Determining the right material for your holds is nearly as important as choosing the correct sizes and shapes for your wall. Different materials offer different performance characteristics, and allow you to fine tune your holds to match your use case. Within each material, overall quality also makes a major difference; cheaper resin blends allow for lower priced holds, but performance and durability are both negatively impacted. Wood options differ greatly on quality and density and choosing ethically sourced woods from sustainable forests is an option many consumers favor when given a choice. Selecting the right material and the right quality will ensure your holds perform for years to come.
Not satisfied with the failure prone PE shapes of the day, Trango pioneered the use of Polyurethane (PU) climbing holds, working for years to develop a blend that offered the texture and performance of PE and the durability of PU. When you buy a Trango hold, you know that you are receiving the highest quality product that has been tested in gyms and competitions around the world.
- PU (Polyurethane): Made from a polyurethane resin, PU holds have become standard at gyms throughout the US, replacing older PE designs. PU holds offer the longest lifespan and most chip resistance, and best longevity for commercial and home use. PU resins have a small degree of flexibility, offering impact resistance and preventing chipping and cracking. Additionally, overtightening holds and cracking them is less likely with PU. Older and lower quality PU blends offered less durability than PE textures, but modern high quality PU blends offer equal or better durability. Training boards made from PU offer great texture and more grip options than wood boards, but are harder on skin than other products.
- Pros: High quality PU blends offer the most durable texture, most resistance to chipping, longest lifespan; PU is easier to lighten holds via hollowbacking; holds can be tapered to edges; can be drilled into and have other holds attached to it.
- Cons: Quality urethane blends are much more costly and harder to develop; less UV color stability when used outdoors (unless UV stabilizer added)
- PE (Polyethylene): Polyethylene was one of the original molded hold materials, offering a durable resin that closely replicated real rock texture. PE resin blends are much easier to work with and have a long history of development. PE holds are still used in many European gyms, though as high quality PU blends become more accessible in the European market PE holds are losing some popularity. PE holds tend to have better wear resistance and strength especially compared to less costly PU blends, though they are brittle and can easily chip/crack if improperly handled. PE holds tend to be heavier as excess material cannot be hollowbacked in the same way as PU due to the brittle nature of PE. PE is significantly more UV stable and widely used in outdoor settings. PE hangboards offer great texture and grip customization options, but due to the size of most boards can be very susceptible to cracking & damage if not treated carefully.
- Pros: Durable texture only surpassed by the highest quality PU blends; cheaper to produce; more UV stable & suitable for outdoor use
- Cons: Large holds require solid backs (or thicker walls) for strength making them heavier then PU counterparts; much more prone to chipping/cracking; can be broken if tightened too much; not able to drill into it
- Wood: Wood is a popular selection for dedicated training boards and hangboard use and offers the least friction of all modern hold materials. This reduced friction is easier on skin and requires more muscle activation to maintain grip, making them popular options for climbers looking to improve strength. As a natural material, wood holds run the gamut from high quality, sustainably forested products that provide years of use, to cheaply manufactured ‘knockoff’ copies prone to splitting and cracking. Many climbers prefer wooden hangboards for training to maximize their workouts and minimize skin wear.
- Pros: Smooth texture makes for a skin friendly grab; less friction maximizes muscle activation; natural and sustainable option when ethically sourced
- Cons: Harder to clean/sanitize; only available in smaller sizes; range of quality & sourcing makes it harder to determine high quality options