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Campus Board vs Hangboard

LAST UPDATED: 26th August 2023

Ever been stuck in a climbing rut, grappling with a V6 when V7 glory is tantalizingly close? Or maybe your fingertips are feeling more like butter than steel, tripping you up on that pet project? With campus boards and hangboards, you can take your climbing training to the next level.

Now, you might be scratching your helmeted head, wondering, “Aren’t campus boards and hangboards the same?” Well, hold onto your chalk bags, because while they may seem like twins at a glance, these training tools have unique personalities and purposes, each designed to elevate your climbing game in different ways.

Campus Board vs. Hangboard. Let the showdown begin!

What Is A Campus Board?

The story of the campus board is one of innovation and vision, and it all starts with a legendary climber named Wolfgang Gullich. Back in the late ’80s, Gullich was eyeing a monstrous challenge: the first 9a (5.14d) route called Action Directe. He knew he needed more than determination; he needed superhuman finger strength.

So, in 1988 Wolfgang installed the first campus board in a university gym dubbed ‘The Campus Center‘ (hence the catchy name). After years of relentless training, swinging, and reaching, he conquered Action Directe in 1991, achieving a feat that many considered impossible.

Wolfgang Gullich on the first Campus Board
Wolfgang on the first Campus Board

The legacy of Wolfgang Gullich and his ingenious training tool lives on in climbing gyms worldwide. We’ve come to expect them as a standard feature, but behind those wooden rungs lies a history of sweat, innovation, and determination. The classic design has evolved, blossoming into a plethora of sizes, shapes, and angles. You’ll find boards with bigger holds, enticing slopers, gripping pockets, challenging pinches, and of course, those iconic rungs that started it all.

But it’s not just about the variety. The real magic of the campus board lies in its effectiveness. It’s a tool that embodies the spirit of climbing, pushing the boundaries, and enabling climbers to reach new heights, just like its legendary creator.

New to campusing? Take a look at how to get started with Lattice Training.

What Is A Hangboard?

If the campus board is the explosive dynamo of climbing training, the hangboard is its wise and focused sibling, honing in on strength and precision. Picture a pull-up bar morphed into a climber’s dream: that’s the hangboard for you. Crafted from wood or plastic and featuring an eclectic mix of pockets, slopers, and holds, the hangboard is a versatile training partner that comes in both mounted and portable versions.

climber hangboarding

But what’s the tale behind this incredible tool? Strap in for a history lesson that’s going to be anything but boring!

Hangboards, or fingerboards as they’re also known, might look similar to a campus board, but their lineage and purpose are distinct. While campus boards burst onto the scene with a flair for power, hangboards are all about building finger strength, with pockets ranging from deep 25mm holds to minuscule 6mm crimps. They’re designed for rigorous exercises, from full and half crimps to one-arm pull-ups and lock-offs.

To truly understand the evolution of this tool, we must delve into the influential roles played by two iconic climbers: John Bachar and Jerry Moffatt.

The story begins with John Bachar, a visionary free solo climber known for his bold and uncompromising approach to climbing. In the 1970s, Bachar began to envision a training method that would emulate the rock, allowing climbers to push the limits of their finger strength. He started by bolting rock holds onto wooden panels, creating a precursor to the modern hangboard. He also came up with the ‘Bacher Ladder’.

John Bachar training on the Bachar Ladder
John on the Bachar Ladder

Bachar’s training regimen was intense, to say the least, but it worked. His finger strength became legendary, and his methods laid the groundwork for future hangboard development.

Enter Jerry Moffatt, a climbing prodigy who took the world by storm in the 1980s and ’90s. Moffatt was captivated by the potential of specific finger strength training. Influenced by Bachar’s pioneering work, he took the concept a step further. 

In collaboration with Ben Moon, he began replicating actual holds from iconic climbing routes, such as the infamous “Hubble” hold. By training on these replicas, Moffatt was able to unlock new levels of performance, becoming one of the most dominant climbers of his era.

jerry Moffatt and Ben Moon training
Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt training in Jerry’s cellar ©Moffat Collection

Moffatt’s innovative training techniques inspired a new wave of hangboard designs. The crude rock-and-wood constructs evolved into sophisticated training tools, equipped with various pocket depths, slopers, and crimps, allowing climbers to tailor their workouts precisely.

Modern hangboards, like the Beastmaker, owe a great deal to the ingenuity and passion of these two climbing legends. Bachar’s initial vision and Moffatt’s dedication to perfection shaped the hangboard into a crucial training tool that continues to enable climbers to reach new peaks of performance.

In the grand scheme of climbing, the hangboard isn’t just a piece of equipment; it’s a symbol of innovation, a tribute to those who dared to think differently and push the boundaries. So next time you grip those pockets and push your limits, remember the legacy of John Bachar and Jerry Moffatt, two men who redefined what it means to train, to climb, and to conquer. The hangboard is more than a tool; it’s a piece of history, an emblem of the relentless human spirit to overcome, one hold at a time.

Difference Between Campus Board & Hangboard

When it comes to climbing training, the campus board and hangboard are two quintessential tools that often grace the walls of climbing gyms. While they may seem similar at first glance, their differences in design, purpose, experience level, and price make them unique tools for unique climbing goals. Let’s break down the distinctions.

Design & Structure

Campus Board

The campus board consists of uniformly sized wooden rungs aligned on a slightly overhung wall. It’s designed for dynamic movements, cultivating power and agility.

climber training on the campus board


Hangboards, or fingerboards, come in various materials like wood or plastic, featuring pockets, slopers, and holds of different sizes. They focus more on controlled exercises to build finger strength.

Purpose & Training Goals

Campus Board

This board aims to enhance explosive power, improving your dynamic climbing abilities. It’s perfect for training the upper body, including shoulders, arms, and grip.


The hangboard focuses more on finger strength, allowing for targeted exercises on specific holds. It’s the go-to tool for working on grip endurance and precise finger positioning.

If you’re not sure whether fingerboarding is for you, take a look at this incredible transformation from Emil Abrahamsson.

Experience Level

You stride into the training section of your climbing gym, your eyes meet a massive sign: “No campusing for beginners.” Intimidating, isn’t it? Even the most confident climber might feel a pang of uncertainty.

Campus Board

The campus board, with its series of uniform rungs on an overhung wall, is not your typical playground. It’s a tool designed for building explosive power and requires solid finger strength to catch each rung as you ascend the board.

For beginners? Think twice.

The movements on a campus board are dynamic and intense. If your climbing repertoire doesn’t yet include a strong foundation of finger strength and power, campusing can lead to strain or injury. It’s like trying to run a marathon without ever jogging a mile – your body just isn’t ready.


On the other side of the coin, we have the hangboard. This tool, with its varied pockets and holds, is much more accommodating to beginners.

Why? Here’s the scoop.

Hangboarding allows you to start slow, focusing on controlled exercises that gradually build finger strength. You don’t need to be a climbing superhero to begin; you just need a willingness to learn and grow. After all, finger strength is a crucial part of climbing, and the hangboard offers a controlled environment to develop this skill.


Campus Board

Campus boards can be on the higher end of the price spectrum, especially with customized configurations. Expect to invest in a quality piece that matches your training needs.


Hangboards offer a range of price options. Wall-mounted versions like the Beastmaker may cost more, while portable options are generally more affordable.


Thanks to Covid, the world of self-standing boards, home training tools and portable boards saw a massive growth over the last couple of years. There was even a time where there was a shortage of hangboards! 

Campus Board

The Campus Board is a little bit harder to mount as you need a mat to fall on, some height, and a specifically angled wall or board.


These are generally very easy to install. You either mount it above a door frame, or if you have a portable one you can hang it anywhere you want.

Alternatively, if you have the space, you can build your own campus board using plywood.

Campus Board vs Hangboard: Which One Will You Choose?

Navigating the world of climbing training tools can feel like an ascent of its own, but understanding the distinct features and purposes of the campus board and hangboard makes the journey rewarding.

These two incredible tools aren’t just pieces of equipment; they’re gateways to new heights, each offering a specialized path to develop the vital aspects of climbing: strength and power. While the campus board invites you to explore dynamic power and fluid movements, the hangboard patiently guides you through the meticulous art of building finger strength.

But the key isn’t just in using these tools; it’s in using them wisely. Merging the strengths of both, tailored to your unique climbing goals and abilities, creates a symphony of growth and achievement. It’s not merely about training harder but training smarter.

Remember, climbing isn’t just a physical endeavor; it’s a mental and strategic one as well. Aligning your training with your goals, knowing when to reach for the rung or grasp the pocket, is the essence of climbing mastery. Embrace these tools, learn their secrets, and let them lead you to the summits you dream of conquering.



Born and raised in Northern Vermont, Zak's parents were hardcore adventurers, and the appearance of a child in their lives did not slow them down much. Each summer, they would toss him and an assortment of gear in the truck and gun it for the American West. After his first year at college, Zak applied for a job in Yosemite National Park, and for the next decade, he worked seasonally in Yosemite and on the Sierra Eastside, doing whatever he could to be close to those mountains. Currently, Zak lives on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, piecing together a living as a climbing guide, bartender and writer.

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