So you’re pumped to try rock climbing! It’s an awesome activity that combines physical challenge with mental focus. But before you hit the wall, there’s the question of what to wear.  You want something that lets you move freely and comfortably, while also protecting your skin. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about what to wear rock climbing, whether you’re hitting an indoor gym or venturing outdoors.


When gearing up for indoor climbing, the process of choosing suitable attire is relatively straightforward due to the sheltered environment of climbing walls. Opting for comfortable and breathable clothing that allows for unrestricted movement is key.

Your typical workout attire, such as a t-shirt paired with tracksuit bottoms, shorts, or leggings, is generally appropriate for climbing. However, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind. Avoid overly loose clothing that could snag on climbing holds or equipment. For instance, tuck in any loose ends like scarves to prevent interference during climbs.

If you anticipate needing to wear a harness, which is typically the case except for bouldering, it’s advisable to select a top long enough to be tucked into the waistband. Crop tops should be avoided for this reason. Additionally, if opting for shorts, ensure they provide adequate coverage beneath the leg loops of the harness. Women may find longer biking or hiking shorts more suitable, reaching a few inches above the knee.

Indoor climbing gyms, often situated in converted warehouses or other minimally insulated buildings, can become chilly during winter months. It’s wise to come prepared with extra layers such as a fleece, belay jacket, hat, and warm socks to stay comfortable.

While climbing shoes will be discussed later, it’s worth noting that if you’re engaged in top-roping or lead climbing, having shoes for belaying is recommended. Closed-toe options like trainers or crocs are best practice for this purpose.



Unlike your everyday jeans, rock climbing pants are built for the demands of the sport. They prioritize a unique blend of features. Durability is key, with abrasion-resistant materials that shrug off scrapes against rock. At the same time, they need to move with you, featuring stretchy fabrics and articulated knees for unrestricted maneuvering on the wall.


For conquering outdoor climbs, your top needs to be a champion in its own right. Unlike a regular t-shirt, a rock climbing top prioritizes both comfort and performance. Breathable synthetics like polyester or nylon are your best bet. They wick away sweat like a champ, keeping you cool and dry during exertion. This is crucial for maintaining grip and preventing that clammy feeling that can hinder your progress.  Cotton is a big no-no, as it absorbs moisture and leaves you feeling cold and uncomfortable. Consider adding a base layer made of merino wool or a synthetic fabric for extra warmth on cooler climbs. Remember, the right top will keep you comfortable and focused on dominating the rock face.


Ladies, don’t forget the importance of a good sports bra for outdoor rock climbing!  Just like any high-impact activity, climbing demands a supportive bra that minimizes bounce and discomfort.  Look for a sports bra specifically designed for activities like climbing, which often offer high-support levels and encapsulated cups for a secure fit. Moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or nylon are essential to keep you cool and dry throughout your climb. Adjustable straps and a breathable back panel provide additional comfort and customization. Remember, a supportive sports bra will help you focus on your climb, not on bouncing around.


Conquering the elements is just another challenge on your outdoor climbing adventure. That’s where outer layers come in. A good shell jacket and pants are your defense against wind, rain, and unexpected weather changes. Look for a waterproof and breathable jacket made with materials like Gore-Tex or similar technologies. These fabrics keep you dry from rain or snow while allowing moisture vapor from your body to escape, preventing you from overheating during exertion. Packable options are a bonus, as they stow easily when not needed. Shell pants should follow suit, offering waterproof protection and breathability. Remember, outer layers are crucial for maintaining comfort and focus when the weather throws a curveball.


The shoes you choose for outdoor rock climbing are arguably the most crucial piece of your gear. Unlike your everyday sneakers, climbing shoes are specifically designed to maximize your grip and precision on the rock face. They’ll be very different from anything you’re used to – expect a snug, sock-like fit and a downturned shape that promotes powerful edging on small footholds. The stiffness of the shoe will depend on your climbing style. Stiffer shoes offer more power for edging on small holds, while softer shoes provide greater sensitivity for feeling subtle details on the rock. Ultimately, trying on different pairs and finding the right balance of fit, performance, and comfort for your feet is key.


Shorts Are Suitable: With indoor climbing gyms typically heated, concerns about getting cold are minimal. However, considering the presence of others below, it’s advisable to consider what you wear underneath shorts. Alternatively, if you prefer pants, feel free to wear them for added comfort and coverage.

Focus on Flexibility: Achieving full extension of your arms and legs is crucial for reaching distant foot- and handholds effectively.

Choose Lightweight Fabrics: While outdoor climbing demands abrasion resistance due to harsh rock surfaces, indoor climbing allows for more comfortable apparel. Opt for lightweight fabrics that enhance ease of movement.

Embrace Slim Fit: Avoid excessively loose clothing that can impede your movements or become entangled in the climbing rope. Whether it’s shorts or pants, ensure they fit comfortably under a climbing harness.


A lightweight jacket can come in handy at the climbing gym, especially if the temperature isn’t quite to your liking due to the heater or AC. It provides a comfortable layer to slip on during breaks between climbs, particularly if you’ve built up a sweat on your route and are now belaying or observing other climbers.

While gyms typically provide essential climbing gear like ropes, harnesses, and belay devices, if you prefer using chalk, it’s advisable to bring your own chalk bag and chalk.

Avoid wearing gloves or caps while climbing, as direct contact between your hands and the climbing holds is essential for grip and technique improvement. Over time, your skin will naturally toughen with regular climbing sessions. Additionally, hats pose a risk of falling off during climbs, so it’s best to avoid them. If you have long hair, secure it with a hair tie for convenience and safety during climbs.


1. Can I wear jeans or sweatpants for climbing?

No, they are not breathable, offer little protection, and restrict movement.

2. Should I wear jewelry while climbing?

No, jewelry can snag on the rock or get damaged. Leave it at home.

3. Is there a dress code for climbing gyms?

Most gyms are casual, but follow their guidelines. Generally, athletic clothing that allows for movement is appropriate.


So there you have it! Gearing up for rock climbing is all about finding the right balance between comfort, performance, and protection. By choosing the appropriate clothing and footwear, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and successful day at the crag. Remember, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and confident as you tackle the challenges of the rock face. Now get out there and climb strong!