Don’t worry if you’re unsure of what to wear but want to try indoor rock climbing.
Fortunately, very little technical clothing is needed for indoor rock climbing, which is a fun and active activity. Wondering what to wear for bouldering? Dress for a date that involves indoor climbing? What should you bring when visiting a climbing gym for the first time?
The clothing we’ve put together for indoor climbing gyms is practical, and chances are you already have what you need in your closet!
What Tops to Wear Indoor Rock Climbing?
Any t-shirt or gym top will be fine. To avoid getting in the way or getting caught in belay equipment, it shouldn’t be too baggy. While short sleeves or a tank top are more breathable, long sleeves can be useful for preventing scrapes and bangs.
For men, a slim-fit, stretchy, permeable, moisture-wicking t-shirt would be our top recommendation. If not, a light-blended fabric tee will be fine. The same for women or a loose tank top with a sports bra for more breathability.
What Pants to Wear Climbing Indoors?
For your initial outing, shorts or yoga pants are ideal. Shorts shouldn’t be too short, just above the knee is great for intense sessions. Consider wearing something like capris or three-quarter lengths that offer some protection since you’ll be banging your shins and scraping your knee against the wall quite a bit.
Top Tip: Footwork is greatly aided by being able to see your feet. Instead of pulling with your arms, climbing is more about pushing up with your feet.
We advise investing in specialized climbing pants if you enjoy the sport. The majority of pants designed for climbing are slightly baggy, have a gusseted (wider) crotch, can roll up, and are made of durable, breathable material. These are excellent for protecting your legs and will be especially helpful the first time you go outside.
Tips on Choosing Climbing Clothing
- Focus on flexibility: Reaching distant footholds and handholds requires full arm and leg extension.
- Lightweight fabrics are adequate: When climbing outdoors, where rock faces are rough on equipment, abrasion resistance is crucial; when climbing indoors, more comfortable clothing is the norm.
- Go for the slim fit: You don’t need to go with the skintight look unless that’s your thing, but you do need to avoid baggy clothes that can interfere with movement or get caught up in the rope. Select pants or shorts that can be worn underneath a climbing harness with ease.
- Shorts are fine: Gyms are heated, so you’re not likely to get cold. But think about what you’re wearing underneath your shorts—there are a lot of people in the gym below. You also see plenty of people climbing in pants, so wear them if that’s your preference.
Tips on Climbing Footwear
You can rent shoes from almost every gym, so start there. Here are a couple of additional things to consider for your feet:
- Socks: I have bad news if renting bowling shoes makes you uncomfortable: climbing shoes are designed to be worn without socks. Wear some low, thin socks if you still can’t bear the idea of your bare skin coming into contact with the interior of their rental shoes, even though most gyms regularly disinfect the equipment.
- Casual shoes: It’s nice to have something cozy to put on in between climbs. Climbing shoes can spread germs onto climbing holds, so gyms don’t want you wearing them in the restrooms. And if you later decide to purchase your own rock shoes, the soles will last longer if you use them only for climbing.
Tips on Accessories for the Climbing Gym
- Lightweight jacket: It’s nice to have something lightweight and warm to throw on if the gym heater or AC keeps things a little cooler than you’d prefer. This is especially true if you just finished your route and are now standing around watching or belaying other climbers after working up a good sweat on it.
- Chalk bag: Ropes, harnesses, and belay devices are all available for purchase or rental at gyms. But if you want to chalk, prepare to bring your own bag and chalk.
- No gloves or caps: Each climbing hold requires that your hands make direct contact with it. Don’t worry, after a few climbing sessions, your skin will start to thicken. Hats are a bad idea because you don’t want anything that could come off. If your long hair worries you, tie it up with a hair tie.
Can I Wear Jeans Rock Climbing?
Yes. You’ll probably see a few people wearing skinny jeans climbing or bouldering. You might wonder just how people do this without restricting their movement. The answer is lycra (sometimes known as elastane or spandex).
There are a few specially designed climbing jeans with extra stretch and a gusseted crotch. This protects your legs from gnarly climbing holds and enables big split movements.
Not just climbing jeans, but also stretchy denim is available from a few major brands. Stretchy jeans are reasonably affordable and are available both online and at most major retailers.
We like them a lot because you can use the same pair of jeans for climbing and everyday wear while still getting the necessary protection and stretch. What to wear indoor rock climbing is based on what you feel comfortable in.
Do You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?
If you are going to get rental shoes – we’d say yes. However, many people have walked around in rental shoes while perspiring in them. For hygiene, we’d say wear thin ankle socks when renting climbing shoes.
Wearing socks with climbing shoes is not advised once you have your own. It makes you feel more and allows you to get closer to the holds, though it will be a little more uncomfortable.
What Not to Wear?
We won’t instruct you on how to care for your body. However, keep in mind that in a climbing gym, people will either be looking at you from directly above or directly below. Try not to let anything dangle out on those awkward moves.
While wonderful and non-restrictive, short shorts may not be the best option. When wearing a harness, you’ll frequently be seated back into the leg loops. The shorts can bunch up under the loops and this can be uncomfortable with stiff hire harnesses.
After getting hooked, a good harness can be very comfortable and worth the investment.
Conclusion: What to Wear Rock Climbing?
In summary, when deciding what to wear for rock climbing, it is important to consider comfort, safety, and weather conditions. Wear loose-fitting and stretchy clothing, appropriate shoes, a helmet, and dress appropriately for the weather.
Rock climbing is an exciting and challenging activity that requires proper equipment and clothing to ensure your safety and comfort. By following these tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable climbing experience.
Is It Better to Rock Climb in Shorts Or Pants?
Many climbers prefer shorts over pants, especially the loose-fitting athletic variety, though this will also leave your knees exposed to scrapes and cuts when they bang against the rock. Capris or three-quarter-length pants are an alternate option that will provide a little bit more security.
Are Sweatpants Okay for Rock Climbing?
You can probably get away with wearing any pants or shorts that you would typically wear to the gym. Leggings, basketball shorts, hiking pants, and sweatpants are all acceptable options. The only item I might advise against, especially for cautious climbers, is running shorts.