One of the most common questions for new climbers is, “What should I wear for rock climbing?” Unlike team sports, where you are accustomed to wearing a specific uniform, or sports like swimming, where the outfit is non-negotiable unless you want a soggy t-shift and wet denim plastered to your legs, rock climbing has no clothing requirement. Some climbers even prefer to climb in jeans, although some might think they’re crazy. So, while there is no optimal outfit for climbing, we’ve compiled some tips for dressing to facilitate a more comfortable and enjoyable climbing experience.

male climber climbing a wall

What to Wear for Rock Climbing

Opt for Comfy

Suggestion number one, and the most important suggestion, is that you always want to feel comfortable. Don’t let uncomfortable clothes take away from an enjoyable climbing experience. While we don’t suggest showing up to the climbing gym or crag in your pajamas and slippers, pick clothes, you won’t have to readjust or cause discomfort mid-climb. No one wants to botch the send because of an outfit mishap. Additionally, if you’re climbing on ropes, you may be up off the ground for five-plus minutes, so you don’t want to feel uncomfortable 25 feet in the air – at that point, you have more pressing things to focus on (aka getting to the top of the wall/climb)!

Opt for Stretchy, not Stiff

Wear something that allows you the full range of mobility in both arms, shoulders, hips, and legs. You never know what position you might end up in on a climb, so the less restricted you feel, the easier the climb may feel!

female climber in tank top climbing the wall

Let’s return to that point about climbing in jeans. Yes, people have found jeans that allow adequate mobility. Some climbing-specific clothing companies have even created their lines of stretchy jeans. However, for some people, jeans are a no-go due to a lack of comfort or simply because they dislike wearing jeans to work out. Therefore, we won’t recommend climbing in jeans, but it’s an option if it floats your boat.

Layer Up

This suggestion is likely more suitable for climbers looking to climb outdoors. However, climbing gyms can vary in temperature too! Sweats are always a safe option, great for warmups, and easy to take off if you get hot!

If venturing outdoors, check the weather before leaving the house; when in doubt, layers, layers! Make sure to have a combination of thicker and thinner layers, so you cover all temperature possibilities. Taking layers off or throwing an extra sweatshirt in your climbing bag is always easier. No one wants to be an icicle and try to climb with frozen fingers; trust us on that one – it sucks.

Shorts are great, but beware of scrapes

In warmer months, or if your indoor climbing gym gets hot, climbing in shorts is a smart option. If you tend to boulder, beware that your knees will likely take a beating. The texture on indoor climbing walls and outdoor rock is unkind to exposed skin. But, when the unexplainable bruises and cuts show up the day after climbing in shorts, wear them proudly as they indicate you tried hard and had fun.

Opt for Fitted bottoms

While suggestion four is mainly for boulderers, suggestion five is for sport and top-rope climbers. When climbing ropes, the more fitted the pants/bottoms, the easier it is to get your harness on and off. Wear a harness with baggy sweatpants; maneuvering the waist and leg loops over the baggy material will take longer.

Wear what you have at home

Climbing is already more expensive in terms of sports, so there’s no need to spend money on new clothes to go climbing. While climbing-specific clothing brands do exist, they can be pricey. Any athletic clothes work fine, so feel free to shop your closet and wear what you already own.

If you can’t tell by now, the optimal climbing outfit doesn’t exist. Everyone has personal preferences and different wardrobes; thus, climbing outfits is possible indefinitely. Don’t worry about choosing an “optimal” outfit. Instead, do you, and we promise you will have a fantastic time climbing.

These tips will help you feel confident about what to wear on your climbing excursion. Let us know in the comments below if these suggestions helped you, or let us know your go-to climbing fit!