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10 Factors That Make Rock Climbing Gyms So Expensive in 2023

Have you been wondering why rock climbing gyms are so expensive? If YES, here are 10 important factors that makes rock climbing gyms expensive to start. Rock climbing gyms that offer indoor climbing can be very expensive for a variety of reasons.

Imagine the space required to build a climbing wall. Some gyms rent half-block, 3 floor tall warehouses, that’s a substantial investment right there as well. Compare this to a Yoga studio which is just the plain floor, then you understand why climbing is actually expensive.

In starting a rock climbing gym, a lot of capital and planning is involved. Note that the space requirements (high vertical space) means most retail or commercial space are unsuitable, the build-out/construction of a climbing gym is significant, and all the materials (all those draws on the lead routes, all those holds, the walls/structures themselves, the crash-pads) are quite expensive.

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In addition, route setting and hold cleaning/maintenance is an ongoing, never-ending process, the ropes and soft gear tend to wear out due to constant use, and insurance and liability are unbelievably not encouraging for these gyms.

In your first time at a climbing gym, you’ll probably get a day pass ($15-25) and rental equipment ($5-10). For that, you can climb all day until the gym closes with no limit on routes or climbs. Some gyms offer discounts for students or members of affiliate organizations such as the American Alpine Club or Access Fund. And members often have free guest passes they can use for the first time.

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Most people either love climbing or they hate it. It’s not a lukewarm kind of sport. If you love it, don’t keep buying the day pass and renting gear. Chances are you’ll get bit by the climbing bug and start going two to four times a week. You can usually get a membership for somewhere between $50 and $75 per month.

However, if as a newbie starting out and imagining why rock climbing is such an expensive sport, here are few factors to consider.

10 Important Factors That Make Rock Climbing Gyms Expensive

1. Costs of a Gym Pass

Although it tends to depend on where you’re climbing, a daily gym pass can range anywhere from US$10-$40. You’re sure to save money if you buy a monthly pass or multiple entry pass.

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Most gyms in the United States offer the option to buy a 10-entry pass that will help you save on the cost of climbing, as it can reduce the cost of sporadic visits. Gyms also offer the option to purchase a membership, usually monthly or annually, so if you know you’ll be climbing a lot, take advantage of this opportunity.

2. Cost of Rental Equipment

Just like soccer games require soccer boots and tennis requires tennis shoes, rock climbing has special shoes to help you climb. Renting of gear (shoes, harness, chalk) will be cost to consider extensively, so if you think you’re going to start rock climbing on a regular basis, it makes sense to invest in a set of personal beginner gear.

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However, if you’re just trying out the sport, shoe rentals will usually cost you anywhere from US$3-$7, and the same goes for a harness. If you also need chalk, it is usually cheaper (US$1-$2), though many gyms offer complimentary chalk bag rental or provide it to everyone for free.

3. Cost of Buying Rock Climbing Shoes

If you prefer not to hire the necessary equipment, note that you can buy most of them. For instance, you don’t have to shell out a large amount to buy a quality pair of beginners rock climbing shoes. You can get a good pair anywhere from US$50-$70, which is a good investment compared to the US$100-$150 that you would have to spend on more advanced climbing shoes.

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4. Cost of Investing in Bouldering gear

To have you ready to do some great bouldering, you need a chalk bag and chalk. Though some gyms do provide it, it’s always advisable to have your own, as you might have a certain type of chalk that you prefer. A chalk bag is not too expensive, as it costs between US$10 and US$20, and depending on the brand, a bag of chalk can cost from US$5-$20. You’ll also want to pick up a climbing brush ($5-$10) to clean off extra chalky or slippery holds.

5. Costs of Top Rope

If you are considering anything beyond bouldering and would like to tackle the high walls, that’s where you start investing in the top rope and lead climbing. In terms of top rope climbing, the rope is already all set up at the top with the anchor. In the case of lead climbing, you will need to bring the rope up and set up the route with quick draws. Usually top rope can be prepared and set up from a lead climb.

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6. Cost of Harness and Belay Devices

In addition to ropes, you’ll need to have a harness, a belay device, and a carabineer. Some companies in the United States, such as Black Diamond and Petzl, sell starter packs that include all of this necessary equipment.

These things will usually run you up about US$90-$100, which can save you money in the long run. If you don’t want to buy everything at once, you might not be able to get as great of a deal: a beginner’s harness costs anywhere from US$50-$70 and a carabineer/belay device US $20-$30.

7. Cost of Helmet

There are some rock climbing gyms that make you wear a helmet and bring your own rope, which is an important cost to take into consideration. Good climbing helmets start at US$50 and can cost up to US$140, but to start you’ll just need a basic one. Ropes can be the most expensive single piece of climbing equipment, and depending on the type and length of rope, a good rope will cost anywhere around US$100 and US$300.

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8. Cost of moving into Outdoor Lead Climbing

Once you already have your helmet and rope, there are a few other necessities you’ll need before you can start lead climbing outdoors. You’ll need a set of quick draw to set up your routes, and how many you need tend to depend on how long the routes are that you plan on climbing. This is another thing that is better to buy in a pack: a set of 6 quick draws normally costs between US$60 and US$80, while a single quick draw can run you up to $20.

9. Cost of Carabineers, ATC and Slings

Also note that you will need some additional safety gear when lead climbing outdoors. Though it will likely cost over US$30, a personal anchor system is key for cleaning routes. Have it in mind there are different ways to clean a route or ‘top out’, and extra things like an ATC or prusik knot is useful to ensure you abseil down safely.

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However, if you plan on setting up top ropes often, you’ll also want to buy a set of locking carabineers and a sling, which will be about US$30-$40. It is also advisable to invest in an automatic locking belay device, such as a Petzl Grigri, if you’re going to be sport climbing outdoors. Though it’s quite the investment (US$100), it lasts a long time, and it is a safety measure that you’ll be happy you took.

10. Cost of Multi-Pitch Gear

Note that the cost of starting to climb multi-pitch routes is without doubt the most expensive component of rock climbing. You’ll surely need the personal anchor system and a set of locking carabineers and slings, as mentioned above.

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If you’re planning on just doing bolted multi-pitch climbing, you’ll be set with your anchor system with extra rope and quick draws. Nonetheless, once you get into traditional multi-pitch climbing, you’ll need a whole new set of gear. Depending on where you plan on climbing, you’ll need different size gear, but it’s a good idea to start out with a set of cams, which will end up being at least US$300.

A set of nuts/wide stoppers for a variety of sizes of cracks will cost between US$50-$100. Also note that you will need some long runners to prevent rope drag on routes that have a lot of traverse, which you can find for about US$20 a piece.

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In conclusion, you can see that starting out in rock climbing may not be that expensive, but it can be pretty cheap and affordable. However, as you start taking the sport to the next level and investing in safe and high quality climbing gear, it starts adding up.