Finally decided that your fitness pants aren’t quite holding up to the rough and tumble of the climbing wall? Realised that those cotton leggings you’ve been rocking at the crag are no longer cutting it? Nope, there is absolutely no appropriate place for slightly see-through leggings, least of all on the rock! If this sounds like you then it might be time to upgrade and grab yourself a pair of the best women’s rock climbing pants out there in 2023.
Though hiking pants and leggings will do a decent job in most rock climbing scenarios, they often don’t offer the same levels of mobility, stretch, comfort and, let’s be honest, style. Women’s climbing pants, however, are designed to provide a ton of unrestricted movement, loads of durability and comfort, and are just much more aesthetically appealing and fun than hiking pants.
For more info on what to wear climbing, read our guide to rock climbing clothing.
I’ve had the chance to test out some wonderfully colourful and incredibly comfortable women’s climbing pants and leggings this year. The kind of pants that are as practical for climbing as they are head-turning! The kind of pants that are also suitable for everyday life, hiking, fitness and general wear.
- Women’s rock climbing pants
- Women’s rock climbing leggings
- Things to consider when choosing climbing pants
- Features of the best women’s climbing pants
Summary of the best women’s climbing pants in 2023
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Best women’s climbing pants
Best for: All types of indoor and outdoor climbing in cool to warm conditions
Of all the pants I’ve tried out this year, the Ocun Noya Pants are, in my opinion, the all round best women’s climbing pants. Combining polyamide with elastane, the fabric is stretchy, lightweight and dries very quickly. It also deals with rock abrasion very well without a sign of pulling or pilling.
As well as the fabric ticking lots of practicality boxes, the Noya Pants also feature four large pockets (two front and two back), a small brush pocket for cleaning up dusty holds, and drawcords at the hem to cinch in the ankles.
But best of all is the waistband. When it is unfolded it covers my whole belly up to my third rib, and it is made of incredibly soft and stretchy fabric. This is a super cosy feature on cooler days and provides extra comfort underneath a harness. It’s not clear whether this is what it’s designed for or not, but I like it! The rest of the time, the fabric folds over to form a wide waistband that is so comfortable I barely notice it at all.
The legs of the pants have lots of seams in them for a fairly tailored, though not figure-hugging fit that further adds to the unrestricted movement that they provide. Initially I didn’t much care for some of the seams from a comfort point of view. But they have softened with wear and washes and I don’t notice them at all now.
These highly practical and comfortable climbing pants are suitable for 3 season outdoor climbing, bouldering, and indoor climbing in equal measure. They’re also great for hiking in and general outdoor wear.
The biggest negative of these women’s climbing pants is that you’ll have to decide between which of the 5 vibrant colours you want to go for!
- Lightweight, breathable fabric
- Super comfortable wide waistband
- Has adjustable ankle cuffs
- Has a brush pocket!
- Still looking!
Eco-conscious: Made from organic cotton
Best for: Bouldering and general climbing in cool to warm conditions
Made from soft yet highly durable organic cotton, the Edelrid Wo Kamikaze Pants are a firm favourite of mine for bouldering and outdoor climbing during the summer. They are supremely comfortable which means I also wear them as casual comfies, post-surf snugglers and cosy camping slacks. On the climbing front, the breathable cotton is blended with tencel and elastane to create the perfect balance of stretch without compromising on toughness.
Like the Ocun pants, there are four large pockets, though I’ve yet to find them especially useful. But I really love the reinforced section of fabric on the inside ankles of each leg. This is excellent for wiping my feet on before I get on the rock — especially when bouldering at the beach! Plus, the simple elasticated drawcords at the ankles cinch in the wide legs to create a fit that is more suited to the rock.
The elasticated waistband is wide and very soft on the skin. That, together with the gusseted crotch (which actually extends all the way down the inside legs) makes the pants highly comfortable when worn underneath a harness.
- Very comfortable
- Drawcord at leg cuffs
- Reinforced sections at the ankles
- Not suitable for wet weather (cotton holds water)
Women’s rock climbing leggings
Eco-conscious: Made from 78% recycled polyamide (100% recycled from post consumer materials)
Best for: Indoor and general climbing
This watermelon cake design is by far the most subtle of the So Solid Leggings range. The rest of the designs are loud, bold and highly reminiscent of the 1980’s climbing scene. When choosing, I couldn’t help but feel like I’m not a good enough climber to get away with wearing the other options. Or maybe I’m just not brave enough?! Either way, if you like to climb in loud leggings then you should definitely check out So Solid.
The leggings are actually unisex, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well they fit and how supportive they feel too. They feel shiny and cold when you put them on… great in warmer conditions, but not as cosy and soft as the Moon Sigmas leggings. Design-wise, they’re pretty simple with no hidden pockets etc. Just an elasticated waistband that is comfortable despite it not being very wide. The main feature is the articulated knees which create a very nice fit around the legs. Note that the patch over the knees isn’t reinforced — it’s just a different coloured fabric.
Though the fabric isn’t as durable as the Montane Ineo’s, it certainly holds its own on the rock and deals with abrasion better than expected. Plus, the super stretchy elastane is blended with 100% regenerated polyamide fiber from post-consumer materials, making these (along with the Edelrid’s) an excellent eco-choice.
I really like how versatile these leggings are. Because the fabric is fairly breathable and thin, and they fit very closely, the leggings work well underneath other pants in colder conditions. I’ve even worn them under shorts to climb in — the weather turned and I had them in my backpack because they’re so packable. They also feel great to run in during the cooler months. And, like most leggings, they feel comfortable enough underneath a harness.
- Versatile — good as a base layer or for running
- Tight-fitting and supportive
- Articulated knees
- Decently breathable
- Lots of designs available if you like loud pants!
- No gusseted crotch
- The loud designs aren’t to everyone’s tastes
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Best for: Outdoor climbing and long routes in colder conditions
I am absolutely loving the Montane Ineo Pro Pants right now. (Read my full review for more info). They’re versatile (I wear them to hike and bike, and I run in them during the winter), robust, weather-resistant, comfortable and they look great. They’re pretty much perfect as the only pair of pants outdoorsy women really need, unless you predominantly go adventuring in warm conditions. They’re fairly thick and not as breathable as other options on this list — I don’t wear them during the summer months other than on very windy days — so better suited to outdoor climbing in cooler conditions or on long exposed routes.
The tough synthetic fabric is abrasion and wind-resistant, and also water repellent (has a DWR coating), making the Ineo’s the most durable climbing pants on the list. This doesn’t detract from the stretch that they offer — the Mala Stretch provides completely unrestricted movement that is similar to regular leggings. They’re not as tight as regular leggings, but the slim fit is very comfortable making my legs feel well protected. I also like that the zippered hand pockets can be accessed easily whilst wearing a harness, and also that the waistband has an adjustable drawcord.
The main drawback of these stylish and robust climbing leggings is that the seam just below the waistband rubs on my belly a little. This is getting better the more I wear them, and is no issue at all if I tuck in my top!
- Highly weather resistant
- Highly durable
- Very comfortable and warm
- Too warm for summer conditions (unless it’s super windy)
- The waistband can rub a little on bare skin
Best for: Indoor and general climbing
It’s tough to come by leggings that feel great AND fit well. And even harder to find ones that look good and perform well on top of that. So discovering the Sigma Leggings by UK company, Moon Climbing, was a total win. The opaque finish of the polyamide/elastane fabric feels incredibly soft on the skin and eliminates any chance of the leggings feeling shiny or cold. Plus, they are not see-through in any way… unusual for light coloured leggings and a big bonus for climbers!
The leggings also fit like a dream — no bagginess at all, but also not so tight that you feel the fabric tighten on your knees every time you bend them. As such, they are my go-too pants for indoor climbing, and also get some good use on the yoga mat and out trail running in cool, dry conditions.
There are better women’s rock climbing pants on this list if you predominantly climb outdoors in variable conditions. However, that’s not to say the Sigma Leggings aren’t also suitable for outdoor climbing — they absolutely are. The fabric is tough enough to deal with abrasive rock at the crag. And so long as you’re not working a route full of knee jams, they’ll deal well enough with most climbing scenarios in moderate conditions.
The Sigma leggings feature a wide, elasticated waistband to further add to the already high comfort factor. And a diamond gusset at the crotch helps eliminate riding up and harness wedgies! There is also a small hidden pocket inside the waistband which I’ve yet to use for climbing.
- SUPER comfortable and soft fabric
- Excellent fit
- Not see-through
- Decent durability
- The wild pattern isn’t for everyone! (But they’re also available in black)
Things to consider when choosing climbing pants
Pants or leggings?
Whether you choose to climb in pants or leggings largely comes down to personal preference. Does the relaxed style of pants make you feel less exposed than the figure-hugging fit of tight leggings? Or do you feel less restricted by having all the fabric as close to your body as possible?
Here are a few pros and cons to pants and leggings:
Pros of climbing in pants
- They are loose-fitting for airiness in warm conditions
- Many pants have pockets
- They are more adaptable than leggings (cinch in / roll up ankles)
- The fabric of pants is generally more durable than leggings
Cons of climbing in pants
- If they don’t fit well pants can be restrictive
- Climbing pants aren’t very versatile for wearing in other outdoor scenarios (many are made of cotton making them no good for hiking or fitness)
Pros of climbing in leggings
- They are completely unrestrictive
- Leggings feel great underneath a harness
- Most climbing leggings are suitable for running, yoga, hiking and fitness too
- They are frill-free and simple
- Synthetic leggings are generally moisture wicking and quick drying
Cons of climbing in leggings
- They can sometimes be slightly see-through when you bend over
- The fabric of leggings is generally not as durable as pant fabric
- They don’t feel as airy as pants in hot conditions
- Some people can feel exposed in tight-fitting leggings
What type of climbing will you be doing?
Of course there are not set rules as to which style of rock climbing pants should be worn and when. However, it is worth considering what type of climbing you will mostly be doing and in what conditions before you decide on a style or specific pair.
Here’s a quick guide:
Indoor climbers don’t need super thick or especially durable pants. They should be fairly breathable and moisture wicking as things can get kinda sweaty at the gym. And although not essential, it helps if you like the look of them so you can transition into everyday life with ease!
Summer outdoor climbers should consider lightweight pants that are both breathable and moisture wicking (if possible). Look for pants with reinforced sections that help add to the durability without adding to the weight and warmth too much.
Cold weather outdoor climbers will need something warm and more durable. Ideally the pants should be windproof, water resistant and quick drying. If they are moisture wicking too, then all the better. But the thicker they are the less breathable they will be. Again, pants with reinforced sections will help on the durability front.
The type of fabric that your rock climbing pants are made from can depend on when and where you’ll be climbing, as mentioned above. But there are also a few properties that all climbing pants and leggings should have.
Synthetic leggings, though durable in terms of general wear, can be easily ripped or snagged on rocks and are less able to deal with abrasion. This is down to the high levels of elastane or lycra in the fabric. That said, the Montane Ineo leggings have a highly durable finish that puts them in the same bracket as pants in terms of robustness.
Unrestricted movement is one of the most important properties of climbing pants. Leggings tend to have higher levels of lycra or elastane in which make them feel more like you’re not wearing any pants at all! Most climbing pants are less stretchy, however, they will almost always contain elastane or similar to ensure that there is plenty of stretch for unrestricted movement.
Comfort and fit
This is a fairly personal thing as some people don’t find leggings comfortable at all, whilst others live in them! But it isn’t just about the type of pants you choose. It’s also important that the fabric feels nice on your skin, that the waistband doesn’t dig in or rub, and that the seat of the pants doesn’t ride up or have excess bagginess at the crotch.
If you are climbing in hot conditions you’ll need pants that either have an airy, loose fit or they should be made out of fabric that is breathable. This means that air moves freely through the fabric rather than getting stuck between the fabric and your skin. Cotton is a highly breathable fabric. But some of the thinner synthetic fabrics with a loose weave are also decently breathable.
Another feature to consider when choosing the fabric of your climbing pants is how well they deal with moisture. Though cotton absorbs water very well, it doesn’t wick it away but instead holds moisture in the fabric and takes ages to dry. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, wick away sweat and moisture very efficiently and also dry quickly.
Summer climbers and boulderers should look for climbing pants or leggings made with thinner fabrics. Those climbing in cooler conditions or alpine climbers, however, might consider sacrificing some of the flexibility offered by lightweight fabrics to ensure that they stay warm when out on the rock for hours at a time. There’s also the option of wearing thinner leggings underneath a more robust and durable pair of pants that stop the wind and provide extra warmth at the same time. On very windy days during the winter I sometimes wear the So Solid leggings underneath a pair of windproof hiking pants that have some stretch in them. This combo also means that if the conditions change, the under-leggings will be quite sufficient on their own.
Design features of the best women’s climbing pants
You may have figured out what sort of fabric and style of rock climbing pants you prefer, but there are still a couple more things to be aware of before you commit to one pair over another.
Pants with very baggy ankles can be a hindrance when rock climbing. I’ve certainly made the mistake of wearing wide-leg yoga pants to climb in, and have ended up treading on the fabric of the opposite leg when switching feet! So, loose-fitting pants should ideally have a draw-cord at the ankles to cinch the fabric in and adjust it to suit you. Some pants may feature turn-up tabs instead which allow you to fold up the legs and button them in place.
Chalk bag loop
Chalk bag loops are found at the back of the waistband of some climbing pants. They are rarely found on climbing leggings. This feature is fairly specific to boulders and free climbers as most climbing harnesses will already have a chalk bag loop. Additionally, accessing a chalk bag loop on pants when wearing a harness is much more tricky.
Again, a brush loop or pocket is not a common feature of climbing leggings. However, some climbing pants have the ability to store a brush-sized implement for polishing off patches of dusty rock.
Pockets are always handy — whatever you’re doing. For climbing, zippered pockets are the most useful to make sure whatever you decide to take up the climb with you — phone? snacks? route notes? — doesn’t fall out.
There are a few different styles of waistband you can choose from. But one of the most popular is a wide, elasticated band that is soft on the skin and with no buttons or fasteners. Rock climbing pants should have a fuss-free waistband (minimal buttons and zippers) so as not to cause discomfort and to ensure that they are compatible with a climbing harness. Some waistbands are adjustable with a drawcord.
To provide extra durability, some rock climbing pants and leggings feature reinforced sections in places that get a lot of wear and tear. These include the knees, seat and cuffs of the pants. If you predominantly climb indoors then this isn’t a high priority feature, but one to consider nonetheless.
Many climbing pants feature an extra section of fabric in the crotch area to alleviate the pressure on the seams in that area. A gusseted crotch also adds to the flexibility of the pants, especially in pants with low elastane/lycra content. Plus, the extra bit of fabric does wonders to prevent wedgies when wearing a harness!
Whether you’re tackling a multi-pitch epic, preparing for your first outdoor top roping climb, hitting the gym hard or pushing your grades at the crag through the summer months, women’s rock climbing pants should above all else be comfortable. Durability, style, features, fabric and everything else are all important factors to consider. But comfort is key, in my opinion anyway!
Keep those climbing legs happy, happy climbers!
Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received these products free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.