Most people are not professional rock climbers. We don’t know the ins and outs, and dos and don’ts of the trade. So what is the proper attire for the sport? What should you wear?
Average jeans can be too stiff and restricting for rock climbing. While their durability and coverage make them great options for the sport, a pair of stretchier jeans will perform far better. They will allow for the needed flexibility of movement, while still being protective and sturdy.
So what is the final verdict on jeans, and what should you consider when assessing your own pair of jeans to see if they would be up to the task?
Can vs Should
You can absolutely wear jeans to go rock climbing. They are durable enough to protect your legs from the scrapes and scars hitting the rocks might bring you. However, some jeans will be too stiff for you to maneuver in. Depending on the intensity of the rock climbing, you should take this into account.
Rock climbing indoors can be less extreme than climbing natural rock formations. Especially if you are a beginner, any pair of jeans will be fine to wear indoors. The more intense the course is, the more your pants might have to stretch. Oftentimes in rock climbing, you have to stretch your legs as far as you can to reach the ideal footholds.
Many more serious rock climbers will always choose shorts over pants. Shorts allow for the most movement, though they will expose your legs to scrapes or burns. However, pants are a great option as well. The only true rule is to make sure your pants are not so long as to interfere with your movement. Your pant cuff should sit just above your ankle, to ensure you do not step on the hem while climbing.
There are obviously some pants made specifically for rock climbing or sports of the like, but these are often not needed. They simply make it easier to move while also staying protected, but if you are willing to sacrifice one or the other, they are not a prerequisite for rock climbing. Many serious climbers will use these types of pants though. This website is great for finding jeans recommended by people on rock climbing forums.
Picking the Right Style
As you may have gathered so far, picking the right style of jeans is one of the most important parts when deciding to wear them for rock climbing. Most climbing jeans will be made with the same styles in mind, with some variation. The jeans are never too long, and you are often able to roll them up to the shin and make them shorter if needed. They are also not too baggy, nor too tight. They allow for movement, while still maintaining a streamlined design without too much excess fabric that could get in the way of climbing.
When choosing from regular jeans, not those made specifically for climbing, it is important that you take these same ideas into account. Jeggings are a great option, though not often available for men. They are easy to find for women, and often come in great styles that will accommodate any movement.
Styles to Avoid
Due to the loose nature of the cut, bootcut jeans are not recommended. They will likely get in the way of your footholds and could even prove dangerous if you are not careful.
Heavy worker’s jeans are also most likely too restrictive and often too heavy to be comfortable to wear while rock climbing. Make sure the jeans you choose will be comfortable to sweat and move a lot in. The comfort you have during a climb could likely make or break a great day.
Pros and Cons
Jeans can be very protective. They will protect your skin from the rocks you climb and possible scrapes. They can also protect your skin from your harness. Sometimes your harness can pull too tight or be uncomfortable, so having a heavier and thicker layer of fabric between you and your harness could protect you from abrasions or friction burns that could occur, especially if you aren’t used to the harness or are new to climbing.
Jeans are also as cheap as they are effective. If you are not a serious climber, you might think you need special pants or gear to even start climbing. This is not true! Many people start out climbing in jeans before investing in lighter or more specialized pants. Jeans can be the perfect solution for the casual climber, especially for indoor rock climbing courses.
They are also available. You might not even know where to start looking for climbing pants. However, everyone knows where they can find a good pair of jeans. Likely, everyone even has an old pair of jeans that are loose enough to accommodate lots of movement and old enough to not be worth worrying about ripping.
Jeans can be tight and restrictive. There often is not a lot of give in 100% denim. Denim can be too stiff and not allow you your full range of movement when it comes to climbing. This could even prove dangerous if you find yourself in a position with no footholds to reach only because your jeans stop you from reaching your leg that far.
Jeans can also be uncomfortable if they are too thick. Rock climbing is a sport, and so it is also a workout. Rock climbing in hot conditions while in jeans could make you sweat, and make your jeans stiffer, sticky, and incredibly unpleasant. Jeans are made of heavy cotton, so they are not very breathable, making any workout, including climbing, harder and uncomfortable.
Most of these cons are avoidable if you pick out the perfect jeans, but that is one of the cons in itself. You must be careful when it comes to picking your jeans as they could easily turn out to be too restrictive or heavy. Picking the perfect pair of jeans for climbing can be risky while buying a pair of climbing pants has at least some guarantee of working for climbing.