Climbing’s history and culture are based on a connection to nature and a minimalist approach to electronic technology––but that is changing quickly. Climbing is well on its way to becoming a more connected, more social, and more mobile-friendly activity. And we can expect it to continue growing in new and unexpected ways.
Team FrictionLabs has put together a review of useful technologies (mostly applications for your mobile device), in no particular rank or order, that aim to help you in your climbing. Whether you’re looking for an app to help you train, to build your social network of climbing peers, or simply guide you to the boulders, you’ll find it here.
Read on to learn about each app’s function and features, its design and aesthetics, and whether or not it’s worth downloading. We hope you find something here to help you find and climb your dream project!
The Vertical Life app offers mobile guidebooks for both outdoor crags and indoor gyms, published “in cooperation with local developers, authors and publishing houses.” It also allows the user to log ascents, complete challenges, follow friends and professional “heroes,” and more. Guides are available to purchase with in-app credits, which cost $0.50 each, for climbing areas found mostly in Europe.
Pros: Vertical Life is the most well-designed app on this list. It’s pleasing to the eye, features inviting color schemes and photos, and is easy to navigate. Its guide topos (i.e. visual representations of the routes on a wall) are beautifully crafted and easy to follow. As opposed to Rakkup, in which only the entire guidebook is for sale, Vertical Life allows you to purchase guides to individual sub-areas at a lower cost.
Cons: So far, this app only offers information on climbing areas and gyms in Europe (and, randomly, Ontario and Thailand). Hopefully the app expands to the U.S. soon, since Americans would eat it up.
Overall: If you are a European climber, download this beautiful app now.
Mountain Project is the quintessential free online guide for rock climbing. The website has been around since 2005 and has since undergone some serious upgrades, including a significant investment (re: purchase) by REI in 2015.
Pros: Like its parent website, the MP app contains user-generated information for hundreds of thousands of routes and boulders around the world. You can find general information (directions to the crag, route info, a star rating system, comment section, etc.) for virtually every developed climbing area the world over. The app and site also host a massive forum section with a lifetime’s worth of helpful posts about gear, climbing areas, climbing types, training, and more.
Cons: As we noted above, the MP app is entirely user-generated. Though by and large the quality of information on the app is outstanding, some issues arise concerning the minutiae: trail directions to the crag might be shoddy, area closure information might not be updated, some areas might be totally neglected or misrepresented, etc. But again, this isn’t a huge deal. Issues like these are often addressed and resolved in the comments section anyway, so make sure to read what others have to say if you’re confused. Besides that, there are some minor issues with clutter and app navigation, but nothing that’s going to distract you or hinder your experience.
Overall: Mountain Project is a must-have app. As far as free online climbing guides go, there’s nothing that even comes close.
To use the Moon Board app you’ll need access to a Moon Board, which might not be possible for some. Still, Moon Boards are becoming more and more common in gyms––if you’re unfamiliar with how they work, check out our post, “Getting Started on the Moon Board,” on the FrictionLabs Blog.
Pros: Where to begin? How about here: the Moon Board app is home to about 7,500 unique boulder problems for you to try. Easily browse through problems set by others or create your own. Save your ticks in your Logbook and see how you stack up against other users. Use Bluetooth to connect your phone to the board and illuminate your selected boulder problem with LED lights (not available on all Moon Boards).
The training potential of the Moon Board and its app is vast. Many climbers have used the app to train almost exclusively on the Moon Board, and most have become stronger for it. The social aspect of the app is fun as well––climb classic problems set by Ben Moon himself and many others, or create your own and watch as they are climbed, graded, and rated by your fellow climbers around the world. It’s like a videogame for climbing!
Cons: There are some minor technical issues with the app’s design, such as a muddled filter feature that sometimes makes it difficult to find problems, and slightly awkward navigation functions.
Overall: If you’re a fan and a user of the Moon Board, this app is stellar. It’s interactive, immersive, and well designed. Once you figure out the setup, icons, and search features during your first session, it becomes a breeze to use.
The Beastmaker App is meant to be used in conjunction with the Beastmaker hangboard, the training board of choice for many climbers the world over. The app is very straightforward and simple, offering a handful of pre-programmed workouts for both the Beastmaker 1000 and 2000 series of boards.
Pros: Along with the timed workouts already offered, you’re free to set up your own custom workout timer as well. Choose hang times, rest intervals, reps, and more, then apply the plan to any holds on the board. The timer interface itself is simple and the clock is easily readable from a distance. The background color even changes from green (for hanging) to red (for resting), while corresponding piano notes play each time the hang-rest intervals begin. Helpful!
Cons: Like the Boulder Trainer app above, Beastmaker offers no supplemental content on the app itself. It’s basically a purpose-built timer with some hangboard workouts programmed in.
Overall: If you are experienced with a hangboard, and you only use the Beastmaker, then this app is worth the $2. It’s extremely simple and easy to use.
MyClimb is like a cross between 8a.nu and Facebook...with a modern interface and without annoying political posts. Users can use the platform to log their indoor and outdoor climbs (which are scored and used to rank the climber), connect with other climbers in the area, and find information on climbing areas.
Pros: MyClimb is extremely well designed and easy on the eyes. It’s a fun way to keep track of (or to show off) the climbs you’ve completed and see what your friends are up to. It’s very similar to the social media platforms we already know––you can build a list of friends, “Like-Comment-Share” any post you come across, and scroll endlessly through a landslide of interesting social stats a la Facebook’s News Feed. Build your social profile and become a part of the growing online climbing community.
Cons: The social media aspect of MyClimb may also be seen as a detractor for some users. Let’s be honest––most of us spend too much time checking our social profiles on a daily basis. MyClimb, however, is not as vast and certainly not as complex as something like Facebook, so this is a minor issue. Plus, if you must be distracted by something, you might as well be distracted by rock climbing!
Overall: MyClimb is free, fun, and pretty. Unless you’re predisposed to avoiding social media, this app is worth taking a look at.
Cost: Free at Climbconnect.com.
Although technically not a mobile app, Climb Connect offers mobile functionality and design from its platform. By way of manual input from the route setters, CC tracks every route in a given gym and displays corresponding tracking data in a neat, aesthetic package. Regular users are able to track their completed climbs and compete with other users.
Pros: Along with offering an effective method for regular climbers to track their sends, Climb Connect also presents a powerful tool to gyms and their route setting teams. Using the data reports and analytics functions of the platform, setters can plan and organize their work days, stay connected with each other, and visually track the results of their labor. Climb Connect is an excellent way for setters and climbers to see a data-centric representation of the main product gyms offer: routes.
Cons: Climb Connect is still in its infancy and awaits a comprehensive set of data from more participant gyms. And, at this point, the site is far more useful to route setters than to gym climbers (that being said, if your gym uses Climb Connect it can be interesting to see what’s being set and to make a tick list). Also, the site could use a designated mobile app––which we’ll undoubtedly see in the future.
Overall: The site is well designed and has good potential for use by climbers. If your gym is looking to add data-based stats and analytics to your route setting program, Climb Connect is the way to go.
Cost: $2.99 on the App Store.
Boulder Trainer is a customizable hangboard app. Choose your hangboard of choice, select a pre-programmed workout or create your own, and train your fingers into oblivion.
Pros: Boulder Trainer has a clean, aesthetic design. There’s no clutter, the fonts are big and readable, and the colors are attractive. The exercise timer’s clock numbers are large and easy to see. Most importantly, Boulder Trainer makes it easy to create your own customized hangboard plan.
Cons: The app is pretty bare-bones. Besides the solid hangboard training features, there is very little else on offer. No informational resources to offer context for training, no instructions on proper technique. But hey, if you’re an experienced climber looking for a simple, clean training app, this is worth the $3––but it might not be the best option for beginners.
Overall: If you’re looking for an easy way to customize your hangboard routine, Boulder Trainer is for you.
The Climbing Weather website has always been clutch for climbers who want to pinpoint weather conditions at their crag of choice. Its convenience lies in avoiding the hassle of generalizing your search: instead of searching the nearest town or wilderness area, Climbing Weather has all the major climbing areas ready to go in its database.
Pros: The CW app is a very simple extension of its parent site. Using your phone’s GPS feature, the app can pinpoint your location and show you weather conditions in the surrounding climbing areas. Perfect for a quick search if you’re wondering about weather conditions at your home crag.
Cons: Simply put, it’s a weather service. You have to take its forecasts with a grain of salt. Additionally, the information offered in the app might be too vague for some users who want an in-depth forecast. Climbing Weather offers the essentials (temperature, precipitation chance, wind speed and humidity), but only in three hour increments. If you want a detailed forecast of precipitation and barometric pressure on a meticulous hour-by-hour line graph...this is not your app.
Overall: Useful for a quick, general overview of the weather. Although the app is made specifically for climbing areas, it’s a non-essential and easily replaceable tool.
Rakkup gives its users what they want the most: guidebooks available for download onto your mobile phone. Buy, rent, or sample any of the guides available on the app on a pay-per-guide basis. Access your downloaded guides whenever you need them, with or without cell service. The majority of the guides are for areas within the U.S.
Pros: Unlike Mountain Project, which features user-generated and sometimes unreliable content, Rakkup gives you the comfort of a pro guidebook in the palm of your hand. These are the same guides that have been researched, crafted, and published by dedicated climbers. The only difference is the guide exists in your phone. Additionally, the app’s interactive map feature has an advantage over any map printed in a book.
Cons: At this point in the life of Rakkup, there simply aren’t enough guides available, though this will surely change over time. The app’s design is also a bit bland, with a dark blood-red strip at the top; it leaves a bit to be desired. Some users may also find the guide prices too steep for their taste. Keep in mind, however, that these prices are on par with the cost of any physical copies you’d find. And as any experienced climber knows, the price of a good guidebook is well worth it.
Overall: The thought of having the Red River Gorge, Joshua Tree, or the Southern Nevada Bouldering guidebooks inside of your phone is so enticing.
Category: Informational / Guide
Climbing Away offers general information about thousands of climbing areas around the world. It also sells a handful of digital guidebooks for sport climbing areas mostly in France.
Pros: Climbing Away is informative, if basic information is what you need. Each listed climbing area is pinned on an interactive map, lists a few aspects of the area (such as grade ranges, rock type, approach, etc.), and includes links to any additional resources, such as guidebooks. The app design is simple and the interface is relatively easy to navigate.
Cons: Despite having thousands of areas across the world listed on the app, there isn’t much depth. If you’re looking for specific route information for any given area, you won’t find it on Climbing Away. However, if you’re psyched to browse an extensive world map and check out all the different climbing spots, look no further.
Overall: If you’re curious about exploring the basics of a ton of climbing areas around the planet, you might as well download Climbing Away. It might even help you plan your next trip!
Did we miss your favorite app? Let us know which one and why you love it!