Full disclosure: crack climbing is one of my least favorite types of rock climbing. Even though I am not a fan of it, there are a lot of climbers who love climbing cracks. I did some digging and compiled a list of the best gear to take with you when crack climbing (with affiliate links to Amazon).
The following list is the best gear for crack climbing:
- Climbing shoes – La Sportiva TC Pros
- Harness – Black Diamond Solution
- Chalk Bag – Petzl Saka
- Crack gloves – Ocun crack gloves
- Tape – Mueller Eurotape
- Rope – Mammut Crag Classic 9.5mm Non-Dry Rope
- Quickdraws – Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid
- Helmet – Petzl Meteor
I specifically chose each of the products listed above for key characteristics which make them the best gear available for crack climbing. I detail these characteristics and qualities in the following sections below.
The Best Shoes For Crack Climbing
Shoes are the most important gear to pick out when crack climbing. These will have the biggest impact on your crack climbing performance out of all the other gear included on this list. Having the wrong pair of shoes can make crack climbing seem impossible. Luckily enough, there are climbing shoes that have been designed specifically for crack climbing.
What Makes A Shoe Good For Crack Climbing
When picking out the right shoe for crack climbing you will want to make sure that the shoe has the following characterisitics:
- Medium stiff to stiff. Having too soft of a shoe is detrimental because as you start to twist your feet/ankle, the shoe can begin to roll out. This will hurt your feet. Stiffer shoes will allow you to really torque your feet into the crack and get a solid hold without them rolling. Shoes that are too stiff will not allow you to mold and get your foot into the crack. The key is finding the right balance.
- High ankle cuff. A higher ankle cuff will protect your ankles from getting scraped up when shoving your feet into larger cracks. This will also help support your ankle when you are twisting your feet.
- Padding. Padding around the toes and ankles will provide you with protection when shoving your feet into the cracks. Although padding doesn’t completely protect your foot and ankle, it does help.
- Neutral to moderate downturn (camber). More aggressive shoes will not slot into the crack as well as neutral shoes. This is due to the high toe box profile of aggressive shoes. Going off of that, the aggressive downturn can be painful when crack climbing.
- Laces instead of velcro. Velcro can get in the way when shoving your feet into the cracks. Laces will hold up better and be more durable than velcro straps.
- Toe rubber. Having rubber on the top and bottom of the toe box will help you get way more grip in cracks. The rubber will contact both sides of the crack and therefore provide you with more friction. This is especially beneficial for hand cracks. Always remember, friction is everything in climbing.
- Low toe box profile. Having a low profile shoe will allow you to shove your feet into smaller cracks. Shoes with a high profile will prevent you from being able to use smaller cracks effectively.
The best shoes for finger cracks and thin hand cracks are different than the best shoes for hand cracks and larger. Smaller cracks will be harder to jam your feet into than the larger ones. This will cause you to want to have a shoes that are softer and have a smaller toe box. This will allow you to really shove your feet into the crack and get a good hold.
The Best Crack Climbing Shoes On The Market
The La Sportiva TC Pros are hands down the best crack climbing shoes on the market. They were co-designed by Tommy Caldwell to be the optimal shoes for crack climbing and edging. Due to this, they will be a more pricey option that other climbing shoes. However, these shoes are totally worth the extra cost.
They check every box mentioned above. The TC Pros are moderately downturned and have stiff soles. They have a high ankle cuff and padding in the toe and ankle areas to allow for maximum comfort when shoving your feet into cracks. On top of this, they have a lower toe box profile which has rubber all the way around it. This will provide you with the maximum grip on the thin hand cracks. These truly are a masterpiece.
I recommend subbing out the round laces that comes in the TC Pros for flat laces. This will give your feet a lower profile and will prevent the laces from wearing out. The round laces can get worn out relatively quickly as they stick out past the top of the shoe a bit. Opting for flat laces solves this issue.
You can check out the current price of the La Sportiva TC Pros here.
The Best Harness For Crack Climbing
There are certain pieces of gear that always need to be in top condition. Your harness, rope, and quickdraws are three of these pieces of equipment. These are responsible for catching you when you take a fall. If these are worn out or damaged and not functioning properly, you will be going for quite the ride.
To clarify before we go any further, more expensive harnesses are not “safer” than cheaper ones. All harnesses must pass the necessary safety regulations to be sold. The features of the harness such as comfortability, functionality, and weight will fluctuate with price. All harnesses must pass the basic safety requirements.
There is no reason to get a specialty harness that will cost you north of $150 if you are an average or even above average climber. Those very expensive harnesses are specifically designed to be extremely lightweight and are necessary for very talented climbers trying to redpoint extremely hard sport climbing routes.
When crack climbing specifically, you will want a comfortable harness that is lightweight and has enough space for your quickdraws. You do not need anything crazy. Cracks are not so technically difficult that they require an extremely light weight or specialized harness. Most climbers will not need to spend over $100 to get a good harness.
The Best Crack Climbing Harness On The Market
The Black Diamond Solution is currently the best crack climbing harness available for the money. The harness has 4 gear loops coated in plastic to make them very durable when handling draws. On top of this, the harness is extremely comfortable. This is the harness I personally use and have no complaints. It is lightweight, distributes my weight well, and has caught me every time.
You can check out the current price of the Black Diamond Solution harness here.
The Best Chalk Bag For Crack Climbing
The best chalk bag for crack climbing will be a bag that hangs close to you and has easy access. It is no fun messing around with your chalk bag when stuck in a crack. Ideally, the chalk bag will be able to be opened and closed easily with only one hand.
The Petzl Saka is the best chalk bag I have ever used. It sits on you incredibly well and has a very wide mouth. The wide mouth allows for extremely easy access. To learn more about why I love the Petzl Saka, check out my recommended chalk bag page linked here.
Wearing Gloves For Crack Climbing
If you have never tried wearing gloves while climbing cracks before then you definitely should give this a go. A lot of climbers love having gloves on for crack climbing.
Some climbers claim that wearing gloves or taping up is cheating and not a pure form of rock climbing. I am of the opinion that you should use whatever gear you can to improve your climbing experience. Climbing is about challenging yourself and having fun. If gloves can help improve your experience then I say wear them. Even some professional climbers are starting to wear gloves while crack climbing these days.
Benefits of Wearing Gloves While Crack Climbing
Gloves are easy to clip to your harness and can be put on and taken off with relative ease. This makes them a great option for routes that are not exclusive to crack climbing. You can put these on before reaching the crack and take them off once you are at the top of it.
Gloves can help you out in a few different ways. They are able to save you time, save your skin, and provide you with better friction when you’re sweaty.
Gloves save you time by reducing the need to tape up your hands. Taping up your hands is time consuming and wastes a lot of tape. This can get annoying after doing this a few times. By having a pair of gloves you can just slip them on and off. You can bring them with you and keep them clipped to your harness if you decide against using them. If you tape up, then you are most likely going to be taped up for the entire route.
Gloves are great at saving your skin. Crack climbing can be very unfriendly to the skin on your hands especially when you are climbing on very abrasive rock like sandstone. Wearing a pair of gloves will prevent the rock from tearing your hands to shreds.
Gloves are able to provide you with better friction when you are sweaty. Chalk is great at wicking away the moisture from your hands and providing you with grip. However, gloves reduce the need to keep applying so much chalk to your hands when crack climbing. Gloves will provide you with the friction you need on the rock.
The Best Crack Climbing Gloves On The Market
After a few hours of research, I have come to the conclusion that the best climbing gloves are the Ocun crack gloves. These are a little bit thicker and heavier than other gloves on the market such as the splitters made by Outdoor Research. They are able to provide climbers with extra padding and grip on the rock compared to the other gloves out there.
You can check out the current price of these gloves on Amazon linked here. The extra bulk added by gloves can make them impossible to use on very small hand cracks. In addition to this, they will not help you out with finger cracks. In these cases, you will still want to tape up.
Taping Up For Crack Climbing
Just like wearing gloves, taping up has been considered “cheating” by the climbing purists out there. My stance on this has not changed since the last section. You should do whatever you can to help give yourself the best climbing experience possible.
Benefits Of Taping Up While Crack Climbing
Taping up has a few of the same benefits that wearing gloves does. Tape will act as a buffer between your hands and the rough rock. This will help prevent your skin from getting chewed up while jamming your hands into it.
Tape also will help provide you with good friction and grip on the rock. Taping up correctly will help your hands stick in the cracks no matter the size. This is because tape is much thinner than crack gloves and will allow you climb tight hand cracks and finger cracks with ease.
Be sure to keep in mind that tape is way less durable than gloves and will take bit of time to put on and take off. Tape also is thinner than gloves and will not provide with you as much padding between you and the rock.
The best tape for crack climbing will be extremely sticky and very durable. The stickiness will help your hands stick to the crack. Some climbing tape is so durable that the tape gloves are able to last multiple days of climbing.
Best Tape For Crack Climbing On The Market
The best tape for crack climbing is the Mueller Eurotape. This tape is extremely sticky and will provide you with the best grip in the cracks. It is also very durable and rips less easily than other tapes out there. I personally use this tape when I go crack climbing on routes too tight for gloves. You can check out its current price on Amazon linked here.
The Best Rope For Crack Climbing
Unlike the items listed above, there is not a specific climbing rope made for crack climbing. Having a general all-purpose outdoor climbing rope will be sufficient for crack climbing just as in face climbing.
In my opinion, the best rope for the price is the Mammut Crag Classic 9.5mm Non-Dry Rope. You can check out it’s current price here. To learn more about why I recommend this rope instead of others you can check out my recommended rope page linked here.
The Best Quickdraws For Crack Climbing
Just like with the rope, there are not specific quickdraws made for crack climbing. Draws will perform the same way crack climbing as they will face climbing. Their whole job is to catch you when you fall. It doesn’t matter if you fall off a crack or a face.
If you are not sure how many quickdraws you will need to bring you should check out my article linked here. It details how many draws you will generally will need to bring with you and gives real examples of the amount of draws needed on specific routes.
In my opinion, the best quickdraws for the price are the Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid. You can check out their current price on Amazon here. To learn more about why I recommend these draws you can check out my recommended quickdraw page linked here.
The Best Helmet For Crack Climbing
Helmets are in the same boat as rope and draws where no helmets were specifically designed for crack climbing. Some climbers choose not to wear helmets when they go crack climbing (or climbing in general). Wether or not you wear a helmet is your own personal choice. I personally do not wear one when I go climbing because I think it they are more hot and cumbersome than beneficial (please don’t tell my mom).
That being said, helmets can help keep you safe from potentially falling rocks from above or hitting your head when falling. If you choose to put safety first and wear a helmet, I applaud you.
From what I could tell on the internet, there a lot of good helmets out there and I would be amiss to say that one is the clear cut best helmet. However, I came to the conclusion that going with a foam helmet, although more expensive than hard shell helmets, is the better choice. Foam helmets are lighter, more comfortable and much better ventilated than hardshell helmets.
The best foam helmet I found for the price was the Petzl Meteor helmet. You can check out it’s current price on Amazon here. To learn more about why I recommend this helmet you can check out my recommended helmet page linked here.
The bottom line? You will need to bring your climbing shoes, chalk bag, harness, gloves, tape, rope, quickdraws, and helmet with you when you go crack climbing. Climbing shoes that are moderately stiff with a neutral to moderate downturn will be the best for performance. Wearing gloves and taping up will help you fit your hands into the crack and keep your skin unharmed.