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Paintball - What to Wear?

Updated on February 9, 2012
One of my standard outfits.
One of my standard outfits.

Dress Accordingly

Choosing the proper attire for a day of paintball should be based on these 3 rules:

  1. Dress comfortably. Paintball involves a lot of running, sliding, crawling, diving, falling, tumbling, rolling, stretching, leaning, etc... you want your clothes to accommodate free movement. Remember, the objective here is to NOT get shot, so being quick & agile are key.
  2. Dress durably. I don't even know if that's a word; if not, it is now. Your clothes will take a beating, and they will get dirty, just look at rule #1! You will not walk away clean, and by golly, you won't have fun without getting some mud and paint on your clothes. Don't wear your sunday best... unless your "sunday best" happens to be paintball apparel.
  3. Dress weather-appropriate. I see a lot of people recommend layers. "Wear layers so it won't hurt so bad," they say. WRONG. They're right about more layers softening the paintball hits, but more layers could potentially KILL YOU. I've seen kids walking around wearing 2 hoodies, in the middle of summer, then soon complain about feeling sick or dizzy. You don't say! Only layer up if it's cold enough to warrant it. In warmer weather, it's still a good idea to wear pants & a long sleeve to minimize welts, but opt for thinner clothing, or even clothing designed to cool you off, and keep the layers to a minimum.

Some older gear.
Some older gear.

Head to Toe

Now i'll go over some suggestions on what specific items of clothing you could wear.

  • HEAD: you'll be wearing a mask, no question. Along with the mask, you may want some headwear, like a headband, headwrap (doorags, sandandas, etc), beanie, baseball cap (the fitted kind, worn backwards), sweatband, shemagh, old tshirt, some rags & string, whatever. Basically, this catches sweat and helps keep the mask from jiggling while you run (especially if you rent gear, since those masks are low quality and the straps are often worn out).
  • TORSO: as stated, don't wear too many layers. A tank top or tshirt with a long sleeve over it, is often more than enough. If it's cold, add a sweatshirt. If it's really cold, add a light jacket. If it's really really cold, holy crap go inside!
  • LEGS: jeans are most often worn by beginners because, let's face it, jeans are what most of us wear for dang near everything, anyway. But not those awful skinny jeans all the kids wear these days. Regular or "relaxed fit" jeans. Cargo pants are also a good choice. Believe it or not, scrubs make for good pb pants, too. Lots of people like bdu's, but camo isn't always necessary to play the game. Now if paintball becomes a regular thing, regardless of what kind of paintball you play, i recommend actual paintball pants - the right durability, the right padding, the right pockets, and other features that separate these pants from every-day pants.
  • FEET: socks, of course, and any shoes with good traction for running through grass/dirt or turf. I like using trail runners, which are sneakers that have hiking-boot-like soles. Some people wear cleats, so if you play other sports like football, soccer, etc, that use cleats, feel free to use those in paintball (no metal spikes, though, field owners frown upon them). Any ol' sneakers you got laying around usually do the trick, though.

Arm pads, gloves, knee pads.
Arm pads, gloves, knee pads.

Peace of mind

Did i forget to mention padding? Nope! I just did! Padding is not always a necessity but some people want to be at ease - and others just play rough. So let's do the head-to-toe thing again.

  • HEAD: Some masks offer full head protection (attached helmets, essentially). But there are some head padding options aside from that, like padded headbands (that really only protect the forehead/temple areas) or a padded cap (most famous being the TurtleCap made by Hundredth Monkey). There are also neck protectors available, although they never looked very adequate to me - most people just roll up a bandana & tie that around their neck.
  • TORSO: there are some cheesy padded vests, or "chest protectors," out there, commonly seen being used with rental gear. One-size-fits-all & cheap, but bulky & cumbersome. There are padded shirts available, that resemble compression shirts (like UnderArmour) with padding in them. Cost more but fit better, are available in short & long sleeve, and are found across various sports, not just paintball (american football, for example).
  • ARMS: padding common in paintball are arm pads, that cover the forearm from wrist to elbow. Designed mostly for divers & sliders, who launch themselves head-first into bunkers, using their forearms to soften some of the landing force; more specifically, so they don't get road rash (or "turf" rash). If you've got dainty hands, give gloves a shot. I don't see many padded gloves outside of paintball, but there are some good options: baseball or football gloves, highend work gloves (like Mechanix or IronClad), anything that fits snug & isn't bulky works fine.
  • LEGS: slider shorts, knee/shin pads, "junk shields" (cups). Whatever fits your needs. I don't often recommend cups, or hadn't, because they're so horridly uncomfortable, and crotch shots are quite rare. But now there's flexible cups, with rigid support where it counts, and soft support where it comforts. Shock Doctor is the first i heard of, but they seem to be catching on everywhere. Paintball pants often have padding in that area, and for me that has been sufficient for years. Even something simple like a folded towel stuffed down your trousers does the trick.
  • FEET: Don't wear open-toed shoes, wear shoes with leather or synthetic uppers, no crazy amounts of mesh as seen on pro-running/track shoes.


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    • profile image

      Nobody 4 years ago

      This is the best answer for me, I'm going to play paintball in a few days and I was worried I was going to come with a hoodie and sweat pants on my first time playing *mouthful*. Now I'm more prepared and I won't be (as) wimpy anymore!

    • Silver Gooch profile image

      Silver Gooch 5 years ago from Florida

      This is some quality advice. I have seen too many new players wearing layers and layers of clothes, and seeing how I live in Florida, these are the players who are in danger of heat strokes and passing out. Layers don't do too much when it comes to minimizing pain from the paintball, either way, you're most likely going to get shot sometime during the day. The pain only lasts for a few seconds, it's not unbearable. :) I digress, investing in some Walmart Volleyball Kneepads is a great investment of $5. Depending on where you play it could save you from a scraped knee or break a fall while you're moving through woods or across an airball field. I would also suggest bringing some type of cleaner such as Windex or even soapy water in a bottle, the masks can be very dirty that are distributed at the field and having a clear view of vision is extremely important when it comes to paintball.

      Great Hub, keep doin' what you're doin'. :)