A good pair of climbing pants is kind of like a good climber: strong, flexible, and washes regularly.
If you’re looking for a pair of the best all-around climbing pants that will fit all your adventures, look no further than the La Sportiva Mantra Pant (for women) or the prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Pant. These pants are stretchy, made to last, and will make you look good—whether you’re projecting V0 or warming up on a 5.15.
I think Marc Jacobs was describing climbing pants when he famously said, “Clothes have nothing until someone lives in them.” And we live in our climbing pants—to say the least.
We sweat, roll around in the dirt, get scared, shimmy, hand-foot-match, and all kinds of crazy things that make no logical, evolutionary sense in our climbing pants. When it comes to this crazy sport we love, it’s important that your pants are along for the ride.
With this in mind, I picked the climbing pants that will help you climb—and look—your best, without costing a fortune or wearing out in the first session. Marc Jacobs would approve.
Manufacturers face their share of challenges when designing climbing pants. They should be lightweight, breathable, and flexible without being so thin they wear out easily. We should be able to strap nylon around them and scrape them against sandpaper-like rock, but they better not get any rips or holes. We should be able to step our foot by our ear without feeling constricted, but they should still be attractive enough to wear to the bar for a beer afterwards. In short, we ask a lot of our climbing pants.
To address these conflicting desires, outdoor apparel companies have implemented technologies and designs that make climbing-specific pants worth the investment. So, if you’re in the market for a pair of pants you can wear at high altitudes—hopefully with a rope above you or a crash pad beneath you—you have a few factors to consider.
Flexibility vs. Durability
If you’re looking for an all-around climbing pant, finding a balance between flexibility and durability is key. Look for pants made of tougher materials, with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees for flexibility.
If you’re looking for gym, bouldering, or sport climbing pants, flexibility is your top priority. Your pants will get worn out no matter what, but these activities generally put less strain on your clothes than offwidth climbing, for example.
If you’re not using your pants as the extra bit surface area to get you up a chimney, you can forgo some durability for the freedom to contort your body into positions that would impress your yoga teacher.
If you’re an alpine or trad climber, durability and weather-proofing is the name of the game. Look for pants made of nylon (rather than lycra or cotton) that are weather-proofed to protect you from the elements. And, if you climb in the rain, prioritize waterproof pants with a DWR coating.
Another important consideration is how you’ll keep said pants on your body. An elasticized waistband or integrated belt go a long way toward keeping your pants on your butt. These technologies aren’t essential, as you can always wear an actual belt, but they’re an added luxury nonetheless.
Count how many pockets you use when you climb. If you like to rope climb without a backpack, you need a few pockets to hold essentials. Zip pockets are handy for carrying things like your keys, phone, or, most importantly, chapstick—anything that would be soul-crushing to watch peacefully float to the ground hundreds of feet below.
When prioritizing pockets, also notice where on the leg they sit. If you climb with a harness, traditional pockets are fairly useless. Look for pockets that sit lower on the leg so you can access your things without too much squirming.
To Zip or Not To Zip
Zip-off pants are also a thing, but I personally think they look too ridiculous to be legally sold in stores. This hard-no goes for pants with a lot of bulky side pockets as well. But, if you’re a pure function guy or gal, feel free to ignore me cringing at your life choices.
As for an overall look, I understand that aesthetics are a personal matter and individual style varies greatly among climbers. I find most climbing apparel screams “I’m built for the outdoors!” and is, subsequently, rather hideous. In this review, I looked for more classic designs that could ideally work outside of the outside, so to speak. And, of course, your pants being functional ultimately takes precedence over how they look.
Finally, let me first say I am grateful for this platform, and I take this opportunity to communicate important declarations with both humility and pride.
This brings me to my plea to all male climbers: If you are over the age of 11, please don’t wear leggings. Especially don’t wear leggings without shorts over them. And, for the love of God, don’t wear those multi-colored crazy-patterned leggings with cats and rainbows and whatever else they decided to throw on there.
We get it—you don’t take life too seriously. And that’s a wonderful thing. But you’re also a grown man, and literally everyone can map the exact outline of your penis.
Unlike other gear I’ve reviewed, you’ll likely own more than one pair of climbing pants. This takes a little pressure off us both, as you’re not necessarily looking for one thing that can do it all. Consider the following factors to prioritize depending on the pants and when you’ll be wearing them:
Aesthetic: I’ll be the first to admit I might prioritize this a little too much. On one hand, if you’re an avid outdoor climber who gets out before the sun and comes back to flat ground in the dark, you’re correct to prioritize function over form, as your climbing partner is the only one who has to suffer the look of your zip-offs. For most of us, I think we can find a pair of pants that works well and doesn’t make you look too goofy.
Durability: This is an especially important factor to consider when you’re buying climbing pants for the outdoors. More durable materials tend to be stiffer and will limit your movement. But if you do a lot of wrestling with the rock when you’re climbing (i.e. offwidth climbing, lots of knee bars for some reason, etc.) and you want a pair of pants you won’t have to replace after just about every climb, prioritize durability.
Flexibility: Flexibility is very important, as the last thing you want is a pair of pants that restricts your movement. That said, flexible pants often come at the price of durability, as they tend to be made with stretchy, thinner, lighter materials. Consider saving your stretch pants for training and the gym, and buy something more durable for real rock.
Weather Resistance: If you like to climb outside, you’ll need at least one pair of pants that actually keeps you warm and/or dry. Even if you avoid cold weather climbing, most climbing areas are colder at night, and you never know when a day is going to turn out longer—or wetter—than expected. You can ignore this factor if you’re a gym climber exclusively, but it’s important to keep in mind if you climb on real rock.
Weight and Breathability: I looked for lightweight, breathable pants so you can forget you’re even wearing any, and you can keep your undercarriage less swamp-like.
Cost: Climbing pants have a pretty wide range when it comes to cost, mostly depending on how technical they are. If you need all the bells and whistles, prepare to spend a lot. Otherwise, I chose pants that were a relatively good value for their quality.
The Best Climbing Pants
La Sportiva Mantra Pant (F)
If you’re looking for the best pair of climbing pants that you can wear in almost any scenario, look no further than La Sportiva’s Mantra pant.
With a gusseted crotch, articulated knees, and a nylon/spandex construction, these lightweight pants are the perfect combination of durable and flexible.
The deep pockets, integrated brush sleeve, and harness-compatible waistband make these pants highly functional, while their narrower leg keeps you looking your best. Be thoughtful here: the crazy neon colors might make you look like a skier in the ’80s. Consider opting for the grey if bright colors aren’t your style.
Because these pants aren’t weather treated, they’re not ideal for climbing in the rain or cold. But, at under $100, they’re a steal for a solid all-around climbing pant.
- Integrated brush sleeve
- Good value
- Not weatherproofed
- No zipper leg pocket
- No integrated belt
prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Pant (M)
PrAna has been a chosen outfitter for climbers for since it was founded over 25 years ago, and the Men’s Stretch Zion are their best selling pants for good reason. With an integrated belt, ventilated inseam gusset, handy side pocket, and super-soft nylon/spandex construction, they’re a perfect combination of durable, comfortable, and functional.
They also boast a DWR finish and UPF rating of 50+, so they’re fairly equipped to handle weather—although not technical enough for alpine climbing. I also find the mix of the side pocket and somewhat wide leg give them a slightly “dad volunteering at science camp” look.
That said, they come equipped with roll-up leg snaps that not only keep your hem out of the way, but also improve the overall aesthetic. And, to be fair, the side pocket really comes in handy when you’re wearing a harness.
Priced under $90, the Stretch Zion Pant is an excellent value for highly functional climbing pants that will last—and they win the #1 place on this list of the best climbing pants for men.
- Integrated belt
- Ventilated gusset seam
- Good value
- Could be better looking
Black Diamond Alpine Light Pants (F/M)
These highly technical pants come in models for both men and women, and they’re versatile enough to wear for training at the gym or paired with a base layer for climbing outside in cold weather. Black Diamond describes their Alpine Light Pants at the “three-season solution for light, packable weather protection.”
With a zipper thigh pocket, seat gusset, integrated belt, and DWR finish, these pants incorporate high-quality functionality. And, weighing in at just 10.2 ounces, they’re some of the lightest pants on my list. Plus, the combination of nylon and elastane make these pants both durable and stretchy.
As far as outdoor climbing pants are concerned, I’d describe these as inoffensive looking. In fact, I might even go as far as to say they’re nice looking. They’re ever-so-slightly more expensive than their competitors, but if you’re looking to invest in a nice pair of pants you can feel comfortable in outside, these are an excellent choice.
- DWR finish
- Slightly more expensive
Topo Designs Climb Pant (M)
I was lucky enough to get a pair of these pants for women before they were either discontinued or sold out (fingers crossed they’re coming back!). The truth is, I love these pants for both men and women, but men are the lucky 49.2% of the population that still gets to order them.
Why do I love these pants so much? They’re good looking. Well, other than the slightly obnoxious branding on the pocket that’s easy to remove, they’re really good looking.
Because they’re made of 98% cotton and 2% spandex, they’re not ideal for the outdoors (mine got a small hole in the knee on my first session). They’re not as durable as outdoor-specific pants, and they’re certainly not suitable for inclement weather. But with a gusseted crotch, built-in belt, and zippered back pocket, these pants have everything you need for sessions at the gym.
And, at a mid-range price point, they’re the perfect, stretchy, comfortable gym pants that look good enough to wipe off all the chalk in the bathroom and wear them out afterwards. And, at under $100, they’re not trying to charge outdoor prices for indoor function.
- Built-in belt
- Gusseted crotch
- Zip pocket
- Not durable
- Not versatile
- Not weatherproof
The North Face North Dome Pants (F/M)
Even if you’re new to climbing, I have a feeling you’ve heard of The North Face. TNF is the chosen brand for outdoor enthusiasts for good reason: They make some of the best-looking, most functional gear on the market.
Designed with climbing functionality and comfort in mind, The North Dome pants are one of my favorite pants for climbers. Because they’re made using organic cotton and elastane, these climbing pants check the boxes for comfort and flexibility, but lose points for durability. I wouldn’t recommend them for cold-weather or wet conditions, but they’re all you need for climbing in the sun.
These pants are also stacked with features. They come equipped with a gusset crotch, articulated legs, leg hem cinch, zippered back pocket, hidden brush pocket, and even a waist drawcord, which is exposed at the back to act as a chalk-bag loop. Plus, the classic narrow-ish design make them an attractive addition to your closet.
- Tons of features
- Not durable
- Not versatile
- Not weatherproof
Black Diamond Notion Pant (F/M)
These glorified sweatpants might not be the most versatile, but they’re a terrific addition any climber’s closet. Comprised of organic cotton and elastane, the Notions are supremely comfortable climbing pants. And, with a narrow leg and simple design, they’re pretty attractive as well.
Because they’re made of cotton, they don’t tick all the boxes when it comes to weatherproofing and durability. But with a gusseted crotch and reinforced knees, they’re still built to withstand the unique strain of climbing, placing them ahead of other cotton athletic pants.
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-going gym pant that’s still made for your favorite sport, the Notions are for you.
- Reinforced knees
- Gusseted crotch
- Not versatile
- Not durable
- No extra features
LNDR Blackout LITE Legging (F)
Nine times out of ten, if I’m climbing inside, I’m wearing leggings. Because stretch and comfort are of utmost importance with indoor climbing, and there’s little need for pockets and no need for weatherproofing, leggings are my pants of choice for climbing with a roof over my head—well, a man-made roof… you know what I mean.
I’ll start by admitting that LNDR leggings are really expensive. But I think they’re worth it. The seamless construction is breathable, with compression paneling that, for lack of a better term, really sucks you right in. The material is also antibacterial, sweat-wicking, and quick-drying, so it doesn’t get smelly as quickly as other tights.
They come in size ranges, which I don’t love. My recommendation is to size up if you’re unsure. They’re made for high-performance sweating in the gym, but they’re not ideal for the outdoors (for obvious reasons). And, because they’re so expensive, I wouldn’t recommend them if your gym has textured walls, as those tend to eat your climbing pants faster.
With LNDR’s flattering cut, fit, high-quality materials and construction, and 100% opacity (no more showing your undies to the entire gym when you bend over!)—these leggings are worth the investment.
- 100% opaque
- Confusing sizing
- Not versatile
Patagonia Cloud Ridge Pants (F/M)
Made using 100% recycled polyester ripstop, with a breathable waterproof barrier and DWR finish, the Cloud Ridge Pants will keep you dry without making you sweat—even in hot, humid conditions.
These pants are highly functional, but they place near the bottom of my list simply because they’re so specific.
They’re made with articulated knees, breathable vents, a drawcord waist, adjustable cuffs to fit over boots, and even a stuff sack for transportation and storage. And priced around $180, you’ll pay a pretty penny for all these features.
But if you’re looking for a pair of the best climbing pants to take outside when it’s wet, these are the ones you’re looking for. And you can pat yourself on the back for purchasing from a company that’s famous for their company ethics and environmental sustainability.
- Not versatile
- Not cute
Outdoor Voices Tech Sweat Short (F)
When it comes to wearing shorts, spandex might make you feel a little too “exposed.” But rest assured, these shorts stay put. And, unlike when you wear looser-fitting shorts, you won’t have to worry about what color underwear you’re wearing halfway through a heel-hook. Plus, they layer well, so you can wear them under regular shorts for added security.
With a 5” inseam, they’re really not that short (the company makes a longer version, too, I just don’t think they’re as cute). The seaming is really flattering and contours to your body, adding an extra confidence boost.
Outdoor Voices’ Tech Sweat line is made for high-intensity workouts, with an enhanced waistband that sits high and stays put. There’s also a small back pocket for your phone or keys (if you’re willing to risk falling on them).
The Tech Sweat Shorts are on the pricier side, considering they’re spandex shorts. But they’re the one pair of spandex shorts I’ve found that I can actually leave the house in without feeling naked.
- Stays put
- Not too short
- Small pocket
- Too revealing for some
- Not versatile
- Not weatherproof
prAna Mojo Short (M)
These simple, lightweight shorts are perfect not only for climbing, but also yoga and almost any hot-weather activity. They’re incredibly comfortable and flexible, and they give you that “not wearing pants” feeling. The 100% recycled polyester is moisture-wicking and quick-drying, and they’re even UPF rated to protect you from the sun.
With an inseam gusset, mesh-lined front pockets, and a fully velcro back pocket with a hook-and-loop closure, these shorts are still functional despite being so bare-bones.
Because they’re made with an elastic waistband, it’s important you get the correct size. And, because they’re unlined, it’s even more important that you wear your undies.
That said, the simple design and length that falls just above the knee give these shorts an attractive look for a wide range of body types. And, at around $50, they’re a great value.
- Velcro pocket
- Gusseted crotch
- No belt loops
- Not versatile
- Not durable
What Is a Gusseted Crotch?
DO NOT GOOGLE THIS—you’ve come to the right place for the answer. Or do Google it, depending on what kind of research you’re actually doing.
When it comes to climbing pants, a gusseted crotch is a diamond-shaped piece of material that’s sewn into the groin section. It creates a lot more flexibility and stretch, and it also prevents the pants from ripping in that area.
This design creates seams you’re likely not used to feeling in your pants, so it will give you the sensation that you’ve forgotten to remove a tag or something weird is happening “down there.” But it makes for a much more comfortable pair once you’re used to an added triangle covering your nether regions.
What Are Articulated Knees?
Articulated knees are common in everything from hiking pants to work trousers. The pants are designed to mimic the actual shape of the leg, whereby the knee is bent. This often uses added seaming or different materials at the knee section.
Again, this adds to both the flexibility and durability of climbing pants. Some pants also come with “reinforced knees,” which add another layer between your precious patella and the rock—protecting both your pants and your knee bone.
Why Should I Buy Climbing Pants Instead of Athletic Pants?
This is a reasonable question, so I’ll give you a reasonable answer: It depends. Maybe you’re a gym climber who never really uses “knee beta,” doesn’t get on anything that requires you to lift your leg above your waist, and generally asks little of your pants when you’re climbing. If that’s the case, you can save your money and get a pair of regular athletic pants.
That said, climbing is a pretty unique, specific, and magnificent sport. It’s a little high-maintenance, and a pair of pants designed to accommodate all its demands is worth the extra dollars.
What Is DWR, and How Do I Take Care of It?
DWR is an acronym for Durable Water Repellent. It’s a finish that’s used to treat high-performance rainwear, to prevent water from saturating the clothing’s exterior. When a pair of pants is treated with DWR, water beads up and slides off the surface instead of soaking into the fabric.
If you climb outside and invest in a pair of pants treated with DWR, you should wash away oil and dirt after every use. Always dry them on low to medium heat, but only for up to 15 minutes. Don’t hang your pants and air-dry them, as heat actually revives the DWR coating.
What’s a UPF Rating?
UPF, an acronym for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, indicates the fraction of ultraviolet rays that can penetrate the garment’s fabric. So, if the pants have a 50 UPF rating, 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation can touch your skin.
Because clothing is the first line of defense against skin cancer, a UPF rating is an incredibly valuable feature of any pair of climbing pants, especially if you’re planning to wear them in sunny weather.
Now that you have your perfect pair (or two) of the best climbing pants for you and your climbing situations, check out my other recommendations to complete your look:
- Varley Feliz Bra: I prefer thinner-strapped sports bras that don’t give you crazy tubeboob, as I find them more comfortable and flattering. This bra gives you medium coverage and support, giving enough support to smaller-to-medium boobies while remaining pretty and feminine.
- Arc’teryx Conveyor Belt: This 100% nylon belt will blend in with the rest of your climbing gear, and it’s built to last. Get after that sit-start and high-foot without showing everyone your buttcrack—I call that a win-win! Sunski Dipseas Polarized Sunglasses: These unisex shades are built for the outdoors and still look stylish. Imagine that!
- Charles River Apparel Unisex Jacket: With a unisex design, this lightweight jacket is basically the perfect windbreaker.
- CLIMBON Lip Tube: Call me dramatic, but as a climber with perpetually chapped lips, I consider lip balm to be a piece of gear as essential as my rope. This all-natural lip balm can treat not only your chapped lips, but mosquito bites and cold sores too!