by Jullie

August 26, 2021

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Bouldering and rock climbing are often confused or interchanged with one another, but they are entirely different in terms of being a sport and discipline.

They may look the same, but they have different training methods, different sets of techniques, and different sets of training gears too!

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing: What Is the Difference?

The distinctive difference between bouldering vs rock climbing is the height being climbed and the gears that are used in the sport.

  • In bouldering, the height of the climb is only from 12 to 15 feet, and it doesn’t require any rope and harness to catch you if you fall. Since there is no need for a rope and harness for bouldering, crash pads are being placed on the ground to soften the impact of falls.
  • In rock climbing, it requires a rope and harness because the height of the climb is from 20 to 30 meters off the ground. No crash pads are being placed on the ground as the rope and harness take their place at the point of a fall.

While the difference between bouldering vs rock climbing is a “rope-free” versus a “rope and harness dependent” discipline, let’s find out more details between the two, to help you choose what is best, or you could either cross-train between the two!

What Is the Equipment Needed for Bouldering
A woman on a boulder.

What Is Bouldering?

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that doesn’t have any ropes or harnesses. It’s a raw discipline that challenges climbers to make use of techniques and short movements to solve complex, short, and tricky routes.

The climber moves over boulders or small rocks, and the climbs would usually have shorter routes. It lets the climber concentrate on the techniques because the complexity of the wall is the problem-solving aspect of the climb.

It is known as the safest sport-climbing as routes are usually not higher than 15 feet. That’s why it has a minimum safety gear requirement than most types of climbing.

What Is the Equipment Needed for Bouldering?

Since no ropes and harnesses are used in the climb, crash pads for bouldering or safety mats are placed on the ground for a softer landing.

Also, it makes use of the climbing shoes and a bag of chalk to help your grip during the climb. We know that many beginner boulder climbers are asking if you need climbing shoes for bouldering, so we answered the question.

Climbing helmets are used for safety but, most climbers don’t wear them during bouldering as they are used to protect climbers from the things that might fall on top of their heads.

Boulders normally have shorter routes and don’t have rocks over them, so the climbers don’t need a helmet during the climb. If a climber falls during bouldering, the back of the head would most likely take the hit, and it’s a place that is not well protected by climbing helmets.

But sometimes “boulders” wear helmets because they feel safer and more confident in making bigger moves, and it never hurts to wear a helmet for safety.

What Is Rock Climbing?

Rock climbing is a physically demanding sport-climbing activity that requires a great deal of strength, endurance, and agility to reach the summit of a rock formation or the endpoint of the artificial wall. It dates back to 400BC, and if you are a curious creature, you can learn more about who invented rock climbing.

The climber moves over rocks or artificial walls with higher routes and uses the special equipment for safety purposes. Since the climber will be moving across a longer route, a harness, a rope, and a climbing helmet are required to complete the routes safely.

There is a wide variety of rock formations, and rock climbing has been classified into many different styles, including “bouldering.” Other types of disciplines of rock climbing include top-roping, lead-climbing, traditional climbing, and big wall climbing.

What Is the Equipment Needed for Rock Climbing
A man practicing rock climbing. This is the so-called boulder problem.

What Is the Equipment Needed for Rock Climbing?

Climbers will be moving up for a longer time, and it needs a rope and a harness to catch the climber in the event of fall. It also makes use of chalk and climbing shoes to help the climber move over the routes safely and efficiently.

Rock climbing normally requires a helmet for safety purposes. A climbing helmet not only protects the wearer from falling rocks during a high climb but also protects them from bumps during an indoor climb, where sometimes a route has two or more climbers moving up together across the route.

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing: A Brief Comparison of the Two Climbing Disciplines

  • Each has its focused muscle group, but as a whole, bouldering and rock climbing is a great full-body workout that targets the upper body, the core, and the lower body.
  • Rock climbing is the “marathon” of climbing that uses stamina and endurance for longer/higher climbs. At the same time, bouldering is the “sprint” of climbing because it focuses on explosiveness and agility on a complex but short-distance climb.
  • Both disciplines require a different set of safety equipment to ensure that the climbing experience is safe and efficient. Also, the set of equipment alters the muscle group being worked on plus the techniques being used.
  • Bouldering and rock climbing techniques include balance and footwork to move across the rocks and obstacles. Although they have different sets of techniques and rules, common knowledge of climbing is required to move properly across the routes.
Bouldering vs Rock Climbing A Brief Comparison of the Two Climbing Disciplines
A man on a boulder.

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing? Well, Do Both!

Both rock climbing and bouldering are fun and exciting! It’s a good alternative to a gym workout because it targets the whole body and uses different sets of muscles in different disciplines.

Although these climbing disciplines look the same as we have read on, they are very different from each other in terms of technique, safety gears, and muscle groups that are being worked on.

Suppose one wants to discover strengths and overcome weaknesses. In that case, it is better to train from both disciplines so that the body will develop explosiveness and agility with stamina na endurance that will benefit every muscle group.

Train and experience both! In that way, it is easier to overcome the challenges, whether you’ll be facing a short but complex route or a longer and more exhausting climb.

Enjoy and good luck!

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About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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