Finding the Best Rock Climbing Pants for You
As a rock climber, you need pants to keep yourself protected without hindering your ability to move. This crucial piece of gear can make or break your day at the crag, so we’ve created this list of the Top 8 Climbing Pants for Men and Women. Just because El Cap has been climbed naked doesn’t mean we should start baring all on the boulders or letting it all hang out on our project lines.
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What makes a pair of rock climbing pants send-worthy?
There are a LOT of rock climbing pants out there to choose from. There are even more pairs of pants that work for rock climbing but aren’t necessarily “rock climbing pants.” So, how do we decide which ones are truly going to allow us to move like a climber possessed (which is to say, like Adam Ondra)?
A few key factors we look for in ALL rock climbing pants include:
- Stretch: This one should be obvious, because climbers can’t have their movement inhibited by a non-stretchy fabric.
- Mobility-focused design: Aside from just stretchy fabric, the cut of the pant itself needs to be geared to allow the weird and wacky movement patterns climbers perform. The two biggest mobility functions are a gusseted crotch (which allows for greater hip mobility) and articulated knees (which allow for maximum leg bend with no pinching or binding in the fabric).
- Breathability: Climbing may not be as high-output as day, mountain running, or skinning up a mountain, but it’s still pretty strenuous and we dirtbags can be a sweaty bunch. Breathable fabric both increases climber comfort and keeps the body’s temperature better regulated for a more optimal physical performance.
- Durability: Climbers put their clothes through hell. Between jamming our knees in tight cracks and tumbling off crash pads onto our bums, our pants need to be able to hold up to harsh treatment. It’s not like the average dirtbag can afford to replace them every climbing trip!
Extra V-points if they have cuff cinches. No climber wants to blow the flash because their pants got in the way of seeing a crucial foothold.
Then there are more specific specs that lead us to pants great for particular occasions. You’ll notice we’ve designated each of the pants in the list below as “best for” a certain occasion. These pants have extra features that make them particularly suited to climbing in certain conditions.
BEST ROCK CLIMBING PANTS FOR MEN
Best All-Around Rock Climbing Pants: prAna Stretch Zion Pant
Absolutely no one is going to be surprised to see this name on the list. The prAna Stretch Zion Pant consistently finds itself among best-of-the-best lists, and if you’ve ever donned a pair of these bad boys, you’ll know why.
It all boils down to prAna’s perfect Stretch Zion softshell fabric (which is featured in a few other prAna pieces, like the women’s Halle Pant featured below). This DWR coated midweight softshell climbing pant provides excellent stretch and durability while feeling soft to the touch. Additional features include roll-up snap cuffs for quick adjusting and a waist-tightening cinch that actually stays tight. Its gusseted crotch promises that the pants will never be the reason you can’t nail that over-the-head high heel hook.
Because the Stretch Zion Pant looks sleek and simple, with no bulky leg pockets or obviously outdoorsy features, you could very well sneak in an early morning gym sesh, then head to the office without changing… just make sure you brush the chalk off!
Best Casual Rock Climbing Pants: Kuhl Radikl Klassic Pant
Designed to feel somewhere between a sweatpant and a technical outdoor pant, Kuhl’s Radikl Pant delivers all-day comfort without compromising on performance. The Radikl is constructed with Kuhl’s patented stretch-knit Enduro fabric, a cotton/nylon/spandex blend that optimizes stretch, durability, and breathability. With a little more heft and warmth than some, these are excellent fringe season climbing pants.
The crotch is not only gusseted for movement, but features a lighter fabric for cooling where you tend to get extra sweaty. And while the waistband doesn’t feature any sort of integrated belt or adjustment, it’s sturdy and stretch-resistant to keep your pants up, even when under tension from a harness.
Finally, since Kuhl specializes in non-flashy, earthy designs, these pants are versatile for casual around-town wear. The different thread color, however, makes them stand out a little too much for professional settings, despite their classic design.
Best Bomber-Durable Rock Climbing Pants: Patagonia Gritstone Pant
Right down to each and every single Fair Trade stitch, the Patagonia Gritstone rock climbing pant is an excellent example of Patagonia’s quality. The organic cotton delivers comfort and durability, while the blended polyester and gusseted crotch ensure they won’t rip either from the rock or the way you move over it. For extra protection, Patagonia features a DWR finish for mild water repellency and reinforced knees so thick they can even double as a light knee pad (and who’s going to call your pants aid?!).
Named after the pants-destroying gritstone rock of the Peak District, Patagonia’s Gritstone Pant doesn’t call itself “burly” for nothing.
Best Crag-to-Office-to-Brewery Rock Climbing Pants: Mountain Hardwear AP Pant
According to Mountain Hardwear, the AP Pant is “designed to tackle bike commutes through the city, afternoon bouldering sessions, or impromptu post-work nachos with your coworkers.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The AP Pant is made of moderately thick and durable fabric that’s as stretchy as it is breathable. It also features super subtle reflective details for nighttime use, and roll-up snap cuffs to eliminate stepping on them. Between the classic silhouette and basic color schemes, these dapper pants are suitable for wear at the office, as well. Alternatively, if you’re looking for rock climbing pants that look a bit more fun than finance, just opt for one of the eye-catching bicolor designs with a colorful block inset around the mid-leg.
Best Cold Weather Rock Climbing Pants: Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Fleece-Lined Pant
The most unfortunate thing about sending temps is that they’re the ones we’re generally pretty miserable just existing in. That’s where the Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Pant comes into play. With an incredibly soft and warm fleece lining and lightly water-resistant heavyweight softshell exterior, they provide maximum protection from the elements. Despite the dual layers of fabric, the gusseted crotch and articulated knees allow for much more mobility than should be possible, given the warmth.
If you’re either into ice and alpine climbing or determined to send V14 when the temps are right (read as: miserable), the Yumalino Pant should be a staple in your wardrobe.
Best Featherweight Rock Climbing Pant: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant
Made from unbeatable light and insanely stretchy softshell fabric, the Ferrosi pant is really the next best thing to being naked.
This rip resistant, fast-drying softshell is unlike anything else on the market. The Ferrosi is designed to really MOVE with the climber, darn right seamlessly, in fact. Not that the stretch fabric needs the help, but it also features articulated knees and cuff drawcords for extra ease of movement. For how light it feels, the Ferrosi pant also delivers surprising water protection from light drizzles and a bit of wind-blocking power for breezier belays.
Best Hot Weather Rock Climbing Pants: Patagonia Hampi Rock Pant
On the other end of the weather spectrum, the Patagonia Hampi Rock Pant caters to the desert rats and Creek Freaks that find themselves sweating up sandstone slabs in 100º+ heat.
The secret lies in the airy and eco-friendly blend of hemp and recycled polyester. Hemp is not only a super sustainable fabric, but it’s also ideal for activewear because it’s stretchy, UV-protective, and odor-resistant. Plus, it has three times the tensile strength of cotton, so not even the gnarliest of off-widths will rip it easily. All that combined with the moisture-wicking power of polyester and you have the perfect pant to keep you cool. They also feature a loose baggy leg design, crotch gusset, and OppoSet low-bulk waist designed for comfortable pairing with a harness.
Best Jeans for Rock Climbing: Black Diamond Forged Denim Pant
We all know that person who, for some inexplicable reason, refuses to climb in anything but blue jeans. If that person is you, the Black Diamond Forged Denim Pant is here to finally satisfy those inner trad dad cravings without hindering movement. By weaving traditional cotton denim with Cordura fiber, BD has imbued already durable jeans with unmatched rip resistance and stretch.
And with a harness-compatible low-profile waist closure and integrated brush pocket, these truly are “the next step in climbing denim’s evolution.”
BEST ROCK CLIMBING PANTS FOR WOMEN
Best Business Casual to Crag Pants: prAna Halle Pant
The women’s version of prAna’s most popular pants, the Halle Pant features the same Stretch Zion fabric of its namesake, just sewn in a flatteringly feminine flare-legged design. A black pair could easily pass for the most comfortable business slacks you’ve ever worn. And since its essentially wrinkle-proof, you’ll be able to continue the tradition of not owning a clothes iron.
For climbing purposes, the cuffs convert easily into capris via a simple snap. And thanks to the unbeatable stretchy fabric and articulated design, the snug-fitting butt and thighs don’t hinder mobility in the slightest. Even though the fabric moves and stretches as you do, it won’t stretch out, meaning you won’t suffer from saggy butt syndrome in all your sick photos from a day out cragging.
Best All-Around Rock Climbing Pants: Patagonia RPS Rock Pants
Patagonia’s RPS Rock Pant is just as sendy as it is sustainable. Aside from being sewn in Fair Trade certified factories, its largely recycled nylon synthetic blend reduces how much plastic waste is in the world. It also coincidentally reduces the number of times you’ll fall because your pants pinched you.
Light and breathable with just a touch of water repellency, the RPS Rock Pants are designed for optimal comfort under a harness with an OppoSet low bulk waist and integrated belt to adjust the tightness as needed…like after you devour a whole pizza post-climbing. Beyond all that, the tapered leg design is slimming but not baggy, making them great to wear in just about any setting.
Best Rock Climbing Leggings: Kuhl Weekendr Tights
If tight-fitting leggings are your more your (hand) jam, the Kuhl Weekendr Tight will make you wonder why you ever put on a different pair of pants. They’re incredibly comfortable, both because of the wide waistband and fitted fabric that hugs your butt and thighs rather than squeezing the life out of them.
They’re made of a revolutionary abrasion-resistant Tufflex synthetic fabric with Ripstop Air mesh insets around the knees for added mobility and breathability. Oh, AND they feature both a sun protective UPF 50+ rating and DWR finish for protection from wet conditions… can your other leggings do that?
Best Around-Town Rock Climbing Pants: Arc’teryx Serres Pant
Arc’teryx makes some pretty rad gear for rock climbers. The Serres Pant is no exception, and they look downright fashionable to boot. Wear these around town, to the gym, to the crag, to the bar, wherever!
But when it comes time to get serious (or should we say Serres-ious…) the Serres Pant has your butt, literally. This casual-looking active pant features top of the line technical features, such as 4-way stretch lightweight fabric, articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and a harness-friendly low-profile elastic waist.
Best Cold Weather Rock Climbing Pants: Mountain Hardwear Yumalina Fleece-Lined Pants
The female counterpart to the men’s Yumalino noted above, the Mountain Hardwear Yumalina Pant is designed to do one thing: keep you warm while in motion. Even women who are typically cold won’t be able to help but feel toasty in their microfleece lining. Despite that inner softness, they boast a tough softshell exterior that’s ready to handle rock, ice, and anything in between.
As for design, the loose fit legs and full-length gusset won’t hinder mobility as traditional winter layering can. The one thing negative thing to note is the extra flare of each cuff. It’s great for fitting over ski boots and mountaineering boots, but less great if you want full visibility of your feet. Regardless, the Yumalina is an excellent choice for all those who refuse to give up chasing rocks just because they’re covered with an ice rind.
Best Warm Weather Rock Climbing Pants: Patagonia Hampi Rock Pant
Patagonia’s Hampi Rock Pant takes the cake for summer sending. Whether you’re gearing up to climb some desert towers or just to climb in a gym that jacks the thermostat up a little too high, these are the next best thing to wearing a skirt (which we unfortunately haven’t been able to make work for climbing!).
They feature elastic cuffs along with a “barely-there” elastic waistband that works well under a harness. If only harnesses themselves were so comfortable! With a 55% hemp and 44% recycled polyester blend, these pants are comfortable, cool, and eco-friendly.
Best Crag Cozy Rock Climbing Pants: Outdoor Research Mystic Pant
Go from business casual to busting moves and crushing hard in the Outdoor Research Mystic Pants. These ultra-breathable, fast-drying pants are especially suited for warmer weather, where the absolute last thing you want is to hangdog in your own sweaty seat. With an added ActiveTemp fabric treatment, they provide extra thermoregulation during high-intensity activity. These also feature UPF 50+ sun protection and ankle cinches so you can always see your feet on the rock.
Perhaps the best feature is the ultra-wide elastic waistband. No buttons or snaps involved, just some seriously soft and stretchy fabric that stays up on the hips extraordinarily well. You’ll want to wear these pants all day every day, from kicking butt on the wall to kicking back with a brew.
Best Crag-to-Office-to-Brewery Rock Climbing Pants: Mountain Hardwear AP Pant
If you’re looking for a stylish pant that embodies practicality as much as it does technicality, the Mountain Hardwear AP Pant is it. These streamlined and slim-fitting pants are not only super flattering, but they pair with a wide variety of outfits, even away from the crag.
At the crag, watch fashion turn in to function as these cotton/nylon blend pants help you breeze effortlessly up the wall. The cotton keeps you cool while the nylon withstands whatever beating your legs take. The full-gusset design, articulated knees, and roll-up snap cuffs maximize your mobility.
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