What Should You Wear to go Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a physical activity you should try at least once in your life. It is as enjoyable as it is healthy! And like every activity, looking your best won’t hurt.

Whether you’re a rock-climbing veteran looking for ideas or a newbie looking to start a new hobby, read on to know what to wear for rock climbing.
Things to know

You can perform rock climbing both indoors and outdoors. Deciding what to wear when rock climbing indoors may vary from what to wear outdoors. It will depend on the climbing surface, the weather, and the location, among others.

Remember, as fun as it is, rock climbing is still a physical activity — and a strenuous one at that. So you should wear clothes that will make you feel comfortable and protected.

Generally, you want clothes that would be the following:

  • Comfortable
  • Allows you to move freely
  • Breathable and lightweight

You should also know that clothes made specifically for rock climbing are generally more expensive than your usual workout clothes due to the materials used.

What to Wear for Indoor Rock Climbing

Tops to Wear When Rock Climbing Indoors

You’ll find that if you already have gym clothes, you’re probably good to go. Although loose and baggy clothes are comfortable, they will get stuck in the most inconvenient places. We recommend climbing with a nice-fitting, normal-sized t-shirt.

The fabric should ideally be insulated adequately and allow free movement depending on the weather and the temperature. For example, cotton is excellent in warm to hot places because it absorbs a lot of sweat.

The evaporation of your sweat allows it to ventilate well and cool you down. However, cotton will not be ideal for colder weather due to how much it absorbs sweat and how slowly it dries.

If it is your first time, you may want to wear long sleeves to protect yourself from scratches and bruises.

Bottoms to Wear When Rock Climbing Indoors

For pants, the general rule still applies — wear something comfortable, non-restrictive, and lightweight. Due to this, shorts and yoga pants are popular choices. However, there are pants specially made for rock climbing, so you might want to give those a try.

Climbing pants are usually a bit baggier than your usual jeans. They also have a broader crotch space and are generally made of resistant and rollable material.

While there are climbing pants, you can wear jeans while rock climbing. Just make sure that it still fits the general rule we’ve mentioned above.

Try looking for jeans that have elastane or spandex components. Jeans also give you the added benefit of having something casual to wear when you’re no longer climbing!

Also, try to experiment with length. You don’t want any of your clothes, top or bottom, to be stuck in harnesses and other devices. Shorts should not be too short for comfort. Most climbers prefer the length to be just above their knees.

The pants should also allow you to be able to see your own feet. Seeing your feet will help you stabilize yourself more since most of the effort in rock climbing is placed on your feet!

What Shoes Should You Wear for Indoor Rock Climbing

Now that we’ve mentioned feet, shoes are something you should not skimp on when rock climbing. Yes, you can wear your sneakers while rock climbing, especially if you are rock climbing indoors. But know that rock climbing shoes have rubber soles that will help you cling on for dear life much better.

Most indoor rock climbing places will have rock climbing shoes available for rent. You might want to try them the first time to check out if they are comfortable enough for you, as they are made to be tight.

Also, you have to deal with the fact that many people have worn and sweated on rock climbing shoes. You can maybe decide to wear socks or choose to buy a pair for yourself.

What to Wear for Outdoor Rock Climbing

The same general rule applies for what to wear when outdoor rock climbing — comfort, freedom of movement, breathability, and lightweight.

An additional characteristic you might want to consider, though, is protection. Unlike in indoor gyms, where you are relatively safer, and the controlled environment has regulated temperatures, you will be exposed to the elements outdoors. There is also a lot of unpredictability with the climbing surface.

If you want to plan what to wear when rock climbing outside, make sure to check the weather beforehand to know what kind of temperatures you will be dealing with.

Also, research on the potential surface, will it be smoothed or cracked, etc. If the weather is too inclement, it is best to be wise and reschedule the climb to another day.

Tops to Wear When Rock Climbing Outdoors

In warmer, fairer weather, you can opt for any comfortable t-shirt or tank-top. Some men also frequently climb shirtless!

Lightweight, synthetic clothing is great as it will usually give you the most ventilation and dry faster. While it may seem inconsequential, light-colored clothes reflect light and heat more than dark-colored ones.

In cool weather, layering up is critical. Bring clothes that will provide insulation and protection from unpredictable weather like rain, snow, and winds. It is best to start with a base that quickly wicks moisture away from the body when layering. Look for clothes made of nylon or any other synthetic fiber.

Next, for the middle layer, wear a warm and insulating top. These are usually made of fabrics such as wool and fleece.

Finally, wear an outer layer that will protect you from the elements. Ideally, these should be made of water-resistant materials. Be careful not to layer too many clothes since this can restrict your movement.

Avoid cotton fabrics since, as mentioned, cotton dries slower and will therefore suck the warmth from your body. You might suffer from hypothermia.

Bottoms to Wear When Rock Climbing Outdoors

Like the tops, it will depend on the weather. For warmer weather, go for comfortable and breathable fabrics such as nylon and spandex. Spandex is also a very stretchy fabric, so this will help give you maximum freedom of movement. Try to find pants that you can roll up once the need arises.

For cold weather, look for pants with fleece lining on the inside, and have water-repelling properties. You will also want to shy away from cotton fabrics. Nylon and polyester blends work best in colder temperatures.

One thing to consider for outdoor rock climbing pants would be the number of pockets and other functions they can serve. Some pants have a built-in chalk powder bag, for example.

What Shoes Should you Wear for Outdoor Rock Climbing

Since climbing outdoors is more unpredictable, we recommend using climbing shoes that will allow you to grip easier on the climbing surface.

The safest climbing shoes are those that have a rubber outer and a downturned shape. We do not recommend using plain sneakers unless you are already an expert.

The downside of dedicated climbing shoes is that they might be uncomfortable when used for long periods. Try to find shoes that you feel both safe and comfortable wearing.