On the Hunt for the Perfect Pair of Women's Climbing Pants

What you got, climbing brands?

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pair of women’s climbing pants for years. Though many brands have tried, and some have gotten close, none that I’ve been exposed to (thus far) have gotten it completely right, for me. So I’m calling on you now, climbing apparel brands!

I’m looking for climbing pants that have the total comfort and flexibility of yoga pants, with durability of jeans or canvas that will withstand knee bars, sharp rocks, and gnarly leg-thrashing approaches and descents.

To kick us off let’s talk about climbing in jeans.

I’ve always been jealous of people who can wear jeans climbing. They look good and they’re durable, but I can’t pull them off for a couple of reasons. First, I really dislike sweating into the waistband of jeans; I find it uncomfortable and strangely itchy. Second, the jeans need to be super stretchy! Like, borderline jeggings. As a former competitive gymnast, I have incredibly flexible hamstrings and muscular thighs (which makes pants in general a bit challenging at times...stretchiness helps). I tend to high-step  and "stem" a lot in my climbing and I need a pair of pants that can handle the stretch demands I put on them. If I can't do a split in them, I won't wear them! 

I have tried a few pairs of climbing-specific jeans and have found the denim's weight to be a bit too heavy (thick) and too restricting. And again, sweating into jeans waistbands is uncomfortable.

Let's move on to canvas and other tech materials.

This is where most brands spend their time and energy when focusing on climbing-specific pants. This is also where you are more likely to find materials that are relatively thin, moisture-wicking and fast-drying; all good qualities to have. Though there are some solid options, the lines I’ve tried thus far, sadly, still don’t fit me right. Whether it’s a waistband that doesn't feel comfortable, a saggy butt, an unflattering cut, or material that isn’t as durable as marketed, I have ended up disappointed and revert back to my go-to yoga pants.

Finally, a brief nod to yoga pants for climbing.

Comfy, stretchy, moisture-wicking, mostly flattering and often medium- or high-waisted, yoga pants are my go-to climbing pants these days. However, they’re not durable and they sometimes reveal a little too much when you're in a sport that (for now) is male-dominated. Sitting down on one sharp rock or awkward tree during a belay is enough to tear small holes in the fabric...even with the “good” brands. 

So what do my perfect pair of women’s climbing pants look like? Here are my Must and Nice-to-Have lists:

MUSTS

  • Lots of stretch, especially at the waist, butt, thigh and knee

  • Material that is relatively thin for movement and temperature regulation, but durable, especially at the butt and knee

  • Soft and comfy “yoga pant-esque” waistband at the mid-high or high waist level

  • Breathable / Moisture-wicking / Relatively fast-drying

NICE-TO-HAVES

  • Zippered back pocket (or even side pocket if the design looks good) big enough for a cell phone

  • Ability to transition from capri to pant easily for sun or weather protection. Roll up with a button fastener is better than drawstring

  • Flattering fit

  • Long option for tall women, like me!

All this being said, I have noticed an increased focus on female climbing pants designs in the last few years, and brands are trying to get it right. Prana's Avril pants and La Sportiva's Rocky Mountain Pant and Mantra pants are all great options that are on my list to try next!

Published: August 30, 2018

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Executive Producer at The Outbound