The increasing popularity of climbing gyms isn’t a new story, but gym-specific gear is finally starting to catch up to the particular demands of the indoor setting—and the climbers who are flocking there in ever-larger numbers. “Gyms attract newer climbers, so simplified equipment that includes more safety features makes the experience safer and more user-friendly,” says Bo Beck, manager at The Desert Rat, a climbing gym in St. George, Utah. Look for new, easier-to-use assisted-braking belay devices that add another layer of protection and durability for the beginner (like Edelweiss’s new Kinetic). Heavier pieces (like Black Diamond’s new, 92-gram belay device, the ATC Pilot), are also more comfortable and ergonomic for heavy gym mileage.
Spring 2018 Climbing gear trends
The Edelweiss Kinetic ($TBD) is an assisted-braking belay device designed for both lead and top rope climbing. It features an aluminum body with stainless steel cams (shaped to ensure strong, responsive braking when needed), axis points, and rivets.
Petzl Ouistiti Harness
Designed for kids 65 pounds or lighter, the Petzl Ouistiti ($60) harness is easy to put on and fit, but kids won’t be able to manipulate the buckles on their own, so it’s safe, too. The perforated foam structure and the front tie-in point favor comfort while the rear attachment point adds another way to secure a youngster.
Petzl Boreo Helmet
Durable and versatile, the Petzl Boreo helmet ($65) is a multisport machine, designed for climbing, mountaineering, caving, via ferrata, and canyoneering. Its hybrid construction (more durable but lighter foam around the circumference combined with stronger, heavier stuff on top) makes the helmet light and compact. Reinforced sides, front, and rear mean the helmet protects more of your head, a necessity for use across different disciplines.
La Sportiva Geckogym
While a lot of climbing shoes may have a bent toward gym users, La Sportiva claims their new Geckogym ($110) is the first designed specifically for indoor use. The Frixion XF 2.0 outsole won’t mark up indoor surfaces and is easier (and thus less expensive) to resole because the toe rubber separates from the heel at the arch. Also cool: When the shoe gets stinky, just throw it into the washing machine with your jeans and t-shirts.
Edelweiss Vertige Junior Helmet
Designed for kids, the Vertige Junior helmet from Edelweiss ($TBD) features a tough plastic outer shell with a protective foam layer. This brain bucket features 10 large vents and an adjustable inner liner designed to cradle smaller craniums. Also nice: The liner can be removed and washed, a welcome touch for fleet helmets at kids’ adventure camps or parks.
Black Diamond Momentum Harness
Black Diamond’s Momentum [$50] has been a staple all-around climbing harness for years, and the brand is now building a pint-sized version with the same tech. The burly gear loops, adjustable leg loops, and comfortable padding now come in an 8.5-ounce version for the smallest senders.
Start ‘em young: Kids’ climbing trends
Retailers report that the average age of new climbers continues to get younger and younger—something many attribute to the newfound popularity of gyms—so manufacturers are catering more to the kid crowd. “I’ve seen a tremendous growth with kids learning to climb,” Beck says. “Adults who learned 10 to 15 years ago now want to involve their children.” What’s normally a pretty small selection will see a big boost this season. “Petzl has been making full-body kid harnesses long before the popularity boom that climbing is currently experiencing,” says Ben Eaton, marketing manager at Petzl.“With more and more families getting into the sport and involving their toddlers, this generates a need for more variety in climbing gear for all ages.”