Rock climbing has exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason – it’s fun, challenging, and great exercise! However, rock climbing isn’t necessarily the cheapest sport, and having to spend a lot of money on gear just to try out the sport can be discouraging. So, how much does it cost to go rock climbing?
The short answer is: it depends. If you want to try out rock climbing for an afternoon, you can head to a climbing gym and purchase a day pass and gear rental for $15-40. However, if you want to purchase all of your own gear to climb outside, you may be looking at an investment of $500 or more.
In this article, we’ll break down the costs of different types of climbing, the cost differences between gym climbing and outdoor climbing, and some ways to save money as you are getting started with rock climbing.
Costs of Bouldering in a Gym
Bouldering is climbing without the protection of ropes and harnesses, typically on boulders, low cliffs, or artificial gym climbing walls that are only up to about 20 feet tall.
For bouldering in a gym, all you need is climbing shoes and a chalk bag. The floor will be heavily padded to protect you if you fall.
Most bouldering gyms offer day passes, which usually range from about $15 to $30 per person. Many gyms also offer shoe rentals for about $4 to $5 per person – some even offer free shoe rentals if it’s your first time visiting! You can often use a loaner chalk bag during your visit as well.
Generally, bouldering gyms also offer punch cards (which give you a slightly discounted rate to visit several times) as well as monthly or annual memberships. Monthly memberships usually range from about $50 to $75 per person per month, and annual memberships are often slightly discounted from the monthly price.
So, if you have never visited a bouldering gym before and want to check it out for a day, you’ll likely pay between $15 and $35 total per person for a day pass and shoe rental.
Costs of Sport Climbing in a Gym
Sport climbing involves wearing a climbing harness and tying into a rope to protect yourself if you fall, and sport routes are often anywhere from 30 to 100 or more feet long. In a gym setting, the walls typically don’t exceed 60 feet.
To sport climb in a gym, you will generally need to obtain your belay certification (most gyms offer classes and tests), or you will need to climb with someone who’s certified and can belay you, or you can stick to the gym’s auto belay routes where no certification is required.
The cost of a day pass at a sport climbing gym is about the same as at a bouldering gym: usually $15 to $30 per person. In fact, many gyms have both bouldering and sport climbing, so you can try out both climbing styles if you want to! For sport climbing, you will also need to rent a climbing harness, so the total cost of your gear rental will likely be $5 to $10 per person. Monthly and annual memberships are often similar to those of bouldering gyms as well.
So, in total, you’d be looking at $20 to $40 total per person to try sport climbing in a gym for the day.
Costs of Bouldering Outdoors
When bouldering outdoors, climbers often place crash pads on the ground beneath the route that they’ll climb (called the boulder ‘problem’) to protect themselves if they fall. If you want to try bouldering outdoors, you’ll need shoes, a chalk bag, and probably at least a couple of crash pads. Crash pads generally cost $150 or more, or you can usually rent them from a local climbing gym for $10-20 each per day. Most climbing gyms don’t offer shoe rentals ‘to-go’ so to say, so you’ll likely need to purchase your own shoes to do any outdoor climbing.
Climbing shoes are highly specialized, so they are generally more expensive than regular shoes. However, you can find entry-level climbing shoes for around $40 to $50 new. Some more advanced or more technical climbing shoes can cost $250 or more, but it’s certainly not necessary to spend that much on shoes when you are getting started.
To try outdoor bouldering, you will likely spend about $50 on shoes, $20 to $40 to rent one or two crash pads, and gas to get to the bouldering area – probably around $100 all-in. However, keep in mind that bouldering outdoors is much more difficult and dangerous than indoor bouldering, especially for those who are new to the sport.
Costs of Sport Climbing Outdoors
Sport climbing outdoors will require a much more significant investment in equipment. You’ll also need a climbing partner, and to know how to use all of the gear safely. Either you or your climbing partner will need to lead the outdoor sport route, which involves clipping quickdraws into existing bolts on the rock wall, then clipping your climbing rope into the quickdraws.
At minimum, you will need shoes ($40+), a climbing harness ($60+), a dynamic climbing rope ($170+), a belay device for each person ($35+ each), 12 quickdraws ($120+), a personal anchor system ($35+), and a few extra locking and non-locking carabiners (~$30).
So, unless your climbing partner has some or all of the gear, you’re looking at about $500 to get started with outdoor sport climbing.
You might also want a climbing helmet ($60+), chalk and a chalk bag ($40+), a rope bag ($30+), belay glasses to protect your neck ($20+), a stick clip to clip high first bolts ($80+), and/or an assisted braking belay device ($90+).
But, if your buddies invite you to come try sport climbing outside and they have all of the necessary gear, you’ll probably just need shoes and a harness which you could purchase for around $100 total – or maybe they’ll have extras that you can borrow!
Alternatively, you could opt to go on a guided outdoor climbing excursion or take a lesson, which will likely include gear rentals and could cost anywhere from around $70 for a half-day group class to $150+ per person per day for guided trips.
Costs of Trad Climbing Outdoors
Traditional or ‘trad’ climbing involves essentially all of the same gear as outdoor sport climbing, but since there are no established bolts to clip into as you climb, you’ll also need an entire trad rack, which consists of a variety of different sizes and styles of protection, or ‘pro.’ A new trad rack can cost anywhere from about $500 to $1,000, so most people only get into trad climbing after getting comfortable with outdoor sport climbing.
Ways To Save Money While Rock Climbing
If you’ve got sticker shock at this point, fear not! There are several ways that you can save money while getting into rock climbing:
Buy Used Gear
You can find used gear on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and so forth, often for great deals. However, be aware of the risks of buying used climbing gear – your life often depends on your gear!
Search for Gym Deals and Promos
Some climbing gyms offer promotions for first-time visitors or have deals on Groupon or similar sites. There are also occasional sales on punch cards or day passes at some gyms.
Shop Gear Sales
Outdoor retailers like REI have several sales throughout the year, so you can often get 20% or more off pieces of climbing gear when the sales roll around. You can also shop on sites like steepandcheap.com, which sells new but heavily discounted gear from Backcountry.
Most climbing gym memberships come with a couple of guest passes so members can bring their friends. So, if you make friends with someone who is a member at your local gym, they might hook you up with a free guest pass! Or if you are looking to try outdoor climbing, it’s often best to do so with an experienced climber who conveniently will also likely have most if not all of the necessary gear.
Is rock climbing an expensive sport?
Generally speaking, rock climbing is fairly expensive. With gym climbing you’ll pay a monthly fee but won’t need nearly so much gear, and with outdoor climbing you’ll need to purchase more of your own gear, but you won’t have a monthly fee.