What to Keep in your Rock-Climbing Bag

What to Keep in your Rock-Climbing Bag

By The Dirtbag Darling

Have you ever Googled “climber feet”? Don’t, unless you have a strong stomach. If you do, you’ll understand why flip-flops are an essential part of my climbing bag.

At its core, rock climbing is blissfully simple. Aside from the shoes, the harness, the rope and the trad gear (which you can skip almost entirely if you stick to sport climbing), there isn’t much equipment required. There’s no uniform or need to play “catch up”—most climbers don’t upgrade their shoes until they’ve got gaping holes in the toe box. But if you want to avoid climber feet, ripped nails and getting caught in the dark, I suggest over-packing. Here are the essentials in my climbing bag:

Flip-flops or slip-ons

Rock climbing shoes are tight, curved and often really, really gross. Your feet need to breathe, and you’ll relish in the idea of slipping out of your climbing shoes after a particularly difficult and crimpy pitch—pack lightweight flip-flops or slip-on shoes to wear when it’s your turn to belay.

Nail clippers

The rock wall can be unforgiving and sometimes the difference between keeping your hands on a hold and falling is the length of your nails. Keep them short and well-groomed to avoid cracking, splitting or pulling them—and hearing them scrape across rock. Shudder.


A good multi-tool should be staple in every bag—even for the ladies. My new favorite is the Leatherman Squirt, a keychain tool with spring-action pliers, a nail file, tweezers, a ruler, a wood/metal file, wire cutters, screwdrivers, scissors, a bottle opener and carabiner, and wire strippers. All that and it takes up less space than my lip balm. I’ve already found 10+ uses for it in less than a week! 

Hand and lip balm

Speaking of lip balm, keep a good stick with SPF 15+ in your bag, along with a natural hand rub. Chalk is incredibly drying, and these will keep skin from cracking, which could put you out of climbing shape for weeks. I like Burt’s Bees lip balm and Zum Rub Dragon’s Blood moisturizer.


The climb must go on—quality, moisture-resistant, supportive tape can keep you on the wall despite sore wrists and tweaked fingers. This stuff is especially helpful for jamming your hands in cracks.

Band-Aids and Bug Spray

No explanation needed.


Chalk is drying and gets lodged under your nails after a long day—plus it looks pretty weird when you stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home. Wiping it off feels pretty incredible.


A no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget.


Solving a particularly hard climbing problem or getting to the top of a pitch can be consuming—so much so that you’re left hiking back to the car in the dark. Keep a headlamp stashed in your bag and never take it out and you’ll stay safe.


If you can afford to, spring on a GoPro. There’s nothing quite like them on the market, and they can take a mean beating when you bang them against rocks. Snap one to your climbing helmet to remember a particularly tough one (not that you need reminding!).  

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