Climbers gift guide

We all have those friends who are impossible to buy gifts for. Climbers can be among the trickiest: they’re fastidious, intense about style, and have spent way too much time analyzing the nuances of specific pieces of gear which no normal human could differentiate. Add to this that safety rated climbing gear can’t generally be returned,* and you’re in a pickle.

But never fear! Here is the go-to gift guide for climbers: ideal gifts that will be much appreciated, well used, and often wouldn’t be purchased by a climber for themselves. There’s an option for every budget, so check it out!

Petzl GriGri - $99
The GriGri is the only safety-rated piece of gear I've included on the list, but it’s still worthy of a strong recommendation. It is a belay device, which means that it helps the climber’s partner feed out rope and catch them in a fall, and it actually bites the rope under tension (called “assisted braking”)which makes for a much, much safer climbing experience. It also cost five times what “non-assisted” devices cost, so many climbers skip it.

Friction Labs Chalk $5-$25
“Hey Matt, isn't all climbing chalk the same?”
Friction labs chalk is produced with a higher concentration of active ingredients and less filler, so it keeps working longer. A product of the USA, Friction Labs chalk comes in fun, shiny packaging that looks great as a gift. For a bonus, throw in some hand cream to help heal those dry mitts after a hard day in the gym.

Singing Rock Penta Helmet - $70
In the last several years climbing helmets have evolved. The traditional hard hat style helmets are still common and useful, but in other applications, a foam style helmet is more appropriate. I own and use both styles, switching depending on the risks I'll be exposed to on a climb. The Singing Rock Penta is a killer deal on a foam helmet that will absorb force from multiple kinds of impact and could make a real difference for the climber in your life.

Black Diamond Pipe Dream $170
Here's on off of my own, personal wish list. The Black Diamond Pipe Dream is half backpack, half mobile lounge chair, half rope tarp, half sleeping pad when you forget to bring a real one. This pack/pad won't make your climber instantly able to climb the next grade, but it makes every trip to the crag a little more comfortable and convenient.

Light Rain Jacket - $50 - $250
This one is for those climbers who enjoy big outdoor routes or and lightweight long days outside. The idea is to get a rain jacket that's lightweight enough they'll throw it in their pack (or pocket) when a regular coat is too heavy, potentially saving themselves a lot of misery. I use the Montane Helium, but there are lots of options out there. If you're in Portland, I recommend swing by Next Adventure’s Grand location for the best deals on rainwear.

Climber’s tape and superglue - $10
If you've ever heard your climber say “crack,” “trad,” “offwidth,” or “splitter,” this one is for them. If not, it's still pretty good. (Ask if they've ever been to Indian Creek, if they get excited you've got a crack climber on your hands. If they seem repulsed, move on to number 7). Climber’s tape and superglue are used to protect climbers hands when jammed into cracks in the rock, and we can always use more!

Stick Clip - $45
This one is for the diehard sport climbers, and is a necessity for anyone who climbs at Smith Rock State Park. Stick clips are used to set the rope up at the beginning of a route so the climber is immediately protected from falling to the ground. There are many fancy versions of this simple tool, but I've found the best system is 16ft telescoping painter’s pole, a spring clamp and two hose clamps to attach it all together. All this stuff is available at most hardware stores.

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - $50
This one is great if you don't have time to do much pre-gift prying: everyone needs another headlamp. I don't know why, but headlamps are probably the most commonly lost and forgotten piece of outdoor equipment. I recommend the Storm for climbers because it's really reliable in any conditions, but there's plenty of headlamp options out there!

Theracane - $40
Theracanes are basically a tool that lets you rub your own back and work out nasty knots. Buy it, try it out on yourself, keep it, then go buy another one to give your climber so you can use it when you visit them.

Gift Certificate - $5 - $500
There's still tons and tons of climbing gear out there I haven't mentioned, and most of it is really specific. Climbing shoes are very specific to each climber's foot shape, and ropes or hardware have lots of minute variation and can't be returned. Consider one of the budget options + a gift certificate in the amount you chose.

*Safety-rated gear holds a climber's weight in a fall and goes through arduous testing, and it can't be returned to most small shops. Those shops that allow returns generally destroy the gear instead of reselling it.

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