Best Women’s Climbing Pants

Pants are the unsung hero of any climber’s kit. The wrong pair of pants can turn a casual high step into a crux. The right pair, however, feels like an extension of my body, move easily, provide protection against knee scums, stay put under a harness, and, god willing, make my ass look great. There were a number of great new pants for us climbing ladies in 2017. These are my top picks.

bd-alpine-light-2

Black Diamond Alpine Light Pant | $99

Where to Buy

Black Diamond Backcountry.com

bd-alpine-light-prodBlack Diamond’s Alpine Light Pant is a welcome addition to the technically-minded soft-shell pant category. I like these pants because they neither look like my mom’s favorite zip-off hiking knickers nor do they make me feel like an aspiring Swiss mountain guide. The tapered fit through the legs features an elastic drawcord that cinches around the ankles, and there is a nifty integrated belt that is low profile and easy to adjust. I loved the dusty mauve Rosewood color, a nice departure from the standard grey and black.

The light, stretchy fabric breathed well on long approaches, wicked sweat quickly, and was surprisingly warm when the wind picked up. They were especially comfortable under a harness all day, never feeling clammy or bunchy. And, despite their featherweight feel, the Alpine Light pant was tough, surviving many pitches of sharp alpine limestone and grainy granite without a nick. These are my favorite option for any time when the weather is uncertain, the approach is sweaty, or the route is long. They’re a highly functional pant that doesn’t totally sacrifice style.

boulder denim-3

Boulder Denim Women’s Skinny Fit | $148

Best for: Work to crag to bar

boulder denimI think we can all agree that climbing in jeans is the ultimate cool. But donning denim at the crag has always been a sartorial sacrifice of high-stepping and flexibility that I just couldn’t make.

Thankfully, Boulder Denim finally solved that problem with this pair of jeans that is equal parts function and style. You can wear the Women’s Skinny to work all day, crush down at the crag or gym in the evening, then dust off the chalk and head to the bar, still looking fly.

Boulder Denim’s unique 360-degree stretch was more flexible than I am, never restricting any movement, and was still thick enough to keep its shape and hold up to abrasion from sharp rock. The on-trend, high-waisted cut rode comfortably just below my harness when sport climbing, and eliminated any fear of a plumber’s crack when bouldering. The pants’ flattering fit is owed in part to their unique waistband, which is cut on a curve instead of the normal straight line. Another great feature of the Women’s Skinny is a DWR treatment, which is adequate for repelling spilled espresso but won’t help you in a Red River Gorge rain storm. Just keep these pants out of the dryer to prolong the life of this treatment.

The Women’s Skinny ran roomy through the thighs and butt, smaller in the waist, and had a generously long 32” inseam. I used their accurate size-chart to find my size and went with the looser end of measurements in the waistband for a perfect active fit. My only wish for these jeans is that Boulder Denim would also make an ankle length or short option. At 5’4”, I think the standard inseam left me with a little too much extra fabric to fashionably cuff, and I ended up shelling out the extra $10 to get them professionally hemmed.

Where to Buy

Boulder Denim

SHREDLY the LEGGING {2} | $82

Best For: High stepping like it’s 1989

Shredly-Legging 2 SARAH-prodSHREDLY is best known for their patterned shorts that have achieved a cult-like following among female mountain bikers. Two years ago they launched a line of versatile leggings in those same eye-catching prints, putting them on climbers’ radars. The LEGGING{2} is the second iteration of these bottoms, and they stood out from the yoga pant pack because of their mid-weight brushed fabric that is way warmer than your standard spandex fare.

If you’re like me and have always felt a pang of sadness for missing the spandex-clad glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s climbing fashion, these leggings can help you step into that history. To add the to the empowerment of wearing eye-catching, body-hugging bottoms, you can also feel proud of supporting a female-founded and -owned company — the girl power runneth over.

The LEGGING {2} has a wide, mid-rise waistband that fits comfortably under my harness without digging in or slipping down. And the fabric felt soft and warm against my skin — like flannel sheets straight out of the dryer. They also held up decently well on snaggy rock but had some minor pilling after a few months of use. The medium size was on the looser side around my waist, but I liked having the extra room through my thighs and butt.

Where to Buy

Shredly

e9-2

E9 Onda Slim | $109

Best For: Bouldering, blending-in abroad

e9-onda-slim-prodWhen I lived in Seattle, Squamish was my favorite place to escape the city and gorge on affordable sushi. While visiting our maple-syrup-loving neighbors to the north, I got to see E9 bottoms in action. These Italian imports are super popular with the international bouldering scene up there, and for good reason.

The Onda Slim is made from a cotton blend (97% cotton 3% elastane) that performs unlike any other material I have seen. The winter-weight fabric was the warmest and one of the most durable tested, but it was also super stretchy and soft, almost velvety. While other cotton-blend bottoms tend to stretch and sag-out with use, the Onda Slim maintained its shape for several days of climbing. With circular pocket details and articulated knees, the styling of these jams felt distinctly European. E9 bottoms are available in a Skittles pack of colors, but I tested the beautifully neutral Warm Grey for a more understated look. The burly, warm fabric made these my favorite choice for bouldering, or anything where the approach is short (the cotton didn’t breathe quite as well as some synthetics) and temps are crisp.

e9-3

The Onda Slim is, as the name implies, slim. They gave my butt a little bit of “compression” but thanks to the gusseted crotch they were comfortable through the thighs and didn’t have any bunching or camel toe. The ankle draw crowds kept the hems out of the way while climbing, and an elastic waistband gave a comfy stretch, but an internal drawcord kept the Onda Slim from sliding down on approaches with a pack.

Where to Buy

E9

La Sportiva Mantra Pant | $99

Best For: One pant that does it all

La-sportiva-mantra-prodIf I were packing for a road trip, destination unknown, and had to pick only one pair of pants, the La Sportiva Mantra Pant would be it. They hit a sweet spot of form and function that makes them a good option for just about any objective on the rock. I find myself reaching for these pants anytime that I’m uncertain about what a climbing day might bring because at the very least I’ll know my pants will be comfortable.

Compared to other La Sportiva bottoms, and other brands, the Manta seems to run a bit large, so if you like a snug fit, downsize. The nylon/spandex fabric performed with all the hallmarks of a high-quality synthetic: four-way stretch, moderate water-repellency, highly-breathable, durable. But, it had a soft, almost brushed look to it that felt more casual than technical. The cut was versatile, with an elastic drawcord waist that rode flat under a harness or pack, attractive jogger-style hems, and a roomy fit through the thighs and butt. These were equally at home in Indian Creek, Joe’s Valley or The Front Climbing Gym.

Where to Buy

La Sportiva Backcountry.com

topo tech pant-4

Topo Designs Tech Pants | $149

Best For: Catching that millennial vibe

topo tech pant-1Topo Designs is known for bringing fresh aesthetics and style to the outdoors. Their neo-retro rucksacks and menswear have been popular with the millennial set for several years now. And, in Spring 2016 they launched a women’s line of apparel flush with references to my childhood hiking outfits. The Tech Pant, with it’s high waist, flat-webbing belt, and large scooped rear pockets, felt both nostalgic and totally novel at the same time.

The Tech Pant was one of only two pants in the line-up that I tested in a size medium, and I was glad for it. The high-cut waist on these ran small and was secured with a small plastic snap that I’m sure my gut would have blown open on a size small. They were fitted through the butt and thighs, but not overly snug, and a tapered leg gave them a nice modern look without any bulky fabric around my ankles.

Made with a two-way stretch nylon fabric and a gusseted crotch, the Tech Pant has plenty of mobility for climbing. I wore them bouldering, sport climbing and to the gym. And, because I really liked their style, which made me feel younger than my years, wearing these pants made me feel good about myself.

My only small gripe was the shortish webbing belt that wasn’t quite long enough to slip over my butt without unthreading the little T-Lock buckle every time I had to pee. This amounted to a slight annoyance many times a day. Topo Designs will be expanding their women’s line in in the coming seasons, and I’m excited to see what else they come up with.

Where to Buy

Topo Designs Backcountry.com

  • Olga Nevtrinos

    Try 14.99 leggings from Costco. They are in 3 different colors (purple, black and gray), great stretchy material, and now are my favorite long pants for climbing in colder weather.