What Should You Wear to Go Rock Climbing?

What should you wear for rock climbing? People climb in skinny jeans and work out pants. Jerseys and flannels. Trail pants and basketball shorts. BDUs and yoga tights. Tank tops and sun shirts. In other words, people wear lots of different things when they climb. Looking at 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell – Arkansas’ own climbing competition/climbing party – shows you that there’s not a strict dress code for rock climbing. Basically, you should wear whatever is most comfortable, practical, or whatever you like to wear most.

If you’re new to climbing, “wear whatever you want” isn’t really useful advice, though. Experience teaches you what to wear outdoor rock climbing, but here are a few pointers to help you get started.


You absolutely want to think about comfort when choosing clothes for a climbing trip. As for any trip outdoors, take the temperature, cloud coverage, and wind speed into account.

If you’re sport climbing, you might be more exposed to sun and wind, and you might be still for extended periods of time while belaying (bring a jacket).

You want to feel comfortable with your range of motion. Some people feel that tighter clothes restricts movement, while others don’t mind as much.

If you tend to get hot, wear lightweight clothing. If you tend to get cold, bring layers.

Ultimately, your experience and your performance while climbing depend largely on how comfortable you are.


While comfort is widely subjective, functionality is more concrete. Outdoor apparel usually has features that lend themselves to outdoor activities, making them great clothing options for rock climbing.

UV protection, abrasion resistance, moisture wicking and fast-drying materials, 4-directional stretch, are all pretty standard features on outdoor apparel.

A number of brands also make climbing specific clothing with features such as zipper pockets, adjustable pant leg cuffs, and a gusseted crotch.

While these features aren’t necessary, they are beneficial to rock climbing.


There’s a bit of overlap here with functionality. When you’re spending time outdoors, you need protection from the elements. Clothing with a high UPF rating that provides ample coverage and abrasion resistance is a great way to protect yourself from cuts, scrapes, and sunburns.

Once you’ve blown a few heel hooks and tried a few knee bars,  you might start opting for the protection of pants over the breathability of shorts.

You will certainly see guys climbing without shirts and gals climbing in little shorts, but that doesn’t mean protection isn’t important.


Everyone wants to rep their favorite brand, look like they’re sponsored, or make sure they pop in their climbing pictures. And that’s OK. Express yourself, do your thing, and wear what you want to wear. That being said, it’s usually not the best idea to let form dictate what you wear while your climbing.

Getting covered in scrapes, painted in a sunburn, or left shivering for the sake of fashion isn’t wise. Function outshines form when spending time outdoors.


Looking for outdoor apparel in Northwest Arkansas? Stop by and see us at Uncle Sam’s In Fayetteville!

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