Beta. Sometime that’s the hardest part of any outdoor adventure. Getting to the trailhead, the base of the climb, the start of the mountain bike ride, then knowing if you should go right or left at the first dog leg can mean the difference between a day of inspired adventure and un unwelcome epic. Guidebooks abound, but by the time a print guide hits the shelves at your local bookstore or outdoor store, it’s probably out of date. And its heavy and bulky, and often the photos are shot from far away in a different season, and seem to bear no resemblance to the wall or trail that you’re looking at.
Rakkup was developed by Rob Price and Todd Kutzke, climbers frustrated by not being able to find their desired routes, and former Microsoft employees with 25 years experience in software development between them, as well as ten years of experience developing GPS navigation tools for aviation.
What’s better about Rakkup guides? They use turn-by-turn GPS waypoints, combining the GPS capabilities of smartphones with digital trail system mapping to help climbers get to the base of their desired route. The free app lets you access ‘Belay View’ photographs of each climb, so you can accurately get to the start of the pitch you’re looking for. And even when there is no cell service, 3G, 4G or satellite reception, you can still get to the info you need. The app downloads guidebooks, photos, and trail maps so that climbers can navigate and view the guide even when out of range.
Rakkup lets climbers browse routes via an interactive trail map as well as criteria like grade and type of climb, all through the touch screen of your phone.
The app is free, and guidebooks to specific climbing areas are for sale at the apple store. Digital guidebooks include topo drawings, route strategy, history, climbing beta and rack beta for around $10 for a year access. Proceeds from sales of the Red Rocks digital guidebook during the Red Rock Rendezvous will be donated to the Access Fund.
It's a basic rule of child-rearing that kids will find alternative uses for whatever gear you give them. Aside from its obvious use as a place to put chalk, our son uses his chalkbag as a container for twigs, leaves, and neat-looking pebbles; we sometimes use it to stash snacks, tissues, and other essentials too big for Canaan's pockets.
While we have a variety of bags, Canaan's all-time favorite is a monkey-shaped bag from RokRok Chalkbags, complete with arms, legs, and a tail that flop around as he climbs. The Chicago-based artist behind RokRok, Leilani Pierson, crochets and sews chalkbags from a variety of materials, from wool to old linen tea towels, each of them handmade and unique. Prices vary, depending on the bag you want.
So long as your little ripper is dressed for whatever Mother Nature happens to throw your way, you can still have fun in the Great Outdoors with a minimum of whining. This goes double for family climbing trips, where frigid mornings, stormy afternoons, and mud puddles are all commonplace.
Ollie and Stella Children's Outfitters' Ducksday Rainsuit is by far the most versatile and elegant solution we've found so far. The waterproof and windproof one-piece is easy to get on and off, and has a hood and stirrup feet to keep noggins and toes dry. For cold days, a one-piece fleece midlayer (sold separately) adds warmth without adding bulk, and can be worn separately for dry-but-nippy weather.
It's a no-brainer that every kid climber needs a solid harness. Thankfully, there are a host of options available. Our family swears by the Trango Junior, a full-body harness that fits little chargers between 25 and 80 pounds. In our experience, it's much easier to get Canaan into this harness without creating a tangled mess than is with other models. The padded leg loops provide extra cushioning and comfort, which is a blessing for both aspiring crushers and kids who prefer swinging in their harnesses to actually climbing in them.
Climbing is an intrinsically risky sport, so it's important to buy a little insurance wherever you can, especially where your kids are concerned. Petzl's Picchu is one of the few climbing helmets on the market that's designed for itty-bitty noggins. It's also the only one that meets the safety standards for both cycling and climbing, so you can double up.
The straps on the Picchu, which looks like a shrunken version of Petzl's adult offerings, are easily adjustable for a wide range of head sizes. While it's intended for children 3-8 years old, it fit two-year-old Canaan easily, and its hard-shell design is durable enough that it should last us for the next five years or so. My favorite part about it? He actually enjoys wearing it.