Bouldering vs Rock Climbing – What’s the Difference

Physical activities give you an adrenaline rush like nothing else! And when someone goes for rock climbing or bouldering and they reach a new height, their adrenaline flies through the roof.

If you are newly getting into climbing, then there is a chance you think rock climbing and bouldering are the exact same. But you are not correct as while they are similar kinds of activities, rock climbing and bouldering are very different.

Maybe, right now you are confused about which activity to choose from. We are trying to make things simpler for you. Here is everything you need to know about bouldering vs rock climbing. Read the entire article and make your pick according to your interest!


 Bouldering is probably the modest form of climbing, if not the oldest. Bouldering doesn’t require the hassle of knots or tall walls. It is a fun activity that usually takes place in groups. Bouldering is one of the most common indoor climbing activities in cities. You can train yourself, learn, or just try bouldering to have fun.

Even though it sounds very chill and fun, you will have to know a little bit about bouldering first. But don’t worry, we have your back. Here are the things you need to know to kickstart your bouldering career.

What is bouldering?

Bouldering is nothing but climbs that don’t require ropes. It basically means that in bouldering, you do not climb more than 12 to 15 feet off the ground. Most outdoor bouldering takes place on huge boulders or small cliffs. 

The definition of bouldering is blurry. Because there are some ‘boulder problems’ that can be longer than fifteen feet. These routes may not seem so, but they are still classified as boulders even though the routes resemble sports routes.

There will be other boulders, taller than normal ones, which will be categorized into sport climbing, and will have boults on them. However, the lines between bouldering and free soloing become a blur. Because after a point, only your pads won’t be of much help. 

 Don’t get the wrong idea that bouldering is easy. Boulder problems will leave you exhausted and exasperated. Longer routes will have even more difficulty. 

Gear required for bouldering

One of the biggest virtues of bouldering is the need for minimum equipment. If you are just starting out, then all you will need is a good pair of climbing shoes. And if you aren’t sure that bouldering will pique your interest then you can easily rent a pair of shoes at your gym.

To complete your kit, you may get a chalk bag and climbing chalk.

This kit will work wonders in a gym. You can just wear your shoes, chalk up your hands, and commence your climbing. There is no hassle of belays, knots, or anything else. Bouldering is definitely one of the cheapest and accessible forms of climbing.

Once you have built enough confidence to start bouldering outside, you might want to consider investing in a crash pad. 

We’ve come a long way since using old rugs and towels as pads, now there are portable mattresses in the market that come in various shapes and sizes. If you are thinking of buying a pad then make sure you invest in good ones. Here’s a list of good pads for you to choose from.

What your experience of first-time bouldering will look like

Various gyms offer various kinds of configurations but there will be some constants at the walls of bouldering. For your assistance, the problems will be color-coded. The colors will be using colored tapes of the holds themselves. To scale the problem, you will have to use only the holds belonging to the same color.

The starting holds will be easy to identify as they will have probably a colored box or an extra tape or a card on it. You will commence your climb by placing a hand on the starting holds and make your way to the top of the wall using the colored guides.

The finishing holds will also be colored by most gyms that will be placed on the top or a few holds below the top. 

If you stepped outside for bouldering then, unfortunately, there will be no tapes or color codes to guide you. You will have to find the footholds yourself using nothing but your hands and legs. 

For finding the starting holds outside, you will have to get help from a guidebook or Mountain Project. A top out will be required for every outdoor problem. Be prepared as topping out will be the most stressful part of your activity. 

Types of Boulders

Because of the way this beautiful world is created, no boulders are going to look alike. But they will have similar features to be classified into climbs. Here are some of the types of boulders:

  • Circus tricks
  • Overhangs
  • Cracks
  • Compression
  • roofs
  • Slabs
  • Vertical
  • Traverses

Some tips to keep in mind for bouldering

  • When you are done with your fall and there are other people around, make sure you get out their way immediately. When people are bouldering in groups, there are usually rhythms for taking turns. So, you don’t want to overlap with anyone; begin after the other climbs are clear.
  • Do not give anyone the beta unless the other climbers ask you to. Because most climbers like to figure out the way on their own. If you think the other climber is struggling, then ask them before you give out the beta. 
  • Bouldering is a great social activity. You can chat and make new friends and on the bright side, you already know you have things in common.
  • If you want to try out new moves, let’s say for exams fall or wild swings, then let the other climbers know to avoid any accidents.
  • If there are movable pads in your gym, then ask the climber if they’re done using it before you decide to move them. 

Before you get started, make sure you peruse through the lingos attached to bouldering. 

This is enough information to get you started! It is definitely a lot to process but when you actually get out there, it is going to be extremely fun.

Rock Climbing

For people who are just getting into rock climbing, it can be pretty intimidating. It definitely seems demanding and the jargons used are daunting. But don’t worry, here are all the things you need to know about rock climbing to get started.

Rock climbing came into existence in the 1880s. It evolved into its own form of sport from mountaineering. 

Rock climbing comes with a ton of benefits! Here they are

  • It is a workout with a combination of cardio and strength.
  • It improves your strength and flexibility.
  • Improves hand-eye coordination. 
  • Strengthens your mental and physical abilities. 

Now, rock climbing can be both an indoor activity or an outdoor activity. 

Indoor climbing is comparatively easy and can happen all year round. You can easily find and rent the gear if you don’t want to shell out money. There will be plenty of instructors and climbers to help and guide you. The routes, just like bouldering will be color-coded. This doesn’t mean the climb will be easy, it will challenge you on every step. With an added bonus, most gyms will have bouldering and top-roping as well. So, you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Outdoor climbing is obviously a lot more challenging than indoors. It will challenge you mentally and physically. But let me tell you, nothing and absolutely nothing can beat the rush you get when you do rock climbing outdoors. If you do want to start climbing outdoors, then we would suggest you start out with an experienced group of climbers.  

Gear needed for rock climbing

The list of gear needed is definitely more extensive than bouldering. There is some basic equipment you will require. Here is a list of those equipments:

Rock Climbing shoes

You will be easily able to find climbing shoes designed just for rock climbing. They will be a close fit with a rubber sole that is sticky to shield your feet. The shoes will also provide enough friction. It is important to buy proper shoes as your climbing will be dependent on them and you will be able to climb more. 

Climbing Helmet

Helmets may not be required for indoor climbing but it is of utmost importance to use a helmet for climbing outdoors. Buy helmets made especially for climbing as they are designed in a way that will protect your head from rocks falling and if you too have a fall. Check before you buy a helmet since not all climbing rocks are specifically designed to protect you from falls.

Climbing Harness

Bouldering vs Rock climbing

Bouldering is a form of climbing but it doesn’t require any harness for climbing. But in rock climbing, you scale a much longer mountain and thus harness becomes a very important part of your climb. A harness has two other parts along with it- two leg loops and a waist belt. Depending on the harness you buy, the waist belt may be adjustable or fixed. You will have to secure the rope to harness before you start climbing. 


Chalk is very important for all climbers. Doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a professional. Chalk will help you maintain grip and protect you from slipping and falling.

Tips for rock climbing

  • Always be attentive and alert of what is happening in your surroundings. Pay close attention to the climbers near you and wait for them to make their climb.
  • Make the fall your best friend. You will have to get used to rappelling when you have to come down the wall of rocks. It may seem intimidating first, but then the fun will take over. 
  • If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to ask the other climbers as the community of climbers is very supportive. 
  • Before you commence your climbing, check whether your route is overlapping with someone or not.

Difference between bouldering and rock climbing

It is obvious that both activities prove to be a great workout. But they’re very different from each other.


Rock climbing increases your heart rate a lot more than bouldering as in rock climbing the routes are longer and higher off the ground. Bouldering is also challenging but rock climbing will test your strength a lot more.

Adrenaline Rush

The adrenaline rush you get after completing any type of climbing is inexplicable. But since you cover more ground and go higher off the ground, you will feel more rush after you’re done rappelling.


In rock climbing, you use your arm, back, and shoulder muscles. Once you become a pro, you learn how to use your legs as well.

In bouldering, you use the same muscles but over time you will learn how to use your upper body strength for better performance.


You use a lot of gear for rock climbing and you also use a safety harness. If you’re using everything correctly, then the only time you may get injured is while falling or landing incorrectly.

In bouldering, you don’t use any safety gear except padded mats. Thus, the injuries might be a little more. But if you are careful enough, bouldering can be just as safe.


Depending on your stamina, your body strength, you should select which type of climbing will be better for you. There is no doubt that both of these activities are going to be difficult and eventful. Whatever you decide, you should be extremely comfortable with it. 

We suggest you start slow. Maybe try out at a gym first and then once you get enough confidence, jump to the rocks or boulders. No matter what you decide, always remember the two Ps- Patience and Perseverance