A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Clothes for Rock Climbing

Christine Steuber
Sep 1, 2022
Excited to conquer mountains but don't know what to wear to rock climbing? Check out my guide with outfit recommendations.

Are you planning to conquer the mountains for the first time but don’t know what to wear to rock climbing?

Don’t worry; in this article, I will go through all the wardrobe recommendations for this activity so that you can be safe and enjoy the freedom of mobility.

Whether you’re interested in an outdoor or indoor setting, I’ll cover all the necessary things you have to know and show you some great outfits.

Without further ado, let’s kick it off!

Things to Pay Attention to Regarding Clothes for Rock Climbing

Before discussing the appropriate clothing items to wear for this adventure, we need to go over the factors you should consider when choosing what to dress for rock climbing.

Durability – rock climbing involves risk as you will be close to sharp rocks. That’s why your attire should be durable to support your hardcore exercise.

Comfort – always opt for clothes that will make you feel comfortable. Avoid clothes that you have to constantly adjust because it will shake your focus and spoil the experience.

Breathability – this exercise will make you sweat a lot. Therefore, whatever you wear to rock climbing should be breathable and lightweight so that sweat and excessive heat do not disturb you.

Mobility – you need complete flexibility of your limbs to access the far-reaching handholds and rocks. For that reason, choose the clothes that will enable easy movements.

Fit – choose clothes that follow your body line. Don’t go for baggy clothes as they can tangle with the rope and restrict your movements. 

These are the factors you should remember while picking out attire to wear for both outdoor and indoor rock climbing. Now, let’s discuss the actual clothing items. 

Clothing Items to Wear to Rock Climbing

Time to unveil the star of the show! The following sections will explain what you should pick for an enjoyable rock climbing experience.

Plus, I’ll share some clothes you should avoid at all costs. So check out the below graph that outlines the dos and don’ts of what to wear to rock climbing:

What to Wear to Rock Climbing - Dos and Donts - Firstforhers

Let’s move on to our first clothing item!

1) Pants and shorts

Starting from the bottom, we’ll discuss pants and shorts first. Both options are good choices, but there are some things you have to consider when choosing. 

Let’s first start with pants.

If you are wondering, “should I wear jeans during rock climbing?” The answer is – yes! You definitely can, but only if they are non-restrictive and flexible. Lycra fabric would be a great choice for your climbing jeans. This type will offer maximum stretch to enable big splits while shielding your legs. 

Here’s one great model:

Boulder Denim jeans to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Boulder Denim

Deep pockets, water resistance, and memory-shape denim material are additional perks suitable for rock climbing.

When it comes to shorts, also focus on comfort first. You can choose standard nomad shorts that are ideal for rock climbing, mountaineering, and hiking. Check them out:

Amazon standard nomad shorts to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Amazon

These shorts embody all the characteristics you need – comfort and durability. The long-lasting, water-resistant finishing absorbs sweat and protects you from external influences.

On the other hand, if you prefer shorter shorts with a more sporty look, you can opt for something like this:

Kibuba sports shorts to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Kibuba

These shorts are very light and made of breathable cotton. Unlike the pants above, they don’t have a button but elastic around the waist, which is an even more comfortable option.

2) Leggings

If shorts and pants aren’t your cup of tea, how about choosing leggings to wear to rock climbing? A decent pair will shield your legs while feeling sufficiently light to move around. 

Let’s see an example.

Back country leggings to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Back Country

These leggings are made to survive all the outdoor challenges. Due to the reinforcement around the knees, rough terrains are no problem for this fantastic piece of clothing.

Besides, their softshell fabric is both wind and water-resistant, which comes in handy in unexpected rain. With UV protection of 50+, the sun won’t heat your bottom. 

Finally, avoid cotton leggings because sweat marks can be visible, and they can easily tear.

3) Tops

Crop tops, sports bras, and T-shirts are the most common choices among female climbers. But if you want the ultimate protection against the heavy backpack and sunlight, you can also choose a long-sleeved piece with UV protection.

I’ve shared two different options for tops, so let’s take a look.

Prana blue top to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Prana

This top contains recycled and lightweight nylon, which makes it an ideal pick for rock climbing. Don’t worry about sweating, as the fabric is also moisture-wicking. Are you climbing outdoors? No problem – the UPF 50+ has got you covered.

One tip: always pair a crop top with high-waisted pants to maximize coverage and protection of the skin on the back and stomach.

Let’s see another top option:

Prana long-sleeved top to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Prana

If you are not a fan of sporty and short tops, a long-sleeved one is an option. Make sure it’s made of cotton so your skin can breathe.

Wondering how tight or loose this top should be? The example above shows the ideal fit. 

So, if you’re climbing on slightly cooler days or want to completely protect your skin from sunburn, this will be a great top to include in your rock climbing attire.

One extra tip: if you plan to wear this type of top during indoor climbing, consider putting on a waist trainer underneath to speed up fat melting.

4) Shoes 

Once you enter the world of rock climbing, you’ll understand how important climbing shoes are

They are specifically made for rocks and challenging outdoor terrain. Make sure the shoes are snug but not too tight. Look for shoes that offer good support for your ankles and feet. This will help prevent injuries while climbing.
Let me now show you a great pair of climbing shoes:

Amazon rock climbing shoes to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Amazon

Whether you’re planning outdoor or indoor climbing, these shoes’ resilient and breathable material will perfectly adapt to your feet. Plus, a heel cup offers a comfy yet secure fit. 

In addition, the sneakers have to be flexible so that you can take different positions while climbing.

5) Socks 

Although many people don’t even think about them as a part of climbing gear, socks are very important to consider when rock climbing. A good pair boosts your shoes’ comfort and prevents blisters. 

Here’s how to pick great climbing socks:

  • They should be thin so that you can feel your toes as much as possible. 
  • Loose socks are mortal enemies, so make sure they are tight. 
  • They need to be sweat-resistant. 

If you want to follow my recommendation, check out these socks:

Amazon socks to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Amazon

These eco-friendly socks are a perfect option for climbers as they are affordable and prevent unwanted blisters. Wearing these socks will ensure an enjoyable climbing session due to sufficient cushioning, comfort, and a seamless toe.

6) Gloves 

When it comes to equipment and clothes to wear to rock climbing, don’t forget to put on gloves as they will protect your hands. 

First, ensure they’re not too loose because your hands won’t be stable inside. However, they shouldn’t be too tight to restrict blood flow or cause discomfort. Instead, choose gloves made from moisture-absorbent material that helps keep your hands cool and dry while climbing.

I advise you to invest in superior gloves from the first experience. And to choose excellent gloves, look out for top-rated durability and dexterity. 

Still confused? Here are the good ones:

Back Country rock climbing gloves
Credit: Back Country

Did someone say unbeatable dexterity, breathability, and affordability? This is what these half-finger gloves are all about. 

There are two separate loops for clipping onto carabineers. Thanks to all qualities mentioned above, these gloves are an excellent choice for hands protection and safe climbing.

7) Coats 

If you decide to climb in winter, it’s impossible to start this adventure without a solid coat. But how to choose one that is warm, soft, and does not restrict movements?

The ability to hold in heat, size, and pockets are the main factors to consider while searching for a climbing coat. 

Here’s a stellar example:

Rei coat to wear to rock climbing
Credit: Rei

This jacket boasts sufficient insulation for any outdoor activity but is also lightweight for routine wear. The recycled nylon shell fabric is treated with a resilient water-repellent finishing, which protects you from wind, snow, and rain while climbing. 

8) Helmets 

Helmets are crucial to wear to rock climbing, as they’re basically your safety gear. But how to choose a high-quality one? Well, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Durability
  • Value for money
  • Headlamp attachment
  • Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Weight
  • Adjustability 

Again, most of these factors depend on your particular climbing area and style. So, choose wisely and consult with an expert before purchasing. 

To help you decide, I have chosen this helmet as a great example:

Back Country rock climbing helmet
Credit: Back Country

As you can see, this helmet is easily adjustable, with enough ventilation. It is also lightweight, so you won’t feel almost anything on your head. 

You can easily adjust it by moving the plastic slider. It is also an excellent option for summer climbing due to its many ventilation holes.

What to Wear to Indoor Rock Climbing?

Dressing for indoor rock climbing does not demand a strict dress code, which is why it’s so fun. This is one of the many advantages of climbing indoors, along with the fact that you won’t have to worry about weather conditions.

However, when it comes to picking the right clothes for indoor climbing, there are a few things to consider:

  • Choose leggings, yoga pants, or shorts to move freely on the wall.
  • Always choose breathable, lightweight, and flexible clothes.
  • Wear appropriate shoes.
  • If your goal is weight loss, consider including a waist trainer underneath your tops.

And to inspire you with some cool and comfortable outfits, I found some influencers who know how to look fantastic during the climbing:

@stefaniemyr indoor rock climbing outfit
Credit: Instagram

Stefanie wears pants that hit the right balance between skin-tight and baggy, which makes them so comfy. And on the top, we have a crisscross sports bra which is a perfect choice for moving up the wall. 

And if you prefer shorts, you’ll like this indoor rock climbing attire:

@maya_mayeta outfit to wear to indoor rock climbing
Credit: Instagram

Maya has chosen shorts from lightweight fabric and paired them with a sleeveless upper top. This fancy and comfy outfit has everything to boost the confidence you need to hit those boulders. 

List of Clothes to Wear to Outdoor Rock Climbing

And what should you wear to rock climbing in the wild, untamed outdoors? Things get tricky here, but I’ve got your back!

Your ideal outfit to wear to a hike and climb depends on the particular weather and the region. But assuming you’re climbing in summer or spring, you should always opt for:

  • Cotton fabric
  • Light and airy T-shirts
  • Comfortable and stretchy pants
  • Moisture-wicking socks
  • Appropriate climbing shoes

A few paragraphs earlier, we saw how Maya dressed for indoor climbing, and now let’s see what clothes she chose for outdoor adventure.

@maya_mayeta outfit to wear to outdoor rock climbing
Credit: Instagram

The lightweight leggings and a sleeveless top in the blue shade look very chic and allow her to move smoothly. We can also see that she is wearing the appropriate shoes that give her support on uneven surfaces.

And again, I have prepared an outfit inspo for all fans of shorts, so take a look:

@maanguito outfit to wear to outdoor rock climbing
Credit: Instagram

A professional climber, Mango, knows that shorts and a sports bra are a timeless combo. The entire outfit adheres to the body, which enables unhindered climbing, sufficient breathability, and minimal sweating. 

However, if you decide on such combinations, do not forget to apply sunscreen to all body parts directly exposed to the sun.

Best Things to Wear to Your First Rock Climbing Session

If you’re here after hearing how addictive rock climbing is, it’s time to discover more about what your first rock climbing outfit should look like. This brings us to a new section where I’ll spill the beans about everything beginners like you are curious about.

Let’s get started.

Is rock climbing hard for beginners?

Many beginners are afraid of what to expect from this strenuous activity, so I want to prove your worries irrelevant by sharing quotes from professional rock climbers. 

For instance, the blog Climb the Earth is run by Martin, an experienced climber and hiker for many years. Here are some of his best tips:

  • Don’t rush anything.
  • Don’t dwell on your mistakes.
  • Take inspiration from expert climbers.
  • Employ your arms and feet all the time.
  • Always invest in superior products from esteemed brands. 

Another source that I want to introduce you to is Women’s Wilderness. It’s an NGO established in 1998 that provides direct outdoor experiences. According to this renowned institution, here are the three methods to work your way around rock climbing as a beginner:

  • Initiate with bouldering in a gym.
  • Build full body strength.
  • After shifting from bouldering to top-roping, think about including a partner. You should belay with someone trustworthy with whom you share the same knowledge and risk tolerance. 

I hope you have gained insight after reading these tips from professional players in the field. 

Best advice from professionals

If you want to hear advice regarding the first outfit for climbing from professionals, this section is for you. Ahead, I have shared credible sources to help you decide what to wear on your first day of climbing. 

This helpful video by Howcast reveals that pants or leggings are the most comfortable during climbing as they give extra coverage and padding when you have to do high steps:

Secondly, this insightful blog lays down these two important tips:

  • Don’t wear any make-up and jewelry. 
  • Don’t forget sun protection – sunscreen and sunglasses. 

That’s it! You’re almost completely ready to rock the rocks, right?

Helpful tips from Reddit

Reddit is a powerful platform where many like-minded groups share similar interests, including rock climbing. So, to collect more information for all my beginners, I searched for the best outfit ideas to wear to rock climbing for the first time.

And luckily, users spilled some valuable ideas – let’s check them out:

What to wear rock climbing - Reddit review
Credit: Reddit

This user advises you to wear what you feel comfortable in but to avoid mesh shorts, which are generally too baggy and can pose a challenge and problem during climbing with a rope.

Let’s see what other users say:

What to wear to rock climbing - Reddit review
Credit: Reddit

As we can see, the first user wears old soccer shorts and a T-shirt during the summer. I singled out this tip because it also contains an idea of what to wear in winter. The climber suggests pants and merino wool sweaters as a perfect choice.

Keeping up with the trend of old is gold, the second user prefers old T-shirts and combats. It seems like shorts and T-shirts are cult favorites among many climbers.

What to Wear to a Rock Climbing Date?

Got a date at the climbing gym? For people who’re tired of classic restaurant dates, rock climbing is a great activity. This exercise is both sporty and social, where you can enjoy an intimate one-on-one convo. 

If you are looking for a bouldering attire that will impress your future partner, consider scrubbing up with something tighter and more attractive. 

Again, I found some Instagram outfit ideas to inspire you:

@anne.climbs outfit to wear to a rock climbing date
Credit: Instagram

This well-fitting activewear will never make any woman feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. In the picture above, we can see a climber named Anne wearing yoga pants and a body-hugging tank top in black color, which makes her look seductive and sporty at the same time.

And if you want to reveal a little more, think about a sports top and leggings combo.

Let’s see how Anne rocks this style:

@anne.climbs outfit to wear to a rock climbing date
Credit: Instagram

This bouldering outfit is actually a fancy pilates set, and it talks about classy! So, to cast a solid first impression, blindly trust sporty matching sets. 

And if you want to go outdoor rock climbing on your first date, you can also wear outfits like this. Possibly bring a jacket to layer up if it gets cold.

Over to You 

This brings us to the end of a comprehensive guide about rock climbing outfits. Just follow my recommendations, and you’ll fit right in! 

To sum up, here are the main tips to remember:

  • Durability, comfort, breathability, and a balanced fit are the primary factors to consider when choosing rock climbing attire.
  • Avoid dangling straps and heavy fabrics.
  • Don’t wear make-up and jewelry.
  • Always wear quality rock climbing shoes.

If you’re eager to learn more juicy stuff on fitness and fashion, I have real gems hidden on my blog! Make sure to check them out. 

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