CLIMBING

Best Rock Climbing Pants: Dress Right for Success

Best rock climbing pants
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

As sophisticated sportswear engineering would have it, the sartorial choice for rock climbing may make or break your climbing experience. When you’re serious about your sport, the last thing you want is to worry about an uncomfortable pair of climbing pants getting in the way of your performance.

With the dazzling array of climbing gear out there, what should you look out for in the best rock climbing pants?

Where Are You Climbing?

Where you’re going to for your climbing adventure affects your choice of pants. If you’re headed to the dry and prickly parts of the country and are rising to the challenge of rocking climbing outdoors, it makes sense to protect yourself from the natural elements as well as scratches and scrapes of sharp rocks.

And then there’s the nightmare of rock climbing pants ripping in unmentionable places when you’re hanging for dear life in mid-air. So be it for modesty, performance or protection, it’s good to choose strong, durable fabrics such as nylon or polyester which are lightweight (great for seamless movement and packing) and provide adequate protection.

When climbing indoors, you generally have more flexibility when it comes to your choice of rock climbing pants.

Rock Climbing Pants in action

That’s because the environmental conditions indoors are controlled and are more predictable. Moreover, artificial walls are not as rough or sharp as real rocks.

Features to Consider

Breathability

Breathability refers to the characteristic in fabrics that lets sweat and moisture escape more easily, keeping the wearer dry. This is an important factor that goes a long way into making a physically-demanding sport like rocking climbing more comfortable.

While cotton has relatively good breathability, it can get soggy, not to mention heavy with sweat over time. This can be detrimental for the rock climber and could affect his performance. Which is why good rock climbing pants are rarely entirely made of cotton.

They’re usually made of fabrics that are blends of cotton and synthetic fabrics such as nylon or polyester.

The breathable cotton lets sweat escape while the quick-drying and anti-microbial properties of nylon and polyester are huge advantages in keeping the hardworking rock climber dry and comfortable. Moreover, nylon and polyester are very lightweight synthetic blends that make the fabric stronger without adding extra weight.

Fit

There’s no denying that looking good matters matters to many sophisticated consumers even when they’re roughing it. However, getting the right fit for your rock climbing pants goes beyond merely looking good in action.

Fit rock climbing pants

It could actually affect your performance on the rocks. Imagine wearing a pair that’s too long or baggy and the excess material gets caught in grips. Or something that’s too tight, chafes at your skin and makes movement restrictive.

If you’ve a long day of climbing ahead of you, you’d want the most comfortable pair of rock climbing pants that fits well and lets you concentrate on out-performing yourself rather than let it impede or distract you.

Pockets and other details

While it’s practical to have many pockets for your stuff and climbing equipment, they could be rather useless if they don’t come with zippers that keep your valuables safely secured.

Rear pockets are fantastic if they’re big enough for you to reach into them even with your climbing gloves on. Zippered cargo pockets are great for mobile phones, small cameras or energy bars – knickknacks that you can swiftly reach for without having to dig into the dark recesses of your backpack.

Good rock climbing pants also come with a gusseted crotch. But just what is it? A gusseted crotch is a triangular or diamond-shaped piece of fabric that makes the crotch area a little wider, offering more freedom of movement that is much needed in rock climbing.

Climb pants

Thoughtfully-designed rock climbing pants have adjustable waistbands and complementary belts that make for a comfortable fit.

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor)

UPF on your climbing pants indicates how much UV rays of the sun is getting to you. For instance, a pair of pants featuring UPF 30 means that you’re getting 1/30th of UV rays on your skin.

Apparel manufacturers can only list UPF ratings on their apparel only if they’re above 15. So when you see an UPF rating on your rock climbing pants, you can be assured that it has been specially manufactured and treated to shield you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Long pants or capris?

This will largely depend on where you’re heading for your rock climbing expedition. Common sense would tell you that long climbing pants offer protection from chilly weather and sharp rocks.

However, if you’re climbing in the humid tropics, sweating in your long pants and having them cling to your legs will not be the most pleasant experience. That’s when convertible pants rise to the occasion.

One swift movement could transform a pair of burdensome long climbing pants into snazzy capris that offer the much-appreciated ventilation in hot weather and freedom of movement. When shopping for convertibles, it’s good to check if the pants come with little vertical zippers on the side of the cuffs.

Long pants or capris

With these side zippers, you can conveniently remove the zip-off legs without the hassle of removing your shoes.

Read on for some fantastic rock climbing pants recommendations for your next expedition.

Top Products for 2017

Angel Cola Men’s Outdoor Hiking & Climbing Pants

Angel Cola Men's Outdoor Hiking & Climbing Softshell Athletic Pants

Weight: 0.33 pounds

Price: $36.99

Specific Features: 94% nylon and 6% spandex lightweight material, zippered pockets, comfortable snug fit, abrasion and wind-resistant

Best Use: spring and summer rock climbing activities

Description: With its nylon and spandex blend, these Angel Cola Men’s Outdoor Hiking & Climbing Softshell Athletic Pants are the perfect balance in comfort and durability. In fact, they stretch comfortably for a snug fit without restricting movement – a quality that’s crucial for every rock climber.

Though form-fitting, there’s still enough room for you to wear this under other pants, making them great for cold-weather rock climbing. The elastic waistband makes it very convenient to wear while the complementary belt is a nice addition for extra fit and support.

If you think these pants are only about comfort and looks, you’d be very happy to know that they come with abrasion and wind-resistant properties to ensure your safety and performance under all-weather conditions.

Its lightweight, moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric offers optimal comfort and convenience as well. There’s also one little but thoughtful design that all rock climbers will appreciate – zippered pockets that stop your valuable from slipping out while you’re defying gravity up there.

As much as these pants are a steal for their affordability, their stitching can sometimes be rather shabbily done and become loose after only a few wears. Some users are disappointed that the pants are not truly water-resistant/waterproof as they can’t keep the water out.

Another frustrating inconvenience is that sizing can be rather odd. Some people thought that the pants are manufactured for small-built Asian men (since this is an Asian company) and taller Americans/Europeans can’t fit into them properly even if they had ordered the correct size.

Singbring Men’s Outdoor Lightweight Mountain Pants

Singbring Men's Outdoor Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Mountain Pants

Weight: 0.9 pounds

Specific Features: soft shell polyester, abrasion-resistant, waterproof, breathable, zippered pockets, adjustable waistband, lightweight material

Price: $29.99

Best Use: rigorous outdoor activities during spring, summer and autumn

Description: The go-to pants for people who take their sports seriously, these Singbring’s pants are all about comfort, performance and style. They’re made of soft shell polyester that’s durable, abrasion-resistant, waterproof and breathable – perfect for rock climbing outdoors during the hot and humid months of the year.

They’re made of lightweight material that’s also comfortably stretchy, letting you move freely and remaining super comfortable even if you’ve been wearing them for long periods of time. Its adjustable waistband allows for a comfortable fit and removes the hassle of wearing a belt.

These Singbring’s pants are also well-loved for their style too. Zippered front pockets with striking yellow accents not only let you keep your valuables safely, they also crank up the style factor for the pants.

Best thing is, these functional pants are very light and packs easily – qualities that are appreciated by travelers and adventurers alike.

While some people are very happy that they’ve snagged a fantastic deal as these pants are more affordable than many waterproof pants sold elsewhere, others are not so pleased with their purchases. There are complaints of sub-standard stitching which leads to ripping in the crotch area.

The sizes could be misleading as several users are upset that they couldn’t fit into the pants even though they had ordered their size. The pants are also not waterproof as advertised and couldn’t keep the water out.

King Shield Men’s Mountain Windproof Ski Pants Soft Shell Pants

King Shield Men's Mountain Windproof Ski Pants Soft Shell Pant

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Price: $39.85

Specific Features: breathable soft shell, superb wind management system, three-way stretch support, wrinkle resistant

Best Use: hiking, mountaineering, skiing, kayaking, camping, fishing, biking, cycling, snowboarding, hiking

Description: These King Shield Men’s Mountain Windproof Ski Pants Soft Shell Pant have a lot to offer for serious outdoor adventurers. They’re made of a breathable soft shell that keeps you dry, cool and comfortable in challenging outdoor conditions.

When paired with a warm layer underneath, these pants are fantastic in cold weather conditions too.
They also boast superb wind management system and three-way stretch that support you in rigorous outdoor physical activities such as long treks or uphill walks.

The internal is lined with fleece and keeps you comfortable even if  you’ve been hiking in these pants for several days. Met with unexpected drizzle or light snow during your adventure? Rest assured that pants are waterproof and can keep the snow out.

Moreover, the stretchable and wrinkle-resistant material allows freedom of movement while retaining style.

However, these King Shield pants are not without flaws. For some users, the knee flex fabric could be a tad too high and the material isn’t windproof as advertised because the wind gets in.

The pants are also a little tight around the ankles which can be uncomfortable and restrictive if you’re wearing it for rigorous rock climbing. Sizing charts could be misleading and sizes tend to run a little big.

So it might be a good strategy to order a size up to avoid the frustration of not being able to comfortably fit into your purchase.

Geval Men’s Windproof Quick Drying Outdoor Pants

Geval Men's Windproof Quick Drying Outdoor Pants

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Price: $25.99 – $39.59

Specific Features: 100% nylon ridge rip-stop, convertible zip-off legs, zippered closures, moisture wicking, quick drying, Omni-Shade UPF 40+

Best Use:  rock climbing, hiking, camping or fishing in spring and summer

Description: Made of 100% nylon ridge rip-stop that stops tears from spreading, these Geval Men’s Windproof Quick Drying Outdoor Pants are created for active individuals who can’t live without their sports and adrenalin.

They’re super lightweight and wicks sweat away to keep you feeling dry and comfortable all day.

Some people wore them for fishing trips and were very pleased to discover that they dried very quickly. If you’re one of those who love your stuff to be multi-functional, these Gevel pants have your name on them.

Their convenient zip-off legs easily convert long pants into knee-length capris, so they’re versatile enough for you to wear on every adventure every season. With Omni-Shade UPF 40+ that protects you from the sun’s harmful rays, these pants are indispensable for outdoor expeditions.

If you think such functional outdoor pants will be baggy and frumpy (as many sports pants are), you’ll be very happy with the slim-fit and stylish looks of these Gevel.

However, some minor design details are missing. The pants lacks a gusseted crotch and that restricts movement – something that serious rock climbers may want to think twice before buying.

There’s also no little side zips on the lower legs for the wearer to quickly convert the long pants into capris. This means you’ve to go through the hassle of removing and putting your shoes back on again every time you want different lengths.

However, even when converted into capris, the length may be a tad too long and may look ridiculous on some people. Some discerning consumers don’t like the thin and cheap-looking material. Worst thing is, the pants made a lot of noise when you walk around in them.

CQR Men’s Tactical Pants Lightweight Assault Cargo

CQR Men's Tactical Pants Lightweight Assault Cargo

Weight: 1.2 pounds

Price: $28.98 – $32.98

Specific Features: incorporates law enforcement and military performance design, rip-stop material, 8 versatile cargo pockets, knee pad insert, repels water and dirt, metal alloy snap button, zipper and mounted stopper, resistant to shrinking, wrinkling and fading

Best Use: rigorous outdoor activities when you want extra protection from the elements

Description: These CQR Men’s Tactical Pants Lightweight Assault Cargo are designed for hardcore adventurers and travelers in mind. Created with inspiration from law enforcement and military performance design, this means you get top-notch protection to remain in peak form in the great outdoors.

Every other detail is created to let you excel too, from hardy rip-stop materials that stop tears from spreading, deep pockets for easy access even with gloves on, knee pad lining for convenient insertion of knee pads to durable metal alloy snap button and zippers that last. Having water and dirt-resistant properties, you can stay dry and cool throughout your adventure.

These heavy-duty pants are surprisingly lightweight which makes them very comfortable to wear for hot and cold-weather outdoor activities.

While price-conscious buyers like the CQR pants for offering the same quality and functionality of more expensive tactical pants at a quarter of the price, others are not thoroughly happy with their purchases.

The leg design doesn’t allow for unrestricted knee movement which can be debilitating for rock climbing enthusiasts.

Other annoying aspects include the waist button popping open, badly sewn on buttons, poor quality zippers that snapped upon first use and horrible stitching that became undone after one-time wear and wash.

The tactical pants may also be a little too stiff, abrasive and uncomfortable for some people.

Hanxue Men’s Outdoor Fast Drying Pants

Hanxue Men's Outdoor Fast Drying Pants

Weight: 0.7 pounds

Price: $28.99

Specific Features: wrinkle-resistant and lightweight nylon fabric, convertible zip-off legs, elastic waistband, UPF 30 sun protection, Asian sized – please refer to size chart for US sizing

Best Use: active vacations such as rock climbing, hiking, fishing or cycling

Description: Frequent travelers, campers, hikers and adventurers will like the wrinkle-resistant and nylon fabric which offers durability while being super easy to pack. You don’t have to worry about splashes or drizzles as these pants feature water-resistant finishing.

Hanxue Men’s Outdoor Fast Drying Pants also rank high on versatility for their ability to quickly convert to knee-length capris with easy on-off zips. With UPF 30 sun protection, you’re shielded from the sun’s harmful rays while doing what you love most.

However, these Hanxue pants are not without shortcomings. The fit is a little tight at the crotch area which makes it uncomfortable to wear for physically-demand outdoor activities like rock climbing. Sizes tend to lean on the small side, so it’s good to order one or two sizes bigger.

White Sierra Trail 32-Inch Inseam Convertible Pants

White Sierra Trail 32-Inch Inseam Convertible Pants

Weight: 1 pound

Specific Features: zip-off pants legs, side zippers on leg cuffs, elastic waistband with webbing belt, water-resistant finish, adjustment tabs to keep pants legs up, UPF 30 sun protection

Best Use: rock climbing and hiking in warm and cool weather, fly fishing, casual wear

Description: These White Sierra Trail 32-Inch Inseam Convertible Pants boast all that you’re looking for in active wear. Zip-off pants legs let you conveniently switch from an all-weather long style to cool shorts look. Side zippers on the cuffs means you quickly slip off the leg sections without removing your footwear.

There are also easy adjustment tabs that keep the pants legs up to avoid mud and dirt. When you wear these pants outdoors, they feature UPF 30 sun protection factor that lets you enjoy the most fun under the sun without having to worry about damaging UV rays.

Coupled with water-resistant finishing, you can always stay dry and comfortable. Though these pants are ultra lightweight, they’re very durable and provide enough warmth and protection for hiking trips in cool weather. In fact, they’re comfortable and versatile enough for daily casual wear as well.

While these are affordable pants offer comfort and functionality for much less than other expensive brands out there, there are a couple of shortcomings to note.

One common grouse is that  the sizing chart seems to be inaccurate as many people end up buying rather snug pants that are too tight around the crotch area. The cargo pockets are way too small and are sitting awkwardly on the thighs instead of on the side of the legs.

This makes it very difficult to put anything into the cargo pockets as whatever is inside will create an awkward, unsightly bulge.

There are also a couple of annoying details such as the waist button popping off only after wearing the pants for a few times and the belt not being able to stay tight enough.

Final Words

That’s all we have for our rock climbing pants recommendations. Where you’re going, breathability, comfort and fit, zippered pockets and desired length of pants are all practical factors to consider when shopping for your next pair of rock climbing pants that would go on many adventures with you.

Choose your pants

If you think we’ve missed out some fantastic rock climbing pants out there, do drop us a note in comments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Ryan Freeman

    There are probably better mountaineering pants out there but, for the price, the King Shield pants do a pretty good job. The pants are fairly large and are not true-to-size so, like you said, I’d recommend taking a size smaller than you normally would. Definitely the most stylish pants I’ve seen mountaineering-wise and whilst the tighter ankle may be a gripe with some people, I’ve found that it actually helps to keep the elements out.

  • Mark Foster

    As I’ve said, the material is breathable which makes it such a joy to wear! Quoting myself of its stellar features, these pants are ” ….have superb wind management system, three-way stretch support and wrinkle resistant.”
    They’re a great investment, in my opinion.

  • Janet Wilder

    Movement and the ability to move in non-typical ways are so important when climbing, but for beginners it often takes a few outings to realize how essential the pants they choose are in their experience and success. The only thing more important than making sure you have pants with the right fit, is being certain your pants aren’t the wrong fit.

    • Mark Foster

      Thanks for your succinct comments Janet and you nailed it right there. The most important features of rock climbing pants is the fit AND the comfort. I’ve had tried on and tested a lot of these pants and let me tell you, when you can’t move as you want to – then that pants is a failure. 🙂

  • Rebecca Jones

    I enjoyed reading about how to find a good pair of rock climbing pants. Any advice on best rock climbing pants for women? I’ve heard some good things about Patagonia and prAna but I haven’t had any personal experience wearing these brands.

  • Mark Foster

    Hi Rebecca! Patagonia and Prana are stellar brand, so are La Sportiva, North Face and Arcteryx, to name a few. Just stick to trusted brands and you’ll never go wrong.

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