Camping on its own can be lots of fun. For many however, camping is just the beginning of the adventure. From canoeing to mountain biking, no camping trip is complete without some sort of exciting outdoor activity. In this post, we will discuss some of the basic skills needed to get started with one of the most extreme outdoor hobbies; rock climbing.

But, before you even think about scrambling up a steep rock face, there are a few important lessons you must learn first. Keep in mind that while this may be a handy reference guide for getting started, it is far from being a complete training manual. There is no substitute for proper instruction in basic rock climbing at your local rock gym and you should absolutely enroll in a class and obtain qualified instruction before setting off on your own.

Fitting a Harness For Rock Climbing

  1. To start, hold the harness so that the buckles on the leg loops are facing away from you. Make sure loops hang down freely and there are no tangles. If your leg loops are adjustable, make sure the leg loops are open far enough to put on.
  2. If your harness has an adjustable hip/waist strap, step into it and pull the strap up to about your knees. Every harness ever made has an adjustable waist strap.
  3. Step into the leg holes and pull the harness up until the leg straps are around your thighs. Tighten the straps until they fit snugly. The leg straps should be snug enough so that they don’t drop down, but not so snug that they cut off circulation or restrict movement.
  4. Once the waist belt is around your waist, secure the buckle per the instructions. The belt should be fairly snug around the narrowest part of your waist – remember, if you fall upside down, your hips are the only thing keeping you from falling out of the harness. You should have at least 4 inches of tail left, after feeding the webbing through the buckle.
  5. Double check that all your buckles are secured properly.

Rock Climbing Knots to Know

There are a few knots that are a “must know” for a beginner climber. These knots are essential to climbers of all levels. Tying them properly can sometimes be the only thing keeping you from a swift and ultimately very painful decent.

The first knot that every climber should know by heart is the Figure Eight Knot. The figure eight is used to secure the rope to the carabiner that is looped into your harness. This knot is what holds you in place if you fall! To watch a video on how to tie a figure eight, click here.
The second knot that all climbers should know is called the Double Overhand Stopper Knot. This knot is used, as the name suggests, as a stopper for your rope. Usually it is tied at the end of the rope to ensure that even if the belayer slips, the rope will catch in the belay device at some point during the fall.

Click here to see a step-by-step guide on how to tie a double overhand stopper knot and many more advanced climbing knots, visit , and don’t hesitate to ask your climbing instructor to check your work.

Belaying

Proper belaying is one of the keys to safe climbing. No amount of reading will teach you how to belay properly, but this should give you an idea of what to expect before a class with a qualified instructor. The most commonly used belay devices are “tube” style devices, which got their name because they look like tubes (clever lot, these climbers). One of the most popular of the “tube” style devices is the Black Diamond Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and most climbers misuse the term ATC to describe all tube devices. It’s sort of like Kleenex…

  1. Clip a locking carabiner through the belay loop on your harness.
  2. Create a small bight (bend) in the part of the rope on the side not being used by the climber. Feed the bight through one of the slots in the belay device.
  3. Clip the loop created by feeding the bight through the belay device and the wire cable on the belay device into your carabiner. Be sure to screw the carabiner shut once the rope and wire are in place.
  4. It is a good idea to check your partner’s work tying the knots, and for them to check your work setting up the belay.

Warning: Climbing is inherently dangerous. The equipment descriptions here are not meant to be an instructional booklet. Anyone using this gear is personally responsible for learning the proper techniques. All equipment specifications are the manufacturers. Climbing equipment is specifically designed for climbing only, has limitations, and must not be used for any other purposes. Improper use or misuse increases risk of injury, paralysis and death.