Best Climbing Machines

Updated December 2021
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
Models
Considered
197
Consumers
Consulted
20
Hours
Researched

Buying guide for Best climbing machines

Want a full-body workout? Consider buying a climbing machine. With the right type of machine, you can give the muscles in your legs, back, shoulders, and arms a satisfying workout in a short amount of time.

You may have seen climbing machines in professional gyms, but the machines we discuss in this shopping guide aren’t necessarily for commercial use. The ideal at-home climbing machine can help you meet your fitness goals while accommodating your budget and your home’s available space.

Content Image
Warm up your body before starting your workout. You could use the climbing machine at a slow speed for a few minutes before increasing your pace. Or, you could perform several sets of push-ups or jumping jacks.

Types of climbing machines

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which type of climbing machine is right for you and your home. There are step-only climbing machines, vertical foldable climbing machines, vertical compact climbing machines, and fully assembled climbing machines.

Step-only climbing machines

Step-only climbing machines are compact, inexpensive, and easy to store. They do not include handlebars, handrails, or other components to work the upper body. Therefore, the workout is less intense on a step-only climbing machine. That said, there are a few models that include carabiners or D-ring clips to which you could attach resistance bands for some upper-body action.

Vertical foldable climbing machines

Vertical foldable climbing machines have handrails and/or handlebars that add intensity to the workout by incorporating the upper body. The handrails increase the vertical footprint of the machine, but of all climbing machines with an upper-body workout component, vertical foldable climbing machines consume the least amount of space.

The minimalized frame of these models folds for compact storage. While vertical foldable climbing machines are small and affordable, they do tend to have lower max weight limits, fewer “extra” features like height/step adjustment, and less durability overall.

Vertical compact climbing machines

A vertical compact climbing machine offers more stability than a foldable model, but its footprint is still minimal. Some models include an attached exercise bike for warming up or cooling down. It’s true you cannot fold down this type of machine for storage, but it may be easier to disassemble than some other types.

Fully assembled climbing machines

Fully assembled climbing machines are larger, sturdier, and more durable than other types of climbing machines. Often seen in professional gyms, these models are expensive, but they simulate a climbing action that’s similar to climbing the rungs of a ladder.

Once assembled, these large machines do not easily come apart. However, if you have dedicated space and a big budget, a fully assembled machine will provide an excellent full-body workout that’s gentler on your joints than some other types of machines.

Questions to ask before purchasing a climbing machine

Before you invest in a climbing machine, it’s wise to learn all you can about your potential choice. We advise consumers to find out the answers to these questions before making a purchasing decision.

What is the climbing machine made of?

Climbing machines have many moving parts, and they sustain a lot of wear and tear. For the greatest degree of durability, choose a climbing machine made of steel and/or steel alloys coated with aluminum.

"Some climbing machines work the lower body only. If you want a full-body workout, select a climbing machine that addresses multiple areas of the body."
STAFF
BestReviews

Is the structure one solid piece, or is it jointed?

Climbing machines that are made of one solid piece are more durable and stable, and they tend to have the highest maximum weight limits. Jointed structures are not quite as durable or stable.

Is the step spacing adjustable?

Some climbing machines allow you to adjust the step spacing according to user height. These machines are more comfortable for a wider range of users.

How much vertical space does the climbing machine require – and do you have enough in your home?

Climbing machines have a bigger vertical footprint than both treadmills and stationary bikes. That vertical footprint can change according to step adjustments and the height of the user. If you are tall, you’ll need more clearance between the top of the climbing machine and your ceiling. Be sure to measure carefully before buying, taking into account where your head will be when the step is at its highest point.

What resistance options does the climbing machine offer?

Greater resistance means more calories burned. Less-expensive climbing machines use body weight for resistance. To increase your caloric burn with this type of machine, you have to climb faster or add weight with ankle weights, hand weights, or a weighted backpack. Pricier climbing machines allow you to mechanically adjust resistance using the machine’s settings.

Content Image
Did you know?
The more weight you add to your body, the harder your workout will be. Adding weight is an easy way to increase resistance beyond that offered by the climbing machine.
STAFF
BestReviews

What sort of information does the display show?

The most basic climbing machine shows your elapsed workout time and nothing more. Other machines display info about distance traveled, stairs climbed, and your heart rate. If you’re into tracking your fitness data, you may want to spend a little more on a climbing machine that gives you this extra data.

What is the machine’s maximum weight capacity?

Some compact/foldable climbing machines can hold only up to 220 pounds. Some fully assembled climbing machines can hold 400 pounds or more. Make sure the machine you choose can accommodate the people who will use it.

Content Image
For your safety
If you have arthritis or any type of pre-existing knee problem, it’s vital that you discuss your stair-climbing plans with a physician before starting a new exercise routine. For some sufferers, stair-climbing is not the right exercise choice.
STAFF
BestReviews

Climbing machine prices

  • Less than $50: You can get a step-only machine in this budget-friendly price range. You won’t get a full-body workout from this type of bare-bones machine, but you can still benefit from the cardio and calorie burning. Climbing machines in this low price range tend to be compact and easy to store.

  • $50 to $150: In this price range, you will find compact/foldable and compact vertical climbing machines that provide a more intense workout than a step-only machine.

  • $150 to $300: Machines in this ballpark are fairly sturdy and usually not foldable. Some may include an attached exercise bike for warming up and cooling down.

  • More than $300: Premium climbing machines are found in this price range, which can extend up to several thousand dollars. Fully assembled climbing machines that have a large footprint and cannot be folded usually cost $3,500 or more, depending on the model. They provide an excellent workout but are a major financial investment.

Tips

  • If you don’t have much space for a climbing machine, a compact/foldable model would probably be your best choice. Yes, a compact/foldable model takes up more vertical space while in use, but it requires significantly less floor space than a stationary bike or treadmill. Some foldable models can fit in a closet or under a bed when not in use.

  • Decide where you will use your climbing machine (and where you will store it if the location differs) before you make your purchase. Double-check the width and depth measurements of the equipment to be sure it would fit your space.

  • When measuring for a new climbing machine, take into account the height of the tallest user, as that person’s head may reach above the machine when the step adjustments are at their highest point. If you have a low ceiling, you may have a clearance problem.

  • It’s always a good idea to check in with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

FAQ

Q. How noisy are climbing machines?
A.
Noise output depends on the design of the machine and the smoothness of its movements. Machines that rely on body weight rather than mechanical resistance tend to be louder, but not significantly so.

Q. Does a climbing machine with a steeper angle create a more intense workout?
A.
Yes. The steeper the angle of the climbing machine, the more intense the workout. However, you can achieve the same workout results on a machine with a shallow angle by climbing faster or increasing resistance.

Q. How difficult is it to assemble a climbing machine?
A.
Assembly varies depending on the model you purchase, but foldable and step-only climbing machines are usually the easiest to put together. Fully assembled machines require more complex assembly and adjustments upon arrival, and once assembled, they do not easily come apart.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
See more
Our Top Picks