As you’ll have noticed up your local bouldering wall, there are a plethora of climbing hangboard or ‘fingerboards’ bolted to walls of climbing gyms up and down the country. You’ll see folks cranking away on them in all variety of manners, some sensible, some downright dangerous. So we thought it was high time to address the huge range of climbing hangboards and similar training devices out there, and perhaps most importantly, how to use them, and therefore how to choose the best climbing hangboard for you.
Best climbing fingerboard for beginners
This is almost a cautionary tale section – if you’re a real newcomer to climbing as a whole, and especially technically hard, fingery and bouldery style problems, then don’t jump on a hangboard. Climbing hangboards and fingerboards are brilliant training tools for small spaces (such as over doorways in the home), but they’re also hard on the fingers, specifically the pulleys and tendons that you rely on for all manner of daily jobs – so don’t overstress them!
This is particularly the case for cheaper climbing hangboards that might have sharp edges, but also for very powerful crimp-type hand positions. Overstressing a finger will lead to unpleasant injuries, so start on larger holds – even a standard pull-up bar can make an excellent starter training device with minimal injury risk.
Best Doorway hangboard
There are three main types of climbing hangboard material – wooden, resin, and free-hanging – all of which need different types of attachment. Wooden boards can be mounted directly onto brick, or screwed into more robust doorframes, resin boards need a totally flat surface, so are ideally mounted on a flat chunk of ply, which is in turn bolted onto the wall. Finally, the free-hanging boards and wooden volumes are arguably the most flexible, as they just need a solid mounting point to hang off, which could be almost anything (slinging banisters is a popular tactic).
So assuming you live in a normal flat or house, the first question is where the board will ideally hang, and then what kind of wall you have in that spot. Usually the best location for a climbing hangboard turns out to be made entirely of polyfilla and jam, crumbing to the touch, so check around first, and bear in mind that landlords dislike large holes in the walls. Climbers in rental properties often use free-hanging boards as they can be installed almost invisibly – one trick is to use an expansion pullup-bar across a doorway as a base, which will leave almost no trace at all. Be very wary of wooden door lintels in general, especially in new build houses – these will be softwood, and you’ll rip them out on your second set.
Climbing Hangboard materials
The materials your board is made from have a huge impact on the training you can do on it. Let’s get into more detail:
Wooden Climbing Hangboards
Modern wooden climbing hangboards like the Beastmaker, Vertical Life zlagboard (full Zlagboard review here), Kraxlboard Xtreme (£162) and the Haston Board (£56.50) are works of art in their own right, beautifully hewn from hardwood and smoothed off to a lovely fit. However, that smoothness means they are often slightly slick to the touch, adding extra difficulty to your workout. They are also lighter then their resin counterparts, and more structurally robust, so can be screwed directly into a solid doorframe in some cases. However, due to being a natural material there are limits to the hold designs, which in turn can limit training and bore you to tears with repetition.
Plastic Climbing Hangboards
Obviously, plastic fingerboards can be made in any fantastical shape that comes to mind, and being made of polyester resin and polyurethane (just like indoor climbing holds), the finger grip is phenomenal. Indeed, on a brand new board it can be so sandpapery you’ll want to dull it with a few applications of climbing chalk. The downsides here are that the material is quite brittle, so cack-handed mounting can lead to cracking in use, while many a resin board dies in transit too. You’ll ideally either bolt directly to a flat brick or block wall, or mount to a wooden board – which will require measuring stuff accurately, and also making fairly large holes in the wall.
Many years ago resin boards were much cheaper than wooden versions, but now things have leveled off. Do be wary of the simpler designs in plastic boards, as these really do limit the training you can do. As with wooden boards, a wide range of holds is what you’re looking for, but realism is key – there’s no point having masses of tiny mono pockets that are simply too advanced for you to use, and equally no point having enormous rails and jugs that you can just relax on – getting the right level is key. The Metolius Simulator 3d (£80.14) is a good example here, though be wary of the height and width of this board if you choose it, it’s almost too large for the average door…
Best portable hangboard
As mentioned above, the best portable hangboard will be one that can be mounted wherever you’re going, and a suspended version is the most likely to fit that bill, especially if you’re staying in hotels and the like. The Captain Fingerfood Hangboard (£71.41) is a great example here, but there are many clones that do a similar job – although the Captain does have a rather slick mounting board that lets you switch from home training to mobile in seconds. These are also excellent in small flats, where they can be stealthily screwed onto a doorframe out of the way.
The best plastic portable hangboard option is any variation on the Metolius Rock Rings 3D, which can be slung almost anywhere (a couple of slings and any door is your training ground), but they will swing around somewhat annoyingly in confined spaces.
So which are the best climbing hangboards? Well:
The Mammut Diamond Finger Hangboard is one of the best allrounder boards, as well as being beautifully built in walnut wood. With vital attachment points for rope that allow foot or hand loops to be used to control resistance (allowing you to train on harder holds but with less of your bodyweight), as well as a smartphone attachment to link in the Mammut training app, this has all the bells and whistles with looks to boot.
However, pricing is right up there, pushing £400. Looks nice though:
Next up comes the epicly named Kraxlboard Xtreme, which might only be beechwood, but has an excellent range of holds, from 2 continuous rungs on 2 levels, some epic slopers to really challenge those forearms, as well as 20 to 63 mm pocket depths. There’s even an optional pull-up bar that slots into those front facing holes if front levers are your thing. All this for a mere £162 – although this is as tall and deep a fingerboard as the Mammut, so you’ll need quite a big area of wall to slot it in.
It’s a bit of an old-school classic, but the ever-excellent Moon FingerBoard deserves a look-in here, being simple, low-profile, easy to mount, and above all very budget friendly at a mere £57.85. Beginners will find the crimps pretty brutal, and the jugs are on the slim side. That said, there are plenty of training videos and sources around, so building a training regime is pretty easy.