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Via Ferrata is an awesome sport that involves ascending, descending or climbing across a rocky surface using a system of iron ropes, steps, and fixtures. It’s a great way to experience the world of climbing in a more controlled way. It also gives you access to really interesting terrain that you might not normally be able to reach.
The use of iron fixtures, harnesses, and other essential equipment make via ferrata a safe sport. However, it can become unsafe if you attempt it with the wrong equipment or if you’re unsure about how to use the gear.
When you take a guided trip, a lot of this equipment is provided or will be available for hire. You’re also taught how to use it and safety checks are generally performed. But, if you’re wanting up your via ferrata game, you may want to invest in some of the more technical pieces of equipment.
There is a lot out there to choose from, but compared with rock climbing, you do need less gear. To help you along the way, we’ve prepared a list of the equipment you need.
This will be your key piece of kit and with this, you’re almost on your way. Generally speaking, a via ferrata set is two connected, energy-absorbing lanyards with two carabiners attached. This is what you use to connect yourself to the iron rope and fixtures that are attached to the mountain or rock.
Interestingly enough, the safety standards with regards to via ferrata sets were updated in 2017, to take into account energy absorption and weight factors, so any kit bought before then may not match up to the current norms.
There are a few kinds of climbing harnesses out there but the one you need for via ferrata is called a sitting harness. This has a waistband and two leg loops. It’s a comfortable harness for most people. If you are carrying a heavy backpack or heavy load, a full-body harness would be a better choice.
When choosing a harness remember that it should always fit comfortably and snuggly, never too tight or too loose. The leg loops should be adjustable too.
A suitable helmet is essential for safety reasons. It’s very common for debris like small stones to drop while on a via ferrata and that is not something you want landing on your head. A helmet also provides an extra level of protection in the unlikely case of a fall.
Again, your helmet should fit comfortably and it should be one that has been designed specifically for climbing.
Unless you want sore hands at the end of your climb, gloves are an important item. As you go along the via ferrata you’ll be placing your hands directly on the rope below the carabiners and pushing them along. As you can imagine, this creates a fair bit of friction. So, you’ll need some protection.
You might be wearing these gloves for a while so, you’ll want to look for something lightweight and breathable.
The rock that you’ll be climbing might be rough and uneven, so you’ll need to invest in some decent boots. Sneakers, in this case, are not going to cut it. Your best options would be breathable hiking boots that cover the ankles.
With regard to clothing, this will depend on the weather in your location. However, comfortable lightweight layers are always a good bet. You’ll also need a waterproof layer.
While this is not strictly climbing equipment, it’s a good idea to bring this with you, especially on a longer route. Via ferrata are one-way roads so there’re no turning back for snacks or water half-way in. And it’s highly likely you’ll want these things, especially if you’re in a hot location. You’ll also need somewhere to put your sunscreen, waterproof layer and the next item on our list.
You’re in an area of sharp edges so accidents, normally just minor, may happen. If they do, you want to be prepared with your first aid kit. It doesn’t have to be anything too extensive, a basic kit will do just fine.
And that’s it. As you can see, it’s not an exhaustive list but these items are essential for a successful via ferrata experience. Now, that you’re armed with this information, it’s time to plan your trip. There are some awesome places around the world to practice this sport. To get started check out our guides for the Dolomites, Belgium, France, Slovenia, and Barcelona.
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