Here in Colorado, we’ve been told that spring is coming—or at least the calendar seems to say so, despite the heavy, wet snow that keeps dropping from the sky and covering up the rocks. Between storms, we’ve been busy testing some of the fall 2020 and spring 2021 gear from various manufacturers, with a handful of exciting, crag- and multi-pitch-friendly items we wanted to share with you. In no particular order, here are 13 newish, new, or soon-to-come out products to keep in mind for your spring rock-climbing needs.
Freestone The Love Handle Climbing Gear Organizer
$30 (Canadian), freestonequipment.com
Sometimes the small things make life better, like having an elegant, wood-handled gear organizer to rack draws or protection in your backpack instead of having them yard-saled all over your pack or snarled up on an old sling. The handcrafted Love Handle does simple organization right: You can fit 20-plus draws or a small rack on it, and the sling hangs just low enough for easy clipping/unclipping without letting the gear clump together. The handle is smooth, ergo wood and easy to grasp in one hand. You might even get two Love Handles—one each for different sets of draws and/or a light rack.
G7 Hand Jam
Of the half dozen or so crack gloves on the market, all rely on a micro-fiber and rubber construction—until now. Grade VII Equipment, an emerging brand out of Squamish, instead opted for a single piece of suede. The result is a more sensitive glove that molds to form, much like a performance climbing shoe. At first our tester was worried that the gloves, not having rubber, would lack stickiness. Those doubts faded after weeks of testing at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Unaweep Canyon, and Devil’s Tower. Not only were the G7s sticky, they’ve been durable as well. Our tester typically wears out crack gloves in a couple seasons—the finger loops or wrist straps fail—but G7 smartly reinforced both areas with a high-strength laminate, and after six months of use there’s still plenty of life left. The gloves come in five sizes (color coded) for accurate fit and include a three-year warranty (Kickstarter only).
Edlerid has created the first ever multi-pitch rope bag specifically for guiding or leading in blocks. A side zipper turns the tarp into a tube, while two drawstrings on the top and bottom allow the climber to close off each end. This enables the leader, at a top belay, to zip the bag around the rope without having to untie; she then clips the Tillit into the anchor and feeds rope into the bag—no more dangling coils. When the follower reaches the anchor, the leader cinches and flips the bag for a clean, efficient transition. While multi-pitch climbing in Eldorado Canyon, the Tillit cut our tester’s transition time by almost 50 percent, and the added weight—a mere 0.8 oz—was negligible. Important note: Each climber on a team should carry a Tillit for maximum efficiency.
Metolius Climbing Crash Pad Couch
You can quickly and easily turn your crashpad into a couch with five pieces of high-quality, pre-cut plywood. No tools (listen up, boulderers!) or intelligence required. This surprisingly sturdy yet portable rig weighs approximately 22 pounds, only takes a minute to assemble, and folds flat when not in use. The couch provided our tester a nice place to relax in his home-wall garage, but it really shone on a recent trip to Red Rock, Nevada. There he and his fiancée snuggled on the couch, drinking hot chocolate and listening to the crackle of the campfire. When the trip was over, they disassembled the 23.6” x 37.4” x 28” couch, packed it in their van (it also fits in the trunk of a small sedan), and headed home.
The Manuva Board solves a problem that’s long afflicted climbers—a quick-mounting, high-quality doorframe hangboard. The Manuva tightens down easily with a quick release (and features cork backing to protect your drywall) and feels secure. You can attach bands or whatever to the aluminum bar for assisted one-arms, or use the bar itself for lockoffs (you could even add griptape). The poplar wood has a soft, elegant craftsman’s feel and won’t cause further skin wear. The top row of holds has two 60mm flat edges bracketing just-right 20-degree slopers, while the second tier offers paired 45mm, 30mm, and 15mm edges. (One note: the repetition of the big, flat edges seemed like a missed opportunity—some pockets, jugs, etc. would be nice.) As it stands, at $134, the Manuva is an innovative, well-designed product that’s worth the dough. It is also suitcase friendly for long trips.
Evolv Elektra Lace
Women climbers looking for a solid, affordable, mid-performance edging shoe made for low-volume feet, and with long-session wear (gym climbing, multi-pitch climbing) in mind, will like the Elektra Lace, a lace-up version of Evolv’s velcro Elektra. The shoe is flat-lasted for comfort/all-day wear, with a full-length 1.2mm midsole and 4.2mm Trax SAS outsole; the laces run 3/4 length and the upper is made of leather with perforations that only go to partial depth so that the upper holds its form longer. Our tester used them on technical, vertical terrain in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, and was able to stand on pencil-width edges on 5.10 face climbs no problem, but noted that the rounded toe, while comfy, isn’t as suited to micro holds dime-sized and smaller. Still, she says, “I was surprised at how secure I felt in these.” The shoes also fared well on hand and wider cracks thanks to their neutral last, and were notably comfortable over the long haul: “The split tongue makes them easy to slip on and off while cragging, and the two wings of the tongue are cushioned—they wrapped my arch like a little bathrobe for my foot,” our tester noted.
Gneiss Skin Superior Skin Salve
$11 (1 oz), $15 (2 oz), $25 (4 oz), gneisskin.com
Here at our HQ in Colorado and throughout most of America—except maybe the Southeast!— winter is a time of crisp sending temps but also dry, windy air that, when coupled with the desiccating action of chalk, rough rock, and sharp-edged, slippery gym holds, creates a nightmare for climber hands. You get cracks, splits, gobies, and flappers left and right, and wounds take forever to heal. There are tons of climber balms and salves on the market, but one new one, Gneiss Skin, stood out to our tester for its effectiveness, bang for the buck, and pleasant aroma. With fats and oils like coconut oil, beeswax, olive oil, and vitamin E oil as its foundation, Gneiss Skin has a dense consistency (you need to scrape it out of the tin with your fingernails) that meant a little went a long way—you only need a little to get solid moisturizing, which also means that the next time you climb, your hands, after a quick wash, won’t feel overly saturated with balm or greasy. Gneiss Skin also just smells nice—like wildflowers and herbs—which makes you feel good about having it on.
Red Chili Jam Rock
At first glance, Red Chili’s new crack gloves look like many of the other gloves already on the market. However, upon further inspection, their stickiness and comfort made them a standout. The glove is constructed with a 1mm RX-1 ALLROUND rubber pad on the outside that provided our tester with a good balance of grip, protection, and sensitivity. On the inside, it’s lined with a microsuede liner that’s covered with a silicone print to help keep the glove firmly in place. Another well-thought-out feature: the microsuede liner extends across the wrist strap, protecting the wrist from the Velcro strap. When our tester climbed Comic Relief in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the gloves felt great in all different crack sizes, all day long. He’s also been using them as an indoor training glove, because they grip extremely well to wood features—you could say, they’re the jam.
Wild Country Stamina Backpack
Lugging gear to the crag and between pitches is, has been, and always will be a chore we abide in the name of fun. The Wild Country Stamina backpack made even the steepest and most strenuous approach more bearable, thanks, said our tester, to its comfy, padded shoulder and hip straps. As a high-capacity pack (41 liters: room for your standard cragging gear—shoes, harness, clothes, draws—plus up to a double rack), the Stamina proved roomy and versatile. The roll-top closure kept gear cinched down and protected from the elements, while grab handles and compression straps made transferring gear between climbs a breeze; the detachable rope tarp was a welcome touch as well. Plus, the durable, laurel-green and fluorescent-orange ripstop nylon exterior make the Stamina a stylish statement piece in any environment. This is a simple, streamlined, well-thought-out crag pack.
Metolius Big Nuts
$23 each or $95 package of 4, metoliusclimbing.com
Cams are great, but cams are also expensive. If you’re building your first rack or looking to supplement the fat-fingers to hands sizes (1.13 to 2.1 inches), Metolius’s new Big Nuts—basically the super-sized versions of their Ultralight Curve Nuts—are a great option. With a hollow body and twin, end-capped wires, they’re light (2.0 to 3.7 ounces), and are also anodized/color-coded for easy reference. Their concave face made them versatile and reliable in the irregular sandstone cracks of Eldorado Canyon, and all four nuts have big holding power at 10 kN each. Like the Ultralights, these puppies seat well and deeply thanks to the straight-sided taper, so make sure you have a hardy nut tool for removal.
Black Diamond Prime Approach Shoes
Black Diamond has been coming out with a host of approach shoes recently, with more to come. One in their line that, for our tester’s money, made a good crossover from gym season to cragging season to all-around, in-town wear were the soft, comfy Primes. These skate-shoe-style approachers have a cozy 1.8mm-thick suede upper and forgiving, high-volume last that were good for his wide dogs. Meanwhile, there’s subtle support from a molded EVA midsole, as well as climber-friendly features like dual clip-off loops (heel and tongue), a toecap/side rand for cracks and protection while scrambling, and a dotted BlackLabel-Street sticky outsole. The shoes were light and grippy on the trails and on third- and fourth-class approach scrambles, but also stylish enough to wear to work and in town.
Roca 9.6 Siurana Endurance (100 m)
If you’re into stringing together ropelengths on multi-pitch routes or redpointing epic, long sport pitches, or just like the convenience of having a long rope to speed up rappels, the 100-meter Roca 9.6mm Endurance is one of the most affordable options out there. Costing only $215, it offers a whole lot of rope for very little money. Our testers used it to do the above and more out in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. At a semi-skinny 9.6mm and 65 g/m—so, 14.3 pounds for the whole rope—it struck a good compromise between heft/durability and handling, running smoothly on a zigzagging two-pitch 5.12+ mixed climb, with minimal drag, then letting our testers simul-rap 160 feet to the ground from the top of the route in one fell swoop. The rope comes with a middle marker and Roca Endurance sheathe—a weave that’s sleek but not overly slick—and has a good feel in hand that also feeds smoothly through devices.
Black Diamond Eco Gold Loose Chalk
$10 (100 g), $15 (200 g), $20 (300 g), blackdiamondequipment.com
Eco Gold marks an interesting new direction in chalk—pure magnesium carbonate harvested as a byproduct of desalination instead of being mined directly from the earth. Hence the “Eco” tag. In the bag, Eco Gold has a unique appearance, almost like bits of kibble or popcorn; before you crush it up, it has an interesting, dry, styrofoam-peanut feel. But boy, once the Eco Gold is pulverized into finer chunks or powder does this stuff perform—it’s high-octane, high-test chalk, and because of its unique consistency lasted a long time on our tester’s hands, with only a light application/coating. Did he send his hardest while using it? Well, he sure tried, and noted killer adhesion and minimal dry-firing on all mediums, even slippery, sloping gym volumes.