Smart Shopping for Climbing Holds

Climbers use climbing holds for indoor “woodies” (bouldering walls that they build inside their homes, garages or in their backyards). In the past they were made from carved wood holds or people just bolted real rock into their plywood walls. Nowadays, around 20 companies make durable and lightweight holds.

Holds come in three basic styles: jugs, slopers and crimpers. Because these styles became so predictable to climbers, companies had to focus more energy on creating hard-to-read designs that offer countless different shapes, sizes and colors. Holds can have a course texture or a mixture of course and smooth textures, which encourage climbers to utilize the holds differently. Jibs are small foot chips that screw into the climbing wall with regular wood screws and typically have two screw holes for stability.

Holds are typically made out of a blend of polyester, polystyrene or vinylester resin. However, some companies make real rock holds, others use polyurethane, and yet others make holds with less toxic materials. Most holds have fiberglass or sand fillings.

Other hardware necessary to attach holds to walls are 3/8″ T-nuts, stainless steel bolts, regular steel allow bolts and T-handle wrenches.

What to Look for

Often, serious climbers create problems that match projects on real rock that they are working on. However, a novice or intermediate climber should probably just purchase a wide variety of holds to simulate many different situations and also to train as many different muscles in her body as possible.

The best way for a climber to find out which holds work best for her is to pay a visit to the local climbing gym. There, she will be able to try out hundreds of different types.

Common Pitfalls

Holds can get caked up with chalk and grime and so should be washed occasionally. Also, the texture of footholds often wears away after a few years, leaving the surface slick and black with rubber.

The main pitfall of plastic climbing holds, however, is that they are typically stickier than holds found outside so it’s easier to stay on a hold for a longer than natural period of time (and subsequently get injured). People who are not used to climbing indoors should be careful to warm up as much as possible and take it easy until they get used to plastic holds. Injuries resulting from over-gripping are common.

About this Author

Lizzy Scully is a senior contributing editor for Rock & Ice magazine and a columnist for Rocky Mountain Sports. She’s melded her passions for ascending rocks and for writing into a successful career in freelancing and a semi-professional career in climbing.