Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing: Difference and Similarities

In bouldering vs rock climbing, neither of the sport is worse or better than the other. For over 100 years, rock climbing struggled for acceptance into the mainstream world.

In the 21st century, rock climbing has attracted millions of participants evenly spread to every corner of the globe. Millions have not just embraced the activity, but it’s also making its way into global sports.

The popularity and acceptance of rock climbing as a sports activity can allude to several disciplines that have helped convert millions into rock climbing enthusiasts. Some of these disciplines present rock climbing as a relatively easy task.

With rigorous physical techniques, others have evolved and have had their foundation solidly stamped in the groundworks of rock climbing as a very challenging activity.

As a result, it’s uncommon for several misconceptions regarding these activities to be made, particularly concerning rock climbing.

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing

Bouldering, one of the most popular and most accessible disciplines of rock climbing, has had several misconceptions made regarding its techniques, which has lead to confusion for beginners in the act of rock climbing.

We would review the difference in bouldering vs rock climbing in detailed and insightful terms and the similarities between them.

The two terms must be distinctively understood to point out the significant differences between bouldering and rock climbing.

Clearly explained below are what the two terms mean.

What is Rock Climbing?

Rock climbing

The act of climbing a high rise artificial wall or rock formation is often referred to as rock climbing. The act extends to both indoor and outdoor activities of these sorts.

As a result of rock climbing evolution, which led to indoor and outdoor climbing, the act has birthed several disciplines, including indoor gym climbing, bouldering, top-rope climbing, traditional climbing, speed climbing, and mountaineering.

Some of the rock climbing disciplines are carried out indoor, while others are carried out outdoors on rocks, mountains, and artificial highrise walls.

Indoor rock climbing feature artificial walls, with dense crash pads, which prevent injuries from long-distance falls.

Outdoor rock climbing does not come with the luxury of crash pads, leading climbers to be extra cautious. (In this article, rock climbing refers to climbing on rock.

It encompasses every form of outdoor climbing, i.e., top-rope climbing, free solo climbing e.t.c.)

What is Bouldering?


A discipline of rock climbing, carried out indoors, involves climbing a high rise artificial wall, as high as 35 feet, filled with artificial walls and small rocks, which bears a resemblance to the footholds, handholds, cracks, and fissures on a rock.

The walls lined with artificial rocks and small rock is known as a bouldering problem. Below the high rise wall lies dense crash pads, which provides a soft landing for climbers in the event of falls.

It is one of the safest and simplest forms of rock climbing. Beginners in rock climbing often start with bouldering.

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing Differences

Either bouldering or rock climbing can be a high risk if you are a newbie. Here are the differences in bouldering vs rock climbing.

As stated at the beginning of this article, neither of these disciplines is worse or better than the other.

1. Gear

Rock Climbing Gear

Rock climbing requires several gears, which largely depend on outdoor rock climbing. For instance, top-rope climbing requires a belay device, while free solo climbing doesn’t need one.

There exist individual gears uniform to all outdoor rock climbing. These include climbing shoes, helmets, nuts, cans, harness, and quickdraw. As stated earlier, the gear needed dramatically depends on the climbing to be undertaken.

In light of that, other equipments used in outdoor rock climbing include climbing anchors, carabiners, and others.

Bouldering Gear

One of the simplest forms of rock climbing, it requires small gear compared to outdoor rock climbing. Climbers can begin bouldering with just shoes, chalk, and dense crash pads.

2. Accessibility

Rock climbing accessibility

With rocks limited to specific geographical locations, climbers eager to try out rock climbing have to travel to these locations, which are sometimes located in parks and may require official permission before ascension.

An alternative to this is artificial walls, which can be found in climbing gyms.

Bouldering Accessibility

Easily accessible, every significant certain has a climbing gym with a bouldering route. Aside from climbing gyms, bouldering routes can be found in nature.

With only a crash pad needed, bouldering is easily accessible compared to rock climbing.

3. Safety

Rock Climbing safety

In rock climbing, safety largely depends on the climbing gears and a climber’s actions. Safety in top-rope climbing depends on the movement of the belayer, and the anchors and belay device.

In lead climbing, the climbers’ safety depends on the lead climber (this depends on where the climber places protection). The state of equipment also determines the safety of climbers.

Bolts and nuts can loosen and thus results in falls. Ropes and anchors help contribute to the climber’s safety.

Bouldering Safety

Bouldering is one of the simplest forms of climbing. Safety in bouldering can be said to be near perfect. Without the risk of equipment failure, climbers’ safety in bouldering is assured.

4. Risks

Rock climbing risks

The risks involved in rock climbing are extreme and profoundly dangerous. Some of these risks include equipment failure, hypothermia, and loose rocks fall.

Some unavoidable types of risks include being struck by lightning, rope detachment, and human error. These risks can result in serious injuries that could lead to permanent deformation or death.

Bouldering risks

The risks in bouldering are incredibly minimal. Even in long-distance falls, climbers have a soft landing, thanks to the crash pads surrounding the climbing route.

Minor risks that exist are falling on other climbers or equipment. These risks are preventable and can result in injuries.

5. Philosophy

Rock climbing philosophy

Rock climbing is a vast field with diverse philosophies depending on the discipline chosen. The vast discipline of rock climbing also makes most of the disciplines relatively unknown.

Rock climbing also had rigid ideas and principles which date back to its founding. Different disciplines require various equipment.

Bouldering philosophy

The philosophy if bouldering is as easy as the activity. The sport is more popular than most rock climbing disciplines, as it, the first form of rock climbing beginner climbers embrace.

Bouldering right from its history in the late 19th century has also been easy with no rigid ideas.

Bouldering vs Rock Climbing Similarities

Yes. Bouldering and rock climbing have some similarities. In fact, some climber feels bouldering is a path way to rock climbing. Bouldering does help rock climbing a whole lot.

The major similarity between these two disciplines is that you are rest assured to have loads of fun while at it.

1. Gear

Both rock climbing and bouldering make use of the essential gears in rock climbing. Some of the gears include:

  • Shoes
  • Chalks &
  • Crashpads

2. Grading System

Rock climbing and bouldering sometimes make use of the same grading systems, though this is dependent on the location.

In America, it’s not uncommon for rock climbing and bouldering routes to be graded with the V scale, while in Europe, the Font Scale is widely adopted for rock climbing and bouldering.


In conclusion, it is a known fact that bouldering is never higher than twenty feet, which makes bouldering less dangerous than rock climbing. Read more pros and cons on bouldering vs rock climbing on Send Edition

 But you can please let us know your thoughts on our bouldering vs rock climbing in the comments section below.

 See 10 Best Rock Climbing Safety Tips & Advice5 Probable Rock Climbing Risks, and 10 Eye-Opening Benefits Of Rock Climbing.