According to researcher Andrew Bisharat, between the 1920s and the 1950s, aristocratic rock climbers wore formal white dress shirts to undertake the sport. By the 1970s, not much had changed, he adds. “With no market for climbing clothing yet, climbers just winged it. It was like watching toddlers, or your crazy aunt with Alzheimer’s, dress. They wore rugby shirts, painters’ pants and bandannas for helmets.”
These days, climbers are fortunate to have a wide variety of clothing designed just for climbing and few items are considered more essential than a proper pair of climbing pants. The point isn’t looking good. The point is being efficient and practical while undertaking climbs, and thanks to modern fabric innovations, the amount of movement you get while wearing a pair of today’s stretchy pants is best described as “insane”!
prAna – Men’s Stretch Zion – OUR PICK
- The stretch factor is over-the-top
- Unlimited color selection
- Water repellant and extremely breathable
- Pant leg snaps allow hems to be rolled up and secured
- Super choice for other sports too.
- Quality control problems reported
- Returns for sizing and fit issues
- Myriad customer service complaints.
Not every climber cares only about function. For those who admit to having fashion sensibilities, this prAna Men’s Stretch Zion pant comes in 14 colors so you can coordinate a pair with every shirt in your dresser. You will have to spend time figuring out color availability related to the size you wear because this combo determines the price you will pay. Once you figure that out, you’re likely to discover why this prAna Men’s Stretch Zion pant gets rave reviews from men who wouldn’t consider wearing another brand.
Fabricated of 97-percent Nylon for optimal lightweight and 3-percent Spandex for stretchability, these imported pants are abrasion-resistant, durable, and quick-drying so wearers can get back on that climbing wall or hike faster. Water repellent and featuring an angled dual-entry cargo pocket, once you get the color and price sorted out, there’s a good chance you’ll agree with the dude who rated these pants “100-percent awesome.”
Mountain Hardwear Men’s AP Pant – ALSO GREAT
- Comes in 5 sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL)
- Slim fit for greater mobility
- Runs true to size
- Perfect for easy packing and travel
- 20 colors may be too many choices!
- Water-resistant but not waterproof
- Not the best choice for men with athletic builds
- The fabric could be too rough against the skin
If having 14 choices impressed you, better sit down when we deliver the news that these Mountain Hardwear pants come in 20 colors, and while prices do vary, they don’t cost as much as the prAna above pants. Recommended for a wide range of activities—-camping, climbing, hiking and just hanging around looking fashionable–this garment’s fabric mix consists of 4 types of threads: canvas, cotton, Nylon and Elastane, each contributing to durability and comfort without sacrificing functionality.
The waistband can be rolled up, and snap closure cuffs at the ankle offer the wearer lots of freedom to stretch. These pants can even help keep you safe. The maker added reflective details to the hems, so guys wearing a pair can be spotted at night. Roll up the hems or let them hug your ankles, you’ll enjoy extra carry room thanks to a front phone pocket and two zippered security pockets to hold essentials while you climb. The Mountain Hardware brand is well established, so count on the company for quality duds.
- Organically grown cotton promotes sustainability
- Features a signature OppoSet™ adjustable waist
- Easy to remove mud and other soil
- Holster pocket keeps devices secure
- Can be worn without a belt.
- May feel too stiff for comfort
- Sizing could be problematic
- May not stretch enough for you.
No matter which size you require, one price fits all. The trade-off? Start with only 2 color choices but if you go with the ever-popular brown color, you could have problems finding a pair in your size. Patagonia’s admonition, “climb hard but move easy,” is personified in this brand’s offerings. These pants breathe and stay comfy thanks to a fabric mix of polyester, organically-grown cotton and Spandex. This pant doesn’t try to be all things to all men. It’s designed for rock climbers. Period.
Get all the extra touches you need: belt loops, 2 rear pockets that are positioned so adroitly, they serve as extra padding for your derriere, and the technical patterning includes an adjustable waist plus a crotch gusset because you can never have enough room there when you’re climbing. The cotton is not just cotton. It’s organically grown. Add a discreet right-thigh patch pocket with interior mesh to safeguard contents, articulated legs, a separating zipper fly and you’re ready to face every challenge.
- Offers UPF 50+ sun protections
- Drawstring cuff closures repel mud and debris
- Appropriate for office attire
- Features gusseted crotch and articulated knees
- Designed with both drop-in and security pockets.
- Product description isn’t updated to reflect design changes
- There could be quality control issues with stitching
- Changeable cuff drawstring replaced by less efficient pull cord.
If you believe that 20 colors is a bit over the moon and you prefer fewer decisions because you’re rather be climbing, this Outdoor Research hiking/climbing/camping pant could appeal to you with just 8 colors from which to choose. Like other pants in this review, expect plenty of quality at decent prices. Fabricated of 86-percent nylon and 14-percent Spandex, this high percentage of Spandex could deliver the stretch you haven’t found in other brands.
Machine wash these pants to return them to their former glory and enjoy these benefits: Pants are quick-drying, wind- and water-resistant, breathable and dare we mention that signature movement-mirroring stretch again? This company’s pedigree is impressive. Scientist Ron Gregg’s climbing partner suffered frostbite requiring emergency care. When he returned to civilization, he vowed to devote his life to adventure-seeking and inventing products like these climbing pants. He succeeded on both counts.
- Wear them climbing or socializing
- Features 2 hand pockets and 2 rear pockets
- Elastic cuffs ensure a tight fit
- The seat is gusseted for added mobility
- It comes in sizes S, M, L, and XL.
- Size range isn’t as extensive
- 3-percent Elastane content may not be stretchy enough
- These pants tend to run big.
If 6 color choices is all you can handle but you still want to be stylish when you climb, this Black Diamond Notion Pant should be on your radar. You’ll appreciate the drawstring at the leg hem that can be tightened down to keep dirt and debris out. The elastic waistband offers comfort and relief from extra calories you may consume during your outing and reinforced knees are designed to make sure that these pants stick around for years.
If you’re looking for thread counts, you’ll find them buried in the small print: 97-percent cotton and 3-percent Elastane. This isn’t necessarily the best ratio of stretch to non-stretch material, especially when you compare this amount to 14-percent Spandex used to make the aforementioned Outdoor Research pants. If stretch is your biggest consideration and you decide to get these, keep the receipt.
- Lightweight and comfortable for all outdoor activities
- Classic cargo pant silhouette
- 18 color combinations
- Sizes run from 20×30 to 54×34
- Adjustable exterior waistband with partial elastic insert.
- Not necessarily the best choice for climbing
- Pockets aren’t very big and sizing can be problematic
- Nylon rips easily and doesn’t stretch very well.
A review of climbing pants that doesn’t include the Columbia brand? Impossible. These folks have been around for 80 years and they’ve sold all manner of athletic wear, not the least of which includes these silver ridge cargo pants. Sizing, color and availability can dramatically impact the price of the pair you choose, so if you need incentive to drop a few pounds, this could be the motivation you need.
Manufactured of 100-percent Nylon fabric, this product is a classic cargo pant, comfortable, easy to wash and dry and designed for just about everything you plan to do outdoors. Advanced Columbia technology includes the company’s Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric treatment that rebuffs sun and Omni-Wick technology keeps the wearer cool even when the sun gets blistering. The side pockets comes with hook and loop closure and mesh pocket bags will hold your valuables while you’re having fun.
What to consider when choosing climbing pants
If you noticed a theme throughout these descriptions, you’re not imagining things. Stretch is the most important factor climbers cite when comparing pants. Here are other factors shoppers consider before they hand over their plastic.
Climbing is all about stretching, so a mix of cotton and an elastic textile are your best bet. Whether it’s Spandex, Elastane or another thread, pay attention to the ratio of cotton to elastic to maximize your agility and give your legs and hips optimal range of motion. A diamond gusset in the groin area is the best insurance against a seam rip and weight can play a big role in how your pants feel if you’re on an extended climb. The lighter, the better.
Climbing presents unique challenges to garments. Scraping, falling and trekking over forest floors on the way to a climb could all damage or otherwise destroy your pants if you don’t buy a durable pair. Think about harnesses, rope and other irritants. “Just try wearing sweat pants moving through brambles, manzanita or sagebrush; you will be walking around in rags within an hour,” say folks at Mountainknowhow.com.
Apply what’s written about fabric above to this factor. The joy of mountain and rock climbing is in contorting your body in ways an ordinary guy would find impossible. You need maximum freedom and you need pants that stay in place no matter how you contort your body. We don’t have to go into the topic of crotch creeping, right?
Your personal reaction to fabric and construction is unique. Some men can’t stand polyester against their skin. Others find cotton mixes to be somewhat abrasive. Bottom line is that if you’re not comfortable doing the activity you can’t get enough of, what’s the point?
Climbers who aren’t afraid of cold weather face a dilemma. Most climbing pants won’t accommodate thermals and even if they do, your movements could be constricted. Experts suggest a pair designed just for cold weather climbing. Check for moisture-wicking properties so exertion doesn’t turn your sweat output into ice!
Dawn M. Michaelson’s master’s thesis, “Assessing Functional Needs of Rock Climbing Pants,” proved a milestone study. Forty one-percent of her respondents said that packets are essential. The ability to stow necessities for easy retrieval was declared paramount. Zippers and Velcro pockets were called the most valuable.
One’s ability to reach into a thigh pocket for maps, guides, printouts, snacks, phone, and other small items without having to stop climbing or adjust a rig is considered to be one of the best reasons all for choosing climbing pants with thigh pockets.
This common feature can make or break an experience. If the waist is too tight, you’ll be uncomfortable; if it’s too loose, you’ll spend all of your time hoping they don’t fall off. Various materials and designs custom-fit pants to the waist that runs from elastic to built-in belts. Pick the one that feels right.
An adjustable cuff system does more than just allow you to pick the pant leg length that serves specific purposes, but the ability to adjust the length on the fly can be invaluable. Whether you select elastic cuffs or snaps, you can turn your pants into capris or shorts fast when you get hot or if you find that the length is impeding your climb.
Michaelson interviewed climbers earning under $25K per year, yet attitudes about shopping for climbing pants showed that 49.1-percent of respondents said that value offsets the price. Considered an investment in safety by rock climbers, study respondents say they are willing to spend more in return for durability and better fit. On average, they say the ideal price range is between $50 and $75 per pair.