Trad Trousers: Pants These 6 Climbers Swear By

Whether you’re looking for specific rock climbing pant brands or just budget ideas on how to dress for crag success, our climbers’ favorite pant picks have you covered.

There’s a saying that goes: “If your pants look really, really good, then you’ll send really, really hard climbing routes.” OK, maybe not. But what are some of the best pants for climbing?

Check out the input from six different experienced rock climbers who share their favorite (and sometimes least-liked) pants that combine durability, protection, and style.

Climbers’ Favorite Pants for Rock Climbing

Meet Leah Rife, Jac Summers, Chris Pliley, Joshua Richardson, JoAnn Miller, and Benjamin Williams. These climbers have scaled thousands of collective routes from Argentina to Bend, Oregon, and beyond. And in doing so, they’ve used and abused a lot of pants.

These are the rock climbing pants that keep them moving.

The North Face Beyond The Wall High Rise Pants

Climber

Most of the time, you’ll find Leah Rife climbing throughout the east side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. This includes everything from Buttermilk Bouldering in Bishops to sending 5.12 routes in Owens River Gorge or in the alpine on a committing 10-pitch trad climb.

Rife has found one pair of pants that accommodate every style of climb: The North Face Beyond the Wall High-Rise Pants.

“I actually call these pants my ‘sending pants’ because I’ve climbed all my hardest routes with them!” Rife explained. “They have four-way stretch around the hips and thighs, fitted bottom around the calves (which keeps them in place!), and reinforced knees (kneebars for days!).”

Rife also emphasized the pants feature a variety of zippered pockets for a phone, climbing brush, and (critically) snacks. And there’s a men’s version, too.

Rab Tangent Pants

Bouldering

If there’s a rock in sight, Jac Summers will climb it. The Bend, Oregon-based boulderer has repped many brands over the years but has always come back to the Rab Tangent Pants.

“They are the perfect combination of a durable yet stretchy cotton-blend pant,” Summers explained. “It also has an elastic stretch panel in the back, so you get movement in the waist without risking your crack showing.”

The jogger-style pant also gets massive style points from Summer. “You don’t have to worry about extra fabric hanging over your shoes,” she said. The cherry on top? That crisp berry color with a bright-orange waistband.

You can also find a men’s version here.

Stretchy Pants Under $15

Rock climbing

When Chris Pliley was first asked his favorite pants to climb in, he cheekily replied, “I mostly climb naked.” He later revised the answer to, “I go to TJ Maxx or Plato’s Closet and get stretchy pants that are under 15 bucks.”

Pliley is a professional route-setter in climbing gyms and frequents the famed Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Here, he often projects 5.12 routes, so a pair of pants that can keep up with his sends is necessary.

“I know that with whatever brand I get, even expensive climbing brands, the knees are just gonna blow out in a year or less,” explained Pliley. “I’ve experienced the worst durability with Black Diamond and the best durability with prAna.”

Skinny Jeans With 2% Spandex (Boulder Denim Co. & prAna)

old climbing jeans
Photo credit: Henry Frawley-Fulcher

Off-width is a type of crack climbing that requires grit, endurance, and a specific sort of flexibility. So it makes sense that pants require the same. Differing from a typical hand or finger crack, this style requires full-on body movement by squishing elbows, knees, and hips inside the crack.

Joshua Richardson is a big fan of this type of climbing and has found that skinny jeans with 2% spandex are the best fit for off-width and anything in between. “Style; look good, have fun, and safety third,” he said.

Two of Richardson’s favorite go-to’s: Boulder Denim Canadiana Slim Fit and the men’s prAna Bridger Jeans.

Customized Thrift Pants

Climbing pants butt patch

The gritty sandstone of Southern Utah is unforgiving to all types of clothing. After living and climbing in both Zion and Moab for years, JoAnn Miller came up with a solution to the many holes in her pants.

Instead of purchasing expensive gear that quickly tears and rips, Miller opts to buy used pairs from the thrift store. When they do begin to show wear, Miller mends them right back up with cute homemade patches, ranging from regular squares to heart bums. Bonus points for upcycling.

Anything But Shorts

With a resume from mountaineering in Argentina to mud castles in the desert and the big walls of Yosemite, Benjamin Williams knows just one pair of pants won’t get the job done. Instead, he opts to wear pants that are suitable for each climb.

Climber sitting on crag

For alpine and mountaineering routes, Williams puts on his Jack Wolfskin Zenon Softshell Pants for protection against the elements.

On desert sandstone, he wears scrub pants or “anything burly” for protection against the rock itself. At the climbing gym or crag with single-pitches, Williams doesn’t have a particular preference.

That said, his final words of advice are, “Just never, ever shorts.”