Indoor vs Outdoor Climbing: Which is More Fun?

indoor vs outdoor featured image

When it comes to climbing, there are two main types: indoor and outdoor. Both have their unique benefits, but which one is more fun?

Outdoor climbing offers a sense of adventure and freedom that can’t be found indoors. But indoor climbing is excellent for beginners because the walls are typically padded, and there’s less risk of injury.

So, which is better? It depends on what you’re looking for.

This article will look at the environment, skill differences, safety, routes, and rope management to help you decide which type of climbing is right for you.

Indoor vs Outdoor Climbing: A Quick Comparison

Indoor vs Outdoor Climbing, which is better

Climbing is a great way to exercise while also enjoying the outdoors (or indoors). But what’s the difference between indoor and outdoor climbing, and which is more fun?

Here’s a quick comparison of indoor vs. outdoor climbing to help you decide which one is right for you:

Indoor vs Outdoor Climbing: Outdoor climbing typically involves scrambling up rocks or cliffs, while indoor climbing occurs on manufactured structures such as walls and boulders.

Outdoor climbing can be more challenging, as you never know what you will find around the next corner. However, indoor climbing is often considered more fun, as you have a greater variety of routes to choose from and less risk of getting injured.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference – some people prefer the challenge of outdoor climbing, while others prefer the convenience and safety of indoor climbing.


For some, going outside and spending time in nature is very appealing. They love the challenge of hiking up a mountain or rock climbing face. They relish the sense of accomplishment they feel when they finally make it to the top.

Others find that being indoors is more their speed. They don’t mind paying to have someone else set up routes for them, and they like having a comfortable place to sit and rest between climbs. So which is better? Indoor or outdoor climbing?

There are pros and cons to both indoor and outdoor climbing.

Indoor climbing is great because you can go anytime, regardless of the weather. You don’t have to worry about getting sunburned or being cold. And, if you’re starting, it’s an excellent way to ease into the sport.

Outdoor climbing, on the other hand, is more challenging. The routes are often longer, and there’s more chance you’ll run into rugged terrain.

But many people find that the sense of achievement they feel when they reach the top of an outdoor climb is much greater than that of an indoor climb.

Cost of Climbing

Another factor to consider is the cost. Indoor climbing can be expensive, especially if you’re paying for a gym membership. And, if you want to buy your gear, that can also add up.

Outdoor climbing is generally free, although you must pay for gas to get to the trailhead. And, of course, you’ll need to invest in some gear like shoes, a harness, and a rope.

Climbing Grades Indoors vs. Outdoors

One of the significant differences between indoor and outdoor climbing is the grading system. Unfortunately, the two approaches are incompatible, so you must know which one you’re dealing with when planning a climb. Here’s a quick rundown of the differences:

Indoor Climbing Grades:

The indoor climbing grades use a letter system (e.g., V0, V1, V2, etc.), with each letter representing a difficulty level. The further the alphabet you go, the more complex the climbs get.

Outdoor Climbing Grades:

Outdoor climbing grades use a number system (e.g., 5.9, 5.10, 5.11, etc.), with each number representing a difficulty level. The higher the number, the more complex the climbs get.

Conditions and Grip

The conditions of the rock can also affect your grip, and how easy or hard a climb is.

Indoor climbing walls are often made of smooth, textured materials like plastic or fiberglass. This can make it challenging to get a good grip, especially if your hands are sweating.

Outdoor rocks, on the other hand, can be pretty rough. This can provide a good grip and tear up your hands if you’re not careful.

Outdoor climbing is more challenging because of the different variables involved. But, as with anything, there are exceptions to this rule. Indoor climbing can be just as challenging, depending on the routes you choose and the conditions of the wall.


The gear you need for indoor and outdoor climbing is different.

Indoor climbers need a harness, shoes, chalk, and a belay device. You can often rent this gear from the climbing gym.

Outdoor climbers need all of the above, plus a rope, carabiners, protection (cams and nuts), and anchor material (webbing and cord).


You also need to know how to tie knots when you’re climbing. The most common knots used in climbing are the figure-eight and the double fisherman’s knot.

The figure-eight knot is used to attach your rope to your harness. The double fisherman’s knot is used to tie two ropes together.

You need to know how to tie these knots because they’re essential for safety. When climbing outdoors, you must also learn how to create anchor systems.

Nature and Atmosphere

Indoor climbing generally has a more controlled environment than outdoor climbing. The temperature is usually comfortable, and the rock face is often vertical or close to vertical. You also have the benefit of not having to worry about weather conditions, which can be a serious factor when you’re trying to climb outdoors.

There are some definite advantages to outdoor climbing, though. For one thing, the scenery is usually much more impressive than what you’ll find indoors. And there’s something to be said for the challenge of dealing with changing conditions, such as wind or rain.

The Environment

Indoor climbing is typically done in a gym with carefully manufactured routes. For example, the walls are often textured to provide more grip, and the holds are precisely placed to create a particular challenge.

Outdoor climbing takes place, well, outdoors! This means you’ll deal with natural elements like sun, wind, and rain. The rock face might not be as perfectly vertical as what you’ll find in a gym, and the holds might not be as conveniently placed. This can make for a more challenging and ultimately more rewarding experience.

Skill Difference Indoor Climbing vs Outdoor Climbing

Skill Difference Indoor Climbing vs Outdoor Climbing

Indoor climbing is often less challenging than outdoor climbing because the conditions are more controlled. But this doesn’t mean that indoor climbing is easy. Some of the most challenging routes are found indoors.

Outdoor climbing generally requires a higher level of skill than indoor climbing. This is because you have to deal with more variables, such as weather and the changing conditions of the rock face.


Indoor climbing is generally considered safer than outdoor climbing, simply because the conditions are more controlled. If you’re new to the sport, or if you’re not comfortable with the idea of climbing in potentially dangerous conditions, indoor climbing is probably the way to go.

Of course, there are always risks involved in any physical activity, indoor or outdoor. But as long as you take the necessary precautions and use common sense, you should be able to enjoy a safe and fun climbing experience regardless of where you do it.


Indoor climbing gyms typically have more routes than outdoor climbing areas. This is because it’s easier to control indoor conditions, so it’s less risky for the climbers.

Outdoor climbing routes can be more challenging because of the variables involved. But this also means that the rewards can be more significant. If you’re looking for a real challenge, outdoor climbing is probably the way.

Rope Management (If Any)

rope climbing management

In indoor climbing, the ropes are typically managed by the climbing gym staff. This means that you don’t have to worry about them yourself.

You’ll need to be responsible for your rope management in outdoor climbing. This means knowing how to set up and take down anchor systems. It also means being able to belay your partner correctly.


Indoor climbing gyms often have a variety of different terrain types, such as vertical, sloped, overhanging, and so on. This can provide a good challenge for climbers of all skill levels.

Outdoor climbing routes are typically less varied in terms of terrain. But this doesn’t mean that they’re always accessible. Some outdoor routes can be pretty challenging, depending on the rock face and the conditions.

So, Is Rock Climbing Indoors or Outdoors Better?

So, which is more fun? Indoor or outdoor climbing? It depends on your personal preferences. If you’re looking for a controlled environment with various challenges, indoor climbing might be your style.

If you’re looking for an adventure with more variables and potentially more rewards, outdoor climbing might be more up your alley. Whichever you choose, just make sure to have fun!

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