The Best Bouldering Gear of 2022
Climbing equipment that has your back
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Winter temps make for good climbing—the cold air improves your skin’s friction on the rock. But climbing during snowy months also has its challenges. Namely, it can be hard to stay motivated when you’re freezing. Here’s the kit that helped push us to new winter heights.
Black Diamond Mission Wool Denim Pants ($150)
The wool, cotton, and elastane blend in these jeans sent three days on cheese-grater granite in California’s Buttermilks with no rips or frays. The pants kept our legs warm during 30-degree morning sessions without overheating, and the zippered thigh pocket fit a phone, chalk brush, or tape. (men’s 28-38; women’s 2-12)
Allez Outdoor Salves Everything Repair Cream ($20)
After testing drawerfuls of oily creams meant to heal cracked hands, we’ve found none that nourishes better than Allez’s Salves Everything. It leaves no greasy residue, smells great, and replenished our testers’ overly chalked skin. Credit the blend of soothing chaparral and aloe. Because it’s alcohol-free, applying this cream to our winter-shredded fingers didn’t sting or burn.
Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Light Pullover ($240)
Long bouldering sessions involve a lot of sitting around, so a warm layer is key in winter. This lightweight pullover is one you don’t have to take off for your send burn. The stretchy face fabric and woven baffles allow significant range of motion and stand up to serious abrasion—even rough desert sandstone and sharp granite. (men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL)
Organic Climbing Deluxe Chalk Bucket ($48)
The Deluxe holds enough chalk to coat the entire boulder (don’t do this), and has a zippered pocket that fits your keys, wallet, and phone. Another pocket holds a training notebook, brush, and tape. The Velcro-and-buckle system keeps chalk from escaping during transport. It’s built with a thick 1,000-denier Cordura nylon that can stand up to countless shoves between crash pads and is available in more than three dozen colors.
Metolius Recon Crash Pad ($280)
The bigger the crash pad, the more protection it provides. But heavy and unwieldy models can make approaches a total pain. That’s why we love Metolius’s Recon. It folds into thirds instead of the usual halves, yielding a narrow, 22-inch silhouette in transit without compromising the 42- by 60-inch surface area. That extra seam also allows the pad to bend over large rocks and roots better than most, turning treacherous landings into plush ones. The quick-release retention strap extends to fit another, smaller pad, and a pocket holds shoes, chalk, and snacks.
La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoes ($199)
For the climber who dabbles in different disciplines the Testarossa, which excels on both overhung boulders and steep sport routes, is a dream. Our testers found its fit an ideal balance of volume and precision: its roomy toe box meant even wide-footed testers lasted all day without suffering numb digits, and its Vibram XS Grip2 sole afforded confidence on small holds. While these kicks aren’t brand-new (they were last updated in 2019 with a grippier heel for hooking), we keep stashing them between our bouldering pads.
Ibex 24-Hour Short-Sleeve Shirt ($88)
This full-merino tee feels buttery against the skin and won’t lose its shape the way other wool tops can. It wicked sweat away from the lower back and armpits like a champ on strenuous approaches, but when worn as a baselayer, it kept testers perfectly toasty at rest. Thanks to the fabric’s natural odor-fighting powers, one tester reported smelling just fine even after four days of travel sans showers. (men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL)