What to wear rock climbing
One of the most common questions we get from first time climbers is “what should I wear rock climbing?” You don’t want to show up at the gym and have a bad time because you have the wrong type of clothes on, so let’s look at what you should wear.
Loose and/or stretchy
Clothes, especially pants, that you wear climbing should allow you to move freely. This often means that they will be loose and/or stretchy.
I personally wear shorts while I climb, though have also worn loose-fitting long pants cuffed at the bottom. Most women climbing at my gym wear yoga pants, which allow their wearers to move freely.
Jeans are the one type of clothing that you should not wear climbing. They do not breathe and do not stretch. Now, I’ve been guilty of wearing jeans to climb a few times when I forgot my climbing shorts at home, but these were terrible climbing sessions. Don’t wear jeans.
You can definitely wear dedicated climbing pants (mens and womens), though honestly any pair of shorts will do for men (except for gym athletic shorts) and yoga pants for women.
Made for the activity
As with any sport, there is gear that is made for that sport and then there is gear that you can make work for that sport.
If you’re not a consistent rock climber, then there is no reason to go out and buy rock climbing pants or a fancy harness or rock climbing shoes (you can rent a harness/shoes at the gym likely for a few dollars). You should be there to learn the basics.
That said, the right attire can make you feel more comfortable at the gym and also not stand out like a sore thumb.
If it’s your first time at the gym, then select:
- Shorts or pants that let you move
- A top that lets you move and you won’t be constantly adjusting
But if you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb, don’t wear:
- Athletic (gym) or running shorts
- Jeans (already mentioned)
- Anything that requires constant adjustment or could lead to embarrassing exposure
Pretty simple, yeah?
The right shoes
Finally, please do not wear tennis shoes at the gym even if it is your first time. You should wear proper rock climbing shoes.
If you do not own rock climbing shoes, you have two options:
- Rent them from the gym. Almost all gyms will rent them along with a harness for just a few dollars;
- Borrow them from a friend, but know that they may not fit you correctly.
Rock climbing shoes are made specifically to help you climb better. They have thin plastic soles and fit tightly to allow your feet to feel the wall as well as to stand on very small footholds. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, tend to have a thick flat sole and will not help you climb well. In fact, they may keep you from having a good time.
I personally wear the La Sportiva Otaki because I like the slightly downturned sole for bouldering and harder climbing, but I started with the Evolv Defy back when I first started climbing. They are a good mid-range shoe that is also affordable.
Finally, do not wear socks with your climbing shoes. Nothing makes you look like you do not know what you are doing than wearing socks.
If you’re concerned about weird foot diseases, know that every single rock climbing gym I have been to heavily disinfects their shoes in between wears.