Birds are chirping, snow is melting, crags are seeping, and some new trends have hit the market. From The North Face’s Beyond the Wall collection to Patagonia’s continued refinement of active insulation and Black Diamond’s entry into rainwear, there are a lot of excellent pieces to choose from this season. Also, thanks to Pantone’s color of the year, there’s also a lot of purple out there. I’ve combed through the latest and greatest and these are my top picks.
Patagonia Women’s Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody | $249
You know that feeling of unzipping your belay jacket and suddenly being blast by cold air, like you’re a naked mole rat in the wind? The Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody is the antidote. This mid-layer moves with your body while climbing, and has insulation in all the right places. For chilly temps, this cold-sensitive climber finds this piece necessary to get through early morning warm-ups.
This hoody has 40 grams of insulation up front and a stretchy waffle knit in the back. It strikes the ideal balance of warmth, freedom of movement, and air permeability for climbing pitches in cold or breezy weather.
On chilly days, I wore this hoody as an outer layer on the approach and under my puffy. On warmer days, the hoody pulls duty as my main insulation. The hoody has held up despite a consistent battering by Southern Utah limestone, showing only a few small snags on the waffle knit on the underside of the arms.
I especially like the smooth snag-resistant cuffs that didn’t chaff my wrists while climbing. The Nano-Air Light Hybrid sports a DWR coating in case of rain. Despite its Polygiene anti-stink treatment, after several trips to the crag it wasn’t smelling so fresh. Good news, this thing washes up beautifully on a cold cycle in the machine. This jacket ran true to size.
Black Diamond FineLine Stretch Rain Shell | $129
With this new, highly affordable rain shell from Black Diamond, I didn’t have to feel like I was wearing expensive Saran Wrap while watching my project get drenched by an afternoon thunderstorm. I stayed dry and happy even as my hopes for sending were literally dampened.
The FineLine is a surprisingly versatile quiver-killer of a jacket, replacing both a wind and rain shell in one pared-down piece. This jacket has a really nice stretchy waterproof material that also has decent breathability and completely blocks the wind. I found myself wearing the FineLine even when it wasn’t raining because it is so comfortable and keeps the wind chill out.
The Fine Line sports a trim cut that I found a nice change from the blousy silhouette of most rain shells that I’ve worn over the years. Despite its form-flattering cut, it still slid easily over layers with plenty of room through the shoulders and armpits.
This jacket is also light enough and smashes down small enough that it can disappear to the bottom of my pack until bad weather hits.
Outdoor Research Wadi Rum Short | $69
Finding a decent pair of climbing shorts is tricky. They need to be long enough to avoid serving-up a direct crotch shot to an unwitting spotter or belayer. But they also need be short and loose enough to get that good kneepad-on-skin action and maintain some semblance of style. The Wadi Rum Short from Outdoor Research checks all the boxes with a functional cut, cute style, and durable fabric.
Made from a burly cotton-spandex blend Cordura fabric with an impressive amount of stretch, these shorts stood up to even the most abrasive rock. The mid-rise cut and and mid-thigh length fit comfortably under a harness without riding up, and were knee-pad compatible, making these a great choice for sport climbing. I also appreciated the cute detailing, from the plaid pocket lining to the top-stitched seam down the front that give the Wadi Rum a casual DGAF look.
Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe | $130
The midsole cushioning hit the sweet spot between a smooshy trial runner and firm mountain boot, dishing up a comfortable ride. The Five Ten rubber gave me a lot confidence when slick or wet terrain and the mesh toe kept my tootsies from overheating. These are also easy to pull on and off before or after climbing thanks to the large lace loops.
After three months of daily wear, they’re holding up great. If you need extra durability they’re also available in a leather version. These fit true to size and have a wider forefoot that let my feet relax between pitches.
The NorthFace Pant Beyond the Wall High-Rise Pants | $99
As a self-styled climbing-pant connoisseur, having worn and worn-out many pairs over the years, I think that these jogger-style bottoms from The North Face rank among my all-time favorites. These are possibly the most comfortable pants I have EVER worn. They are slim enough to stay out of the way when climbing but have an overall loose and extremely airy feel.
The lightweight feel can be credited to the stretchy, synthetic FlashDry wonder-fabric that is way tougher than it looks. Also, as the name implies, this fabric dries fast. After a recent rainstorm drenching, they were completely dry in a few hours. I’ve been knee- and thigh-scumming these pants all over sharp rock and they have yet to show a single nick.
Adding to the comfy feel is a completely flat, elastic waistband that is bunch-free and smooth under a pack, crashpad belt, or harness. Despite being drawcord free, they stayed in place. They seem to run slightly on the small side; if you like a looser fit, consider sizing up.
What truly pushes these pants into Best of the Best territory is that they also look very cool. I got a lot of unsolicited but welcome compliments on these pants from other ladies at the crag. When I show off the flower-print inner-pocket detail, that blows minds even more.
The jogger style and high-cut waist are right on trend. Plus the Chalk Print design cleverly disguises run-of-the-mill climbing filth as a modern print. Is that chalk all over my butt, or do I just look rad?
La Sportiva Punch-It Poncho | $79
Why a poncho? Because a poncho combines all the good feels of your favorite hoody with the practicality of a vest. No sweaty pits or too-tight cuffs, nor do you have to be the sensible dork who wears a vest at the crag, plus you still get a kangaroo pocket. I mean, it’s a friggin’ poncho. Of course you want to wear it.
La Sportiva introduced the Punch-It Poncho as part of it’s new training capsule collection, but I wear it as often at the crag as on the Moon Board. It’s made of a cozy stink-free Polygiene-treated synthetic with a unique horizontal ribbing and a moderate amount of stretch. It’s neither thick nor thin and breathes very well.
The Punch-It Poncho is uniquely fitted around the waist so it doesn’t get sucked into your belay device or flutter around while climbing. The short, loose sleeves left my arms completely unrestrained. This is one of my favorite pieces to climb in while warming-up, or for when it’s a little chilly and I want to keep my core warm. The only downside to a poncho is that layers don’t go over the top very comfortably. This is best for warmer conditions where you want to keep the core warm, but also want to show off your guns. And ladies, you should.
Moon Climbing Women’s Samurai Shorts | $56.70
You might be familiar with U.K.-based Moon Climbing and their ego-destroying training board, but they also make unique, well designed, climbing apparel. Moon Climbing has recently opened a North American headquarters in Salt Lake City, making their Euro-inspired soft goods more accessible than ever for us ‘Mericans.
The Samurai Short is a great option for a longer pair of shorts for women who want a little extra thigh coverage. With a waistband that can be worn pulled up for a high fit or flipped down to reveal a contrast elastic band for a lower ride, these shorts never slid down or gaped around my back, and felt comfortable under a harness.
Made from a sturdy yet stretchy cotton and polyester blend, the Samurai Short is durable, with a casual, clean design. I love the generously gusseted crotch, which permits a full range of motion without unattractive bunching or pulling.
I found the size to be a little small; consider bumping up.
Disclosures: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which help support Evening Sends. In some instances, gear may have been provided to the reviewer for testing purposes and without any expectations for favorable coverage.