7 Best Climbing Pants (2023 Expert Buying Guide)
Published on: 08/12/2023
Everyone knows you need climbing shoes, harnesses, and other technical gear to get up a rock wall (unless you’re a free soloist like Alex Honnold or Alain Robert, but that’s another endeavor entirely).
But beyond climbing gear, the clothes you wear on the wall will also play a role in your success, safety, and comfort. A good pair of climbing pants keeps you warm in cold weather, protects your legs from abrasion and sunburn, and provides storage space for small items, all while hindering mobility as little as possible.
Let’s learn more about the best climbing pants!
Except for the women’s specific model, the Patagonia Calizas, I’ve personally worn and tested every one of these pairs of climbing pants.
I have 15+ years of experience as a climber, I’ve climbed rock routes and summited mountains on five continents, and my work has appeared in most of the world’s leading climbing publications, including Rock and Ice, Climbing, Gym Climber, Gripped, Climax, Alpinist, Moja Gear, and Rock & Snow. I’ve also covered our sport for many mainstream publications, like Outside Online and NPR. You can find more of my work and learn about me on my website (1).
When you look up a list of the best climbing pants, you’ll often run into a ton of technical pants that bust the $150 mark, stuff that’s really designed primarily for alpine climbing or technical outings, or to draw in sucker gumbies who think they need to shell out $150 to $200 for climbing pants. As my friend Delaney Miller recently wrote (2), climbing fashion is pretty stupid.
I’ve tried to avoid that sort of thing on this list as much as possible because climbing is already expensive enough as it is. Most climbers reading this probably spend most of their days hitting the sport crag or knocking around at a boulderfield. If that’s you… then you DON’T need to spend $150+ on climbing pants. Most of the pants on this list are under $100.
And as you explore these pants, remember that “climbing” encompasses a vast array of activities and objectives. The best climbing pants for you will depend on various personal factors, including where you climb, what you climb, when you climb, and how hard you climb.
Consider that (and read customer reviews with that in mind) before you click “BUY.”
Our Selection of the Climbing Pants of 2023
- Men's & Women's
- 72% nylon, 20% polyester, 8% spandex
- 18.3 oz/518 g
- Men's & Women's
- 73% cotton, 25% polyester, 2% spandex
- 21 oz/595 g
- Women's Specific
- 93% cotton, 7% spandex, polyester (waistband)
- Organic fibers, recycled polyester, Fair Trade Certified
- 12 oz/340 g
- Men’s Specific
- 98% nylon, 2% elastane
- 95% recycled fibers, bluesign® approved
- 13.3 oz/377 g
- Men’s Specific
- 75% cotton, 23% polyester, 2% spandex
- Organically-grown fibers
- Men's and Women's
- 87% stretch-woven ripstop nylon, 14% spandex
- 46% recycled fabrics, bluesign® approved
- 10.7 oz/303 g
1. KUHL Klash: Best Overall Climbing Pants
The KUHL Klash is probably going to be the priciest pair of pants on this list, but they’re my favorite because they’re the most versatile climbing pants I own.
They perform well in almost any climbing scenario. They’re stretchy enough to let me project hard on boulders and while sport climbing, with articulated knees for high mobility. These pants are burly enough for trad climbing and multi-pitch, but they’re also light and loose enough for hiking and approaches and very breathable, with lots of integrated mesh.
They’re well-weatherproofed (I wore them while climbing Aconcagua (22,838 ft/6,961 m) earlier this year). The Klash’s have six zip pockets (two in the front, two rear pockets, and two zippered thigh pockets), making them great for securing valuables, like a phone, wallet, or GPS. Elastic drawstrings on the ankles also make it easy to cinch them up.
These high-quality pants are the top choice in my wardrobe for most climbing activities.
2. REI Co-op Trailsmiths: Best Budget Climbing Pants
You won’t find the Trailsmiths on anyone else’s list of the best climbing pants, but they certainly make mine, due to their unbeatable longevity and comfort. These are the most rugged, durable climbing pants I’ve ever owned, but they also may be the most durable pants I’ve owned, period.
I’ve had several pairs of Trailsmiths and put hundreds of miles on each, and I’ve only ever had to retire one pair (not because it wore out, but because it became soaked in bleach).
It’s safe to say I’m a big fan.
Weighing in at well over a pound, these won’t win any awards for weight, but the cotton is fairly breathable, and the blend with polyester and spandex offers enough stretch to keep these in the game where mobility is concerned. You won’t wear these on your next 5.14 burn, but I’ve worn them on hundreds of routes ranging from 5.4 ridge scrambles to 5.11 crack climbs.
The real boon is that these pants are very cheap, last forever, and are comfortable and sturdy enough for everyday wear. The fabric is burly, but the reinforced knees and thighs make them last even longer when put up against harsh rock faces.
If you’re on a budget, buy a pair of Trailsmiths and worry about the route, not your outfit!
3. Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants: Best Women’s Climbing Pants
Although climbing was once a male-dominated sport, in 2023 there are plenty of options if you’re searching for climbing pants for women. The Patagonia Calizas are among the best, both in terms of performance and sustainability.
Articulated to hug the female frame, the Caliza’s cotton/spandex blend breathes extraordinarily well and provides a four-way stretch. The seamless elastic waistband lies flat under a harness and the streamlined pockets (two front and rear pockets) offer a little storage without bulk or compromise to mobility.
The ankle cuffs are easily adjusted and secured with button snaps. At merely 12 oz, these pants are also extremely light and come in at a very reasonable price.
4. prAna Stretch Zion II: Best Bouldering Pants
Let me start this review off with a caveat. The prAna Stretch Zion was probably the first pair of rock climbing pants I ever owned (circa 2010-12), and it’s a well-known and longstanding model. These might be the most recognizable pair of “climbing”-specific pants on the market.
The Stretch Zions have never been the most breathable pants, but they’re light, fit well under a climbing harness, and are super-stretchy and mobile. They offer what is likely the best design for dynamic climbing movement, particularly outdoor bouldering and sport climbing.
The Zions also have several climbing-specific features, like roll-up snap pant legs, an integrated waist belt, and ventilated inseam gusseted crotch for a full range of movement. Mesh pockets, a zip thigh pocket and coin pocket to keep valuables safe, and heterogenous back pockets (one flapped, one flapless) add to the functionality. They even offer UPF 50+ sun protection and a DWR finish, and come in an alternative slim-fit model (3).
These prAna pants are perfect climbing pants for many scenarios but really shine as indoor climbing, single-pitch sport climbing, or bouldering pants, pants for an objective where you want to maximize comfort and mobility above all else.
However, customers seem to have mixed feelings about the upgraded prAna Stretch Zion II (which I can’t say I’ve tested)—some report issues with the fabric pilling after a few washes.
This adds to the other downside I’ve always noticed about the Zion (and many stretchy pants in general): they aren’t particularly durable. Abrasion can wear these pants out quicker than many others on this list. (My first pair of Stretch Zions ultimately split while I was chimneying a route in North Carolina.)
5. prAna Bridger Jeans: Best for Beginners
Climbing in jeans is usually a bad idea, but some pairs of jeans are formulated explicitly for activities like climbing. The prAna Bridger Jeans, with their stretchy performance denim, are a perfect example. They’re stretchy, durable, and comfortable. The functionality is nothing to write home about, these are basically just a stretchy, breathable pair of jeans.
But I’m recommending them for newer climbers because they’re still pretty affordable and work well in daily life. They’re jeans, after all. If you’re a beginner, you probably don’t want to buy a pair of pants that are specifically designed for climbing or athletic wear. The Bridgers offer an excellent blend that works as well at the brewery, school, or office as it does at the crag.
So if you’re looking for a stylish pant that can perform when you hit the rock gym every now and then but is more focused on comfortable everyday wear, then the Bridger is an outstanding choice.
A slim-fit model, (the Bridger Slim Tapered (4)) is also available. prAna also has a women’s performance denim line, the Sienna (5), and the plus-size Kayla (6). Another pair of climbing jeans I’d recommend is the Moon Hubble X (7).
6. Outdoor Research Ferrosi: Best Alpine Climbing Pants
When alpine climbing, all those factors I’ve been brushing off for most of this article actually come into play. It does make sense to shell out some cash for a nice pair of alpine pants, because alpine terrain is no joke. You’re at high elevations far from outside help, on unpredictable routes, dealing with foul weather, low temperatures, rock and ice fall, and other hazards. You have to be dialed in. An excellent high-quality pair of pants comes in handy.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi gives you a stellar pant for alpine and ice climbing without breaking the bank.
They’re water and wind resistant, breathable, quick to dry, abrasion-resistant, and sport UPF 50+ protective coating. The waistbelt is low-profile, designed to accommodate a harness, with an internal drawstring for a snug fit. There’s a zip pocket on the right hip and back buttock, and articulated knees and elastic ankle cuffs ensure these pants never get in the way of your footwork, even during techy sequences.
Probably the most impressive thing about these pants is how light they are. The 90-denier stretch-woven ripstop nylon is both burly and airy at the same time, offering the ultimate blend of protection and comfort. (A women’s model (8) is also available.)
7. Gramicci NN: Best Indoor Climbing Pants
When I’m looking for a good pair of indoor climbing pants, I’m focusing on finding a pair I can wear every day, so that I hit the climbing gym after work without changing. That’s why I like these Gramicci’s. The elastic drawstring waist belt makes cinching them up a breeze, and there’s not much else to mess with here, which is a good thing.
They’re lightweight but durable, made from a hardy stretch cotton. You don’t have to worry about staying cool in these, they might be the most breathable apparel on this listing. They have a gusseted crotch to maximize mobility. They have two basic rear pockets and two front pockets.
This isn’t really enough for me to want to take them outside on anything more than a mellow sport or boulder seshion, but for indoor climbing pants, they do the job just fine.
These pants also look good, which might be my favorite thing about them. They have this rugged, pre-washed vintage style that I really dig. At their price point, I’d hope to see a few more features and some added functionality, but for indoor climbing, they’ll more than get the job done.
How to Find the Perfect Climbing Pants
What Are Climbing Pants
Climbing pants are designed to be worn while climbing (duh). But as we all know, “climbing” can mean anything from hitting the bouldering gym to spending three days slogging up a 2,000-foot alpine face in a remote mountain 6,000-meter range. So what makes “great climbing pants” will vary depending on how you intend to use them.
For most of us, though, I’d argue that the best climbing plants are those that pull double duty (or triple, or quadruple):
- Lightweight enough for long days at the crag;
- Durable enough to last for at least a few seasons of wear and to stand up to bushwacking through dense undergrowth and brushing up against rough rock while off-width climbing;
- Flexible enough to let you push yourself on your project without being restricted;
- Breathable enough for hot weather;
- Comfortable and stylish enough to take out on the town.
You get the idea…
Above all else, a good pair of climbing pants doesn’t restrict your movement. Remember, rock climbing is a very gymnastic endeavor. You have to be able to step high, stem wide, hook with toes and heels, and generally move your legs and hips in a variety of strange positions. You want a pair of pants that lets you move your legs freely and doesn’t get in the way of your footwork.
Beyond that, how much protection, durability, and comfort you want will depend on the style of climbing you’re getting into.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Climbing Pants
Today, many climbers only climb indoors, or climb indoors most of the time. If you’re looking for indoor climbing pants, then most light, breathable, and flexible pants will do the job. Other factors, like durability and functional climbing-specific features, don’t matter as much when you’re at an indoor climbing gym.
Overly baggy apparel (gym shorts) or hot, poorly-ventilating apparel (sweatpants) usually aren’t good choices when climbing. You want stuff that is form-fitting, but also lightweight and breathable. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to comfort and performance.
Don’t stress too much, especially if you’re just starting out as a climber. If you climb well and feel good in sweatpants, go for it! As you progress, you’ll better understand the features, materials, and styles you want in your climbing pants (and other climbing apparel).
We have a dedicated article about “What to Wear Rock Climbing” if you fancy a closer look. But even as you read this, remember, don’t overthink your indoor climbing apparel. Just find lightweight pants that don’t restrict your movement and that you feel comfortable wearing.
Comfort & Mobility
Climbing pants should be comfortable. Duh. They should breathe in warm weather, feel loose and light against your skin, and be flexible enough to allow you to stem, high step, and perform all other manner of lower body climbing movements without restriction.
Look for stretchy materials, like polyester, spandex, and nylon. Two-way stretch, if not four-way stretch, is ideal. Materials like mesh enhance breathability. Articulated knees let you move in all directions and bend your knees fully without being jammed up.
When you try on a pair of climbing pants, do some different movements. A full-body squat. A few jumping jacks. Side lunges. Bend over and touch your toes. Make notes of any points of restriction. If you can’t do basic exercises like these wearing your pants, then chances are they’ll hang you up on the wall.
Another thing to think about is that you’ll likely wear a harness over your pants. So pants with a bulky waist belt, or even worse, those that don’t fit quite well and require you to wear non-integrated belt with them… these are a bad idea.
In addition, make sure the cuffs don’t sag. You want high, close-fitting cuffs, so that your pants don’t get caught below your heel or otherwise get in the way of your foot placement. Elastic cuffs that cinch around your ankles, or roll-up style cuffs that you can secure mid-calf with snap buttons are both helpful, and most climbing pants will have these features.
Protection & Durability
Comfort is important. But it’s not everything. You should look for comfortable AND durable pants. They have to hold up for the long haul, and they have to protect you, as well.
There are several things you want protection from as a climber. The three biggest ones are the sun (sunburn), inclement weather (wind, rain, cold), and the rock. Many pants offer UV protection, but usually wearing pants in the first place is enough to protect your legs from sunburn.
Some pants offer water-resistant DWR (durable water repellent) coating and other forms of weatherproofing, as well as insulation for cooler weather, though this generally isn’t something you should worry about unless you plan to be on a big wall or in the alpine.
In general, the sun, wind, rain, and cold are situation-specific factors. The one thing you can always count on when rock climbing is… the rock!
So, all climbing pants should be abrasion-resistant. It doesn’t matter how perfect your technique is. You will brush up against the rock now and then. Hell, sometimes it’s literally the only way to get up the wall (chimneys, cracks, etc.). And in some crags (Joshua Tree?) the rock is essentially gritty sandpaper. So buy pants that can take a beating… or you’ll replace them before long.
Part of loving climbing is loving the natural spaces we recreate in. We’re all beginning to see the effect of climate change, no matter where we live. So sustainability should be a factor in any conscious climber’s purchase.
When purchasing your next pair of climbing pants, you may want to consider the manufacturer’s carbon footprint, where its materials are sourced from, and where (and how) its products are made.
For example, some pants use partially recycled fibers or organically grown cotton. Others are carbon neutral. Others are bluesign® approved, meaning the eponymous group vetted the manufacturers’ resource use, occupational health and safety, water and air emissions, and consumer safety.
Not all good climbing pants need unique features specifically for climbing, but they can be useful.
A gusseted crotch allows you to stem out without restriction. A drawstring waist makes it easy to loosen and tighten your pants. An elastic waist, on the other hand, is often more comfortable underneath a harness. Zippered pockets allow you to carry stuff up the wall with you (like a phone to take photos), without worrying about it falling out. Elastic cuffs on the ankles prevent your pant legs from getting in the way of your footwork.
Climbing pants perform many functions. They offer protection from the cool weather, rain, wind, sunlight, and the rock. They don’t inhibit mobility on the wall. Also, climbing pants stay breathable in humid climes and offer storage space for valuables. And most of all… they’re comfortable to wear.
The seven pairs on this list are all great examples of a good climbing pant. But the takeaway here should be: don’t overthink climbing apparel. Gear and shoes are important. Pants and shirts… not so much.
Once you’ve been climbing for a while, you’ll know exactly what you need in a pant, whether you’re a die-hard boulderer looking for maximum mobility, a crusty trad fiend looking for burly protection and durability, or a gym crusher just looking for something lightweight and comfortable to workout in.
Owen Clarke (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
Why I Hate Climbing Fashion
Climbing (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
prAna Stretch Zion Slim Pants II – Men’s
REI (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
prAna Bridger Slim Tapered Jeans – Men’s
REI (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
prAna Sienna Jeans – Women’s
REI (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
prAna Kayla Jeans – Women’s Plus Sizes
REI (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
Moon Climbing – Hubble X Slim Fit – Jeans
Alpine Trek (retrieved on 08/10/2023)
Ferrosi Pants by OR – Women’s
REI (retrieved on 08/10/2023)