Climbing Fashion

Photo by Ralph Munn from

Photo by Ralph Munn from

First and foremost, the most important thing about what you wear when climbing is that you are comfortable, confident, and not thinking about what you are wearing. You want to be focused on the climb. Everyone has different things they are comfortable wearing, however, I’ve witnessed and experienced some problems that came from wearing the absolute wrong thing. Therefore, this article isn’t so much to pass judgment on crazy climbing attire, but rather to genuinely remind you of things to consider.

Let’s first talk about shorts:

Everyone has their own opinion on short shorts, and for the most part that is a personal choice. However, when rope climbing, shorts really aren’t the best idea. When you are climbing, the harness can be pretty annoying and even painful in shorts. When you are belaying, you may find your shorts disappear as the harness pulls them up. This could put you in an awkward situation. This isn’t just for girls either. I heard a story of a man who wore gym shorts his first time climbing, not knowing any better, and gave his belay partner a bit of a show when he was up higher.

In terms of bouldering, this doesn’t seem to be a big deal other than if you’re comfortable or not. My recommendation would be if it is really hot, try capris or long shorts that go to the knees or past.


Pants are fine, but you want to be careful how long they are. I was doing a climb one time and my feet kept slipping. I looked down and noticed it was the sweat pants I was wearing were too long and covering my toes so that instead of making contact with the rock, my foot was slipping on the pants material. There are pants that are cut shorter or tight at the bottom so they won’t get in your way.

Approach shoes:

Obviously you can wear whatever shoes you want going to the gym, however, going to the local crag might be a different story. I’ve had friends who suffered quite a bit from wearing flip flops to what turned out to be steep, tricky approaches. On the other hand, I’ve had friends who were not quite ready for the amount of snow that would be found either. You want to know your approach as best as possible ahead of time. If you don’t know, try to bring the most standard for all situations. If it is a hot day, look for lighter shoes like breathable sneakers, sanuks, or approach sandals instead of flip flops. If it is a cold day, look for a warm boot that is easy to take on and off. Your feet are important to take care of because they matter a lot in climbing. You also don’t want to be slipping and sliding on steep terrain with lots of weight on your back from climbing gear. Make sure you have something with good traction. Not all sneakers have this. I’ve had to search for a good quality sneaker. If you can afford approach shoes or find a reasonably priced pair, even better.

Socks and climbing shoes:

A lot of beginners wear socks with their climbing shoes. It makes sense because gym shoes often don’t fit quite right and wearing used shoes can be gross. At some point, when you are in your own pair and committed to the sport, you should lose the socks. The reason is not the fashion statement they make but the fact that the contact your feet make with the rock is important. You need you toe to really be able to toe in or edge and a comfy thick pair of socks can get in the way of that.

Dressing for the weather of the climbing area:

While we are the outdoor climbing topic, make sure you are prepared for the weather of your climbing area, not what it feels like outside your door (unless they are the same). One time climbing in Colorado, it was over a hundred degrees in Denver. It was hot and the logically response would have been to wear tank tops and capris. The thing is we went climbing in Idaho Springs, which is up in the mountains and drops in temperatures fast. It was only about thirty degrees up there and we needed jackets and pants. Not all climbing trips will be this big of a difference, but there is always potential. Make sure you have what you need to keep warm or stay cool for whatever the weather of the area throws at you.

Get creative, instead of skimpy

For all those girly girls who think it’s hard to look stylish at the crag. There are definitely some great ways to look cute without resorting to uncomfortably or overly revealing tactics. There has been some debate in the past about climbing girls wearing ridiculous things to look girly like bikinis when they are in the woods or skirts. While I haven’t personally seen much of this, it is wore saying that there is a different way. If you are a girl who is confident in your skin and genuinely feels great wearing less, then I guess go for it. However, for those who want to impress here are some other ideas to try. We had a chance to talk with Meagan Martin at the Heist competition and she said there are lots of easy and cute ways she finds to incorporate fashion in her climbing wardrobe. You might see with her with a pretty hair accessory such as a flower for instance or a nice braid. There are also a lot of really cute gym clothes for girls these days.

Try to find girly gym clothes such as patterned yoga clothes, girl colors, cute capris, etc. Find a stylish chalk bag. There are hundreds of chalk bag options. Find hair accessories, ribbons, or other safe accessories. With a little creativity, you could easily be the most stylish at the crag while being comfortable and able to show off the really impressive part-your climbing.

Never compromise safety for looking good:

Some people hate wearing helmets for numerous reasons. I can understand that. However, looking good shouldn’t be the reason. Climbing can be dangerous and it is important that we keep ourselves safe. When deciding what climbing gear to use, the priority should always be if you need it and if it is the safest. There are lots of nice colors, cool patterns, etc. You can get a stylish rope and a brightly colored harness as long as they are, first and foremost, doing their job. If you are in an area prone to falling rock, known for being dangerous, or you might fall and hit your head on the ledge, wear the helmet! You’ll always look much cooler alive and intact.

Looking good, doesn’t make you climb good:

It can be fun to talk about fashion and as mentioned above in some ways how you dress does matter. There is practicality in it, usefulness, and feeling confident. At the end of the day, there are much more important things. Wearing a beanie and ripping off your shirt as a male won’t make you boulder a couple grades harder. Wearing cute capris and a pink sports bra, won’t make you climb like Sasha Digiulian. Fashion has it’s place but you want to wear what helps you succeed. You want to be comfortable, able to move, and able to focus. Your climbing technique and skill will impress much more than what you’re wearing.


2 thoughts on “Climbing Fashion

  1. I’m comfortable in sweatpants with elastic cuffs on the legs, or long shorts.And lets face it, it’s hard to look stylish when your harness is trying to eat you.
    A long or short sleeve t-shirt, depending on temp and a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
    And if I’m wearing my glasses, some kind of line to keep them from falling.

    Also, I have a great colorful pattern on my chalk bag. Just because.

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