Rock climbing has become known as quite the expensive sport/hobby to get into. I find this very ironic due to the sport’s/lifestyle’s deeply rooted “dirtbag” nature. While the affectionately self named dirtbags still exist, they are a lot less common than they used to be when the sport was taking off. This article explores just how expensive rock climbing has become to get into compared to other popular hobbies/sports.
On average, an indoor rock climbing session will cost between $20 and $30 per person. Making rock climbing a hobby typically ranges from relatively cheap to moderately expensive (anywhere between $80 and $260 for the essential beginner gear). This price depends on the type of climbing you wish to do and which equipment you purchase.
As with any hobby, there is a pretty wide gap in how much of a financial investment some people put into climbing compared to others. This article explores how cheap someone can pick up climbing, what a typical amount is to spend on the sport for beginners, and how expensive it can actually get. Read until the end to see how expensive rock climbing is compared to other sports!
How Expensive Rock Climbing Is To Start
Going to a typical climbing gym is actually relatively cheap ($20-$30). This is approximately just as much as going to the movies (with popcorn and a drink) or playing 9 holes of golf at a public course. If you are curious to see how this cost breaks down, I recommend checking out my article that discusses how much a single indoor rock climbing session costs. The article also explores a few hidden costs and provides a few helpful tips on how to make the most out of your indoor climbing session!
For reference, the table below shows how much a single day pass and gear rental for rock climbing compares to the typical price of doing other activities.
|Activity||Average Cost Per Person (prices will vary)|
|Hiking (if you have the proper gear)||Free|
|Cycling (if you have a bike)||Free|
|Running (if you have proper shoes)||Free|
|Camping (if you have all of the needed gear)||Free to $10 (campground fee)|
|Zumba Class||$5 to $25|
|Mini golf||$10 to $20|
|Bowling||$10 to $20|
|Going to the movies||$10 to $25|
|Go to a museum||$10 to $30|
|Going out to dinner||$15 to $30|
|Yoga Class||$15 to $30|
|Indoor rock climbing||$20 to $30|
|Golfing 9 holes riding||$20 to $40|
|Wine and paint class||$30 to $50|
|Cooking class||$50 to $100|
As seen in the table above, a single session of rock climbing is not incredibly expensive compared to other popular activities. In fact, it can be substantially cheaper than most of the activities in the table above if you are not mindful of what you are spending on them. It is quite easy to turn a $10 movie ticket into a $40 expense if you get popcorn, a drink, and candy along with it.
If you have already been climbing and are looking to make it your next fun hobby, then obviously there are cheaper ways to do this than having to buy single day passes and rent gear every single time you want to go. The cheapest way to get into the sport is explored below along with what the average beginner climbers should expect to spend.
Cheapest Way To Pick Up Rock Climbing As A Hobby
The absolute cheapest way to pick up rock climbing as a hobby boils down to finding a good deal on climbing shoes and having friends with the other climbing gear that they are willing to let you use when you go together outside. While using your friends’ gear is not a long-term solution for getting into the sport, it is definitely the cheapest way.
For the most part, you will be able to use every other piece of climbing gear besides your friend’s shoes (unless you have the same exact size feet in-which case you can go completely for free). If you don’t fit into your friend’s climbing shoes and are looking to grab a super cheap pair, you can typically find half-way decent slightly used ones on sale or in used gear exchanges for about $40 to $50. Check out the recommended gear page to see which shoes I recommend for beginners.
While you may be able to borrow your friend’s outdoor climbing gear a couple times, you will eventually want to get your own. What gear you will buy and how much you will ultimately spend depends largely on what type of climbing you would like to do.
How Much An Average Beginner Climber Spends On Climbing
The most common route to go for beginners (and what I recommend) is to start by purchasing your own pair of climbing shoes, harness, and chalk bag (with chalk). This will allow you to go to climbing gyms without the extra gear rental price and also give you a good and versatile base of climbing gear to bring with you if you end up going with friends outdoors.
In addition to owning the fundamental gear pieces above, most beginners will pick up a membership at their local climbing gym. Most climbing gyms will offer monthly memberships and discount the price depending on how long of a membership you purchase. These memberships will allow beginners to boulder, top rope, and sport climbing basically however much they want.
I highly recommend getting a gym membership as a beginner because not only will you be able to progress quickly but you will meet a lot of climbing friends who you will be able to go climbing outdoors with! Your basic gear will allow you tag along with these climbers who have the remaining necessary pieces of equipment until you eventually get your own.
When it is all said and done, beginner climbers will typically spend between $155 and $260 on their essential gear pieces (a pair of climbing shoes, harness, chalk bag, chalk) and an additional $40 to $100 a month on a gym membership.
How much it typically costs to get into each discipline of climbing is discussed in more detail below.
How Expensive The Different Types of Rock Climbing Are For Beginners
Climbing shoes are required for basically all types of climbing and having a chalk bag and chalk will be extremely helpful as well (although chalk technically isn’t a necessity). Each discipline builds on these basic gear pieces with some requiring more gear than others. Purchasing these three gear items will typically cost between $105 and $180 as broken down below:
- Climbing Shoes : $80 to $120
- Chalk Bag : $20 to $40
- Chalk : $5 to $20
Note: the prices above are for new pieces of gear that are not considered “top of the line” and are widely considered to be good for beginners. All of the typical price ranges given below will also follow this rule of thumb. If you are wondering exactly what gear I think is the best for beginners then I highly recommend reading through my recommended gear page(s). These will give you a rundown on the different gear features and what you should look for to get the best bang for your buck.
On average, bouldering is the cheapest type of rock climbing while trad climbing is the most expensive. This is due to the relatively little gear required for bouldering compared to other types of climbing. The table below summarizes what a typical “low end” and “high end” cost is to purchase the basic climbing gear needed for each of the different climbing disciplines.
|Climbing Discipline||Avg. Low End Gear Cost||Avg. High End Gear Cost|
|Indoor Top Rope/Sport Climbing||$130||$260|
|Outdoor Sport Climbing||$535||$910|
What these prices include for each type of climbing and why these costs are necessary is discussed in more detail below.
Cost of Bouldering
Indoor bouldering only requires the basic gear pieces mentioned above and a climbing gym pass. (Keep in mind that a chalk bag and chalk are completely optional although they are more than worth it when drying out sweaty hands).
Climbing gym memberships will typically range between $40 and $100 a month depending on the location and how many amenities the gym offers.
A lot of gyms will offer special introductory 8 to 10 week memberships to beginners for $80 to $150. Some colleges with climbing walls will even offer student discounts where college students can get an entire semester of unlimited climbing for under $100 for the entire school year (about $11/month).
Outdoor bouldering requires a crash pad in addition to the basic gear pieces mentioned above. A standard crash pad will typically run a climber between $200 and $350. While this may seem a bit pricey, it is a necessity to make sure that you are staying safe and un-injured. These are responsible for catching you and making sure you do not fall onto potential dangerous surfaces/objects below your problem.
If you are interested in seeing what the current prices are for the most popular crash pads, you can find them on Amazon by clicking here. Using the Amazon affiliate link above and/or other links in the article helps support this website.
This cost would add up quick if you kept having to replace your crash pad. I wrote an entire article exploring just how long they last and provided some helpful tips to extend their lifespan and make your money go further in my article here. See which crash pads I recommend for beginners and why they stand out about the rest here. If you are more budget conscious but still want a terrific pad, then this article may be better suited for you.
If you live near a really nice bouldering spot, you may be able to save a few months of your gym membership payments and go bouldering outside during that time. The money you would save doing this for 3 to 4 months will essentially pay for the crash pad (plus then you will have your own pad to use in the future as well)!
Cost of Top Roping and Sport Climbing
In addition to the essential climbing gear and gym membership/pass, indoor top roping and sport climbing also require a climbing harness. These are typically rented out for about $5 at a climbing gym.
Owning your own climbing harness will take away this additional rental cost. Having your own will also be much more comfortable and convenient than the less than ideal gym harnesses. A good beginner climbing harness will typically cost between $50 and $80. To see what makes some harnesses more expensive than others and what to look for in one, check out my article linked here.
If you are interested in seeing what the current prices are for the most popular rock climbing harnesses, you can find them on Amazon by clicking here.
Therefore, indoor top roping and sport climbing will cost approximately $130 to $200 in necessary gear (shoes and harness) and an additional $40 to $100 a month for the gym membership.
Some climbing gyms will not allow climbers to bring in their own ropes for liability reasons. Due to this, many climbing gyms will provide climbers with ropes (or auto-belay machines) to climb with. Therefore, the cost of having a gym rope will not factor into this equation. (Gym ropes typically range between $100 and $200). Check out my article that details what factors into the cost of a climbing rope.
If you are wondering what the difference is between a gym rope and one better suited for outdoor climbing, check out my article that discusses this and gives recommendations on the best budget friendly rope(s).
While neither top roping or sport climbing outdoors require a crash pad to fall on, they do both require certain gear pieces that bouldering doesn’t. These items and their average cost are broken down below:
- Helmet : $50 to $70
- Harness : $50 to $80
- 60m Single Rope : $150 to $300
- ATC Belay Device : $25 to $40
- Lock Carabiners (3) : $30 to $40
- Quickdraws (12) : $150 to $200
- Total : $455 to $730
On average, purchasing all of the gear for sport climbing outdoors (shoes, helmet, harness, rope, belay device, carabiners, quickdraws, chalk, and a chalk bag) will cost between $560 and $910.
Most climbers, especially newer climbers, will stick to the climbing disciplines discussed above (bouldering, top rope, and sport climbing) before transitioning to the “next step” of trad climbing.
Cost of Trad Climbing
Unlike sport climbing, trad climbing requires climbers to place their own protection as they ascend the route. Due to this, it is by far the most expensive type of rock climbing. Trad climbing requires all of the gear that sport climbing does and much more.
A set of trad climbing gear is referred to as a “rack” and having all of the necessary pieces is called a “full rack”. A full rack for beginners typically consists of cams, nuts/stoppers, quickdraws, slings/runners, non-locking carabiners, locking carabiners, and a nut tool.
Every climber’s trad rack should be tailored to the location that they will be climbing in. Some areas will favor different sized protection than others. That said, there are certain basic pieces that every rack needs to have. If you are interested in trad climbing, check out my article that details how the price of a full rack breaks down and what gear a typical starting trad rack includes.
On average, a full rack will cost between $720 and $965 depending on the type of gear you buy. This is in addition to the $380 to $670 you will be paying for shoes, a harness, chalk bag, chalk, helmet, rope, and belay device. When it is all said and done, starting to get into trad climbing will cost between $1,075 and $1,635.
In general, most new climbers will not start out trad climbing. Trad climbing is typically reserved for more experienced climbers who have already developed basic climbing fundamentals. The high cost of trad climbing typically gets spread out multiple years as climbers get their basic gear necessities and start to build their rack.
How Expensive Rock Climbing Is Compared To Other Sports/Hobbies
Let’s take a look at how these costs stack up against other popular hobbies and if rock climbing is just as expensive as some people say it is. The table below details the typical costs of other popular hobbies in order from least expensive to get into to most expensive.
|Hobby/Activity||Initial Gear Costs||Additional Monthly Costs|
|Yoga (monthly membership)||$0 to $100||$100 to $200|
|Bodybuilding||$0 to $150||$50 to $300|
|Bowling (once a week)||$0 to $200||$40 to $60|
|Snorkeling||$50 to $100||–|
|Hiking||$50 to $150||–|
|Indoor Bouldering||$80 to $180||$40 to $100|
|Running||$80 to $200||–|
|Fishing||$100 to $200||–|
|Indoor Top Rope/Sport Climbing||$130 to $260||$40 to $100|
|Rock Climbing (Recommended Starting Gear)||$155 to $260||$40 to $100|
|Outdoor Bouldering||$280 to $530||–|
|Golf (two rounds a month)||$300 to $500||$50 to $100|
|Camping||$300 to $500||$5 to $15|
|Kayaking||$300 to $1,000||–|
|Backpacking||$300 to $2,200||–|
|Photography||$350 to $1,000||–|
|Outdoor Sport Climbing||$535 to $910||–|
|Snowboarding (twice a month)||$800 to $1,300||$100 to $200|
|Skiing (twice a month)||$800 to $1,500||$100 to $200|
|Scuba Diving||$1,000 to $1,500||–|
|Trad Climbing||$1,075 to $1,635||–|
As seen above, rock climbing can range from relatively cheap to moderately expensive depending on the type of climbing you wish to get into. It really depends on your budget and what you are looking to get out of it. Any hobby can become incredibly expensive and you can spend almost limitless money on all of the ones listed above.