Ready to graduate to lead climbing? What gear do you need? Or how do you lug your bicycle on business trips? And, are rubber shoes trail worthy? Our gear experts clue you in.
I’M a novice advancing to lead climbing, and I’ve done a few lead climbs with experienced climb buddies. What gear would I need and what should I be looking for when buying my first set of quick drawers and rope? I have a harness, belay device and climbing shoes. – A Chris Sharma Wannabe, Batang Bejuntai, Perak
The good news is that most of the crags in Malaysia are equipped for sport climbing, meaning you do not require heaps of equipment. Climbing is a team sport, so you might want to share the costs of quick draws and even a rope with your climbing partner.
Here are the basics:
1. Locking carabiner (and slings): You will need at least two, if not three, locking carabiners. You’ll need a pear-shaped carabiner for attaching your belay device. Any brand will do as long they come with the CE label (meaning the product conforms with all health, safety and environmental protection standards of the European Union). I recommend the classic Petzl Attache or compact and lightweight Black Diamond’s Mini Pearabiner. Both companies are known for outstanding quality and being forward-thinking in carabiner technology. To lower yourself from the top anchor, you will need an endless sling and two locking carabiners (which do not need to be pear-shaped)
Some of the basic gear for lead climbing
Some of the brands available in Malaysia: Black Diamond, Petzl, Mammut, Rock Empire, Edelweiss, C.A.M.P and Mad Rock.
2. Quick draws: Most sport routes in Malaysia can be climbed with a set of 12 draws. So if you buy six and your partner buys the other six, you are all set. In recent years, the climbing gear market tends to make lighter and lighter draws. However, in climbers’ polls, most people prefer good handling over weight, especially if you are not going for big walls or alpine routes. For some reason, Malaysian climbers do not like wire-gate carabiners. Maybe they look less trustworthy than full-gate carabiners?
Keylock is the new standard. You might still find carabiners without keylock noses since they are cheaper. But after the first few botched clips or hassles while cleaning that overhanging route, you will want to have keylock carabiners only.
Any brand offers various sets of draws for all budgets. My favourite is the Black Diamond Nitron Quickdraw, super easy to clip and to clean, but definitely not for the budget-conscious. Black Diamond also has bargain packs: their Posiwire and Positron draws in sets of six. Petzl features the ultralight Ange Finesse for the true-blue gear freak but for the novice, the Spirit Express is the better choice.
3. Rope: The rope is the key piece of safety equipment in climbing. Your life, literally, depends on it. Opting to save money on this piece of gear is not advisable. There are many brands in the market, and in general, a cheap rope doesn’t last as long as a pricier one. But all ropes have to pass the required CE and UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) testing norms.
The two leading brands over the last decade have been Mammut and Beal. I prefer Mammut for their durability and exceptional handling. Beal has very good handling at the start, but in the tropics, the ropes seem to get super soft pretty quickly.
Ropes usually are sold in lengths of 50, 60 and 70m. A 60m rope will cover most of the routes for novice climbers. Do not buy super thin and ultralight performance rope; those are meant for pro climbers who have their gear supplied by sponsors. A good rope choice is a 10.2 or 10.3mm-diameter rope, which is not too burly but strong enough to resist wear and tear and promises a long lifespan. I would recommend Mammut 10.2 Supersave EVO, a very robust rope but not the cheapest. For a budget alternative, you can go for 10.2 Gravity.
If your budget permits, invest in a rope bag, extra slings and single carabiners. If you want your rope to last longer, protect it. A RM5-Ikea shopping bag is a budget option but do place the bag on a rattan mat for extra protection.
rope, slings, quick draws and carabiners, keylock carabiners and wire-gate carabiners.
However, gear alone does not guarantee safety nor does it replace training. I recommend enrolling in a lead climbing course in order to learn the do’s and don’ts and the tricks of the trade. Some anchors and bolts in Malaysia are of iffy quality. Do not trust fixed gear blindly and do not lower off of flimsy anchors. Safe climbing! – Patrick Andrey, expert climber and climbing wall builder
As a regular mountain biker and road cyclist, I’d like to have a bike to pack away on travels to sneak a ride or two on business trips. Can you recommend a foldable or transportable bike that can do the trick? – Biking on the Go, Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur
Most regular foldable bikes tend to be compromises: what you gain in portability, you lose in performance. There are, however, two standout exceptions to this general rule.
The S&S Machine bike torque couplings (BTCs) is not a bicycle per se, but rather a specially-made steel or titanium coupling that is fitted to the top tube and down tube of a bike frame, which will allow the frame to be unscrewed into two pieces.
Everything, including the wheels, can thereafter fit into a regular-sized suitcase.
There is practically no downside to the BTCs, save that they add about half a pound to the weight of the frame.
S&S Machine does not sell directly to customers; rather, you will need to locate a bike manufacturer that has been approved to sell BTC-equipped frames or that can retrofit BTCs to existing frames. Check out sandsmachine.com for the full list of manufacturers. I personally have owned a BTC-equipped mountain bike for 13 years now, and can attest to the durability of the couplings.
The alternative is the Ritchey Breakaway frame. As you may know, Ritchey is the company founded by Tom Ritchey, the mountain biking pioneer.
Unlike the BTCs, which can be custom-fitted into any bike design using conventional tubing (whether road or mountain), the Ritchey Breakaway is available in two specific framesets: a road or cyclocross frame. Nope, no mountain bike frame. A travesty.
Like BTC-equipped bikes, the Breakaway frame can be separated into two and transported in a large suitcase, together with all other parts like the wheels.
As for the other folding bikes that are available at our local bike shops, these would be suitable for commuting, but I would hesitate to do any serious cycling on them. – Zack Haslam, mountain biker and self-professed gear fanatic
I have been trekking for almost 10 years but mostly in the US where I was based. Since returning to Malaysia in 2010, I’ve been checking out the local trails. I noticed many guides or hikers wearing a type of rubber shoes called Adidas Kampung. Though they seem to work great for muddy and wet conditions, the shoes look stiff and lack support and ventilation. Are they suitable for steep-terrain hiking? – Reverse Culture Shock, Petaling Jaya
Adidas kampung (AK) is an umbrella term for the ubiquitous rubber shoes usually worn by rubber tappers or estate workers but in recent years, they have become popular with local guides and hikers.
One specific model copies the famous Adidas football boots complete with studs and four yellow stripes on both sides. They were popular with villagers who couldn’t afford real soccer boots, hence the moniker, Adidas Kampung.
Since it’s made of 100% rubber, the shoes are pliable and waterproof and popular for river crossing and jungle hikes.
But as you mentioned, it doesn’t provide ankle support, cushioning or any traction unless you’re wearing the studded model in muddy conditions.
And your feet tend to perspire heavily resulting in smelly feet due to the absence of ventilation. Some folks cut holes on the sides of the shoes for added ventilation. Some AK-clad hikers also develop blisters after a long hike.
The beauty of AK is you can feel every gravel on the ground you step on. You become more aware of your surroundings and your senses are heightened.
For the past year, I’ve been using AK for almost all my jungle trips.
Whether rain or shine, or flat or steep terrain, my AK adapted to the conditions. I carry two pairs of AK on my trips, one with flat soles and the other with studs. I use the studs for muddy terrain and the flat-soled pair for regular terrain and for getting about the campsite. Best of all, they are easy to dry and dirt cheap. Price ranges from RM4.50 to RM10.
Then again, AK may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Those who are keen to try AK must do it gradually. Start by doing short hikes and gradually increase the amount if walking time or trips.
You can find AK in hardware shops, night markets or shops selling farming supplies. – Keong Lye Choon, gear improvisation guru cum bushcraft instructor
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