Virtually everything in the Artificial wall world revolves around gym climbing; holds, wall materials, advice, etc is generally created to help gym owners, professional route-setters, climbing hold companies, and climbing wall companies work together better. There is very little information that specifically targets the “Home Climbing Wall Consumer”.
Here are some of the main differences between your home climbing wall and a gym:
- You can do whatever the hell you want: yup that’s right, there is no wrong way or right way to build a wall, buy holds, play around on your wall, or set routes. There are things that may work better then others and those tips are in this website, but anything you can imagine can be created.
- Home walls are relatively easy to build: It’s just plywood, 2×4′s, screws, and t-nuts. You don’t need to worry about stress loading with 30 climbers on a single wall or how “aesthetically pleasing” your wall is or the “environmental impact” that your massive building has.
- Home walls are easy to maintain: If built right the most you will ever have to do is fix a few t-nuts or fine tune a few supports. My outdoor wall has sat through two years of pretty intense rain/snow without anything protecting it and structurally it is still fine; some things need to be fixed but there have been no real problems.
Items that Appear Necessary but are not:
- Textured Paint: If you are into textured paint go ahead and paint your wall. I am not a fan as it is expensive and I don’t like it when I hit my knee or scrap my elbow on textured paint as that sucks. It is not necessary and on a 30+ degree wall essentially useless. Foot-chips are cheap and much more worth it then textured paint.
- Screwing Holds/Volumes/etc into your wall: In a gym with fancy textured paint and expensive fiberglass panels you don’t want to be screwing things into those walls. In your home climbing wall it should be encouraged. Screwing Volumes, holds, etc into your wall does virtually no structural damage and minimal to no visual damage (its only a screw). Having three volumes on my wall and several screw holds has only enhanced my wall.
- Route Tape: Don’t tape your walls. Set freely and maybe set routes but tape on a small wall looks like crap and will rip off the wood.
- In 2005 when I built my first wall it didn’t seem like many hold companies were set-up to sell to individual customers. Today that is much different with many reasonably priced holds, review sites, and plenty of options. It is a good time to own a home climbing wall.
- Quality: Some of my local gyms have some of the worst climbing holds I have ever seen. Old, nasty, smooth resin holds that haven’t been updated since they opened the wall 15-20 years ago. Other gyms always seem to have a plethora of new holds weekly. Therefore if you feel your local gym has the same old holds you will be pleasantly surprised to find how many options there are and the overall quality.
- Buy what is right for you and your wall at that time: If you and your friends are V0-v3/4 climbers then buy holds that work for you at those levels. If you are trying to get a bunch of beginnings on your wall make sure you have plenty of jugs and feet everywhere. Buying crazy ass crimpers and slopers for a 30+ degree wall will mean that you have just wasted your money as you will not even be able to use them.
- Minimize Hold Waste: The one thing I didn’t realize when starting out is that certain companies will include a lot of holds in a set but they will vary significantly in difficultly. When starting out spend a lot of time looking at the holds online and try to visualize how they will work on your wall. Today I have a number of holds that have come in sets that have never been used because of this “hold waste”, and in some sets only a couple holds were ever that great anyways.
- Starting out with a new wall:
- Keep it Simple: At first you have no idea how to buy holds or what to look for as each company markets them differently and each hold will be different on the wall. Look for a good starter kit and buy that. Once you get an idea of how those holds climb you can fill in the missing pieces with new sets. Just don’t rush into a massive order to start your wall.
- Buy Slowly: Once you have climbed on your wall for a while (and had friends/etc over) you will have an idea of what you need to work on (more crimps/slopers/jugs/feet/etc). If at first you buy a new set every other month for a year (6 sets, ~30 new holds, ~$300) you will get the holds you need in the most cost effective manner. I have seen people go out and buy several hundred dollars worth of holds right away and 6-12 months later realized that the 40 jugs they have are not challenging, are boring and you end up not climbing as much.
- Get a good starter set: A good pack of 30-50 holds (with a few of everything) is a good start. I wouldn’t buy more then that from any company (mainly because I like diversity) and generally the starter packs will allow you to set a couple really good problems.
- Look for deals: Mountain Project, Craigslist, local gear shop, local gym can all have the possibility of a great deal. Once I bought ~$450 worth of new holds for $100 from a guy desperate to sell them because he was moving; not always possible but keep your eyes open.
- When bored with the wall buy new holds: A lot of people have complained about how they build their wall and then they are bored with it 6-12 months later. A lot of this is because they are using the same holds, the same sequences, the same movements, etc. New Holds bring new life into the wall (and for $35-50 can really add a lot of motivation).
- Volumes are KING!: Building a volume can drastically change your wall. A simple small triangle can add numerous new hold placements, movements, sequences to you wall. Plus they are insanely cheap for their value to the wall.