Indoor vs Outdoor Climbing


October 2015

Climb Central

Climbing outdoors is a whole new experience from indoor sport climbing. The fresh air, breath-taking view and exhilaration that comes from climbing natural rock cannot be replicated indoors. 

‍Location: Krabi, Photo by Alexus

Here are two videos to illustrate the difference between climbing indoors and climbing on natural rock outdoors: 


These two videos look at how they attempt to finish the routes in a climbing gym, and on natural rock respectively. In some ways, both of them are essentially still climbing. However, there are many factors which makes these two types of climbing different. Below are some factors you should take note of before going on a rock climbing trip.   


One of the greatest difference between climbing in a gym and in the outdoors is the environment. Many climbers like to climb on natural rock because of the view and the great ambience. And yet, there are those that prefer the comfort of a controlled indoor setting. 

‍Location: Krabi, Photo by Alexus

Climbing outdoors means that you are susceptible to the weather conditions. When it rains, the climbing holds would be wet and it would be difficult to climb the route. It is also a good idea to bring along waterproof bags and extra plastic to keep your belongings from getting wet. Special care will also have to be taken to protect your belonging from being dirty or damaged. Mats and coverings can be used to lay your climbing gear and belongings on the ground to protect them. 

‍Location: Krabi, Photo by Alexus

Climbing Holds  

As the term goes, climbing outdoors relies on natural rock formations as handholds and footholds. The climbing handholds are generally smaller and have a rougher surface then the tiles at the climbing gyms. Unlike an indoor sport climbing gym where each tile are brightly coloured and is screwed onto a relatively flat surface, the natural rock climbing face has a varied texture and appearance and may not be as easily identifiable to those new to the rock. Explore the rock face and you would be surprised to find that you can step on so many places; even a small protruding rock can be a secure foothold. 

‍Location: Krabi, Photo by Alexus

Safety aspect 

When you climb on natural rock, it is often better to wear a helmet. The rock face can extend in any direction, and it might be difficult to gauge how or where you will fall. You will also never know when a rock might come loose and as such, even the belayer would generally be advised to have some protective headgear. There are also no crash pads available for bouldering outdoors. You will have to bring your own crash pads to land safely. It is also advisable to have a friend spot you as you climb in case you fall wrongly or in an unexpected manner. 

‍Location: Chiang Mai, Photo by Chow

Leave no trace behind 

Natural rock climbing is becoming increasingly popular, making some of the more accessible climbing areas as tourist hot-spots. It is thus even more important to ensure that you leave the place litter-free and the same as it was when you arrived so that the place remains conducive to climb. 

‍Location: Krabi, Photo by Alexus

While there are potentially greater risks involved while climbing outdoors, climbing on natural rock is something that every climber should try at least once. So go on and take the plunge to try natural rock climbing! And if you're new to it, it's always safer and more enjoyable to find an experienced friend who's willing to show you the ropes!

Climb Central