Decathlon Simond Starter Pack - Long term test
Everything you need to start climbing - for 2,165,000 VND: that’s less than the price of a pair of branded running shoes.
Full disclosure: Decathlon and I are in a relationship. Not a professional one whereby Decathlon pays or sponsors me (I'm open to offers if they're listening), but a long term relationship that has evolved over the years.
1) Living in France a lot over the last couple of decades I came into contact with the French sports retailer way, way back.
2) As an adventure sports writer I am forever taking up new sports, with no idea how serious I might get about them.
3) As an adventure sports writer (did I mention that?) I am, naturally, broke.
Which makes me pretty much Decathlon's perfect target customer. Then something else changed. I became a dad. Now I am also in the market for sports kit for a small person who likes nice stuff but grows out of it fast. Which seals the deal as a Decathlon customer.
The reason I'm telling you this is to help understand what the Decathlon brand is all about.
“Decathlon doesn't do fancy label stuff that sells in all those sports shops for people who don't do sport”
Decathlon doesn't do fancy label stuff that sells in all those sports shops for people who don't do sport. It does durable, comfortable, practical, and affordable. I like Decathlon because all of those reasons make it really easy to get into new sports. Decathlon does advanced gear, but most of us know it for its beginner's kit, and that's where the Decathlon Simond starter kit comes in.
At Push we like to test our instructors to test our gear - they're the experts after all. Which is slightly unfair on the Simond starter kit because these are beginner's items and our instructors wouldn't normally be wearing beginner's kit. Funnily enough it didn’t turn out so badly for either the instructors or Simond.
Rock Climbing Simond Shoes
“the most comfortable I've ever worn from the Decathlon Simond range.”
Imagine our surprise when Franklin held up the Rock Climbing Shoes and said "they were the most comfortable I've ever worn from the Decathlon Simond range."
There's an important addition to that judgement. If you've read our review of the Rock Climbing Shoes you'll know they are old school with hard rubber soles that work best when they're warmed up. Turns out that it also takes a little patience to appreciate their fit too.
"The rubber is stiff," explains Franklin, "so first time you will feel irritation between the toes, but you use them maybe ten times and the shoes take the form of your foot. Once I'd worn them in they were the most comfortable from the Simond range and because of that flat insole you can use them all day without pain from heels or toes unlike the more aggressive shoes."
Aggressively styled climbing shoes with the curved sole for heel hooking and toe grips are harder to get used to so climbing newbies are well advised to start with a flat sole. What Franklin's experience shows is that the good news is that if the shoe fits at first, things are only going to get better as you break them in.
Chalk and Chalk Bag
Which leaves the chalk, chalk bag, and harness. The Simond chalk is such a winner for the price point that we have a lot of regular climbers who use it for their daily exercise and only switch to a brand name chalk for competitive bouldering.
The Simond Carabiners chalk bag is a fairly typical example of Decathlon's understated, practical design. Light and tough it’s rip resistant and easy to use with one hand thanks to its clip strap while a drawstring helps avoid spillage.
Simond Easy 3 harness.
Franklin is quick to point out that this is primarily an indoor climbing harness; “it’s all about the form and structure and it has been designed without hard points for tying in a figure of eight. Instead it just has the belay loop but that makes it perfect for the gym where you clip in and off you go and the material is perfect.”
“you’ll get five years of use out of this.”
The Easy 3 lives up to its name with three easily used adjustment points meaning climbers of all shapes (sizes are from S to 2XL) should be able to find their perfect fit and the thigh entry makes it simple to slip on at the gym. Like the shoes the Easy 3 comes with a two year guarantee but Franklin thinks it will long outlive its guarantee due to the build quality. “The lifespan of this kind of thing is normally about three years but if you check your gear regularly and wash it after use with gear soap to get rid of the dirt and sweat build up, then dry it out of direct sunlight you’ll get five years of use out of this.”
Which means our Simond Starter pack passes the long term test with flying colours. The Simond pack is understated, unpretentious, practical and priced at a point that’s hard to beat. If you’re relatively new to the sport but know deep down you’d like your own kit but don’t want to blow the bank balance, or you’re buying for a family, then you’d be well-advised to take a look at the demo examples in Push.
words by Steve Shipside