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If you have experience dressing for that big summit attempt (or even for a day’s training at the indoor wall), you’ll know that all pants are not created equal. The best options for climbers are technical pants with plenty of stretch and clever design elements such as gusseted inseams or articulated knees that allow for full freedom of movement. The top pick for you personally depends on the climate and your chosen climbing style, which is why we’ve divided our selection of the best climbing pants into a few distinct categories. Choices range from warm pants for ice climbing to three quarter styles ideal for bouldering and gym climbing. See below for the best climbing pants to pick up for your next big adventure.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: prAna Stretch Zion Pants
The prAna Stretch Zion Pants is on the top of our list for its comfortable standard fit and exceptional durability. The key is the brand’s unique Stretch Zion fabric, comprised of 97 percent nylon and three percent spandex. It’s quick-drying, wrinkle-resistant and strong enough to withstand repeated abrasion exposure. Most importantly for climbers, the fabric’s four-way stretch offers unparalleled freedom of movement; while its inherent lightness makes it ideal for sport climbers who want to keep weight to a minimum.
A durable water repellent finish comes in handy for all-weather climbing and also prevents the pants from staining easily. However, they aren’t particularly warm, so you’ll need to add a layer of thermal protection if you plan on wearing them in winter. On hot days, these pants excel thanks to a ventilated inseam gusset and UPF 50+ sun protection. Use the roll-up leg snaps to increase air circulation. Other highlights include an angled dual entry cargo pocket and an ultra-comfortable adjustable waistband. Choose from a full range of sizes and colors, including dark khaki, charcoal and coffee bean.
Most Durable: Arc’teryx Men’s Gamma Rock Pants
The Arc’teryx Men’s Gamma Rock Pants may be expensive, but the cost is justifiable when you consider that they’re likely to last for several seasons. These slim fit softshell pants are made from Fortius 1.0 fabric. The seat and knees are reinforced with Burly Double Weave, making them capable of withstanding repeated rock and ice abrasion. The lower leg sections are seamless, so you don’t have to worry about snagging your pants on the rock face or your crampons. This is a technical option recommended by the brand for rough alpine and ice climbing routes.
The fabric blends nylon and elastane fibers, making it quick to dry and exceptionally stretchy. Articulated construction and a gusseted crotch contribute to the pants’ overall mobility, giving you incredible reach on the mountain. Adjust the streamlined webbing belt to achieve a snug, comfortable fit. If you decide to ditch your harness for a quick bouldering session, you can hang your chalk bag from the integrated attachment. The pants have two zippered hand pockets and come in smart shades of Iron Oxide, Black and Nautic Grey.
Best Winter: Outdoor Research Cirque Pants
Ice climbing fans will love the trim fit, technical softshell Cirque Pants from Outdoor Research. The pants' winning feature are its wind- and weather-resistant, double-weave fabric, which is also designed to withstand abrasion. With movement-mirroring stretch technology, a gusseted crotch and articulated knees, the pants also afford the mobility you need to tackle serious cliff faces; while their breathability comes in handy when things get strenuous.
Ensure a streamlined fit that can’t catch on protruding rock by adjusting the waist tabs and drawcord cuffs. The brushed tricot-lined waistband adds an extra element of comfort, while zippered back, thigh and hand pockets afford plenty of storage space (a must for longer climbs on multi-pitch routes). The high-quality YKK zippers are water repellent. Choose one of five sizes ranging from small to extra, extra large, then decide whether black or pewter will look best with the rest of your climbing gear.
Best Comfort: La Sportiva Men’s Arco Rock Climbing Pants
If you’re looking for the most comfortable gym, cragging or bouldering pants on the market and aren’t too concerned with warmth or weather-proofing, the La Sportiva Men’s Arco Rock Climbing Pants may be just what you’re looking for. Designed especially for climbers (but also great for hiking and backpacking), they are made from lightweight cotton twill and praised for their incredible comfort. Lyrca fibers allow for great stretch, while articulated knees and a gusseted crotch allow you to high-step or heel-hook to your heart’s content.
The fabric is also breathable and quick-drying, making it ideal for dealing with hot weather or unexpected downpours. Adjust the integrated belt to prevent slippage. You can also alter the length of the pants using the bottom hem drawcord, transforming them into three-quarter pants on particularly sunny days. Other handy features include an integrated stash pocket and a toothbrush pocket (for cleaning holds, not overzealous oral hygiene!). Sizes run from extra small to extra large while colors range from practical brown and taupe to photogenic rust and papaya.
Best Three Quarters: Ucraft Xlite Rock Climbing Knickers
Available in yellow, mustard, graphite, and pale green, the Ucraft Xlite Rock Climbing Knickers offer a three-quarter alternative to traditional climbing pants that come in handy on hot days or when tackling indoor walls. The fabric is 92 percent nylon, 8 percent spandex. As such, the pants are breathable, quick-drying and stretchy — all positives for avid climbers.
The thin elasticated waistband is designed to fit comfortably under your harness, while ankle drawstrings allow you to adjust the pants to fit any inseam. They also keep them in place no matter how much you stretch or move. Other features designed expressly with climbers in mind include four outer pockets, two of them zipped; and loops for your chalk bag and toothbrush. Despite being custom-made for climbers, the knickers are also ideal for other activities, including bouldering, yoga and martial arts. Fans of these short pants can purchase a full-length version as well, available elsewhere on Amazon.
Best Budget: prAna Men’s Brion Pants
Made of Stretch Zion fabric, the prAna Men’s Brion Pants also offer performance four-way stretch at an affordable price. They boast a gusseted inseam and adequate abrasion resistance, and stand up to the elements, thanks to a water-repellent finish and UPF 50+ sun protection. If they do get drenched, the lightness of the fabric means that the pants should dry quickly.
They are intended to double as casual wear and aren’t as technical as the other pants on this list. Drawbacks for climbers include the fact that none of the five jean-style pockets are zippered; and the absence of articulated knees. However, while they’re not so great for extreme climbs, they are perfectly suited to less technical situations. They also look good when you stop at the bar on your way home, with a slim fit and reinforced rivet detailing. Push the fashion boundaries with colors like mood indigo or dark ginger, or play it safe with traditional cargo green or black. There are multiple inseams available.
Best Ladies: prAna Women’s Halle Pants
Many of the items on this list are either unisex or have women’s versions available, but when it comes to female-specific climbing pants the prAna Women’s Halle Pants stand out from the crowd. A relaxed fit combines with articulated knees and the brand’s Stretch Zion fabric to allow the freedom of movement needed to tackle the most intimidating cliffs. The durable water-repellent finish affords some weather protection while keeping your pants cleaner for longer. Meanwhile, the UPF 50+ rating stops you from getting burned.
Use the roll-up leg fastening to create three-quarter pants, or keep cash and other essentials in the right leg’s hidden stash pocket. The mid-rise bootleg cut is flattering to most body shapes while the trouser styling means that these pants work just as well in a social setting. Eye-catching shades such as equinox blue or raisin help you make a statement on the climb and in the bar afterward, while more muted tones include coal and green jasper. The pants come in three inseam lengths in sizes 0 to 18.
Best Kids: KUHL Renegade Pants
Children’s climbing pants are surprisingly hard to come by, but these KUHL Renegade Pants fit the bill nicely. They’re made from two-way stretch Duralux fabric, which blends 95 percent nylon with five percent spandex. Articulated knees and a gusseted crotch give your kid the gift of unrestricted movement, making it easier for them to master new climbing techniques. Wonderfully breathable and quick to dry, the fabric is also abrasion resistant, durable, and water-repellent — meaning that no matter how tough they’re treated, they’re likely to last a long time.
They are especially well-suited to warm climates, with a ventilation system that keeps your child cool and dry. Most importantly for sensitive young skin, the pants offer UPF 50+ sun protection. With seven pockets (some of them zippered), there’s plenty of room for energy bars, gloves, toothbrushes and any souvenirs collected along the way. Sizes range from extra small (for ages five to six) to large (for ages 14 to 16) in shades of coal or khaki. Although the pants are intended for boys, there’s no reason girls can’t wear them, too.