Climbing’s Best Accessories of 2016

Although many of today’s most relevant climbers were born after this movie was made (sigh, to be young again!), one of my favorite scenes from “Spaceballs” is when Mel Brooks, as “Yogurt,” a spoof on Yoda, says, “Merchandizing, merchandizing! Where the real money from the movie is made! Spaceballs-the T-shirt, Spaceballs-the Coloring Book, Spaceballs-the Lunch box, Spaceballs-the Breakfast Cereal, Spaceballs-the Flame Thrower.”


If trends of the last two years are any indication, the climbing industry seems to have caught on to that fact that merchandise—and accessories—are where it’s at. You don’t see a ton of new carabiner manufacturers getting into the game these, but over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there are a lot more accessory products as well as indie companies producing them.

Is this a sign of a new level of commercialism that’s going to further corrupt our sport’s soul? Or is it a sign of a industry that’s finally beginning to mature?

I don’t know, and I’m not complaining. Gone are the days of home-made kneepads constructed out of tire rubber and bathtub liquid chalk. Embrace it, and accessorize yourself, fool!

In the spirit of the season, I’ve compiled a little list of damn fine gifts that just about any climber I know would probably enjoy. These are products I’ve used and can recommend. Buy them for yourself, for someone else, or don’t buy them at all—see if I care.

Thanks, happy holidays, and may the schwartz be with you.

Friction Labs Secret Stuff

SSlarge-600x600_grandeIf you’re anything like Eminem, you may find yourself with sweaty palms and vomit on your shirt (mom’s spaghetti). Eminem just had to go out on stage and spit some hot fire to overcome his demons. For you, it’s much easier. All you’ll need is to spit some Secret Stuff on those clammy mitts before giving your boulder or sport proj a burn. I’ve been a big fan of Friction Labs chalk since the beginning. I’m also happy to see that, after a number of failed packaging errors with their liquid chalk experiments, they’ve finally dialed in their unique blend of liquid chalk, called Secret Stuff, in a resealable tube that won’t cause this magic white goo to dry out.

Where to Buy: Friction Labs | $19


Alpine Start Instant Coffee

Sometimes, coffee is the crux—and that’s never a good problem for a climber to have. The idea of “instant” coffee has, for some, been ruined by the less-than-palatable offerings out there, which is why my friends Matt Segal and Alex Hanafin started Alpine Start Foods. They wanted to change the perception that instant coffee didn’t need to be bitter and bad. Surprisingly, this instant coffee is tasty, chocolatey, and rich. The best part is how portable these single serve packets are. No need for an elaborate coffee-brewing contraption up on a big-wall or in the backcountry. In fact, you don’t even need hot water because even the addition of cold water to this instant-coffee blend tastes just as good.

Where to Buy: | $8.49


crkt niadThis minimalist serrated blade is mandatory everyday carry for climbers. The NIAD (or, “Nose in a Day”), from knife manufacturer CRKT, is a .6 ounce knife that is designed to be clipped with a standard carabiner to your harness, and kept there for those moments when you will need it, whether that’s cutting tat from anchors or trimming the end of your core shot rope.

Where to Buy: Amazon | $23.13

Smith Add

Rhino Skin Solutions

I wrote about the game-changing performance benefits of using Antihydral—with its main skin-drying ingredient methenamine—years ago. Adam Ondra used Antihydral to keep his skin in good condition during his incredible Dawn Wall blitz. The problem with Antihydral is that it is expensive, as it’s imported from Germany, and dealing with that white residue on your fingers can get annoying. Plus, at 16% methenamine, many find Antihydral to be too strong and ultimately too damaging to skin.

Enter Rhino Skin, a new company started by two Smith Rock locals who wanted to offer a complete line of products that will keep your skin tough enough to handle day after day of sharp rock, but also, moisturized enough to prevent tears and speed regrowth. They offer five different creams: Repair, Performance, Dry, Calm, and Mikey’s Tip Juice.

If I had to recommend just two products, I’d suggest starting with Dry and Repair. Dry has only 8% methenamine, which seems to be a more climber friendly dosage. And, unlike Antihydral, it absorbs in your skin without any greasy or white residue. No more waking up with Antihydral smeared across your face! And Repair is a perfect post-climbing salve, with anti-inflammatory properties and a non-greasy application that starts healing battered tissue immediately.

Every person’s skin is different, and experimentation is required for individuals to determine frequency of use. But bottom line, Rhino Skin is the best stuff out there for optimizing your skin for high performance.

Where to Buy: Rhino Skin Solutions

totem cams

Totem Cams

OK, these aren’t “accessories,” per se. But they are a great supplement to an existing rack. If there’s one cam to rule them all, it’s the Totem Cam. These units have earned a cult following among climbers, especially Yosemite denizens who tout that Totem Cams work best in Yosemite’s flaring cracks. If you use a rack of Totem Cams for any period of time, you’ll quickly realize that they just work better—the tend to fit into more funky placements, and they seem to be way more solid/bomber. Totem Cams’ fully flexible stems allows force to be applied directly to the cam units themselves, eliminating issues with walking or torque. Totem Cams won’t be able to cover every situation, but just bout any trad climber’s rack would benefit from the addition of at least one of these badassmotherfuckers.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Backcountry | Mountain Gear


Arcade Belt

This isn’t a super climbing-specific product, per se. But this stretchy, low-profile belt is not only a super useful accessory that fits perfectly under my harness, but it’s saved me from sporting the dreaded plumber’s-crack-while-climbing look that many dudes are unfortunate enough to bear. Since most dudes don’t get to climb in stretchy yoga pants, our britches tend to sag over the course of a climbing day. Having to constantly readjust your pants under your harness gets old. Arcade Belts are, by far, the best belts for sport climbers—but their utility extends to many outdoor/active pursuits. What I love most is the low-profile belt buckle. Plus, with dozens of designs, these belts are lit.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Backcountry

Gnarly Nutrition

Whey800x8001-600x600It’s training season, which means it’s time to hit the gym and get sore. Except that it’s pretty easy to stave off soreness and speed recovery through proper nutrition and supplementation. I’ve been experimenting with Gnarly Nutrition’s product line this year after doing a bunch of research on the hundreds of products, many of them filled with sugar and bullshit, in this category. Gnarly Nutrition sources high-quality proteins, such as whey from grass-fed humanely treated cows. I like the BCAA supplement, which really works best as a supplement used to maintain muscle mass during fasted states. If you’re trying to lose weight for climbing, but not lose muscle, supplementing with BCAAs is the way to go. I also use BCAAs as a “slow-drip” throughout a climbing day—taking sips of a bottle before and after each pitch. The whey protein is super tasty, and mixes reasonably well (a bottle blender helps). I usually chug a dose or two of this stuff at the end of a climbing day or work out. The result is no soreness, which, at my age, feels like a miracle.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Gnarly Nutrition


SEND Slim Kneepads

In most places, kneepads are blunt, crude objects to be worn arond a climber’s leg like a pair of baggy overalls on farmer Bill. In Spain, “kneepads” are just called “pants”—and somehow everyone there climbs 9a.

But in Rifle, my local crag, which is famous its number of weak people who have tricked their way up really hard routes, kneepads are precision instruments.

As such, I’d been skeptical that SEND Kneepads—with their clunky-looking belt buckles—would be a huge improvement over my own homemade pads made from McDavid neoprene knee sleeves.

New this season are the SEND SLIM kneepads, which use thinner materials have a more nimble, less-bulky feel than SEND’s original design. For sport climbing, the SLIM pads get my vote.

For 90 percent of kneebars that climbers do, these pads are exceptional. Strapping on normal kneepads can feel like an onerous chore. What I love most about SEND pads is how much easier they are to put on and take off. For sport projecting, this is really a nice feature that allows you to take a pad off while hang-dogging (or even put one on, if you need to call a pad up, along with a stick-clip and a ham sandwich). I’ve never been a fan of putting a kneepad on over my pants, which pretty much has meant always wearing shorts. When the weather’s cold, this is less than ideal. But SEND kneepads are super easy to strap on over your pants—and they actually stick to your pants pretty well.

I’ll be using SEND pads for most of the kneebar-style climbing I do.

Where to Buy: SEND Climbing

Sublime Boar’s Hair Brush

sublimeclimbingboarhairBrushing chalk off the rock is necessary to improve friction, and remove unsightly marks. Boar’s-hair brushes seem to do the best job of lifting chalk off the rock—particularly slopers—with as little damage to the rock itself as possible. They’re much better than nylon, for example, at lifting chalk off the rock. By far the best boar’s-hair brush for climbers is made by Sublime, a new company that makes honking brushes with at least 14,000 bristles each. The sheer density of bristles is what makes Sublime brushes last so long, too.

A couple obvious downsides: the brushes can be difficult to carry on a chalk bag, making them better for bouldering than sport climbing. Also, the wide head won’t fit into small pockets—if that’s your thing.

Where to Buy: Amazon

  • James Willis

    I feell like this post is just a giant ad- not really up to the standards I’ve come to expect from evening sends.