The crag where I learned to rock climb instilled in me a personal, unending mission to find the best climbing pants money can buy. A lot of the rock near me is pebbly, rough, and sharp—it’s great for grabbing a hold of, but not so kind on flimsy leggings or, even worse, bare legs. I figured out pretty quickly that I needed a tough pair of pants (or several) if I wanted to fully enjoy myself outside, and not come home with a bunch of scrapes and holes in my bottoms. Luckily, there’s a whole wide world of rock climbing pants to explore, with options that are tough and protective, yet stretchy and comfortable enough to wear all day.
What kind of pants are best for climbing?
Wherever you like to climb, rocks are, you know, rocks—they’re hard and abrasive, and they can tear pants that are made of thin material. So, generally speaking, you should look for pants that are either on the thicker side or made of abrasion-resistant, ripstop fabric. Items marketed as “hiking pants” come close to fitting the bill, but they usually aren’t as protective as ones explicitly labeled as “climbing pants.”
While your pants of choice should prevent scrapes and tears, they should also allow a full range of motion. Some climbers like to climb in jeans and other denim pants since they’re on the tougher side, but I’ve found that making high steps and other flexible moves are pretty difficult in pants like that, so I tend to gravitate toward bottoms with more give (read “more spandex”).
Finally, how and where you’re climbing both play a role: If you enjoy sport climbing, you need pants that you can comfortably wear with a climbing harness. Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry about that if you’re bouldering. Those in colder climates might like something with insulation, while those who climb in balmier temps probably want to prioritize breathability.
Are climbing pants worth it?
If you plan on climbing primarily indoors, your clothes should be comfortable and should move with you (and you shouldn’t mind if they get a little chalky), but they don’t need to be ultra-protective. If you spend a lot of time climbing outside, on the other hand, a pair or two of outdoor-specific pants, with the kind of protective features mentioned above, could provide some welcome peace of mind. And, when they eventually spare your knees from a few bumps and nicks, you just might come to love your climbing pants as much as your favorite climbing shoes, trusty backpack, and the rest of your trail-tested climbing gear.
Even after years of climbing outdoors, I’m still trying out new pairs from beloved outdoor brands like Prana, Patagonia, and the North Face, as well as from budget-friendly retailers like Amazon and Old Navy. Although I’ve found several that I love and wear all the time, there are plenty that I’m still curious about, thanks to their downright glowing reviews from other climbers. Here, I’ve highlighted both, in the hopes that you can find the best climbing pants for your outdoor adventures. Read on to discover my faves as well as the pants at the very top of my to-try list.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.