Buyer’s guide to climbing holds

Table of contents

Anyone who has ever been in a climbing or bouldering hall can confirm it: as soon as you enter the hall, your gaze is drawn to the colourful variety of holds. Climbing holds in all imaginable colours and shapes are an essential part of training on artificial climbing walls. But what distinguishes a blue sloper from a green bar? What are climbing holds actually made of and how are they manufactured? And what should you consider if you want to equip your home climbing wall with holds and steps? We have taken a closer look at these and many other questions. Let’s dive into the colourful world of climbing holds…

Climbing holds – manufacturing and materials

Let’s start from the beginning. How are climbing holds made and what are they made of?

The modular hold set from Metolius

Climbing holds can be made from a wide variety of materials. In addition to models made of wood, which are mainly used for grip and finger training, there are also some models made of stone. However, the majority of all climbing holds and steps are made from plastic. Depending on the application, shape and processing technology, mainly composite materials such as polyurethane and polyethylene are used here. However, the exact material composition sometimes varies greatly from one manufacturer to another. A good example of this is Wataaah. Holds from this manufacturer are made from a composite material specially developed for the company and consist of 30% renewable raw materials.

Simply put, however, it can be said that climbing holds are usually made of quartz sand, synthetic resin and paint. This mixture is pressed into moulds in a liquid state. After curing, the holds are removed and are theoretically ready for immediate use. With a little manual skill and patience, climbing holds can be designed by anyone who is willing to put a bit of work into making them for their bouldering wall at home.

However, one should be aware that self-designed climbing holds can have both constructional and qualitative weaknesses. Professionally manufactured climbing holds, on the other hand, have been subject to DIN EN 12572 since 2009, which sets out strict safety standards for artificial climbing facilities. So if you are looking for climbing holds intended for a sports club wall, nursery and school, or if you want to play it safe at home, you should make sure upon purchase that the holds have been produced according to this standard. In addition, EN1176 applies to nurseries, schools, playschools and playgrounds. The brand Entres Prises manufactures holds according to these strict standards.

Climbing holds – shapes and suitability

Colourful and diverse

Climbing holds come in countless colours, shapes and qualities. Broadly speaking, however, climbing holds can be divided into three groups: handles, slopers and bars.

  • Handles
    Handle climbing holds come in many sizes and shapes. From the mini jug to the classic “beer handle” up to extremely large roof climbing holds. Handles are used in many boulder problems. However, they are particularly popular with beginners and for moderate routes with overhangs as well as in roofs.
  • Sloper
    Sloper holds are rounded holds with few or no edges. Boulder problems with slopers are considered very finger-friendly climbs, but also require some real skill and technique. Climbing slopers always involve a lot of flexibility and body tension. Beginners and children in particular tend to find this type of climbing more difficult.
  • Bars and tongs
    Bars and tongs are holds that require some finger strength. It is not uncommon to install these holds as additional steps due to their comparatively small size. Climbing on tongs and bars puts a lot of strain on hands and fingers. Especially for untrained people, this can quickly lead to pain and injuries. For this reason, training in this area should only be increased gradually.

The choice of the right holds depends strongly on the type and inclination of the wall, as well as the climbing ability of the target group. Personal preferences should also be taken into account when choosing climbing holds. In general, however, climbing thrives on variety and for this reason alone it is advisable to use a mix of several different shapes of holds or, if possible, to create climbing routes with a unique character. This not only makes climbing more fun in the long run, but it also leads to more versatile and effective training.

Practical tip for hold sets!

Especially when you are planning on changing climbing parts on a self-built wall it is often difficult to find the right holds. In this case, it may be worth purchasing complete starter sets such as the Mega Pack 30 from Metolius. By doing so, you can get a wide range of climbing holds of different sizes and shapes in one go. In addition, such complete sets usually also include bolts and eyelets so that you can attach the holds to your wall immediately.

Once you have found out which holds work best for your home bouldering wall, you can expand the wall using the appropriate holds. There are often additional hold sets with five to ten holds. However, they are all the same colour and of a similar size.

Climbing holds for children and children’s rooms.

Climbing is very much in vogue and, in keeping with the motto “early practice makes perfect…”, young climbers may be equipped with a small bouldering wall in the children’s room or garden at home, in addition to a swing or a sandpit. However, there are a few things to keep in mind, both indoors and outdoors.

If a climbing wall is to be set up in a child’s room or in an area of the house where they play around in, it is important to ensure that the climbing wall does not pose an increased risk of injury. For this reason, neither sharp-edged nor pointed holds should be used in these cases. It is also advisable to avoid holds that protrude whenever possible or to pad them appropriately when not in use. For example, this could be done by putting up a protective covering.

The requirements for outdoor use are completely different. They are primarily concerned with weather resistance. Not all climbing holds are UV and weather-resistant. This means that holds may lose their structure and colour over time. It is also important to take care with weather-resistant anchoring. Metal parts, such as bolts and eyelets, must be corrosion-resistant. The material of choice here is definitely stainless steel.

However, no matter where you set up a climbing wall for your offspring, the most important thing is that the holds are suitable for children. Large slopers and small bars are usually not appropriate for children. It is advisable to use medium-sized handles or special children’s holds. Furthermore, there are often hold sets consisting of animal figures or letters. These holds are also well suited for small children’s hands and add character to the children’s room.

Climbing holds – bolts and attachments

A set of 22 climbing holds from KMC

The correct attachment of the climbing holds to the climbing or bouldering wall is incredibly important for safety. Holds that twist or are even loose can become a significant danger for the climber and other people, especially on larger walls. To prevent this from happening in the first place, it is advisable to pay attention to a few things.
In principle, climbing walls are equipped with threaded eyelets. These hold onto the wall from behind and allow for a hold to be screwed on using an M10 size Allen screw.

However, not all bolts are the same. Depending on the area of use and hold, they may have to meet different requirements. As already mentioned, stainless steel screws should be used in outdoor areas. If galvanised bolts are exposed to the weather for a long time, they often rust. This, in turn, can lead to a rusting bolt that ends up stuck in the thread and, beyond that, a loss of load-bearing capacity.

Climbing holds are usually attached to the climbing wall with hexagon socket screws (Allen screws). These bolts either have a cylinder head or a countersunk head. The hold that is to be screwed on determines which type of bolt is used for it. There are holds that are specifically designed for the use of countersunk bolts, others require bolts with cylinder heads. Under no circumstances should holds be screwed on with the wrong bolts or bolts that do not fit properly. At the area just around the bolt in particular, climbing holds are subject to considerable strain. If this area is not loaded in the correct place or unevenly due to the wrong type of bolt, the hold may break in this very place.

Large holds and volumes usually have additional smaller screw holes that secure the hold against twisting by means of chipboard screws. As these bolts are screwed directly into the wood of the climbing wall, no threads need to be set beforehand. However, they do leave a small hole in the wall after the hold is removed. Furthermore, extremely small steps and holds are usually only fastened by means of chipboard screws, as an M10 sized threaded bolt would simply not find room within the hold.

Depending on the product, bolts and threaded eyelets may also be included alongside the climbing holds. So if you are in the process of building your own bouldering wall, this can be quite handy.


If you consider yourself to be in the lucky position of getting a bouldering or climbing wall for your home, you should take a little time to choose the right climbing holds. There are shapes, colours and types aplenty to be found in the climbing holds sector. Whether for a vertical, sloping or overhanging wall, there is always something suitable for the job. Grip sets are particularly useful for the initial installment of a bouldering wall, as it is not uncommon to be supplied with additional fastening materials such as bolts and drive-in eyelets.

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Alpinetrek-Expert Jörn

Alpinetrek-Expert Jörn

I feel at my best whilst my pulse is racing and a beautiful scenery is passing by me. Whether on foot or on my bike – and sometimes even in the water – endurance sports are the best form of leisure activity for me.

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