Plastic V. Wood Holds - What's The Difference?
Over the past few years, the climbing community has seen a surge in the popularity of wood holds. There are a few main reasons for this which we’ll cover in this article.
First, let’s talk about the types of wood you’ll frequently see used to make wood climbing holds. There are a few qualities that go toward making a particular type of wood optimal for being shaped into a climbing hold. The grain on the wood needs to be fairly tight, or chalk gets built up in ridges and the texture is negatively impacted. You might think that means that the tighter the grain, the better. There’s a third option though, Goldilocks! The perfect wood for making climbing holds allows for some absorption of chalk, but not in a way that it creates ridges. We want the wood hold to absorb some of the chalk from your hands because it changes the texture of the hold, making it stickier and therefore easier to use. You’ll notice when you get brand new wood climbing holds that they feel super smooth - a little intimidating, maybe. Never fear, after a bit of use and soaking up some chalk, they’ll get tackier.
So! Now we know a bit about the technicalities of wood holds; let’s cover the reasons that we’ve seen their popularity jump in the last few years.
Wood holds are smoother than traditional plastic climbing holds, which might seem like it would make them harder to use, but they just need a bit of breaking in. When we train on traditional textures, we lose a lot of finger skin. It’s a sacrifice we make to build stronger muscles in tendons in our fingers. Wood holds are much, much gentler on our skin than plastic, while still providing the same strength-building opportunities.
Traditional plastic holds are made of polyurethane resin, a manufactured chemical compound. There are many benefits to this type of hold, but sustainability and environmental responsibility are not among them. Wood holds are sustainably made and sourced and are able to be reused and recycled when they reach the end of their training usefulness.
Wood holds are beautiful - they come in many types of wood from beechwood to poplar to cherry; you can find ones that have been stained a color, and the creativity being shown in the making of wood holds is elevating them to art pieces in many cases. In a time when many of us are working on home climbing solutions, wood holds provide the option to have your climbing training be an attractive-looking installation, instead of something relegated to the unfinished part of your basement.
As with most things - balance is the key. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend moving your entire training routine to wood holds only, but they do provide a balance and variety that’s important to have. Check out our Wood Blocks Hugs and Slots to see what we mean about how pretty they are!