Canyoning is a very broad sport with a lot of technical variation. A person’s idea of going canyoning can range from strolling through a dry canyon to rappelling steep cliffs and plunging down waterfalls. The kind of gear you need depends on the type of expedition, weather conditions, and will also vary based on water flow and temperature. Canyoning gear includes the clothes you’re wearing, safety equipment, and the ropes and harnesses required for more technical outings. Let’s look at some of the basic gear you need to start canyoning.
Canyons in New Zealand and Australia are wet, slippery places where you can easily lose your footing – especially if you’re on a technical outing. There are boots specific to canyoning with grippy soles, rubber rands, and often mesh uppers for breathability. It is recommended that you wear shoes specific to canyoning to avoid slipping in wet places, developing uncomfortably wet feet, or uncomfortably cold feet due to lack of insulation. Gore-Tex or other styles with waterproof membranes are not recommended as the membrane will hold water in, preventing your feet from drying. The Five Ten Canyoneer 3 with a good pair of neoprene socks is the ideal combination for canyoning, boasting welded rubber rands, reinforced toe caps, and a penetration-resistant, compression molded EVA midsole.
While any climbing harness will work for canyoning, it is better to find a product without padding so that it isn’t prone to absorbing a ton of water. You should have at least one gear loop on more technical expeditions for carrying equipment. Some canyoning-specific harnesses include a vinyl section that protects your rear end – which can be nice to have, but isn’t essential. The Aspiring Canyoning Harness was designed with wet places in mind and includes the Aspiring Canyon Seat in order to protect your harness from abrasion. The Canyon Seats also fit our Speleo Harness if you prefer something with a slightly lower attachment point.
Descender and Carabiner
Descenders allow you to rappel on a rope down a cliff or waterfall. The most ideal devices do not twist the rope and can be detached without being removed from the carabiner. Abseils can be performed using double or single ropes so select a belay device appropriate to the system. When using double ropes, you should avoid using traditional figure eight descenders. The SMC Mountaineering 8 is ideal for single or double rope systems and also works great for building eight blocks and other rigging techniques. The CT Snappy HMS Screw Lock Carabiner works effectively with this device.
You should always protect your head when participating in any adventure sports. In many circumstances, loose rock can fall from above. Other situations may place you at risk of hitting your head. Make sure the helmet is rated for climbing and look for one with good ventilation, as it’s likely you’ll be getting wet, and ventilation vents will allow your head to dry quickly. The CT Galaxy Helmet is an ideal pick for canyoning as it boasts a wraparound shell with reduced size, adequate ventilation, and a lightweight design.
On technical expeditions, ropes are necessary so that you can effectively rappel or body belay down steep sections and navigate waterfalls. It’s important to note that ropes made for canyoning are different than those made for climbing — ropes made for canyoning are typically polyester and static in design, meaning they do not give or stretch. Polyester ropes also absorb less water as opposed to the dynamic nylon ropes made for climbing. Canyoning ropes are generally between 8mm and 9.5mm in thickness. The length of the rope you bring will depend on the canyon — are there a bunch of short rappels or a few long ones? Evaluate canyon rappel distances before setting out on an excursion.
A good pack is essential for almost every canyon Designed for carrying your rope, wetsuit, gloves, harness, food, map, first aid kit, PLB, & any other equipment you might need. A proper canyoneering pack allows for water drainage and is abrasion resistant, so it will protect your things from getting wet and degraded by the elements. You’ll want to use dry bags or a watertight drum (recommended) inside your canyoneering pack to protect liquid-sensitive objects such as phones or cameras since your canyoneering pack itself won’t be waterproof. Look for packs specific to canyoneering designed with durable materials. The Aspiring Deluxe Canyoning Bag is the perfect tool for the trade, crafted with heavy duty mesh around the front and multiple eyelets in the bottom to allow for drainage. The bag utilizes heavy duty ripstop PVC and features a top pocket for storing easy-to-reach essentials. The shoulders are also padded for comfort on the go.
Although rarely planned, you’ll probably one day end up canyoning or at least hiking out in the dark. Whether you plan on being out for a few hours or the whole day, a headlamp is always a good thing to have on hand. You can’t always predict changing weather conditions or how long the descent will take so it’s always best to be prepared. Look for a headlamp that fits well, stays on your head while you’re moving, and boasts water resistant properties. The more water resistant, the more suitable it will be for canyoneering. The CT Lumex Pro headlamp is an excellent choice because it is designed with one strap that fits around the head and another that connects over the top, ensuring stability. It is also very water resistant, has a 16 hour battery life, and offers a zoom lens feature.
Canyoning Technical Manual
Although not something you would typically take into a canyon, we definitely consider the Canyoning Technical Manual a piece of essential canyoning gear and is an excellent resource for the technical aspects of abseiling, jumping, sliding, swimming, and rigging.
This book also has a far more detailed gear guide.
Guide Books & Other Sites
Finally New Zealand and Australia both have some excellent books & resources for Canyoners. Most notably the Canyoning In NZ guidebook and accompanying site kiwicanyons.org for New Zealand or Tom Brennan’s free Canyoning Near Sydney guide for Australia.