize that Totem makes the best and most reliable small-to-medium-sized camming units. What makes these cams the ones to rule them all is the fact that Totem cams fit everywhere, including weird flares and shallow cracks. Their fully flexible stems allow force to be applied directly to the cam units themselves, eliminating issues with walking or torque. Totem Cams won’t be able to cover every situation, but just about any trad climber’s rack would benefit from the addition of a few of these units. | Cams $83


CAMP Nano 22 Rack Pack

One of the lightest carabiners in the world, the CAMP Nano 22 is the ultimate biner for racking cams, nuts, and slings. At only 22 grams (.8 ounces), the Nano 22 is a small wire-gate carabiner that is still fully functional in most climbing applications. The basket is big enough to accept a clove-hitch, for example, and the gate itself opens wide enough for easy clipping. This is also one of the few carabiners out there that can easily clip to the chain-links found at anchors all of the world. The Nano 22 Rack Pack is a set of six Nano 22 carabiners, each one sporting a different color, which makes pairing these biners with cams of the same color code a no brainer. | Nano 22 Rack Pack $39.95


Trango Beta Stick

Say what you want about stick clipping, but sometimes it’s just plain smart. For years, sport climbers have been carrying around heavy 10-foot extendable painter’s poles affixed with A-clamps. Enter the Beta Stick, hands down the best commercially available stick clip we’ve ever seen. What makes the Beta Stick unique is its strong, light telescopic pole that reaches an impressive 12 feet over head, yet collapses down to just 2.75 feet, making it compact enough to travel with, or just keep in a large pack. The head of the Beta Stick can clip draws to bolts and ropes to draws as easily as any device we’ve come across. Also, you can affix a brush to a Velcro strap, and brush those hard-to-reach holds, making the Beta Stick useful for boulderers as well. Trust us and upgrade to the Standard size. | Trango Beta Stick $66.95 - $74.95


Access Fund Membership

Twenty percent of all climbing areas in the U.S. are threatened by an access issue. The group working to protect our beloved sacred playgrounds and help keep them open for us to enjoy is the Access Fund. When the National Parks wanted to prohibit fixed anchors in the 1990s, the Access Fund was there to reach a compromise. Without the Access Fund, there would be no Dawn Wall, for example. Since 1990, the Access Fund has assisted with 52 land acquisitions, and preserved over 15,000 acres of land for climbing. Gifting an Access Fund membership is easily one of the best gifts you can give a climber. You can also get a T-shirt with a donation of over $50. | Donation Amounts Vary


MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0

There isn’t a single climber who doesn’t have a nagging, niggling, tweaking over-use injury of some sort. And if you’re still using a foam roller to smash out that tight tissue, you need to upgrade to one of the best mobility tools on the market: the MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0. This softball-sized self-massage tool is at once a blunt hammer as well as a fine-precision instrument when it comes to ironing out that which ails you. Light and portable, the Supernova 2.0 should go with you everywhere. As they say, when it comes to mobility and recovery, there are no rest days. | MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0 $39.95


Sublime Boar’s Hair Brush

Brushing chalk off the rock is necessary to improve friction, and remove un-sightly marks. Boar’s-hair brushes seem to do the best job of lifting chalk off the rock — particularly slopers — with as little damage to the rock itself as possible. They’re much better than nylon, for example, at lifting chalk off the face. By far the best boar’s-hair brush for climbers is made by Sublime, a new company that makes honking brushes with at least 14,000 bristles each. The sheer density of bristles is what makes Sublime brushes last so long, too. | Boar's Hair Brush $15.95

edelrid mega jul

Edelrid Mega Jul Belay Device

The Edelrid Mega Jul comes as close to being a do-it-all belay/rappel device as any I’ve ever seen. This multifunctional, tube-style, “passive-assisted-locking” device is super light, feeds slack to a leader much more quickly than other devices in its category, and can be used in a number of different con-figurations that increase its braking power to a degree that it is on par with mechanical auto-locking devices. One favorite feature is the ability to have a more controlled descent on rappel. | Mega Jul $34.95


Mammut Multipitch Chalk Bag

For climbers interested in doing long routes, the Mammut Multipitch Chalk Bag is a sweet upgrade to regular chalk bags as it carries much more than just chalk. With a zippered front pocket and elastic bands, you can store a super-light emergency wind jacket, a headlamp, car keys, lip balm, or even a “summit soda.” | Chalk Bag $39.95 


Singing Rock Penta

The Singing Rock Penta soars in all categories. At 205 grams, it’s one of the lightest helmets on the market, it sports some of the best features (such as easy-to-use helmet clips), and it’s one of the cheapest, making it an incredi-ble value. Most importantly, the Penta is so light and airy that you’ll actu-ally end up wearing it. | Penta Helmet $85


Petzl Spirit Express

Petzl has been a leader in producing the highest-end sport-climbing quickdraws you can buy for many years, in part thanks to their notchless, key-locking carabiner designs that greatly reduce any snagging while clipping bolt hang-ers, or cleaning the draws. The Petzl Spirit Express has a durable, easy-to-grab dog bone, and it’s outfitted with a straight-gate carabiner up top for the bolt hanger, and a bent-gate carabiner for the rope. The clipping action on these quickdraws is utterly smooth. | Quickdraws $22.95


Black Diamond Creek 50

Talk about an insta-classic: the Black Diamond Creek 50 has only been on the market for a couple of years, but it’s already popping up at crags all over the country. The reason is that this haulbag-meets-crag-pack has everything that climbers are looking for: something that carries reasonably well, stores all of their gear (including rope), packs up quickly with a top-loading design to let you easily move between crags/pitches, and is durable enough to stand up to being thrown down into the dirt and talus day after day. A waterproof coating and internal zippers make this bag hard to beat. | Creek 50 $189.95


Organic Simple Pad

For quick jaunts to the boulders, the Organic Simple Pad is in a league of its own. Boasting four inches of high-quality foam that is designed to take one beating after another, the Simple Pad is really all you need. The landing zone can be customized into any kind of color or design you want. As an added bo-nus, this pad – like all Organic products – are made in the USA. | Simple Pad $175


Arc’teryx Arakys

This approach shoe looks like it’s from the future, and in some ways it is. With the Arakys, Arc’teryx achieved a surprisingly remarkable feat by combin-ing the stiffness needed for long, rugged approaches in a lightweight shoe that borders on being a sticky-rubber slipper. Flop the heel down for a “crag-ging mode” clog-style shoe that can be worn with bare feet thanks to a leather footbed, or clip the shoes to your harness via burly pull tabs for a multi-pitch route that demands a walk-off descent. For climbers, this might just be the one do-it-all shoe to rule them all. | Arakys Shoes $150


Black Diamond Solution Harness

One of the most comfortable minimalistic harnesses on the market is also one of the best values. The Black Diamond Solution harness has a triple-weave web-bing core on the waist belt that cradles your back and hips as if you’re rock-ing yourself in a personal hammock. At $69.95, the Solution is half as expen-sive as other high-end sport climbing harnesses, and it performs just as well. The pressure molded gear loops are easy to clip an entire rack of draws or cams. It compresses down well, fitting snugly inside your pack without taking up much room. | Solution Harness $69.95


Rock Climbing Yosemite Valley: 750 Best Free Routes guidebook

The newest guidebook to America’s biggest and best climbing area features 750 of the best free climbs in Yosemite Valley. This quality tome features gor-geous color photography and extremely well researched route descriptions. Nothing gets climbers stoked like poring over a new guidebook. | Guidebook $40


Alpine Start Foods Instant Coffee

Sometimes, coffee is the crux — and that’s never a good problem for a climber to have. For some, the idea of “instant” coffee has been ruined by the less-than-palatable offerings that are available, which is why professional climb-ers Matt Segal and Alex Hanafin created Alpine Start Foods. They wanted to change the perception that instant coffee didn’t need to be bitter and bad. Surprisingly, this instant coffee is tasty, chocolatey, and rich. The best part is how portable these single serve packets are. No need for an elaborate coffee-brewing contraption up on a big-wall, or during an alpine start. In fact, you can get away without hot water because even the addition of cold wa-ter to this instant-coffee blend tastes good. | Instant Coffee $8.49


CAMP Corsa Nanotech

Is there anything more iconic than the mountaineering axe? The old wood-handled alpenstocks from Europe’s golden age of mountaineering have come a long way, and now weigh less than a pair of wool socks. The CAMP Corsa Nanotech is an incredible feat of design and engineering that has resulted in a durable steel pick and spike, yet it only weighs 8.8 ounces. This tool is ideal for all types of snow travel, self-arrest, and general mountaineering. | Nanotech Axe $159.95

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