What Gear is necessary for a Via Ferrata?
A complete list of the essential gear and some tips on how to best use it.
Essential Via Ferrata Equipment
- Climbing Harness
- Via Ferrata Set / Lanyard
- Climbing Helmet
- Resting Sling (Sling & Screw-lock Carabiner)
- Sturdy Shoes
- Via Ferrata Gloves (optional)
- Backpack (20 liters)
1. Climbing Harness
A climbing harness is mandatory for every Via Ferrata – since that’s what you attach your Via Ferrata set to. Any standard climbing harness will do just fine.
My (affordable) Allround Climbing Harness recommendation *.
- The harness must fit well. It shouldn’t be too tight and constrict you in any way, nor should it be too loose since that would increase the risk of slipping out.
2. Via Ferrata Set / Lanyard
Just like the harness, the Via Ferrata set is also mandatory. In case of a fall, the shock absorber tears, the impact energy is absorbed, and the fall is therefore dynamically decelerated.
A Via Ferrata set consists of a shock absorber and two carabiners. For safety, you must always hook at least one of the carabiners into the steel cable.
3. Climbing Helmet
Another crucial part of the protective equipment is a climbing helmet.
A helmet is required since you’ll mainly be in alpine terrain, and it protects your head from falling rocks, making it just as important as a harness and a Via Ferrata set.
Although you’ll probably be seeing plenty of people without helmets, please wear a helmet for your own safety regardless.
Luckily I’ve never been hit by a rock, but I’ve had some close calls several times. It’s not at all uncommon for small stones to fly by your head when on a Via Ferrata.
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4. Resting Sling
A Resting Sling makes it easy to rest at any moment. All you need is two things:
You attach the Resting sling to the belay loop of your harness using a cow hitch. You can then use the carabiner to secure yourself onto the steel cable of the Via Ferrata.
It makes sense to take short breaks throughout the route and look at what comes next, especially before difficult sections.
5. Shoes for Via Ferrata
For good grip on the rock
Proper shoes are part of the essential Via Ferrata gear. It’s crucial that your shoes are comfortable and that they’ve already been broken in. A firm sole provides stability and makes it easier to step on small footholds.
It’s mainly the sole that makes the difference – a stiff sole that doesn’t easily twist saves energy with each step and is quite advantageous, especially for beginners.
I don’t recommend the high-cut, heavy, and clunky mountaineering boots for a Via Ferrata – half-height or medium-height shoes with good soles are much better.
Why? Because you can feel the rock and all its contours beneath you much more precisely. Lighter shoes make it easier to get through difficult sections. Additionally, you save some energy with every step.
Attention: If you’re not used to wearing low-cut shoes, it’s essential to stay concentrated during the descent to avoid twisting your ankle.
6. Via Ferrata Gloves
A Via Ferrata can be taff on the skin because of the constant contact with the rough steel rope. It often leads to cracks and abrasions on your palms and fingers. Wearing gloves will make it a much more pleasant experience.
By the way, Via Ferrata gloves don’t have to be super expensive gloves from a major brand. Gloves from the hardware store have served me just as well on the Via Ferrata and are way cheaper. My recommendation* costs about 20 USD on Amazon.
The gloves must fit pretty tight, so they do not restrict you from using the carabiners.
A good climbing harness is:
We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.
Backpack & Additional Gear for Via Ferrata
Aside from the essential gear, you can also put a few other useful things in your backpack. This includes, for example, a printed-out description of the tour.
You should also remember to bring sunscreen, a first aid kit, sufficient food, and water.
Granola bars, nuts, and protein bars are suitable provisions. On hot days avoid chocolate because it might melt.
Depending on the tour, it also makes sense to bring a bivy sack to protect you from the cold and rain in an emergency. Likewise, a headlamp and a pocket knife belong into the backpack.
As for clothing, it depends on the season, of course. However, a cap (or hat), a jacket and some rain protection are always recommended.
Via Ferrata Equipment for Children
More and more parents bring their children with them to the Via Ferrata. Once the children have reached a certain age, it can be a great excursion for the whole family.
It’s important for parents to correctly assess their children’s condition and ability to overwhelm them. After all, the tour should be fun for the whole family.
Children usually need a full-body climbing harness, which is a combination of a waist and chest belt. This combination prevents the child from slipping out and tipping over in the event of a fall.
Of course, once your children are older, a standard climbing harness (waistbelt) will do.
Climbing helmet for children
Likewise, a special climbing helmet is necessary to protect children’s small heads.
In addition to a harness, a helmet and a Via Ferrata set, children should also wear suitable shoes, gloves and, if necessary, a small backpack. The latter should be light enough for their age and contain only the bare essentials.
Belaying with an additional rope on the Via Ferrata
On difficult sections, parents can belay their children with a climbing rope. Of course, this assumes that the parents know how to belay correctly. To avoid the necessity of belaying altogether, only choose tours with an appropriate level of difficulty.
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How to Put Via Ferrata Equipment on Correctly
When you start your tour, you need to put your equipment on the right way.
- Climbing harness – put on your climbing harness, close all buckles and tighten the loops.
- Via ferrate set – Using a girth hitch knot (cow hitch), the Via Ferrata lanyard is connected directly into the tie-in loop of the harness using the sewn-in webbing loop.
- Resting sling – attach your Resting sling to the harness and pull the sling through the belay loop using a cow hitch knot again. Attach a carabiner at the end of the sling. Make sure that neither the sling nor the Via Ferrata set can get tangled anywhere.
How Much Does Via Ferrata Equipment Cost?
|Via Ferrata Set (Lenyard)||100 USD (70 £)|
|Climbing Harness||60 USD (45 £)|
|Helmet||60 USD (45 £)|
|Resting Sling||30 USD (20 £)|
|Gloves||20 USD (15 £)|
The total cost for a complete Via Ferrata Gear is around 270 USD (195 £).
Some manufacturers also offer Via Ferrata Kits, which include:
Just take a look at the options to see whether that makes sense for you or whether you’d prefer buying the gear individually, thereby ensuring that everything fits perfectly.
Purchasing a kit will probably save you a few dollars compared to buying everything individually, but you may have to make some compromises on the fit.
Buying Via Ferrata Gear
If you’ve decided to buy the equipment, you just need to pay attention to a few things.
Climbing harnesses come in three sizes: S, M and L. To determine the size that is right for you, just measure your hip circumference. A particular Via Ferrata harness is not necessary. Any regular climbing harness will work.
Make sure that your harness fits well. It should not be too loose, nor should it be so tight that it hinders your movements.
Helmets are also available in S, M and L. To determine the correct size, simply measure your head circumference.
Via Ferrata sets are Unisex and usually only available in one size.
Are Via Ferrata Shoes Really Necessary?
As you’ve probably already noticed, there’s specialized equipment for just about every single type of mountaineering. For many of them, that makes sense.
However, you don’t have to buy special Via Ferrata shoes for Via Ferrata. A comfortable mountaineering boot that’s been broken in and has a relatively firm sole will do just fine.
Many Via Ferrata climbers wear approach shoes, for example. These are not too heavy and have a grippy and firm sole – which is super helpful.
Renting Via Ferrata equipment – is it a good idea?
Nowadays, you can rent almost any piece of equipment needed for mountaineering. Alpine clubs are one of the popular places to go for this.
If you just want to try Via Ferrata before making any purchases, it certainly makes sense to rent the equipment first. But make sure that the equipment is in perfect condition and that it fits you well. The harness shouldn’t show any signs of damage, the helmet shouldn’t have any dents, and the Via Ferrata set must also be perfectly intact.
If you intend to be on the Via Ferrata more often, you should buy your own gear. That way you can be sure that everything fits perfectly and that the equipment is in good condition.
- Try Bouldering first.
- Then move on to Sport Climbing.
- Beginn indoors – The Climbing Gym is a good place to learn the basics.
How Does a Via Ferrata Set (Lanyard) Work?
A Via Ferrata set is your “life insurance” on the Via Ferrata. It connects the climber’s harness to the steel rope of the Via Ferrata. In case of a fall, the shock absorber tears, the impact energy is absorbed, and the fall is therefore dynamically decelerated.
A modern Via Ferrata set has a Y-shape. The outdated V-shape no longer meets current safety standards.
The set consists of a shock absorber, which branches into two webbing slings (hence “Y”). At the end of each sling is an easy-to-use carabiner, which will be clipped into the steel rope.
In the event of a fall, the shock absorber comes into play.
This sewn webbing extends in length by tearing in the event of a fall.
Some Via Ferrata sets have an additional carabiner that you use to secure yourself when you take a break. Since most Via Ferrata Lanyards do not have this feature, it’s best to bring a webbing sling and a carabiner.
A Via Ferrata set is available for about 100 USD and weighs about 1.5 kg. After a fall, it’s no longer safe to use and must be replaced.
What’s the Right Backpack for Via Ferrata?
If you are planning a Via Ferrata tour, don’t pack too much. To avoid this, choose a small backpack. Usually, a volume of around 20 liters should be sufficient.
Ensure that the backpack has no loose cords or buckles that can get caught on the Via Ferrata.
How to Correctly Pack Via Ferrata Equipment
To ensure that you are agile on the Via Ferrata and that nothing can get tangled up, you should pack everything into your backpack. You should mostly avoid strapping anything to the outside of the backpack.
Put light-weight things (e.g. a light jacket) at the bottom of your backpack. Medium-heavy things go in the middle, and heavy things should be packed close to the back. For small items, like your cell phone or money, there is usually a special compartment at the top, including a strap to which you can attach your keys.