The beauty of bouldering? A little bit of gear goes a long way. Stock these key items and you’ll be set to work problems all over the Southern Appalachians this fall.
1. Black Diamond Mondo Pad It’s the most expensive piece of the bouldering pie, but there’s a reason: falling on the ground hurts. Falling on a crash pad hurts less. If you’re only getting one pad, look for a pad with five inches of foam to protect you from higher falls. The Mondo has three inches of high-compression foam wrapped in two inches of closed-cell foam. The coverage is solid, the fabric is a sturdy 1000d nylon, and it comes with the standard shoulder straps for easy transport. It ain’t cheap, but most insurance policies aren’t, either. $349. blackdiamondequipment.com
2. Scarpa Vapor V The suede and Lorica upper make the shoe stretchy, so it’s a bit more comfortable than its lace-up counterpart, but make no mistake, this is a technical shoe built to give you sure feet on the rock. We dig the Velcro “power straps” which make putting the shoe on a cinch and also provide a bit more support, which is key when your entire body weight is balanced on the inside edge of your right foot. $139. scarpa.com
3. Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Zip It’s stretchy, it’s made from cute sheep wool and recycled polyester, it’s warm, it breathes…it’s got fall bouldering written all over it. $80. patagonia.com
4. The North Face Cliff Rock Crag Pants These durable-but-stretchy canvas pants protect your stems but don’t limit your mobility when you’ve got a high-knee move. $55. thenorthface.com
6. Metolius Techno Chalk Bag This pouch has all the chalk bag standards, plus a zippered phone/mp3 pocket. It comes with a belt so you won’t forget the bag when you leave the gym or boulder field. $25. metoliusclimbing.com
Wringer: Five Ten Warhawk Approach Shoe
First, realize this: approach shoes aren’t designed to climb rock. The optimist would say approach shoes are designed to provide traction over rocky terrain on the way to the crag. The cynic would say the approach shoe is a made-up category designed to make you buy another set of shoes. At their worst, approach shoes are hiking boots that aren’t as comfortable as your light hikers and not nearly as grippy as your climbing shoes. But find an approach shoe that’s comfortable to hike in and can actually send rock when you need it to, and you’ve got something. The Warhawk is that something.
The shoe is stripped of the typical approach shoe bulk, then souped up with the new Stealth MI:6 rubber, a tread designed to help Tom Cruise scale glass in the latest Mission Impossible installment. The narrow toe-box and grippy rubber give the Warhawk a climbing shoe feel, but the shoe is light and cush enough to hike for miles in perfect comfort.
I spent several gym and bouldering sessions with the Warhawk and only occasionally felt limited by the shoes on my feet. Even though the tread lacks the sensitivity of a climbing shoe, the Warhawk still smears well, which is key on our sloping Southern granite. And it edges better than most other approach shoes I’ve tested. Better climbers than myself have claimed 5.11 routes in these shoes. Your average climber will simply dig the versatility. The Warhawk is a true hybrid that performs well on the hike to the crag, monkeying around on boulders at the campsite, scrambling on class IV scree…the flat sole and sticky rubber even stuck beautifully to the flat pedals on my singlespeed. $95. fiveten.com