What Are Climbing Holds Made Of? Polyester Resin, Polyurethane, and Fiberglass Cloth

Climbing holds are essential components of any climbing wall, providing the necessary grip and challenge for climbers to ascend the wall safely. In this article, we will explore the materials used to create these holds, including polyester resin, polyurethane, and fiberglass cloth, and why understanding their composition is crucial for both climbers and climbing gym owners.

The Manufacturing Process of Climbing Holds

The process of creating climbing holds begins with the creation of a silicone mold. This mold is often based on natural rock formations to ensure a realistic texture and shape. Once the mold is ready, a mixture of liquid urethane, polyester resin, or epoxy is poured into it, along with a hardening agent and pigments for color. The mixture is then allowed to cure and harden, resulting in a durable and textured climbing hold.

In my experience, the quality of the mold and the precision of the resin mixture are crucial factors in determining the final product’s durability and performance. I have seen holds that were poorly made and quickly deteriorated under the stress of regular use, while high-quality holds can withstand years of wear and tear.

To reinforce the strength of the hold, manufacturers often incorporate woven fiberglass cloth into the resin mixture. This addition helps to distribute the load more evenly and prevents the hold from breaking under the weight of a climber.

“The key to creating a long-lasting and effective climbing hold lies in the careful selection of materials and the attention to detail during the manufacturing process. By using high-quality resins, precise mold-making techniques, and reinforcing materials like fiberglass, we can ensure that our holds will provide a safe and enjoyable climbing experience for years to come.” – Jeremiah Quackenbush, Climbing Hold Designer and Manufacturer

Types of Climbing Holds and Their Materials

Climbing holds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, each designed to provide a specific level of grip and challenge. Polyester resin and polyurethane are the most common materials used in the production of climbing holds, due to their durability, texture, and versatility.

Polyester resin holds are known for their smooth texture and ability to mimic the feel of real rock. They are often used for creating larger holds and volumes, as the material is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with.

On the other hand, polyurethane holds are favored for their superior strength and resistance to wear. They can be molded into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, making them ideal for creating more intricate and challenging holds.

MaterialCharacteristicsCommon Uses
Polyester ResinSmooth texture, mimics real rockLarge holds and volumes
PolyurethaneStrong, wear-resistant, versatileIntricate and challenging holds
Fiberglass ClothReinforces strength, distributes loadIncorporated into resin mixtures

Climbing Hold Installation: Bolt-On vs. Screw-On

When it comes to installing climbing holds on a wall, there are two main methods: bolt-on and screw-on. Bolt-on climbing holds are secured to the wall using a 3/8-16 Allen Head Socket Cap Bolt, which is inserted through the hold and into a pre-drilled hole in the wall. This method provides a strong and secure connection, making it the preferred choice for most climbing gyms.

Screw-on climbing holds, on the other hand, are attached to the wall using a wood screw. While this method is simpler and requires less hardware, it is not as secure as the bolt-on method and is generally reserved for home climbing walls or temporary installations.

In my experience, bolt-on holds are the way to go for any serious climbing wall. The added security and durability they provide are well worth the extra effort and hardware required for installation.

How Climbing Hold Material Affects Grip and Challenge

The material used to create a climbing hold can have a significant impact on the level of grip and challenge it provides. Polyester resin holds, with their smooth texture, tend to be more slippery and require a greater level of technique and body positioning to navigate successfully.

Polyurethane holds, on the other hand, often have a more textured surface that provides a better grip. This increased friction can make holds easier to grasp, but it also allows for the creation of more overhanging and challenging routes.

As a climber, I have found that the key to success on any hold, regardless of material, is to focus on proper technique and body positioning. By keeping your weight centered over your feet and using your legs to push yourself up, you can often overcome even the most slippery or challenging holds.

Designing and Creating Custom Climbing Holds

For many climbers and gym owners, the ultimate goal is to create custom climbing holds that provide a unique and challenging experience. This process begins with the design phase, where hold designers use their knowledge of climbing techniques and wall layout to create holds that will test a climber’s skills and creativity.

Once a design is finalized, the next step is to create a silicone mold of the hold. This mold is then used to cast the final product, using a carefully measured mixture of resin, hardening agents, and pigments. Many hold manufacturers pride themselves on creating unique and intricate designs that stand out from the competition.

As a climbing enthusiast, I have had the opportunity to try out many custom holds over the years. I am always impressed by the creativity and skill that goes into their design and production, and I believe that they add an extra level of excitement and challenge to any climbing wall.

In my years of climbing, I have come to appreciate the artistry and skill that goes into creating high-quality, custom climbing holds. The ability to design and manufacture holds that not only provide a challenging climbing experience but also add to the overall aesthetic of a climbing wall is truly impressive. I believe that the future of climbing holds lies in the hands of these innovative designers and manufacturers, who continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of climbing.

Climbing Holds for Different Skill Levels

One of the great things about climbing holds is that they can be designed to accommodate climbers of all skill levels. Beginner climbers often benefit from larger, more positive holds that provide a secure grip and allow them to focus on developing proper technique and body positioning.

As climbers progress and become more advanced, they can begin to tackle more challenging holds and routes. Advanced climbers often seek out smaller, more technical holds that require precise movements and a high level of finger strength. These holds can be used to create overhanging routes and dynamic movements that test a climber’s limits.

Regardless of skill level, it is important for climbers to choose holds and routes that match their abilities and goals. By gradually progressing to more difficult holds and techniques, climbers can improve their skills and avoid injury.

In my own climbing journey, I have learned the importance of challenging myself while also respecting my limits. By selecting holds and routes that push me outside of my comfort zone, I have been able to make steady progress and achieve goals that I never thought possible.

As a climbing coach, I always encourage my students to choose holds and routes that match their current skill level, while also providing opportunities for growth and progression. The key is to find a balance between challenge and safety, and to always prioritize proper technique and body positioning over simply reaching the top of the wall. With the right mindset and a willingness to learn, any climber can achieve their goals and unlock their full potential.

In conclusion, climbing holds are a fascinating and essential component of the sport of climbing. By understanding the materials and processes used to create these holds, as well as the different types and skill levels they cater to, climbers can make informed decisions about the holds they use and the routes they tackle. Whether you are a beginner just starting out or an advanced climber looking to push your limits, there is a climbing hold out there that will help you achieve your goals and take your climbing to the next level.

Photo of author

Gary Osbi