Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Bouldering and rock climbing are both very popular activities. Although they are very similar and share a common history, they are different in several aspects which we will discuss here. If you are interested in bouldering or rock climbing here are some notable differences and a few similarities, you should know about before your first climbing lesson:

Difference #1: Similar problem, different heights

Both sports offer the same problem, which is climbing a difficult object, however the problem is much bigger when rock climbing. Bouldering is a great start for an ameteur, which it aims to improve the climber ability to find routes or solve climbing problems, to do so, new climbers use boulders. These enormous detached rocks are located on the ground, so bouldering takes place at much lower heights than traditional climbing, usually between 10 to 20 ft. Rock climbing on the other hand, could take you up to the highest of heights in mountains. The goal of rock climbing is usually to reach the summit of a rock wall, mountain top, or a predetermined end location. Rock climbing is not a beginner sport and should not be attempted immediately while starting to learn. 

Difference #2: Minimal vs Full climbing Gear

Bouldering, as mentioned above, is the simplest form of climbing and designed for beginners; therefore, it requires minimal climbing gear and sometimes unique to bouldering. Crash pads are mainly used by beginners in bouldering to protect the climber in the event of a fall. Since the climber is not going very high, the crash pads can be utilized to protect against injuries in case of a fall. Climbing shoes are also utilized by bouldering participants to help assure footing and sometimes chalk to improve hand grips. These are probably the most critical. Sometimes a helmet can be used depending on heights. For the most part, there are no additional accessories or equipment required for Bouldering.

In contrast to Bouldering, in addition to climbing shoes and chalk, rock climbing requires special equipment for safety, such as ropes, cords, anchors, harnesses, belays, carabiners, quickdraws and sometimes webbing to prevent injuries from falling. Learning how to use the climbing gear is very important when practicing rock climbing as you may be at extremely high heights. 

Difference #3:  The Cost of Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is definitely more expensive than bouldering. The reason is quite simple: rock climbing requires more technical and safety gear than bouldering. Even though you can rent most of the equipment, rock climbing will end up being more expensive than bouldering. You will also spend more time as a rock climber in the end, since bouldering is mostly for starters. 

Now let's take a look at the similiraties between the two sports, or activities. Although they are technically the same sport, rock climbing is more robust and requires alot more including time, commitment, expenses, gear, experience, etc. However they are similar in a few ways, especially when first getting started into rock climbing. 

Similarity #1: Both are great workouts!

There’s no denying that both, bouldering and rock climbing, are great workouts. You might think these activities take a ton of upper body strength, but in fact, they are full-body activities. Besides, you don’t need to be in perfect shape to start climbing, you can get in shape while climbing. One of the first techniques that rock climbers teach is the use of the largest muscles in your body, the leg muscles. These will get a huge workout while bouldering or rock climbing. 

Similarity #2: Practice in and out

Rock climbing and bouldering are activities that you can enjoy and practice indoors and outdoors. There are many climbing gyms that are specifically designed for bouldering, rock climbing or both, with climbing walls used for practicing and to improve climber’s skills and strength. Although a serious climber might find an indoor climbing facility to be too small and easy, it's no doubt that the indoor facility offers a great tool to assist in practicing and training for a larger climb. 


Rock Climbing and Bouldering are both great ways to exercise and practice the sport of climbing. Although they are very similar, they also differ in a variety of ways. We discussed several in this short post, but what other major or minor ways are rock climbing and bouldering different or similar? Let us know here in the comments. We would love to get your thoughts!


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