Best Hangboards: The Top 7 of 2019
|Top Pick: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center||
|Runner-up: Metolius Contact||
|So iLL Iron Palm||
|Honorable Mention: Moon Fingerboard||
|Best Value: Metolius Simulator 3D||
|Metolius Rock Rings 3D||
We logged training hours on seven of the best hangboards (aka fingerboards) on the market. It was a tight battle, but the widely hailed Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center wound up on top.
In most North American climbing areas, it is officially the off-season. It’s time to eat well, hit the gym, and stew about all the projects you didn’t send.
It’s also prime time for training. Building finger strength is one of the best ways to improve as a climber, and hangboarding is among the best ways to build finger strength.
If you are in the market for a hangboard, you’re in luck — good options abound. As we learned during this test, different hangboards will suit climbers of different abilities and preferences. For details, read on.
Top Pick: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center
For this hangboard, Trango teamed up with the Anderson brothers, authors of popular training bible The Rock Climber’s Training Manual.
The book goes into excruciating detail on constructing an effective training regimen, and the RPTC reflects the systematic mentality.
The main edges are variable, gradually growing smaller toward the outside of the board. Small dots at the rear of the hold provide tactile reference points.
On the one hand, this is a little disorienting — the index finger always has more to work with than the pinkie.
On the other hand, it means that precise progression is as simple as changing the location of your hands. It’s an intuitive way for climbers of many levels to push their limits.
Hold variety and progression are both strengths of the RPTC. In addition to the main edges, the board has a variety of pocket combinations, several possible pinch configurations, two slopers, two jugs, and two vicious square-edge crimps.
Almost any climber should be able to find trainable holds on the RPTC, which is impressive given its moderate size.
The other unique feature of the RPTC is its two-piece approach. The two halves of the board are mounted separately.
Mounting takes a little more time and care, but it allows users to customize placement for their body and preferences. This makes a real difference, and it’s a welcome innovation.
The RPTC isn’t without flaws though. The texture is on the harsh side, especially right out of the box.
While the hold variety is nice, it’s biased toward strong climbers. I’m a relatively advanced climber, and I still have to take weight off to get real use out of the pinches. This is a board that will likely be most effective when paired with a pulley system.
Perhaps the most obvious drawback to the RPTC is price. At $129.95 retail as of this writing, it’s the most expensive board in this test by a wide margin. It may be worth it for the right climber, but this is a board that requires commitment in more ways than one.
Still, for the dedicated trainee, this is the best all-around hangboard on the market. Paired with a solid training plan, it’s a formidable tool.
- MSRP: $129.95
- Material: Polyurethane
- Dimensions: 9.1″ x 12.1″ per half
Full review: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center
Runner-up: Metolius Contact
Although bested in score by the Trango RPTC, the Metolius Contact turned in a superb showing for an all-around board. Especially at the price, it’s an excellent option for climbers of all abilities.
The best part about the Contact is the sheer number and variety of holds.
It has edges of varying depths and angles, pockets to match, and even a pair of graduated pinches. There’s only one pair of slopers, but they’re enough to get by.
The Contact is likely oriented toward more advanced climbers, but it’s friendly enough that almost anyone can hop on. The jugs are nicely sized, and the edges offer easy progression from deep to shallow.
This is probably the most intuitive board to train on — it doesn’t require as much of a learning curve as the RPTC.
It’s worth noting the Contact’s size. At 32.5″ wide, it’s the largest we tested. That size is what allows for so many usable holds, but it’s worth scoping out your training location to make sure you have the room.
If you do, this board deserves a look. It’s not quite as laser-focused as the RPTC and not as cheap as our value pick, but as of this writing it’s $35 cheaper than the former and more versatile than the latter.
Occupying that lovely middle ground, it’s a welcome training companion for climbers of all levels.
- MSRP: $95.00
- Material: Polyester resin
- Dimensions: 32.5″ x 11″
Honorable Mention: Moon Fingerboard
These days, the phrase “Moon Board” calls to mind an LED-powered bouldering wall more than a hangboard, but this devilishly hard fingerboard has been a cult classic for years.
And I really do mean devilishly hard.
I’m a solid 5.12+ sport climber, and I have to take weight off to use many of the holds on the Moon board. The “jugs” on this board are incut finger jugs, and the slopers could just as reasonably be called crimps.
The Moon board is a simple hangboard. Featuring only 15 holds, it’s compact and focused. But the 15 holds have it where it counts.
The curving shapes of the board are ergonomic and pleasant to use. Despite their relative scarcity, the edges provide a nice variety of depths and shapes. The jugs are just enough to warm up on, and the slopers and pockets are excellent supplements.
Most hangboarding is focused on crimp strength, and in this arena the Moon board shines. It has some of the hardest crimps on the market. Thanks to thoughtful hold design, though, I never felt like I was in danger of injury.
The Moon board is among the smallest and lightest on the market. If you’re strapped for space, this board is a good option.
The price is equally diminutive, checking in at $81. That’s no great surprise given the board’s size, but it’s still excellent value.
Because of its difficulty, we can’t recommend the Moon board to all climbers. But for advanced climbers, it’s one of the best options around.
- MSRP: $81.00
- Material: Polyurethane
- Dimensions: 27.5″ x 5.5″
Best Value: Metolius Simulator 3D
This hangboard is a frequent sight at gyms, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s an approachable and ergonomic board with something for nearly everyone.
Instead of a flat base, the architecture of the Simulator is gently curved. Hanging beneath the board, you pull in slightly instead of straight down.
This is a tad more ergonomic than most hangboards. Along with the Simulator’s width, it makes for an easy hang.
Hold variety is strong (despite the lack of pinches), but holds are generally geared to an intermediate audience. The three jugs are huge, and the majority of the edges and pockets are very deep.
On one hand, this is a good thing — for climbers in the strike zone, progression on the Simulator is gradual and intuitive. Metolius has a library of training resources for all their boards, and this board makes it easy to get started.
Advanced and elite climbers may find the holds on the Simulator a touch too large. It’s always possible to crank up a workout by adding weight, but at a certain point it’s useful to train on smaller holds.
As a result, the Simulator takes home our Best Value award. But let us be clear: it’s best for intermediate climbers. Up to the 5.12s and .13s, most climbers will find plenty to do on this board. Those new to hangboarding can pair it with a beginner hangboard workout for some quick gains.
- MSRP: $79.00
- Material: Polyester resin
- Dimensions: 28″ x 8.75″
Reviews of the 3 Other Hangboards We Tested
The design of this board is deceptively simple, but that didn’t stop it from becoming another favorite in training. Designed by veteran pro Jason Kehl, the Iron Palm has a few singular virtues.
The first of these is the slopers. Most climbers don’t look to hangboarding to improve on slopers, but for those who do, the Iron Palm has our favorite pair.
Instead of the traditional vertical slope, the Iron Palm features two large and widely spaced half-spheres, which you can grab however you like. They’re more ergonomic and more pleasant to hang on than any other slopers we tested.
The second aspect we love is the wide crimp rails. On some boards, the edges you need may be clustered near the center. This can pinch the shoulders, diminishing both comfort and training strength.
On the Iron Palm, the edges extend from one side to the other, so every climber can grab where it feels comfortable. The pinch combinations are equally thoughtful and provide a useful training supplement.
The downside: these elements are all you get. Four rails of varying depths, two slopers, and two pinch sets.
For many climbers, this is enough — the rails provide an intuitive progression, and pocket strength can still be trained by selectively removing fingers. But the Iron Palm doesn’t offer as much hold variety as competitors.
The final argument in the Iron Palm’s favor is price. At $84, it’s good value for an all-around hangboard. If you’re into simplicity and slopers, it may be all you need.
- MSRP: $84.00
- Material: Polyurethane
- Dimensions: 27″ x 11.5″
The Metolius Project is pleasant but ultimately limited.
This board looks and feels like an abbreviated version of the Simulator 3D. It has a similar gentle curve, and the hold shapes feel just as friendly. It’s intuitive, ergonomic, and accessible for almost any climber.
Unfortunately, the hold selection is paltry. The smallest edges on the Project are still deep, and there isn’t enough variety for a consistent progression. Advanced climbers will find this board far too limiting for serious work.
The biggest draw of the Project is price. At $54.95 as of this writing, it’s by far the cheapest full hangboard in this test. It’s also compact — along with the Moon board, this board is the easiest to mount in small spaces.
But in the end, the compromises are too great for us to recommend the Project. It’s better than nothing, but if you have the cash we’d recommend spending up to one of the other all-around options.
- MSRP: $54.95
- Material: Polyester resin
- Dimensions: 24.5″ x 6″
To be fair to the Rock Rings, they were never on equal footing in this test. Instead of an actual board, the Rock Rings are two independently suspended holds, with several different grips on each.
Given their obvious limitations, the Rock Rings were never going to turn in a winning score against the full-fledged boards.
Hold selection is limited to four pairs: jugs and three different sizes of pocket. It’s possible to simulate progression with finger positioning, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Despite their low score, the Rock Rings are not without their uses. Independent suspension makes for ergonomic pulls and opens up a wide variety of training options.
I use Rock Rings to work everything from offset pull-ups to front levers. They provide a versatile and ergonomic platform for all manner of pull exercises, which can be customized using the hold selection.
The Rock Rings are also a decent travel option. They’re compact, versatile, and require only two points to hang. If you have room in a suitcase, the Rock Rings are a better hang than hotel-room door jambs.
Finally, the Rock Rings are cheap. Under $30 to begin with, they can often be found on sale. For that money, it’s not hard to add a pair to an existing setup or use the rings as a mobile option.
We wouldn’t recommend the Rings as a standalone training system, but they can be a good complement for dedicated climbers.
- MSRP: $29.95
- Material: Polyester resin
- Dimensions: 7.25″ x 5.75″ per ring
Here are the best hangboards:
- Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center
- Metolius Contact
- So iLL Iron Palm
- Moon Fingerboard
- Metolius Simulator 3D
- Metolius Project
- Metolius Rock Rings 3D
How to Choose the Best Hangboard for Your Needs
Here I’d like to insert a brief caveat:
In my opinion, hangboarding is best implemented as one element of a training plan for intermediate to advanced climbers. For climbers who are still beginning their rock climbing journey, hangboarding can be a quick route to injury.
Don’t be afraid to skip hangboarding for a while. And if you don’t believe me, believe 5.15 climber Jonathan Siegrist.
Types of Hangboard
Hangboards can be divided into two main categories: wooden and plastic.
Wooden hangboards have a skin-friendly texture, but they’re less common and can be expensive.
We didn’t test any wooden hangboards in this latest update because two of the most popular models, the Beastmaker 1000 and Beastmaker 2000, are not widely available in the US. If you’re interested in a wooden board a popular option is the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II.
Plastic hangboards are always some variety of either polyester resin or polyurethane. Polyurethane is lighter and a touch more abrasive, but in practice I haven’t noticed a real training difference between the two.
As long as you’re comfortable hanging on your board of choice, I wouldn’t worry about the material.
All climbers have unique styles, strengths, and weaknesses. If you’re approaching training with specific goals, it’s worth choosing a hangboard that will help you grow.
If you frequent blocky, overhung routes, you may want to find a way to train your pinch strength. If you know you struggle on slopers, find a board where you can get comfortable on them. If you just need to increase your crimp strength (don’t we all), make sure to get a board with a progression that suits you.
A few of the hangboards we tested manage to cater to a wide variety of climbers, while others are more focused. Choose a board that’s right for your ability level.
Intermediate climbers may enjoy the Metolius Simulator 3D, and elite climbers will get plenty of challenge from the Moon Fingerboard.
If you’re unsure, one of the all-around boards (Metolius Contact, So iLL Iron Palm, or Trango RPTC) may be a good fit.
This is a rare area of climbing where it doesn’t pay to be aspirational. I would love to say that I train all day on the Moon board’s smallest crimps, but I’m just not strong enough. Your time will be far more productively spent on holds that you can hang onto.
Scope out your training space before you invest in a board. Some of these boards (like the Moon board and the Metolius Project) can fit in tight spaces. Others, like the Metolius Contact, take up quite a bit of real estate.
How We Tested
This was one of my simpler gear tests. There was only one way to test these boards — I mounted them one after another and got down to training.
My routine usually involves plenty of repeater hangs, but I also used the boards for exercises like moving hangs, pull-ups, and core work.
Once I had trained hard on all the boards, I double-checked my impressions with the other climbing member of our household. I then rated all boards in three categories: hold selection, ergonomics, and training progression.
How much variety does the board provide? Do I have all the types I need for a complete training program?
How pleasant is the board to use? How useful are the hold shapes? How hard is training on my joints and body?
How intuitive is it to create progressive challenge? If I grow as a climber, can this board grow with me?