How To Dress For Rock Climbing


Choosing the right rock climbing apparel is crucial to success on the mountain. Speciality shoes, belaying gloves and helmets are all part the rock climbing gear a climber needs before venturing out. It is important not to wear clothing that is in any way restrictive or excessively baggy. A form fitting shirt made of material designed to wick away moisture is a good fit with the sport of climbing.


Rock climbing shoes are a speciality. Just as an athlete would need golf shoes to play golf and cycling shoes for distance races, rock climbers need rock climbing shoes. They are made out of a vulcanized rubber which assists the climber in gripping the face of the mountain. They are also padded to protect the foot during the ascent and descent. It is advised to either wear no socks or buy some that are very thin.

Arc'teryx - Epsilon SV Hoody
Arc'teryx - Epsilon SV Hoody


Expert climbers suggest donning Capri or ankle length spandex pants, that are form fitting. You don't want to wear anything with loose edges that can get caught in the metal hook or carabiners, or snag on the rock face. It is critical to wear form-fitting clothing. Be careful not to purchase pants that restrict range of motion or that bind in uncomfortable locations. Try and wear light layers on the upper part of your body made of a breathable material that wicks away sweat and moisture.

Rab - Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket
Rab - Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket

Gear for Extreme Conditions

In mountain environments that are extreme, the climber needs high-performance clothing that retains comfort and free movement of legs, hands and feet. Keep in mind, that as you climb, the body will generate heat, therefore it is important to wear layers of clothing to adjust body temperature as the climb proceeds. When shopping, look for waterproof fabrics that are also breathable.

Some extreme conditions to consider are cold weather and wind. It is important to stay warm while climbing so that the body does not become stiff or frigid, causing muscles to become tense and less flexible. Look to try and trap warmth close to body by wearing base layer clothing. Outer clothing, made from waterproof fabrics, should be able to be easily removed and stowed in your gear. Fleece is often an excellent option since it is non-absorbent and comes in a variety of warmth’s and weights. Even when fleece becomes wet, it is designed to dry quickly.

Arc'teryx - Phase SL Crew LS
Arc'teryx - Phase SL Crew LS

Base Layers

A base layer is a foundation piece of clothing. Often it will be a moisture wicking t-shirt that is relatively body-hugging. Most often experience rock climbers employ three layers of clothing:

  • Inner layer (base layer, first layer): Keeps the skin dry and provides comfort
  • Mid-layer (insulating layer): Creates warmth in the body
  • Shell layer (outer layer): Used as protection from rain and wind conditions

Just as a climber needs to take special care in selecting climbing equipment, they need to take just as much care in choosing their clothing. It is vital to purchase rock climbing gear that will keep the climber both dry and warm.

Comments 2 comments

sgiguere profile image

sgiguere 4 years ago from Marlborough MA

Great info about layering. As a climber myself, I find that the most important part of outfit are my shoes. It would be nice if you talked about different kinds of shoes and how to fit them, or even the difference between approach shoes and climbing shoes. I also find that staying cool and dry in the summer is vital to a summer climbing outfit. Wool is my new favorite material! Overall great Hub :)

Robert Craythorne profile image

Robert Craythorne 4 years ago from Okehampton, North Devon, UK Author

Climbing shoes is a great idea for a follow up piece - thanks!

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