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Welcome to Upstate Bouldering, designed around bouldering in the Upstate region of South Carolina. This website is intended to inform the reader of local spots in SC, Western NC and Northeast GA, as well as a blog of my experiences climbing at these great spots. I hope everyone learns of a new place to climb or is inspired to climb somewhere close to them. If you have any comments, please send me an e-mail.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Dirtbaggers Deluxe Wal-Mart Bouldering Kit

The Dirtbaggers Deluxe Wal-Mart Bouldering Kit

I’ve been wanting to write this DIY article for a while now, but with the economy and jobs being where they are, now more than ever is a good time to put it out there. I generally don’t shop at giant mega-corporation superstores, I try my best to support local businesses as much as possible, but on occasion I find myself at Wal-Mart and over the years found all sorts of gear that's perfect for bouldering.  Here's a run down of my current bouldering kit I use to keep gear organized and easy pack in and to move between problems and brush kit I use to scrub dirt and grime off of problems.
Brush Kit:

When I started developing bouldering areas around the Jocassee Gorges, I always had a tough time finding the right brush to take off that first layer of crud. I didn’t want to use a stiff wire brush after seeing that many of the boulders in the area can be changed drastically when one is overused, so nylon and animal bristle brushes were what I generally used…with the occasional softer brass wire brush for the really tough spots. Regular toothbrushes just don’t work…if that’s all you’ve got, its better than nothing, but overall they just don’t cut it. I bought brushes/brush kits from all of the climbing companies that offered them at the time, spending nearly $100 on the variety, but I could never find the right brush to scrub the dirt and grime off of a the chossy boulders in the Gorges to the point of perfect friction. I started buying brushes in the cleaning isle at the grocery store. But once again, none of these brushes really fit the bill. The well known Metolius/gun cleaning brush was a great brush, much better than a regular toothbrush, but it still wasn’t good for initial cleaning.
I didn’t have a local store that sold these brushes so I looked around Wally World’s sporting goods department for the same brush used for cleaning guns and found a nice little Gun Cleaning Toolset by Winchester ($3.97)...
...that included the Metolius brush, a last resort, soft bristled brass wire brush for the hard to scrub crud and an oddly useful pick for trying to dig out that hard to reach detritus in small cracks and crevasses.


I also liked the small denture brush in the Revolution brush kit for a brush to keep in my chalkbag, so while at Wal-Mart, I checked out their denture brushes and found one of my favorite all around brushes to this day; the Sea Bond Denture Brush ($1.56). It has very hard bristles for a toothbrush, a compact but robust design that’s fits well in your hand so you don’t scrape your knuckles while scrubbing, and 2 brushes that both function very well to clean even some of the tiniest cracks, especially to prep the rock for a send attempt. I’ve even used the rubbery pick on the other end of the brush to clean out slots and cracks with hard-to-get-to dirt. So again, I had found a good brush to add to the collection, but I hadn’t found the brush I needed to strip the crud from the rock, to unearth the next amazing route. So I went to the hardware department and asked if they had any brushes, but they only had metal brushes for cleaning tools, but they recommended I look in the paint department…honestly something I had never even thought of before.


When I got to the paint section I found what I was looking for the whole time in the Stripper brush (~$2.50). With a racy name and super stiff bristles, this brush chewed through the outer layer of crap that haunts untoched boulders and soon proved to be my go to brush for the initial phase of developing a problem. If you ask me, the Stripper might be the best brush for a serious stick brush too, just strap it on with some zip-ties.


And if you’re like many boulderers, you take video of some of your and your friends sends…so adding a Stripper brush to the Targas Monopod ($16.98) from the electronics department makes for a perfect way to film video when propped up against a tree, shrub or with a stick, a great extendable stick brush and a walking stick for the approach to the boulders.


The stick brush slides down very compact and stores easily in the trunk of a car so its always handy if you need it and not really in the way if you don’t. The Stripper brush isn’t the easiest brush to carry alone because it didn’t fit into most pockets on my boulder buckets, and tended to get left in the boulderfield too often.


The Grout brush ($1.47) is about half the size of the Stripper brush, has the same style of super stiff bristles and fits into the pocket on most chalk buckets...that’s why I use it for the initial route cleaning phase nowadays. I tend to go through 4-6 of these a year over the past few years of heavy development, and like to keep 3 of them with various stages of wear and bristle length (and the brass brush) on a short loop of power cord as my go to crud scrubbing brush set.  


The more worn and shorter the bristles get, the better they scrub the crap away, so it’s good to have a few brush options when the scrubbing gets tough...each different brisle length scrubs a different scrub well also. So over a few years of trying out a variety of brushes, I’ve finally found the best brush kit for me and at a great price too!

Brush Kit:

-Gun Cleaning Toolset (1 typical bouldering brush + 1 brass brush) $3.97

-1 Denture Brush $1.56

-1 Stripper Brush $2.50

-1 Monopod for stick brush $16.98

-3 Grout Brushes for initial scrubbing $1.47x3= $4.41

Brush Kit: 6 Brushes without the Stick Brush Total Price $9.44

Stick Brush/Walking Stick/Monopod + Brush Kit $29.42






Dry Bag Bouldering Kit:

While at Wal-Mart, I poked around looking for other goodies for bouldering and I came upon one last thing that has been crucial to keep my gear organized…a set of lightweight drybags ($9.96). The Outdoor Products 3-pack Dry Sacks wont add weight to your bouldering kit, but will keep your gear organized and waterproof in case of the random summer thunderstorm. I started packing gear in these out of necessity because every time I went bouldering at the North Side of Looking Glass one summer, I always got rained out of the place…and once ruined my cell phone. So I wanted to get a lightweight dry bag to put my phone, wallet and keys in so they would be safe in a storm. I bought one small dry bag at my local outfitter for around $15, but it quickly wore out after a couple of months of heavy use.


So I looked around Wal-Mart for a more economical solution and found a set of 3 dry bags in the sporting goods department for cheaper than the one from the outfitters. I use the smaller of the 3 to keep my phone, wallet and keys dry, and I use the largest of the dry bags for snacks, water bottle, extra long sleeve shirt, guidebooks and to hold the smaller dry bag for a double dry cell phone.


The middle sized bag makes a PERFECT chalk bucket too…add an old wash cloth from the closet, a chalk ball, a denture brush and some chalk and you have a spill proof chalk bucket for 10% of the cost of an Organic or Flashed rolltop chalk bucket!!!



It’s easy to unroll and get a handful of chalk and after your send just roll it up and attach it to the large dry bag and toss it all in your crashpad.


There is even a perfect place to tuck a gun cleaning brush next to the buckle for convenience.

This is still the basic bouldering kit I use to this day…and if I ever have to replace any part of the kit that wears out, its very economical to do so! Here’s the rundown on the Dirtbaggers Deluxe Bouldering Kit…

Brush Kit includes Denture Brush, Gun Brush, Brass Brush and 3 Grout Brushes          $9.44

Stick Brush/walking stick/monopod                                                                                +   $19.48

Chalk Bucket & Gear Bags                                                                                            +    $9.96

Total Bouldering Kit…just add chalk, shoes and crashpad                                               $38.88


There is a kinds of fancy gear on the market nowadays, but when you dont have the cash flow to afford it, the Dirbaggers Deluxe Bouldering Kit fills in nicely or provides cheap options to add to your existing kit!

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