Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees, the details in the big picture — or, the little, essential climbing items through our mounds and mounds of climbing gear. It's fairly easy to gear up for a climbing sesh at the gym — harness; check, shoes; check, chalkbag; double check cuz I got TWO to choose from — but there are quite a few items we usually forget to keep handy, that aren't absolutely essential until you, holy crap, need them. Here's the quick and dirty list of the small stuff that you would want to keep in your bag at all times, to bust out and show off your preparedness, you little boy scout, at those times when you really need them most.
The most basic, and perhaps most essential of this list, a day without climbing tape is a bad day, indeed. Climbing tape can remedy most anything, from torn-up fingertips, flappers, and minor tendon pain, to torn clothing, and even creating a makeshift stick clip when you're really under the gun. I am definitely not an advocate of over-taping your fingers — absolutely shredding your skin is the best way to build it back stronger — but having tape always on-hand is the best way to extend your climbing sessions past minor skin tears, or that massive hole you ripped through the back of your pants. Have some modesty!
Especially useful for boulderers, brushes are great for ... you guessed it ... brushing! Keep one in your boulder bucket for when the crux sloper on your project starts getting a little shmarmy. Make sure your brush has either nylon or animal hair bristles — metal bristles can damage our holds!
Finger nail clippers and/or surgical scissors
Always handy to have your own set, because having to borrow these can sometimes be icky. These aren't just great for taming your talons, they can also be pretty clutch at clipping off small flappers. For bigger flappers though, or stray cuticles, bring in the surgical scissors. They're a lot more precise, and there's less of a chance you'll accidentally snip off more skin than you wanted. Surgical scissors are also pretty handy for those of us who can sometimes be tape-tearing challenged!
Liquid chalk can be a pretty nice trick to have up your sleeve. Especially if your hands tend towards the sweaty side, liquid chalk can be a great base layer under your powder chalk, to lessen how much chalking up you need to do while on the wall. It's also much less messy than powdered chalk, so it can be pretty awesome when you're working a route or problem with a hold that gravitates towards being a grease-fest. The liquid chalk carried by Summit Dallas, formulated by our very own Ben Jensen, will soon be available at all three of our locations!
Basically, keep a manicure set with you at all times at the wall. But — there are no manicures allowed in climbing! Save that for rest days. The emery board is great for sanding your skin down, if your calluses are getting a little out of hand (get it?! Puns are great.). Overly-large calluses have the potential to bunch and tear, resulting in some of the worst flappers of your life. By keeping the most callused parts of your fingers, especially the just-under-your-first-finger-joint part more smooth and even, you reduce the chance of your skin catching and ripping, and totally ruining your day.
Some kind of skin repair balm or bar
Ok, all this chalking and snipping and sanding has probably got your hands beat. Given time, your hands will definitely heal on their own, but why not speed up the process with some skin repair balm? We sell Giddy bars at our gyms, which I would highly recommend, but really; try out all types of skin balms until you find one that works for you. Climb On!, Giddy, Joshua Tree, or even Bag Balm for those farmers amongst us, all of these cremes - bars - salves - what have you - all bring necessary moisture to your poor, dried-out hands. By keeping your hands reasonably moisturized, your skin is less prone to painful cracking and peeling, and it has more of a chance to build itself back up into those gnarly finger calluses we all know and love. Remember: skin repair measures are to be taken after climbing — application of any of these balms before climbing could cause your skin to be too soft, and thus lead to a FLAPPER DISASTER.
Ibuprofen (or your pain reliever of choice*)
It's always a good idea to keep a little bottle in your bag, for those times when yesterday's Ashtanga class is catching up with you today. You'll be the favorite of your friend group when so-and-so shows up for morning climbing super hungover and BOOM — you've the got the necessary medicine to keep him cranking through the achy haze of last night's overindulgence. Headaches, body aches, and mild inflammation — Ibuprofen covers most of the little pains we experience that might distract us from climbing.
*can't be alcohol!
Small extra carabiner
Any small wire-gate, or non-locking carabiner is perfect for clipping whatever to. I like to keep one hanging off my harness at all times, in case I need a place to clip my shoes, or a T-wrench when I need to tighten a lose hold while on the wall. Just a small biner can be endlessly handy, and doesn't really take up any space or weight at all on your gear loop. Much like climbing tape, a small extra biner is not one of those things you really need until you need it one day. Don't get caught with your pants down! (Literally ... a small carabiner could help you keep your pants up in a pinch.)
Not just for contact wearers, Visine is great because it can flush chalk or dust out of your eyes much faster than you can fish it out yourself. No matter how many times we sweep and dust and vacuum, climbing gyms are inherently dusty places. Even the tiniest flake of chalk in your eye can be extremely painful, and possibly even damaging to your eye, so keeping some eye drops handy can help save you from crying adult tears in front of a gym full of people.
There's nothing more distracting than becoming suddenly hangry while climbing. When undergoing physical activity like climbing, your body is prone to becoming very suddenly and extremely hungry, with no warning. At least that's the case for me. And when I am hungry, I am the opposite of a happy camper. I am the unhappiest of campers, and there is no chance in hell I am going to send my project until I get something of substance in my body. Cue the snack! I always like to keep a granola bar or a banana at hand while I am climbing to keep Oscar the Grouchy Climber at bay. Luckily, we sell snackies galore at our gyms, to satisfy whatever random craving you may have while crushing it at them gym.
Acupressure finger massaging rings
Perfect for after-climbing recovery time, finger rings promote circulation to aid in your fingers' recovery time. If you ever suffer from stiff fingers after a day of hard climbing, these little rings do wonders for post-climbing recovery and dexterity. Plus they feel good ... as most massaging devices will. They're smaller than most other massaging devices, though, so it's easy to tote it around in your bag and bust out while you're enjoying your post-climb brew.
Probably the most important thing to keep in your bag at all times!!! NEVER LOSE THIS! A day climbing with no stoke is not a day worth climbing during at all! KEEP THE FIRE ALIVE.