We all know how important it is to find the proper climbing gear—ropes, quickdraws, a helmet, and climbing shoes. However, just as important are what you wear for rock climbing both indoors and outdoors. Having the proper attire and rock climbing outfit for outdoor climbing is crucial to being able to perform at your highest level. In order to climb your best, you shouldn’t be distracted by uncomfortable or ill-fitting clothing.
Therefore, making sure you have the right tops, bottoms, and outerwear that will keep you comfortable and agile, giving you the fit you need to perform your best. Giving you some tips on what to wear for rock climbing – indoors and outdoors.
1. Best Rock Climbing Pants
It’s no surprise that the right rock climbing pants are one of the most important attire that a climber can have.
All of the mobility that climbing entails—heel hooks, drop knees, and high steps require pants that stretch, allowing you full range of motion. Some of the climbing brands that make other gear, such as shoes and helmets, make some of the best pants. Black Diamond and La Sportiva are both climbing-specific companies that make excellent climbing pants that not only gives great functionality, it looks good too.
Finally, you can’t underestimate the importance of breathability when it comes to climbing pants. No doubt what to wear for indoor rock climbing when you are not directly under the sun can be less concerning, however, on those hot weather days when you climb outdoors, its a different case.
You don’t want to be bogged down by stuffy and uncomfortable pants with the feeling of sweat trickling down your thigh while you commit that big move.
2. Best Rock Climbing Tops
Much like climbing pants, the mobility and breathability of climbing tops are crucial to any climber trying hard or spending long days on the wall. For this reason, the design of climbing tops is the most important aspect when it comes to their usability.
Depending on whether you are looking at tank tops, short-sleeve, or long-sleeve tops, your criteria will likely change.
When looking at tank-tops for ladies, many shirts have the option of a built-in bra, which is extremely comfortable and convenient. Men can opt for sleeveless muscle tees if they don’t mind the uneven tan lines.
Mobility with Stretchable Sleeves
For long-sleeve tops, it’s important to find something with stretchy sleeves that allow full mobility. Best if they also have special features that retains your body heat during winter.
The pink long sleeve one I am wearing above is from Columbia, and its not a only super good fit with a nice reflective material inside to insulate the heat, it is a nice colour great for photos.
3. Best Climbing Leggings
Much like climbing pants, climbing leggings should be stretchable and breathable. I know heaps of climbers who prefer this over climbing pants due to this feature. But be careful not to pick pants that are slightly transparent or rip easily.
Interestingly enough, you can find great leggings for climbing at stores that don’t specialize in climbing gear. Lululemon and Athleta have stretchy, breathable leggings that are perfect for any climber. They are also extremely popular due to the great designs, prints and colours.
Durable and Lasting
Another important consideration when buying leggings for climbing is finding something durable. As it’s possible to incur bumps and bruises while on the wall, you want pants that won’t rip.
Its also going to be embrassing when that happens, so maybe opt for something a bit more reliable or known like those I mentioned above.
4. Climbing Clothing for Humid Conditions
South East Asia has incredible outdoor rock climbing spots in places like Cat Ba in Vietnam and Kampot in Cambodia. However, it can get really sweaty and uncomfortable if you do not have the right climbing clothing that helps you ventilate and cool down.
When you find yourself in humid and muggy climbing conditions, by far the most important consideration when it comes to clothing choices is breathability.
Be sure to look for breathable fabrics that allow plenty of airflow, for example the Airism tops and bratops range in Uniqlo (my personal favourite).
If it’s humid outdoors, it’s probably hot, and you won’t want clothing that traps in heat and sweat.
You’ll want clothing that dries out quickly when it gets damp, so lightweight materials are key. North Face has some great lightweight shirts and pants that are light and airy, ensuring that you won’t be bogged down by heat and humidity.
5. Climbing Clothing for Sunny and Tropical Destinations
When climbing in tropical areas, areas you will once again want to focus on breathability when it comes to selecting attire and clothing. What you wear for indoor rock climbing at an air-conditioned climbing gym VS what you wear outdoors in the heat can vary significantly.
Uneven Tan lines
Another aspect to take into consideration is finding a shirt that won’t give you strange annoying tan lines and marks. Normal spaghetti-strap tank tops instead of racerbacks will give you clean tan lines.
Alternatively, you can also opt for wearing a nice long sleeve top that protects you from the sun as well as sunburn. I have seen some friends wearing white or light coloured long sleeve ones from North Face that looks very good.
Water and Swim Ready
Additionally, due to the fact that your back is always facing the sun, halter tops are a great way to avoid an uneven tan. Consider finding two-in-one athletic swimwear that can double as climbing clothes on the wall and a bathing suit in the water!
Quick Dry is also a great feature to look out for as well, that can be useful to have. It can allow for tops to dry off the sweat or water fast even in humid conditions after it accumulates. This is a feature that you would not want in the next category I talk about.
6. Climbing Clothing for Cold Climate
When climbing in cold climates, the material of your climber clothing is some of the most important aspects you should consider to keep warm, focus and sane.
Down or Wind Resistant Jackets
Additionally, one of the most important things that a climber can buy is a good down jacket. On long belays in cold, windy conditions, you’ll be happy you have a down jacket keeping you cozy. Keep an eye out for coats with two-sided zippers, allowing you to zip up from the bottom of the coat. This will allow you to keep your jacket almost entirely closed, keeping you warm and insulated, even when you have a harness on.
7. Water Resistant and Waterproof climbing clothing
When climbing in inclement weather or places where rainfall is common, other then always doing prior weather checks, you’ll need the right outfits to keep you dry and not drenched and hence falling sick.
Storm and Monsoon Ready
Raincoats and waterproof pants will be your best friend when it comes to unexpected storms. Climbing spots like Long Dong in Taiwan or Krabi in Thailand have rainy seasons, so if you do want to go visit in these lower seasons where cost is lower and there are still dry days, come prepared.
A pro tip would be to pick climbing spots that are dry and sheltered from the rain, like caves or overhang climbing areas. Also, learn how to read the weather changes and start packing or moving when the weather starts to look menacing.
Gore-tex is a waterproof material that repels water while still allowing the water vapor to pass through, hence slightly breathable. It is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use.
Therefore, when you are not climbing indoors or at a sheltered area, you’ll want to look for clothing with GORE-TEX, and companies like The North Face and Adidas TERREX are great places to start when looking for waterproof climbing gear.
8. Climbing approach shoes
While this article focuses more on clothing, we are throwing a little bit here about footwear.
Believe it or not, your climbing shoes aren’t the only footwear that matters when it comes to climbing. Approach shoes are crucial, especially when you have a long or technical hike up to the crag. Companies that make good climbing shoes, like 5.10 and La Sportiva, also tend to make great approach shoes. You want to focus on comfort, grip, and stability when selecting this crucial piece of climbing gear for the great outdoors.
As you can see, finding the proper climbing clothes (and shoes) for outdoor and indoor use is crucial to a climber’s ability to focus on the climbs and perform well in all climates and conditions.
Having the right rock climbing gear, like rope and climbing shoes isn’t enough to help you perform at your best level, so picking out the proper clothing is key to ensuring your comfort and mobility while on the wall. Just like this article is organized, be sure to choose your climbing gear according to the type of weather conditions that you will be facing.