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Rock climbing is an invigorating and adventurous activity. If you’re thinking about picking up this hobby to reach new heights, you’ll need the proper equipment — which includes what to wear rock climbing. They say the clothes make the man and rock climbing is no exception.
Explore this guide to find out what you should wear while rock climbing to ensure the utmost comfort and safety.
Indoors or Outdoors Climbing?
Before you decide on your go-to wardrobe for a day on the rocks, you’ll have to decide where you’ll be rock climbing most often. Indoor and outdoor climbing have different purposes and demands, which means you may need different gear for each activity.
When you climb outside, you’ll have to deal with various climates and weather conditions. It might be cold and windy on the mountain or hot enough to leave you with sweaty hands. That means your climbing wardrobe must be versatile enough to adapt to any conditions. You’re more likely to need outerwear, like a jacket, and additional accessories, such as bags and sunscreen.
Indoor climbing, on the other hand, takes place in a much more controlled environment. You won’t have to worry about keeping your hands warm on cold surfaces or making rocks slippery with sweat. Keep your preferred climbing style in mind as you search for the right clothes for rock climbing.
Your Guide to What to Wear Rock Climbing
The right shoes are everything when it comes to rock climbing. Whether you’re climbing indoors at a gym or on natural boulders outside, your feet are among your greatest assets. Climbers must walk a thin line between protecting their feet and ensuring they still have enough agility to tackle the trickiest problems.
As a beginner, you may be able to use your regular sneakers for basic climbs or rent a pair at the climbing gym. However, if you’re serious about the sport, you’ll need real gear. There are specific shoes made specifically for climbing. They typically have rubber soles that allow you to grip ledges and other features on the rock for greater stability.
What about socks? Many climbers don’t wear socks with their climbing shoes, preferring the dexterity they have when barefoot or with a thin shoe. However, if you’re renting shoes, you’ll definitely want a thin pair of socks to wear for hygiene purposes.
Comfort is an important factor when you’re choosing your climbing wardrobe. Climbing is a physically demanding activity, so you want to be comfortable and at ease in what you’re wearing. You don’t have to overthink your shirt on climbing days — a t-shirt or tank top will be sufficient.
A good rule of thumb is that if you’d go to the gym in it for a regular workout, it’ll work for climbing. Opt for breathable fabrics, like cotton or polyester, to ensure optimal comfort. Also, if your style of climbing requires a harness, you should wear a shirt that is long enough to fit comfortably in the harness without getting caught or riding up.
Similar to your shirt, your climbing pants don’t have to be a complicated decision. Most climbers prefer lightweight pants or shorts that enable maximum mobility.
Elastic materials work best. As a beginner, you’re especially likely to scrape up your legs and knees on challenging routes, so you might opt for longer pants to protect your skin. Select a durable material so they don’t rip on contact with rough surfaces.
Again, if you climb with a harness and decide to wear shorts, make sure they’re long enough to fit comfortably with the harness. You also don’t want clothes that are too baggy — you should always be able to see your feet and the rock or climbing surface below you.
Additional layers may be necessary for outdoor climbers, especially those in colder climates. Even a few wind gusts can make a big difference when you’re bouldering outside or big wall climbing a coveted route. You can choose a thin jacket or fleece for extra protection against the chill.
Even as an indoor climber, you might encounter a cold climbing gym, warehouse or other space. Don’t be afraid to cover up if you think you might need to — as long as you still have the flexibility to move as necessary, it’s a good idea to layer up and keep your muscles warm while climbing.
Most types of climbing require the use of harnesses and other safety equipment. Finding the right harness is a serious endeavor because it will keep you safe from falls. If you’re indoor climbing at a gym, the staff and other experienced climbers can help direct you to the proper gear.
Take the time to understand the parts of a climbing harness and how each system works. While all harnesses vary between manufacturers, your harness should be comfortable and adjustable to fit your body type.
Climbing is a relatively straightforward hobby — whether you’re bouldering or climbing at a gym, your goal is to get from Point A to Point B. However, you can find several accessories that will elevate your climbing experience.
For example, a chalk bag is a necessity for boulderers and other climbers. You must keep your chalk handy at all times to ensure your hands stay dry. Other potential accessories include a reusable water bottle and bottle clip, slip-on shoes to wear around the area if you don’t wear shoes while climbing, climbing tape and crash pads.
However, there are some extras you might want to avoid. Most climbers refrain from using gloves. The sport may be hard on your fingers, but you’ll develop calluses and extra hand strength quickly. Gloves will only limit your dexterity and get in the way. Similarly, hats are likely to fall off and only serve as a distraction on the wall.
What to Wear While Rock Climbing
Whether you’re solving problems on outdoor boulders or getting a workout in at the climbing gym, climbing is a great way to stay fit and have fun. Find out what to wear rock climbing to ensure you reach the heights you’re aiming for.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.