Price: £49.99 per set (including fixings)
Shape of the holds: Climbing holds are carved by hand from pieces of modelling foam. This foam is then covered in silicone and a mould is produced. In to this mould is poured a plastic mix (more about that later) and hey-presto, a hold is born. The shape of the hold is entirely dependent on the shape of the foam 'former'. This is carved by hand - and as such is quite an art form. Hold manufacturers have had to get very good at this carving, and Holdz are no exception.
Variety of styles: The box sets I received were a good mixture of styles, and each set was in a group - jugs, finger jugs, bumpy crimps, that sort of thing. Each range had been well thought out, with nice shapes and a variety of different sized holds of a similar style. The board I placed the holds on was 50 degrees overhanging (gulp, that's steep) and the selection of holds enabled problems from V3 to Vgodknowswhat to be set.
Texture: The texture of the holds comes from the foam that they are originally carved from. The little air pockets in the foam create the roughness on the final hold. The slight differences in foam density and how the foam is sanded down/finished create the subtleties of the friction of your holds. I found the Holdz range to have that nice 'new' feel to them, without being super rough and trashing your skin, however most of the holds I received were positive, so I can't comment on any super-sloper action. They do seem to be hard wearing and after 5 rainy months of hard use the texture is like new.
The Big Switch: Polyester to Polyurethane. What? You may not know it, but things are happening to climbing holds. At the recent Euro Outdoor show lots of hold manufacturers were displaying 'unbreakable holds'. One (tasteful) stand had a crowd attracting show; a hold was placed on a block of wood and bystanders were asked to hit it with a hammer. If it broke, then a stripper in a PVC nurses outfit removed an item of clothing! Unfortunately the holds were very tough.
The Old - Polyester Resin: Is what most holds are made from in the UK. Anyone who has done some route-setting will know that over-tightening smaller holds can break them, dropping holds can break them and the bigger holds weigh quite a bit. Polyester is cheap to buy and relatively easy to form in to holds. However as it isn't super strong then bigger holds can't be 'hollowed out' to make them light and smaller holds are prone to breaking. Polyester is pretty nasty stuff - full masks and protective gear is needed to stop the fumes during production.
The New - Polyurethane: Is the new black. All US hold manufacturers are using 'urethane. It's more expensive (about 4 times the price) than polyester, but it is much stronger and according to the US manufacturers is much more environmentally friendly. I dropped quite a few 'urethane holds on the concrete floor and they came away completely unscathed - pretty good.
From the Threeball climbing website: "Polyester resin is extremely rigid, which makes it very brittle. Polyester holds are notorious for breaking by merely tightening the bolt. The strength of Polyester cannot compare with the strength of Polyurethane. Of all Thermoset plastics, polyester resin is the cheapest and poorest quality. It was never designed for making climbing holds."
Holdz have made the switch and it is noticeable. These boxed set holds were super strong and really durable. I dropped them down two stories on to a stone floor. They were fine. I don't actually know if this durability affects the texture - are polyurethane holds more likely to last longer before they get worn out and shiny? Possibly. The holds I have are looking good after 5 months, but a commercial wall will want to give them a much bigger bashing than I have.
There is currently no safety regulation for climbing holds, however one is in the pipeline - the details for the upcoming hold regulation are here: http://www.nasport.din.de/projekte/DIN+EN+12572-3/en/74107020.html
A lot of the US climbing websites are screaming about how dangerous the old polyester resin holds are (chemicals etc), however they have all made the switch to 'urethane, so are potentially bias. I'm no chemical expert and I'm not going to breathe any fumes in for this review! But this could be something to consider on environmental grounds.
What I would suggest is that the new polyurethane holds are so much stronger that snapping holds is much less likely - so the chance of getting a hold on the head is reduced. Also as they can be tightened up more without breaking 'spinners' can be reduced - and the chance of an unexpected fall is also reduced.
Beautifully designed, great colours, finger friendly shapes. Made in the UK by a small grass-roots company that is forging ahead with the new wave of technology. A huge variety of shapes on offer and long lasting indestructible construction.
Not sure what the slopers are like as I didn't test any, but the crimps and finger jugs get full marks. It's great to review a good product.
The boxed sets I received are only for sale in shops, the first set is a mixture of shapes and styles and is a 'starter set' to get you going on your home board. The other 3 sets are more specific shapes so thay you can tailor you holds to suit.
Most manufacturers do some sort of training sets or groups of holds and these can be a good way to start a collection.