What To Wear Rock Climbing: The Ultimate Guide To Indoor And Outdoor Rock Climbing Attire

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What To Wear Rock Climbing - The Ultimate Guide To Indoor And Outdoor Rock Climbing Attire

Are you ready to try rock climbing for the first time? Have you been doing it for a while but need advice on what to wear rock climbing?

Before hitting the gym or outdoor crag, having the right clothing and footwear is important. Selecting the appropriate clothing for rock climbing is crucial to ensure comfort, safety, and a successful climbing experience. 

So if you want to know what to wear, read on as we explore the essential features and considerations for selecting the ideal climbing clothes for your adventures.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose comfortable and flexible clothing that allows for a full range of motion. Opt for moisture-wicking materials to keep you dry during strenuous climbs.
  • Wear a properly fitted climbing harness that provides support and allows for unrestricted movement.
  • Select climbing shoes that fit snugly and offer a good balance between sensitivity and support.
  • Consider layering clothing to adapt to changing weather conditions during outdoor rock climbing.
  • Protect your hands with climbing-specific gloves or fingerless gloves to prevent blisters and provide additional grip.
  • Use a helmet to protect your head from falling debris and potential impacts during both indoor and outdoor rock climbing.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Climbing Clothes

Above all, rock climbing clothing must be practical so your clothes don’t feel uncomfortable, hinder your movements, or cause safety issues.  Keep in mind these three important factors when you choose your wardrobe.

  1. Rock climbing is a very physical sport that requires agility and balance. To ensure your safety and success, choose climbing clothes that allow unrestricted movement.
  2. Rock climbing also requires balancing close to the surface of the climbing wall or rock face.  Loose clothing or hanging jewelry could snag on the rock and hinder your climb.  So, avoid baggy clothing that can hamper your climbing and might even be dangerous.
  3. Rock climbing is an intense activity that can cause uncomfortable sweat build-up.  For maximum comfort, especially in warm weather, your clothing should be breathable, which means you should wear attire made from moisture-wicking materials that dry quickly. For instance, opt for synthetic fabrics or blends like polyester over cotton as they wick sweat more efficiently and have faster drying capabilities.

Now that you know the basics, read on for detailed advice for indoor and outdoor rock climbing clothing.

Indoor Rock Climbing Outfits

For men’s indoor rock climbing attire, consider investing in a good pair of climbing pants or shorts and a comfortable vest or top that allows for ease of movement.

Men’s Indoor Rock Climbing Attire

Selecting the right attire for indoor rock climbing is crucial for men who want to maximize comfort, mobility, and performance. 

For the upper body, a popular choice among male climbers is a slim-fitting tee made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabric that allows for unrestricted movement around shoulders and arms. Tank tops are another great option for those who seek maximum freedom of movement during climbs – just ensure that the armholes aren’t too deep so you don’t sacrifice skin protection from rough surfaces.

For the lower body, opt for lightweight shorts or stretchy athletic pants that provide flexibility in hip and knee movements. Climbing pants should be tapered to avoid any restriction of movement while making moves on the wall. Remember, they need to afford you unrestricted movement but need to be close-fitting, not baggy. 

What To Wear Rock Climbing - Men's Indoor Rock Climbing Attire

Climbing shorts are another popular option for indoor climbing. When choosing rock climbing shorts, it’s important to consider the length, material, and fit.

For instance, some shorts come with an elastic waistband or drawstrings that can be adjusted to provide a more secure fit while climbing. Shorts with zippered pockets are helpful for securely storing small items like keys, gym membership cards, or loose chalk during your session. Additionally, many men prefer compression-style shorts that offer extra support during particularly strenuous climbs.

Considering these practical considerations, choose your clothing carefully to make your climbing experience more comfortable and safer!

Women’s Indoor Rock Climbing Attire

Of course, rock climbing challenges are the same for both men and women.  So women should also choose comfortable and stretchy clothing to allow for a full range of movement. Choose clothing made from materials with breathability and sweat-wicking properties. Avoid materials that may cause irritation on your skin, such as tags or rough fabrics.

Sports bras or well-fitting tank tops are popular choices for the upper body, providing comfort and support while allowing for ease of movement.    

What To Wear Rock Climbing - Women's Indoor Rock Climbing Attire

For the lower body, choose comfortable rock climbing pants with important features like stretchiness and durability. Look for materials that move with you, so you can make all the necessary moves without restriction or discomfort.

Two popular styles of women’s rock climbing pants are yoga pants and leggings. These form-fitting pants offer unbeatable flexibility and comfort while providing a barrier between your skin and rough surfaces. 

Shorts are another popular option for women. When choosing rock climbing shorts, it’s essential to consider their fit and material. Shorts that are too tight may restrict movement, while those that are too loose can get caught on holds or other equipment.

Look for stretchy materials like spandex or nylon blends that offer both flexibility and durability.

Although the primary emphasis in choosing a rock climbing outfit is on practical considerations like comfort and flexibility, many stylish options are available so you can look great while scaling that climbing wall!

Outdoor Rock Climbing Outfits

Outdoor rock climbing presents challenges not faced in the gym.  The primary considerations remain the same, but additional factors must be considered to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. 

For example, durability is a key factor in choosing clothes for outdoor climbing. All clothes should be made from material that won’t easily tear against rough rock surfaces.

Another crucial difference is the need to layer your clothing so you can adjust to changing conditions as you climb. Consider wearing 3 layers of clothing: a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer.

 Men’s Outdoor Rock Climbing Attire

Let’s look a little further into what type of clothing is best for each layer:

The Base Layer

The base layer is an essential part of any climber’s outfit. Choose a moisture-wicking, quick-drying, breathable base layer for climbing comfort.

Pick synthetic materials like polyester or nylon for durability and sweat-wicking. Select lightweight layers for warm weather, heavier options like long johns for cold temperatures, and prepare for unexpected weather changes.

The Mid Layer

This is an important part of your rock climbing outfit. This layer helps regulate your body temperature by keeping you warm when the temperatures drop and wicking away sweat to keep you cool during high-intensity climbs. In cold weather, breathable fleece jackets or insulated vests are great options to provide additional warmth without sacrificing movement. 

The Outer Layer

The outer layer should be warm but not confining.  For the lower body, climbing pants are recommended.  For the upper body, a waterproof soft-shell jacket must protect against wind and light rain and be long enough to prevent your harness from touching your skin.

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Women’s Outdoor Rock Climbing Attire

For women’s outdoor rock climbing attire, it’s essential to prioritize comfort and mobility. A popular option is thin long-sleeved shirts and pants or shorts that provide breathability while offering sun protection.  Let’s consider what the best options are for each layer.

The Base Layer

This should consist of clothing that fits comfortably and allows easy climbing movement. Of course, the expected weather conditions are a critical factor in choosing a base layer. 

Many climbers recommend a lightweight merino wool or synthetic base layer to help regulate body temperature and wick away sweat. Some popular brands for women’s base layers include Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and Smartwool.

The Mid Layer

The mid layer provides insulation and warmth to keep you comfortable in colder temperatures. For a mid-layer, women can opt for fleece jackets or vests that offer breathability and quick-drying features.

Fleece materials are light in weight and easy to pack, making them perfect for multi-day climbs. Choosing well-fitting clothes is critical, the mid layer should sit snugly under outerwear while allowing freedom of movement.

The Outer Layer

This layer is an excellent option for the lower body in hiking pants designed specifically for women climbers – these provide a balance of ruggedness for outdoor ascents along with breathability to keep you comfortable all day long.

For warmer weather, many women wear Capri-length pants because they are cool without restricting your movement. Loose-fitting athletic shorts are another option for hot weather, but they leave the knees exposed and vulnerable to scrapes and cuts.  For the upper body, choose a softshell jacket that is comfortable, lightweight, breathable, and water-resistant. 

For quick reference, here is a table of the different types of attire men and women need for indoor and outdoor rock climbing that we covered above:

Indoor Rock ClimbingOutdoor Rock Climbing
Men’s Attire
Upper BodySlim-fitting tees or tank tops with breathable, moisture-wicking fabricBase Layer: Moisture-wicking, quick-drying, breathable top (lightweight for warm weather, heavier for cold weather)
Mid Layer: Breathable fleece jacket or insulated vest
Outer Layer: Waterproof soft-shell jacket
Lower BodyLightweight shorts or stretchy athletic pants that are taperedBase Layer: Suitable to the weather condition (e.g., long johns for cold weather)
Mid Layer: Breathable pants
Outer Layer: Climbing pants
Women’s Attire
Upper BodySports bras or well-fitting tank tops with breathability and sweat-wicking propertiesBase Layer: Lightweight merino wool or synthetic top
Mid Layer: Breathable fleece jackets or vests
Outer Layer: Breathable, lightweight, and water-resistant soft-shell jacket
Lower BodyRock climbing pants like yoga pants, leggings, or shorts (stretchy and durable)Base Layer: Comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing
Mid Layer: Comfortable and snug clothes under outerwear
Outer Layer: Hiking pants or athletic shorts depending on the weather

Climbing Footwear

When choosing climbing shoes, it’s important to consider factors like fit, type of climbing, and personal preferences.

Tips For Choosing Climbing Shoes

When it comes to rock climbing, finding the right shoes can make a world of difference in your performance.

1. Fit is key: Climbing shoes should fit snugly but not painfully.

2. Closure types: There are several closure options for climbing shoes, including laces, straps, or slip-on designs.

3. Sole stiffness: Consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing – stiffer soles offer more support for edging (standing on a small edge or a tiny ledge), while softer soles provide better sensitivity for smearing ( on featureless rock faces, the climber smears as much of the shoe surface against the rock as possible and uses the friction to hold in place).

4. Downturn and shape: Climbing shoes can be flat, moderately downturned, or aggressively downturned shoes, and which you choose will depend on your climbing preference – aggressive shoes are better for overhangs, while flatter shoes are more comfortable for all-day climbing.

5. Materials and break-in period: Take into account that synthetic materials typically won’t stretch, while leather shoes may stretch up to half a size. Also, remember that some shoes have a longer break-in period than others.

Choosing the perfect climbing shoe is very personal.  Each person’s feet have a unique shape and size, so it is best to try various brands and models until you find the perfect fit for you!

What To Wear Rock Climbing - Climbing Footwear

Tips for Choosing Approach Shoes

When rock climbers need to hike to reach the climbing route, they also need approach shoes.  The best approach shoes have a lugged sole that provides excellent grip and traction on various surfaces, such as the Five Ten Guide Tennie, La Sportiva Boulder X, or Evolv Cruzer.

These brands offer high-quality construction with sticky rubber soles, durable uppers, and comfortable padding to support your feet during long treks.

Socks Vs. No Socks Debate

When it comes to rock climbing footwear, the decision of whether or not to wear socks is a personal preference. Some climbers opt for wearing thin socks specifically designed for use with climbing shoes to reduce the chances of blisters and protect their shoes from getting too stinky. Others prefer to climb without socks. 

Here is a Comparative Overview of the ‘Socks Vs. No Socks’ Debate in Rock Climbing.

Wearing SocksNot Wearing Socks
PreferenceSome climbers prefer thisSome climbers prefer this
BenefitsReduces chances of blisters, protects shoes from getting stinkyMay feel more comfortable or provide better shoe grip
DisadvantagesMay affect shoe fit or climbing feelRisk of blisters, shoes may get stinky
Decision FactorDepends on what feels most comfortable to the climberDepends on what feels most comfortable to the climber
SuggestionTry climbing with socks and see how it feelsTry climbing without socks and see how it feels

Ultimately, choosing between wearing socks or going sockless should come down to what feels most comfortable.  Try both ways and make your choice!

Frequently Asked Questions

Answer common questions about rock climbing attire, such as whether it’s okay to wear jeans while climbing, whether or not gloves are necessary, and what to bring for indoor climbing.

Can I wear regular gym clothes for indoor rock climbing?

It’s possible to wear regular gym clothes when rock climbing indoors, provided they are comfortable and allow unrestricted movement during your climb. You can opt for tight-fitting leggings or shorts paired with a breathable t-shirt or tank top made from moisture-wicking material such as polyester or spandex.

Can You Wear Jeans Rock Climbing?

Yes, you can wear jeans while rock climbing! In fact, some climbers even prefer it due to their durability and ability to withstand abrasion. However, it’s essential that the jeans are stretchable to allow for a full range of movement during the climb.

Climbing pants and jeans are generally more durable than leggings, making them an excellent option for beginner climbers who want to invest in clothing that will last. One example of stretchy denim jeans perfect for rock climbing is DUER’s line of moisture-wicking and breathable fabric climbing pants.

Should You Wear Gloves Rock Climbing?

While it is not common to wear gloves while rock climbing, some climbers may choose to do so. Gloves can provide additional hand protection, especially when crack climbing or dealing with rough surfaces.

However, wearing gloves can also affect a climber’s ability to grip the rock and feel for holds. Additionally, gloves may increase the risk of accidents by getting snagged on equipment or reducing sensitivity in the fingers.

Elevate Your Climbing Experience with the Right Attire

Proper attire is crucial for safety and comfort when rock climbing, indoors or outdoors. Wearing the right clothes can help prevent injuries and ensure a comfortable climb. By considering factors like comfort, stretchiness, layering, and eco-friendliness, you can find the perfect climbing attire to enhance your experience.

Many indoor climbers prefer loose pants or stretchy leggings paired with a comfortable gym shirt. For outdoor climbing, durable clothing that can withstand rocks and harness rub abrasions is recommended.

Climbing shoes are the most critical piece of equipment to invest in since they are your connection to the rock surface. Investing in quality climbing shoes that provide good traction, support, and protection against falls or accidents is worth it.

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We are a team of passionate climbers devoted to sharing our love of rock climbing with others. Our aim is to promote a supportive community of climbers and provide tips, gear reviews, and training programs to enhance your climbing experiences. Join us as we seek new adventures, share new experiences, and inspire others to reach new heights.

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