Updated: Sep 13
by Christopher Schafenacker
So, you’ve just unpacked your new Rocket Wall, you’ve hauled down all those old mattresses from the attic, assembled your Crash Couch, found an extension cord long enough to ensure the mini-fridge is within arm’s reach, and all that’s left is to fill those 224 pre-installed T-nuts before you can start wailing PSSSAT loud enough make your neighbors wonder what’s really going on in that garage. What type of holds is best to ensure you’re fighting fit for Sendtember, though? Are those wooden beauties you’ve been drooling over really worth the eye-popping price tag? Haven’t generations of crushers done just as well on polished old plastic holds long since retired by the local gym? What about a fancy modern set of Kilter Board grips?
Climbers have debated the merits of what to train on for longer than the author has been alive and this article won’t change that. But hey, here are our two cents.
Wooden holds have earned their reputation as the superior training option for the kind of climber who would sacrifice half their garage to build a dedicated pain cave but resin has its reasons. Wood doesn’t trash your skin the way a freshly-mounted set of grippy, new plastic holds are going to do. The lower coefficient of friction of wood means you’re more likely to pop off the wall than hear the dreaded POP that means a ruptured pulley.
Wood can be sourced sustainably and recycled while polyurethane takes longer to break down than rock, itself. And best of all, a shiny new set of wood grips makes your spray wall look less like a demented playground implement and more like a work of art. Nevertheless, unless you eat double-digit boulders for breakfast, you do yourself no favors by setting with wood alone.
Resin holds are not just the budget-friendly option for those who can’t afford a training setup to rival training guru Ned Feehally’s own. If you want to be able to warm up (and trust us, you want to be able to warm up), you need to set a healthy selection of jugs… And nobody will dispute that plastic is the preferred material for this hold type. The variety of shapes, orientations, and sizes available in traditional climbing holds is simply unmatched, and even when deeply incut, wooden jugs require the average climber to bear down harder than is preferred by some for getting limber on a steep wall.
Resin also has its reasons where developing dynamic movement is concerned. Wood is slippery which means that when you huck to it, you are training contact strength as much as power when executing dynamic movement. This isn’t inherently bad but it’s not what you should be doing if developing, raw, dynamic power is your goal.
Lastly, the texture of plastic forces grip positions more reminiscent of real rock and, well, as fun as sessioning at home may be, climbers train for a reason and the reason is (often) performing well outdoors. There is a litany of ways wood supports this aim (though there isn’t space enough to get into all of them here) and yet one where it falls short is the need to force your fingers into the uncomfortable positions they’re likely to face when pulling hard at the local crag.
So, what’s the takeaway? Well, if we are to have the last word in this debate, we’d say have it all! A combination of wood and resin is the only way to mount a spray wall that meets all your training needs and, luckily, Rock Star Volumes provides everything you need to get set up.
Featured Climbing Training Gear
Maverick: The on-the-go, bring it anywhere hangboard. On a family road trip to keep your fingers in shape. We like to bring this to the crag with us to keep our fingers warm—without losing skin on mediocre warm-ups—at that steep, thuggy sport crag.
The Rocket Wall: Available in 6’ and 8’ widths, it’s been tough for us to keep up with the demand for this innovative home climbing wall solution. Slightly overhanging, the Rocket Wall is big enough to set routes on, or to build a systems board.
The Rock-Stah: Our handcrafted version of a traditional hangboard, with curving crimp rails to help alleviate unnecessary strain on your pulleys. Because ain’t no one got time for a finger injury…
The Rocketeer Wall: our free-standing adjustable solution for those who can’t mount a hangboard anywhere in their home or apartment—or who are limited on space. The Rocketeer gives climbers the additional option to set specific climbing holds. Recreate the crux holds of your proj and get ready to send, bruh.