Today we’re sharing the third installation of John Burgman’s series “Climbing in the Year 2030”. Last week, we looked at how training may evolve and John predicted what could be in store for climbing gyms of the future. In today’s segment Burgman talks to the experts to speculate on how gear could evolve over the next 15 years.
If there’s one common denominator in the predictions and speculation of the next 15 years of climbing, it’s specialization. The all-around climber, at least at the elite level, might soon be an extinct breed. In the year 2030, competitive boulderers will boulder and sport climbers will sport climb, with even more separation than there exists now. Gyms will offer isolated training related to specific disciplines, and indoor and outdoor climbing will set off down their divergent paths, heading towards considerably different destinies like teenagers in a breakup.
If that’s the case, it’s safe to say that gear will follow suit and become more discipline-specific as well. Alex Biale, a climber sponsored by the new Colorado-based clothing company, Mountain Standard, says, “The clothing that climbers wear is as diverse as the cliffs they climb. As climbing grows, so will the clothing. You’ll see brands like Adidas Outdoor producing photogenic, neon-colored, synthetic pieces for their top-tier athletes, and you’ll see brands like Mountain Standard cranking out under-the-radar pieces for the everyday mountain man. By 2030, climbing apparel will be as specialized as its climbers. Meaning, you’ll have brands that mountaineers wear exclusively, and you’ll have brands that boulderers flock to.”
Mountain Standard is a notable case because its climbing clothing is designed specifically with crossover appeal in mind. While Biale might be correct in his prediction—future boulderers might wear bouldering-specific brands—the evolution of gear will undoubtedly be complex as well. As climbing becomes more mainstream, which all experts interviewed for this article series predict that it will, some of the clothing will naturally be designed to appeal to a wider demographic. “A lot of the design inspiration for Mountain Standard comes from what will work for climbing and general activity,” says Brennah Rosenthal at Mountain Standard. “I am excited to have some clothes that I can wear to the crag, and then directly to the bar or to dinner afterwards without feeling silly.” Mountain Standard recently released its first line of shirts, outerwear and hats, and will be releasing six new clothing pieces specifically designed for women this fall. “You walk into the new climbing gym in Denver after work and you can hardly walk around because it’s so crowded,” Rosenthal says. “I think the gear will reflect this. More companies will start making gear that is more accessible and more understood by the general population. I think the clothes will be able to be worn not just for climbing. Something that is more versatile over all aspects of outdoor activity.”
In the coming years, also look for innovations in skin care, a category of gear that was practically nonexistent for climbers 15 years ago. Tyler Ward, inventor of Giddy balm, says, “Natural skin care will start to take the forefront as the all-natural and organic movements start to pick up steam in the scientific and medical communities. You have to think—the last batch of doctors and medical researches grew up thinking that chemicals were better for any and all medical issues. This bias reflected in the work they did and the research they produced. The new batch of Millenials will shape the scientific community in a drastically different way and this bias will also reflect in their research.”
It’s common now for climbers to carry a tin of healing hand balm in the pocket of their crag bags, but Ward thinks balm is just scratching the surface, in terms of what the future holds for climbing skin care. “We can make bath salts, bath soaks, muscle rubs and a wide variety of other products that help with ailments that there isn’t quite yet a market for,” he says. “At some point, you’ll likely just stick your hand in a machine, let it scan your skin, and it will recommend a cream or lotion.”
So, in 2030, the gear will be specialized, the training will be athlete-specific and highly systematic, and the routes will be steep and pumpy—and without rests. But these are all external referents. What will become of the actual internal aspects of climbing in the next 15 years, and what does the future hold for the mental game?
Check back on Crux Crush soon for the final installment—Part 4—of the article series on Climbing in 2030, when we shift our focus from gear to the mental side of climbing in the future.