Grip List 2021: Kilter

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Kilter Grips wins CBJ Grip List 2021 Grand Prize
Kilter Grips wins CBJ Grip List 2021 Grand Prize
The Kilter Board, winner of the first Favorite Board System vote, and new shapes in Kilter’s Kaiju collection. (All images courtesy of Kilter)

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KILTER Awards 2021

  • 1st Place – Setter’s Choice Favorite Holds
  • 1st Place – People’s Choice Favorite Holds
  • 1st Place – All-Time Favorite Holds
  • 1st Place – Favorite Board System

Honorable Mentions 2021

  • 3rd Place – Favorite Homewall Holds
  • 2nd Place – Favorite Homewall Board System

Kilter—the Boulder, CO based company—has been producing uncompromising quality since 2013. Their mission is clear: to promote a happy, healthy member base and help build a strong overall industry by providing useful, high quality tools and training solutions for setters and gyms. The setters around the world have spoken: Kilter claimed the Grand Prize in the main Setter’s Choice vote for the sixth year in a row. In addition, they remained in 1st place for All-Time Favorite Holds for the fourth straight year, and also picked up the People’s Choice award this year. In fact, Kilter has won the most Grip List awards over the years of any hold company, including this year’s new Board System award. And Kilter continued to be popular in the Homewall categories too, placing runner-up in the new Homewall Board System vote and 3rd place in Homewall Holds.

 

“All of our holds are designed to be useful and comfortable,” says Jackie Hueftle, co-owner and long-time routesetter. “Useful, so the setters can use them as the tools they are to set the route product for the gym; and comfortable, so climbers can have longer sessions and more enjoyable attempts.”

While many companies have to choose between quality and quantity, Kilter is a rare exception. “No other hold company has nearly as extensive of a catalog as Kilter and their other brands,” says Alex Olander, Head Setter at the Gravity Vault Flemington. Other comments from setters included “consistent ergonomics,” “comfort and durability,” “highly functional shapes,” and “killer aesthetics.”

Kilter's brushed and dual-tex Sandstone
New brushed and dual-tex Sandstone grips from Kilter, created by legendary shaper Ian Powell.

One thing that sets Kilter apart is their large-scale approach. “We’re not just shaping holds,” says Ian Powell, Kilter’s co-owner, head designer and legendary shaper, and the man Hueftle describes as the ‘Core of Kilter.’ “We’re shaping holds that fit into sets that fit into styles that fit into systems.”

A result of this way of thinking is Kilter’s Complex series. These modular families of holds—which come in their Granite, Sandstone, Geo Complex, and Smooth Tufa lines—are specifically designed to interact with each other in the form of stacking and blocking. “It allows setters to create their own tools, to make the exact holds they need, when they need them,” says Powell. Complex holds also cut down on turnover time in competitions, making competition problems reusable for different climbing categories by simply adjusting the blockers.

“Kilter does an incredible job of noticing gaps in climbing styles or shapes in the indoor climbing environment,” says Kori Cuthbert, Managing Partner of The Hive Winnipeg. “Time after time they release a new line or solution with a genuine understanding of how to make setters’ lives better.”

Kilter T20 grips
Kilter grips included in the IFSC’s T20 catalogue, including the stackable Smooth Tufa line (right).

When it comes to competition setting, Kilter was the only US-based hold company included in the IFSC Tokyo 2020 Olympic Catalogue and is a partner with USA Climbing. In addition to Kilter’s unique Complex systems and standards of directional, tapered holds, to cater to comp setting’s current trends they’ve also added more dual-tex shapes.

Over the past few years, Kilter has ventured into the training board space too. Their product, the Kilter Board, dominated the Favorite Board System category with nearly 50% of the total votes. With an adjustable angle, holds that light up around the edges, and an intuitive app, it is an ideal training tool for everyone―from first-timers to elite climbers. The Kilter Board system is constantly expanding and evolving, with over 2000 unique shapes that can light up, ongoing app improvement, a Homewall Layout edition, specific Spray Walls, and development of plans for both a forthcoming Hard Board and an Easy Board.

“The kilter board is the most accommodating training board for climbers of all levels, and the backlit holds continue to be the best in the game,” sums up Alex Lucier, Routesetter at G1 Climbing + Fitness. PJ Didelot, Routesetting Supervisor at 5.Life, adds that “the holds lack hard edges, keeping them skin-friendly and comfortable on nearly every angle.”

Kilter Board
The Kilter Board—which launched in 2018 and caters to beginners and experts—with its unique light-up holds.

Kilter’s team is small but extremely talented—and everyone has experience as a routesetter. Besides Powell, their other in-house designer is Peter Juhl, the mastermind behind the Urban Plastix brand, who has expanded many of his lines this year. Other shapers include pro climber Jimmy Webb, who describes his new Southern Waves line as “awesome features that are big and dramatic and kind of tidal wave off the wall,” and renowned setter Jeremy Ho, whose new line The Dunes resemble “the lips and ripples of the sand dunes found in [his] home state of California.”

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Jonathan has been climbing for ten years and routesetting for half as long. He is a former magazine editor, and his writing spans from marketing content and journalism to speculative fiction. When he's not writing or bolting plastic to plywood, he's probably outside somewhere, hiking, climbing, or surfing poorly. He’s been known, on occasion, to drop everything and travel the world for months at a time.