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TNT: A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Climbing Trip

By May 15, 2012April 1st, 20198 Comments

Today’s post is from Climb On! Sister blog editor-in-chief and fellow Primo Chalk athlete, Jeline Guiles. As a bouldering dynamo and outdoor climbing aficionado, we thought Jeline could give us the lowdown on how to plan a successful climbing trip for all you outdoor virgins, or those who just need a refresher.

Here’s a video from her February trip to Red Rocks in Nevada to get you psyched on getting outside!


So you’ve talked to some climbing buddies at the gym and are ready to plan your first climbing trip of the season (or first trip…ever), but don’t know where to get started?

Planning your first climbing trip can easily become a daunting task without the right resources. There are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself: what gear do I need to bring? Where do I stay during my trip? What will the weather be like? How will I get around the area without a guide? And the list goes on.

To make the planning process a little easier on you, I’ve created a mini-guide of things you should do/know in order to prepare yourself for your upcoming epic trip.

Jeline concentrating on her target.

The Climbing Area:

Before making a decision on what climbing area you want to travel to, make sure to do some research. Talk to the climbers at your gym about any crags they suggest checking out. You want to choose an area that caters to the type of climbing you’ll be doing and the grades you’re interested in climbing. Let’s face it, you don’t want to be trying 5.14d if you’re barely making it up a 5.7 route. Most areas will have a variety of problems/routes that should cater to all levels of climbing, but again, you’ll want to check into this.

Some great websites for looking into different routes/problems available at a climbing area are:

I also suggest going to your local library, bookstore, or REI (or outdoor retailer) and reading through climbing guidebooks of the area. Which brings me to my next tip…

Once you’ve decided on the place, buy a guidebook. Guidebooks will give you information on driving directions, hiking trails, locations of routes/problems, and give you some beta on how to complete the climb. There may be numerous guidebooks for one area, so make sure to research and read reviews on them before purchasing.

The Weather:

One aspect of trip planning you’ll have to consider is the weather. Does it rain a lot where you’re going? Obviously you’ll want to avoid the rainy season, unless you like climbing on slick rock. Will it be too hot? Will it be too cold? Most climbers will tell you that perfect climbing temperatures are anywhere from 60 – 75 degrees (75 being almost too hot). The reason for this is because you want the rock to have maximum friction. The colder it is, the more friction your hands will have on the rock.  This means you’ll want to plan your trip during the fall or winter seasons of the area you’re going to. Spring season is tolerable for some, but be sure to avoid poison ivy, poison oak, or any other leafy green that starts with the word “poison” and beware of the snakes! Summer could be a good season to go, if you live up north, but again, this just goes back to having the perfect temperatures (note above).

Remember to bring all the cold and warm weather gear you might need!

The Lodging

The next step in planning your climbing trip is figuring out where you’ll be staying. The cheapest option is usually pitching a tent and camping. If it’s a government owned property (i.e. State/National Park), make sure to look up the fees on their website and follow the rules of the campground. If you require water or electrical hookups, you’ll need to research this too. Last time I had gone for a trip we took a tent along with us for 8 people, as it was the most efficient way we could cut down on carrying additional weight.

If camping is out of the question, you can always book a hotel or, in some cases, a cabin. Getting a group of people to pitch in for an extended period of time is sometimes more economical than camping. And, it’s always nice to be able to take a hot shower whenever you want. However, you won’t get the full-on, Bear Grylls, survival mode experience that primitive camping offers, which some people live for.

The Checklist of Gear

Once you have your transportation and lodging figured out, you’ll want to make a checklist of the technical gear, clothing, and food you’ll need, so you don’t forget anything. On this checklist, you’ll also want to include some other (optional) items such as a small first aid kit (bandaids, ibuprofen, alcohol wipes), superglue (for shoe blowouts…and fingers?), and a moisturizing hand balm like Climb On! Bar. Here’s a basic checklist you can use if you’re still unsure of what to pack:

So that’s it! You’re ready for your first climbing adventure! If all of this planning just seems too overwhelming to take on, you can always just ask around and see if you can tag along with someone on their next climbing trip! Either way, just make sure to be safe, have fun, and stay hydrated!


The awesome author, Jeline.

About the Author:

Jeline Guiles is the editor-in-chief of Climb On, Sister! ( – a blog dedicated to igniting a passion for climbing amongst girls and women. A self-proclaimed bouldering fanatic, she has planned trips and climbed at some of the best bouldering areas in the United States such as Red Rock Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, and Hueco Tanks.

Jeline is sponsored by Primo Chalk and Climb On!  To find out more, visit or follow on or Twitter @climbonsister.


  • finchplucker says:

    Great post Jeline. I’d also add that guidebooks will tell you about any access issues or local ethics that you should be aware of. Being cognizant of each area’s idiosyncrasies helps keep access alive for everyone.

    • KnoItAll says:

      I would say a well put together and up to date guidebook would tell you about access issues and/or local ethics, but many times these situations are rapidly evolving and a year old guidebook may not have the up to date beta. The best idea when visiting a new area, especially if there’s a history of access/ethical issues, is to check in at the local gear shop and ask a “local”.

      • finchplucker says:

        Good point sam. A good example is the red, where roadside crag is off limits but the guide was printed before the closure. Ask around miguels and anyone can tell you what you need to know!

      • Jeline says:

        Yes, thanks for the additional tip! The same goes with places like Hueco Tanks. They have access issues left and right and you want to make sure you’re not climbing in restricted areas or on closed boulders.

  • Sam Campfield says:

    I’m the Adventure teacher at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado and I wanted to let you know that I am going to use this article as a resource for my students as an alternative assignment. Thank you!

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