How To Save Money On Your Climbing Gym Membership

GUARANTEED TO WORK! I’m saving $84 a month and you can too!

GUARANTEED TO WORK!

I’m saving $84 a month and you can too!

Are you sick and tired of paying exorbitant fees to go work out at your local climbing gym? Do you spend more time looking for parking and standing in line on the mat than you spend on the wall climbing? Are you one of those “dirtbag climbers” who doesn’t need a sauna, an elliptical machine, and a kombucha fridge to achieve their sending goals? Do you think the gym is too clean? Do you long for more bugs?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I’d like to introduce you to the new climbing fitness sensation sweeping the country: outdoor climbing.

Many people are under the false impression that outdoor climbing is only open on the weekends, but here’s a little-known secret: it’s actually open all of the time! Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year!

Avoid the burden of any financial commitment whatsoever by switching from your local indoor gym to your local outdoor crag. There are thousands of outdoor climbing gyms across the country—and worldwide!

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to an outdoor climbing workout, here’s what my typical routine looks like at my outdoor gym:

1. Warm Up

I begin by loading 10-20 pounds on my back for resistance and walking about a mile and a half. Some of this weight is water and snacks, which end up making future-me very happy. This warm up prepares my mind and body for physical activity. It also happens to be the precise distance from the trailhead to the base of the wall.

2. Work Out

There’s not a soul in sight when I get to the crag at 3:30 on a Thursday. I’m not an amazing climber (and have let myself get out of shape) so I set up my solo top rope system on a 5.10a and get to work. I do 6 laps of the route with 5 minutes rest in between. If I fall, I give myself 30 seconds of rest on the wall before going for it again.

While this is a great workout in my outdoor gym, I do not recommend attempting it at your local indoor gym. People will get super mad and call you mean things if you hog a route that long while people are waiting.

3. Cool Down

My outdoor gym doesn’t have a sauna, but it does have a swimming hole. Use of the swimming hole is completely free of charge while visiting. On weekends the swimming hole can get crowded, but during the week it’s rare to see another human being.

4. Cardio

I know myself. If I say I’m going to do a cardio workout after I climb, I’ll definitely change my mind after getting out of the swimming hole. That’s why I park a mile and a half away and 500 feet uphill from the wall. Built-in and not-optional cardio, baby!

In the moment, strapping my pack on and huffing it uphill is the worst thing in the world, but I never regret my decision once I’m back at the car and open the drink I left for myself. It’s my outdoor gym’s version of a kombucha fridge.

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One of my biggest hesitations about using an outdoor climbing gym was the lack of artificial lighting. With these short winter days, what if I got off work after sunset? What if I arrived in the light but finished after it got dark? What if I just wanted to climb at night?

Well, it turns out that a lantern and a headlamp are perfect substitutions for full-coverage overhead lighting. In fact, that headlamp beam going sideways across the surface of the rock can help you see handholds and foot chips you might not otherwise be able to pick out.

Night time at indoor gyms can be the most crowded time to visit. At my outdoor gym, nobody else is on the wall once darkness falls.

A few other perks of my outdoor climbing gym:

  • Parking is free and plentiful at the trailhead. Even on weekends, it isn’t difficult to find a spot. I have never had to circle the turnout searching for a space.

  • You have years to send your project! The walls here never get stripped and reset, so you can put in all the hours you need to crush your proj.

  • Fresh Oak and Eucalyptus scent.

  • Zero environmental impact. No AC, no fluorescent lighting, no WiFi, no emissions, no laundry, no sewage. As natural as it gets.

So, for $84 a month at an indoor gym, you essentially get these added benefits:

  • Saunas (swimming hole does just fine)

  • Showers & Towels (swimming hole does just fine)

  • Access to Kombucha Fridge (either way, you pay to drink these)

  • Variety of routes (they do not change the routes at my outdoor gym)

  • WiFi (free many places, and overrated anyway)

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Aaron Rickel

Climber. Cyclist. Hiker. Writer. Currently has base camp set up in Los Angeles, CA. Runs the Los Angeles Field Guide.