Setting up a (sport) climb, requires a good cordless rotary hammer (SDS shank compatible). Besides the price-tag, things to consider, for selecting such a tool, are its weight, its shape and the handling experience. Besides these, which make life easier while hanging on the wall, Which are the important technical specifications of rotary hammer machines?

For example, how important and why are each of the following characteristics, for a drilling machine suitable for bolting climbing routes?

  • Battery Voltage?
  • BPM
  • Rated RPM (vs. actual RPM?)

Are there scientifically sound references that explain their significance?

Last, but not least, are there important health and safety specifications that should not be overlooked? For example,

  • Noise level
  • Vibrations on Acceleration

Are there scientifically sound references that explain their significance?

Related sources/discussions

  • this question is more suitable for diy.stackexchange.com
    – amphibient
    Jul 7, 2014 at 17:31
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    @amphibient Thanks for the comment. I think such a question (still) belongs here, among other climbing related questions. Follow-ups, could be on bolts, on how to bolt, what to take care and much more. Jul 7, 2014 at 17:35
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    Could you narrow your question down a bit in terms of what class of drills you are thinking about? Is it more the random cordless drill from the hardware store down the street or some more heavy duty thing with SDS shank and stuff? Jul 7, 2014 at 18:54
  • @BenediktBauer Sure, once I get some time to edit, I will improve/simplify the question(s) further. Jul 10, 2014 at 12:15
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    Keep in mind that what you want is not a hammer drill, but more precisely a rotary hammer there's a big difference between the two.
    – ShemSeger
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:48

1 Answer 1



I fear it will be a bit complicated to get scientific reference for the answers to your questions as those things might be important but too less to be published. Therefore most of the evidence may be hidden somewhere in the corporate knowledge of the hammer drill manufacturers. Nonetheless I will try to answer you question on my experience in construction work and physics.

First of all I think we should set the reference frame for what we're talking about. As you already mentioned in your question, you will want to get a tool that is somewhere on the lower end of the heavy duty tools. This will include a SDS shank for the drill bits and a real hammering mechanism, not just that ratchet like vibrator module that you find in rather cheap hardware store machines. So you will end in the segment of machines that are typically sold to construction companies for their daily stuff like drilling some holes for anchors, demolish some smaller piece of wall or concrete or the like. That is typically also the type of tools you can rely on – you don't want your machine to fail in the middle of a wall.



Unfortunately the requirements are bit different when bolting climbing anchors: the typical performance figures to characterize those machines will not hold in your case. When bolting climbing routes you often drill holes while hanging in your harness, therefore you will not be able to apply the force that you would when standing stable on a floor and pushing against the drill with all you have. Therefore RPMs and BPMs are not of great importance as you quite surely in most cases will not be able to use them to all their extent.


Another thing is the power you need: As a rule of thumb the power scales with the battery voltage. But as you drill rather small holes (10mm to 12mm I would guess) you don't need maximum power. The machines in the range you should look for will anyways be in the 24V to 36V range. Instead, you will want some battery lifetime as you won't be near a wall plug, where you can just recharge your batteries, when bolting a route. So instead of investing in higher battery voltage you better might invest in a high-capacity battery or a second battery pack.


Then there's the factor weight: on the one hand you will want a light tool as you will have to carry it to remote places and up a wall. The heavier the tool on the other side, the less force you need to push it against the wall while drilling as inertia will be on your side here.

Drill Bits

Finally, don't forget about the drill bits. Here it is the same as for the machine itself: don't get the next best cheap ones from the hardware store down the road. Good drill bits don't just work longer but can also ease your life while drilling. From the Hilti company I know that they have constructed their drill bits in a way that they work somehow "in sync" with the hammering mechanism of their machines, therefore you need less force to push the machine against the wall – you more or less only have to hold the machine to prevent it from falling out of the hole. Sounds magic, but really makes a difference and you learn to love it when you drill the n-th hole that day.

Noise & Vibration

Concerning your additional points: For the noise level, in doubt just get a set of ear plugs, but I don't think, there will be much difference between the different tools. Acceleration/vibrations shouldn't be that much of a problem, as you will not drill hole after hole all the day but you will do a lot of other things in between.


Don't care too much about the usual specs but get a tool that is rather lightweight with long battery lifetime.

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    Do you mind if I edit your post a bit and put some headings in-between of paragraphs? Jul 15, 2014 at 16:22
  • Nope, I don't mind, go ahead. Everything that makes the text more readable is good... Jul 15, 2014 at 16:37
  • Thanks for the details. Some references, would be appreciated though. Jul 18, 2014 at 13:28
  • @NikosAlexandris I will keep my eyes open and if I find some references to support the things said above, I'll add them. Jul 18, 2014 at 13:35
  • You recommend 24V minimum. There are compact 1/2" 18V rotary hammers. And Milwaukee sells a 5/8" 12V model. Granted they aren't as powerful, but if you aren't going to drill anything bigger than 3/8" or 12mm bolt holes, then what are the advantages of going with a bigger heavier drill?
    – ShemSeger
    Jun 24, 2015 at 17:40

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