Climbing Clothing

Climbing's editors are always testing new tops, sports bras, midlayers, and other performance-oriented climbing clothing. These field-tested reviews will help you cut through the catalog clutter and choose climbing clothing you'll be happy to wear day after day.
  • Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    As editors of a climbing magazine, part of our job description includes traveling to cool climbing areas with the latest and greatest gear and putting it through its paces—all in the name of “testing.” Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. We eventually have to decide which products are worthy of a mention, and which are better left on the shelf. Every year there are several items that shine brightest, proving themselves to be absolutely must-have pieces of gear. We bestow those top picks with the gear world’s premier prize: Editors’ Choice. This year, we winnowed a field of hundreds of products to select these 15 coolest, best-performing, and most drool-worthy gear picks.

  • HPECBassecamp

    Gear Guide 2014: Basecamp

    Whether your digs are a sleeping bag under the stars or a shiny new Sprinter, here are 31 of the best new things to improve any climbing trip.

  • ECSport

    Gear Guide 2014: Sport Climbing

  • HPEC

    Gear Guide 2014: Editors' Choice Awards

    Innovative, smart, lust-worthy, and just plain cool: 10 new must-have products that topped our testers’ lists.

  • mountainhardwear

    5 Super-Light Shells For Spring

    Precipitation is the enemy of the rock climber, and few things are as disappointing as watching your project get drenched in a spring squall. Sport climbers and boulderers need an emergency shell for surprise storms, while ice and alpine climbers rely on these jackets to keep them dry and warm—a dire necessity—in their bad-weather battlefields.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Backdraft

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Backdraft

    “The chimneys and offwidths of the Utah desert are some of the toughest proving grounds for apparel, and if anything functions well and emerges unscathed, it’s a winner in my book,” said one tester after rocking the Backdraft for several pitches of wide (and wider) cracks.

  • Liberty-Mountain-Cowhide-Gloves

    Liberty Mountain Cowhide Rap Gloves

    They say the best offense is a good defense, and the same goes for shielding your most valuable tool: your hands. These belay and rappel gloves protected testers’ mitts from rope burns, cold weather, and other abuse during cragging from Ten Sleep, Wyoming, to Eldorado Canyon, Colorado.

  • apparel-guide

    Fall 2013 Apparel Guide

    Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.

  • Millet Miage Pant

    What makes a pant superior isn’t just about what it does do, but also about what it doesn’t do. It shouldn’t hinder upward progress; be too tight or too baggy; make you sweat or itch; look unstylish; have too many or too few pockets; or interact poorly with your harness and other gear. From the Alps of Switzerland to Boulder Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado, the Miage didn’t do any of those things, acting as a perfect all-around pant.

  • Eastern-Mtn-Sports-Helix

    Eastern Mountain Sports Helix Jacket

    With around 30 backcountry testing days, from climbing Utah ice to teaching avalanche courses and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, the Helix proved its worth as a perfect “quiver of one” waterproof/breathable shell. Polartec NeoShell’s updated membrane is more permeable than the previous version, allowing air to pull moisture away from the skin at the first sign of sweat, rather than building up moisture before it’s released (which causes that clammy feeling).

  • North-Face-Verto-Hoody

    The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie

    “Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.

  • Carhartt-Force-T-Shirt

    Carhartt Force T-Shirt

    This 65/35 cotton-poly blend offers the comfort of cotton with the wicking properties of a syntheticperfect for climbing in the arid mountain West. “This simple T-shirt is great for roadtripping, too,” said one tester. “You always look somewhat classy even when you’ve been climbing without showering for a week.” Credit simple colors and a stain-release and anti-odor treatment.

  • Mountain-Equipment-Eclipse

    Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee

    Three testers raved about this midweight fleece after using it across the world, from bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, to climbing alpine routes in Patagonia. “It was the most efficient midlayer I’ve ever worn: It warms without overheating, and it breathes in all the right places,” one tester said. The Pontetorto Technostretch fleece provided plenty of insulation in the torso and arms, while a lighter version of that fabric allowed more airflow under the arms and around the hips.

  • La-Sportiva-Cham-Down

    La Sportiva Cham Down

    “Forget every other down puffy you’ve ever worn—this will beat them all,” one tester declared. The 750-fill down kept us warm in single-digit temps throughout the West. “Belay puffy, around town, skiing… I wore this every day this winter,” another tester said. The superior warmth and airy feel of this 23-oz. jacket (men’s M) was the foundation of our testers’ obsessions, but it was the climber-centric features that sealed the deal.

  • Ibex-Synergy-Pant

    Ibex Synergy Fit Pant

    “You will see me in these at least five days a week in the winter,” one female tester said. “Thanks to the merino wool, they’re warm enough to wear outside, but they breathe so you can rock them for hours in a muggy gym without fear of sweat stains.”

  • Wild-Things-Custom-Insulight

    Wild Things Custom Insulight Jacket

    “That was fun!” said one tester after designing his own jacket from colors to materials to fill. “And the jacket has proven to be a bombproof performer, too.” Wild Things lets you select from a range of features and fabrics at a competitive price, with a 14-day delivery turnaround.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Guide-Pant

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide Pants

    Light, thin, and stretchy enough without fitting like yoga pants, these 94 percent nylon/6 percent spandex technical pants were perfect for a month of December bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas. “Kneebars, falls, rock and cactus scrapes, leg scumming… Nothing could put a hole in these,” our tester said.

  • Helly-Hansen-H2Flow

    Helly Hansen H2Flow

    A simple polyester shell with elastic cuffs and a drawstring hem houses a brushed interior of 200g Polartec fleece. Sounds uncomplicated until you look at the inside of this jacket: The fleece—lining the chest and back—is pocked with dozens of dime- to quarter-sized holes that trap heat when you need it and ventilate when you don’t.

  • La-Sportiva-Pegasus-Primaloft

    La Sportiva Pegasus PrimaLoft

    “This hooded, midweight jacket quickly became my go-to piece for chilly days at the crag and while navigating alpine terrain,” says one contributing editor. “It’s the climber-oriented fit that won me over: The torso is trim while the waist and arms are long, so the Pegasus stayed tucked under a harness and always covered my wrists when reaching overhead.”

  • Brooks-Range-Cirro-Pant

    Brooks-Range Cirro Pants

    Puffy jackets keep your upper half warm, so why not don some puff in the southern hemisphere? Our tester wore these PrimaLoft-insulated pants winter camping in four western states and raved about the light weight (11 oz. for a medium), packability, and warmth in temps as low as 8°F.

  • Montbell-Tachyon

    MontBell Tachyon Anorak

    Pitch one might offer t-shirt conditions, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find “sun’s out, guns out” weather on pitch four, too. “It was 80 degrees and sunny when I placed my first cam,” says one tester of a late summer climb at Colorado’s Lumpy Ridge, “and then a half hour later, I was shivering in a whipping wind.”

  • Outdoor-Research-Lodestar

    Outdoor Research Lodestar

    After two seasons of ice climbing in this jacket, one tester compared it to an electric blanket. “It’s warmer than it looks,” he said. The secret is Polartec’s Power Shield High Loft, a precipitation-resistant, wind-blocking, stretchy fabric backed by a generously fluffy gridded fleece.

  • Athleta-Smartwool-Midweight-Bottom

    Athleta Midweight Pattern Bottom by Smartwool

    Finding a well-fitting, technical, and comfortable baselayer bottom for women can be inexplicably impossible. Athleta and Smartwool filled the void with their Midweight Pattern Bottom, which is 100 percent merino wool; testers praised it as “a lady’s baselayer dream come true.

  • Organic-Climbing-Jean-660

    Organic Climbing Jean

    “I’ve worn these bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado, in the gym, flying across the country, and out to dinner,” our tester said. These climbing jeans are at home in any situation. A fully gusseted inseam (from crotch to ankle) provides “the mobility of synthetic pants with a fabric like durable denim.”

  • La-Sportiva-Galaxy-Hoody

    La Sportiva Galaxy Hoody

    Labeled as a “do-everything hoody for the do-everything athlete,” this full-zip midlayer really does all mountain sports well. Our testers took it (and the women’s version, the Avail Hoody) from boulderfields in northern California to the long multi-pitches of Red Rock to ski slopes in Colorado.

  • La-Sportiva-Stormfighter-GTX

    La Sportiva Stormfighter GTX Jacket

    The name says it all. This shell protected our testers from hail, rain, and eyelid-fluttering winds year-round in the Colorado high country. And at a whispery 11 oz., it’s stealth and compact enough to disappear into a pack and not be a weight liability.

  • North-Face-Alpine-Shorts

    The North Face Alpine Shorts

    We gave these to a Tennessee tester, and the lightweight, stretchy, DWR-treated fabric proved extremely breathable day in and day out. “These shorts gave me excellent freedom of movement with just the right amount of stretch without being too baggy,” he said.

  • Mountain-Equipment-Calico-Hooded-Zip-Tee-158

    Mountain Equipment Calico Hooded Zip Tee

    When it’s slightly too cold for a T-shirt but too warm for a full-on midlayer, the Calico Hooded Zip Tee is just right. This pullover had enough technical features for hard climbing on winter days in Colorado’s Eldorado and Boulder canyons but enough comfort and style in the sun at crags in Utah.

  • Stio-Origins-Jacket

    Stio Origins Hoody

    One of the founders of Cloudveil recently launched Stio, a brand with a similar spirit (Jackson, Wyoming-based, designed for climbers and skiers—and cracking beers back in town). The Origins Hoody has become a tester favorite.

  • Westcomb-Focus-LT-Hoody

    Westcomb Focus LT Hoody

    When waterproof-breathable shells venture below 10 oz., you might have to make sacrifices, like non-adjustable cuffs or hood or limited breathability. Not so with the 6.9-oz. Focus LT: Testers praised this Spartan-butuseful jacket for blocking rain but never getting clammy and called it one of the best three-season hardshells they’d worn.

  • Patagonia-Encapsil-Down

    Patagonia Encapsil Down

    Patagonia’s own version of water-resistant down ups the ante by boosting loft to an astonishing 1,000-fill. They zap 800-fill down with radio waves until its molecular structure changes, allowing the plumes to accept a silicone DWR treatment without the use of chemical binders.

  • Send-Climbing-Kneepad

    Send Climbing Downgrader Kneebar Pad

    This one-of-a-kind kneepad features a wraparound design with quick-cinch buckles that makes the pad easy on, easy off. Instead of taking off your shoes or bunching up your pants, you can strap it around almost anything on your leg—no more duct tape, liquid adhesives, or weird shave jobs just to get your kneepad on.

  • Moving-Comfort-Urban-Gym-Capri

    Moving Comfort Urban Gym Capri

    When you find clothing that is comfortable, versatile, stretchy, and flattering, it’s a winner. The Urban Gym Capri has a wide waistband for a slimming effect, but, more important, it keeps the pants in place. “These never slipped down—with a harness or without,” one tester said.

  • Arcteryx-Acto-MX-Hoody

    Arc'teryx Acto MX Hoody

    Take the weather resistance of the best softshell and marry it to the breathability of an unlined fleece, and you have the Acto MX. “It’s great for high-output activities in the alpine,” said one tester after climbing the Breithorn outside of Zermatt, Switzerland, on a crisp, bluebird day.

  • Patagonia-Exosphere

    Patagonia Exosphere

    “It’s like wearing armor,” said one tester after a two-week stint in perpetually weather-beaten south Patagonia, during which he rarely took the jacket off. “From climbing to sea kayaking to horseback riding, this jacket is perfect for the cold and wet, and it handles abrasion better than just about any other shell I’ve seen.”

  • Belay-Specs-Glasses

    Belay Specs Belay Glasses

    Eliminate neck pain with the Belay Specs. They utilize glass prisms mounted to a durable, stainless steel frame that bend the light (like a mirror) so you can see the route above while looking straight ahead. They’re especially great for belaying a project or for multiplehour sessions at the gym.

  • Mammut-Realization-Harness-Shorts

    Mammut Realization Harness Shorts

    “I went from the office to the gym and back, and then straight into a meeting with no one batting an eye; this is a great-looking pair of shorts that happens to have a really comfortable harness inside,” our tester said. You might feel like you forgot something the first time you tie in, or even a little skeptical about taking a big whipper, but the harness inside the stylish shorts will keep you safe.

  • Outdoor-Research-Air-Brake-Gloves

    Outdoor Research Air Brake Gloves

    With thick palm leather, Kevlar stitching in high-friction areas, and a breathable, wicking synthetic polyester-Spandex material on the back, “These gloves made me a convert to always using belay gloves, whether it’s gym, sport, or trad,” said one tester of her six months with the gloves in Yosemite, Red Rock, and Shelf Road.

  • Sanuk-Enduro-Boot-

    Sanuk Enduro & Flurry

    Water-resistant, ultra-warm, easy on-off, and anti-microbial to prevent the stank: that’s our list of essential qualities for the perfect shoe to wear to the gym day after day during the slushy cold season. It’s also exactly what you’ll find with Sanuk’s Enduro (men’s) and Flurry (women’s) ($110 and $120, respectively; sanuk.com).

  • Outdoor-Research-Air-Brake-Gloves

    Outdoor Research Air Brake Glove

    Any climber who runs lap after lap on that yellow route at the gym knows the other side of it— belaying your partner lap after lap on that yellow route. Belaying is a necessary evil that can lead to rope burn, more flappers, and general pain. Check out the Outdoor Research Air Brake Gloves ($49; outdoorresearch.com) for a skin-saving alternative.

  • Sierra Designs Gnar Lite DriDown

    Dry Heat

    It’s funny how much waiting happens at the crag: Belaying, spotting, gawking, sharing beta—these don’t require a ton of energy. What’s not funny is how far your core temperature can drop on cold days during inactivity. Solution? The Sierra Designs DriDown Gnar Lite jacket ($229; sierradesigns.com). While at first glance it looks like any other 800-fill down jacket (and indeed its weight and warmth are comparable to most in that category), it’s the invisible treatment to the down itself that makes the difference.

  • Arcteryx-Jacket-660

    Don’t Leave Home Without It

    Bailing off the sixth pitch of Petit Grepon (5.8) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, in the face of a rain and hail storm, our tester put this “emergency storm jacket for an alpine environment” to the test. The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Jacket ($319; arcteryx.com) was a godsend for the two-hour downpour while the tester and her partner rapped down almost 800 feet.

  • TNF-Glove-660

    Helping Hand

    Would you rather drop a few hundred clams for an ultra-specialized glove that ends up relegated to ski-slope use or pay way less for a warm workhorse glove that handles your dirty work? That’s what we thought. The North Face Work Glove ($80; thenorthface.com), an all-around and full-leather paw-warmer, stood up to plenty of rappels and belays.

  • TNF-Radish-660

    Middle Management

    As gear and apparel get more specialized, you wind up owning a quiver full of pieces that are perfect for a few things and, well, less than awesome for others. Enter new technical midlayers that our testers have used from last winter through the beginning of fall. We focused our test on synthetic fleece, which provides warmth and breathability in a slim profile. Bonus: Many are $100 or less. From the dozen midlayers tested, we culled the five best— each would do well for any and all of your upcoming adventures.

  • Adidas-Terrex-Swift-Flex-Pant

    Flex Pants

    After a year on the U.S. market, Adidas has been looking to make a splash in climbing apparel, and the German giant just might do it with the Terrex Swift Flex Pants ($95; adidas.com/us/outdoor). Made with stretchy, lightweight, synthetic fabric, this elegant and simple pant has no unnecessary stitching, pockets, or “features” all too common on other climbing pants.

  • North-Face-Polar-Hooded-Jacket-158

    Chill Beater

    I’ve always wanted that one warm jacket that I can grab for approaches and belays in times of near-freezing temps and blustery winds. That one jacket that I can throw over a tank top when I’m running to the gym, and trust to keep me completely warm. Downs weren’t cutting it for such uses (especially with that skin-to-nylon fabric contact—eek!), and regular fleeces weren’t windproof or warm enough. The North Face Polar Hooded Jacket ($299; thenorthface.com) came to my rescue at the end of last winter.

  • Enhance Your Pants

    For rock climbers, finding functional, good-looking threads for your lower half isn’t easy. Ladies have an especially hard time, given the wide range (pun not intended) of our shapes and sizes. The Vertical Girl Signature Knicker ($40; verticalgirl.com) is the answer to our collective prayers. They’re sleek, soft, comfy as hell, and will make your butt look good—nobody will scoff at your butt-shot photos.

  • Sweat No More

    The Outdoor Research Mithrilite Jacket ($199, outdoorresearch.com) presents an extremely lightweight (24 oz.) and versatile softshell with full waterproof capabilities.

  • Change is Good

    The new Arc'teryx Gamma MX jacket for climbers is a definite upgrade, with its proprietary Fortius 2.0 fabric, which is blessed with enhanced durability and water resistance without any sacrifice of stretch or breathability.

  • Ibex Synergy Pant

    Dress for Success

    Do you ever feel like Goldilocks when trying to find the right pair of climbing pants? These are too scratchy. These are too restrictive. These pants are just plain ugly. We scoured the outdoor apparel market to find nine pairs that will give you a “These are just right” moment.