First time climbing outdoors – what we took with us

First time climbing outdoors – what we took with us

Both Ed and I are self confessed over packers. Perhaps due to one too many unfortunate festival experiences or the fact that even though we’re camping I refuse to give up some of life’s little luxuries, either way, with the car packed to the nines we both agreed we took a little too much on our first trip away 😂

So here’s what we actually found we needed for the 4 days and 3 nights we wild camped and climbed in Dartmoor National Park. To make it easier to navigate we’ll split it into 3 sections, climbing essentials, camping essentials and optional extras that we chose to take.

Climbing Essentials:

  • Climbing Shoes
    Climbing shoes really come into their own when they meet rock for the first time. As we were at the start of our climbing journey we simply took the only shoes we had with us and they performed faultlessly. Ed wore Climb X Crush Lace‘s, and I wore Scarpa Velocity V’s, both of these shoes are very flat and were super comfortable for long days on the tor. Since our first expedition both Ed and I have purchased new shoes, I now wear Red Chili Spirit VCR’s and Ed now wears La Sportiva Katakis, these got christened on our latest trip to Dartmoor, my Red Chili’s are still quite flat and so very comfortable, Ed’s Katakis however, are a bit more aggressive and so he also took his Climb X’s for longer days climbing.

  • Bouldering Mat
    I’ve seen people climbing without one but seriously we wouldn’t recommend it. In fact we’re currently saving up to buy a few more. One mat was definitely sufficient for the level we were climbing at but did mean that the spotter had to move it around as the climb progressed. Out of all the gear we bought specifically for this trip the bouldering mat was by far the most expensive. We wanted something with a large surface area and that would be easy to carry and so decided on the Simond Bigblocker Crash Pad from Decathlon. We trekked miles with this thing on our backs and it was surprisingly light weight and comfortable. It kept us safe through a few sketchy falls and is big enough that you could probably use it as a mattress!



  • Chalk
    We didn’t use half as much chalk as we do when climbing indoors, partly due to the roughness of the granite. We’d still recommend taking some just in case. We’ve always been a fan of Moon Dust as we like to fill our bucket Organic Climbing bag. Do be aware of climbing ethics surrounding chalk and brush off any tick marks or chalky patches when you’re done.

  • Chalk Bag
    We are in love with our Organic Climbing chalk bucket – it also holds all our brushes and has a pocket for our phones. If you’re a fan of chalking up mid climb then also consider bringing a chalk bag to strap around your waist.

  • Brush
    We only really used our brushes for cleaning off our chalk marks, still handy to take with you just in case.

  • Tape
    Bring tape! The granite on Dartmoor is very rough on your hands, in fact some of the climbs were called things such as Skin Graft 🤣When climbing for hours on consecutive days your fingers do start to wear thin, so the more tape the merrier. (Please pick it up off the floor when it comes off though).

  • Guide Book
    Another must in our opinion, we would have been completely lost without our guidebook. Although you could find climbs on your phone signal is often poor and having your phone out somehow detracts from the primal activity of climbing. For Dartmoor we highly recommend Dartmoor: A Climbers’ guide by James Clapham



  • Comfy clothes
    We didn’t have any specific climbing clothes so just wore what we usually wear in the climbing gym, the only thing to be aware of here is that with the granite being so rough any slips can result in tears so don’t wear anything you don’t want to come back with holes in. The weather was very kind to us during the day but when the wind got up and the sun started to fade we found it very cold, so layers are key.

Camping Essentials:

  • Tent
    As we were wild camping we wanted to have a small inconspicuous tent but also needed room for all our supplies so decided on a 3 man tent rather than a 2. We were also on a very tight budget and so were pleasantly surprised to find a 3 man tent in Decathlon for under £30! Now, I know what you’re thinking ‘you get what you pay for’, so my expectations of this tent were very low, however, he has surpassed my expectations. Although on our first trip he had only to survive a little wind on our second he survived what can only be described as a 2 day torrential downpour, leaving us dry and snuggly. In the long run we will be looking to invest in a better tent but for now this little guy has been fab.

  • Double Sleeping Bag
    Double, single, whichever your preference rather than lugging a duvet up into the wilderness (we’ve done that) go get yourself a sleeping bag. We opted for a double so I could steal all of Ed’s warmth and honestly I was tempted to take it to bed with me when I got home. Our one also unzips into two pieces for easy washing.

  • Pillows
    I’m classing this as an essential because no-one wants to wake up with a stiff neck. We just took some from home but any pillow will do.

  • Warm clothes
    We went to Dartmoor in May and although we had highs of 20 degrees Celsius in the day it often dropped to below zero at night, in fact we woke up with ice on the outside of our tent on more than one occasion. Even on more recent summer trips when the sun goes down things start to get nippy, so pack some snuggly’s. We both bought sweatpants, hoodies, beanies and jumpers to layer up in at night.

  • Stove and Gas
    Again, non essential to some, if you want a hot meal or a cup of tea after a hard days climbing then a stove and gas are really non-negotiable. I’ve had my little stove for about five years and considering he was about £15 he’s never disappointed. We packed a gas canister for each day were were staying just to make sure we wouldn’t run out.

  • Food & (wine!)
    Of course bring plenty of food (and wine!) Light weight things like noodle and pasta cook quickly and provide important carbohydrates. We also made sure to stock up on chocolate biscuits for when we needed a sugar fix. One thing to consider though is that if you’re cooking pasta and noodles you will need water. So in addition to drinking water bring plenty of extra.

Optional Extras:

  • Camping chairs
    I was quite prepared to sit on our bouldering mat but Ed was insistent that we have chairs and to be honest I’m glad we did, they kept us off the damp ground and it was just nice to recline in something comfy at the end of a long day.

  • Air mattress
    My non negotiable, I cannot sleep on the floor. I was prepared to try sleeping on our bouldering mat, but he was surprisingly firm so I pulled out my trusty double air mattress and slept like a baby. (Note: If you’re going to bring an air mattress you will also need a pump)

  • Tent light
    A little battery powered tent light was nice to have and saved us using the torches on our phones to find everything.

  • Camera
    With Ed being a photographer a camera was another of our non-negotiables and I have to say looking back at our pictures it was so worth taking.

  • Power banks
    Although for the most part we tried to stay off our phones we still wanted to make sure they stayed charged for emergency reasons and so our power banks came in extremely handy.

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