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What To Wear Bouldering

LAST UPDATED: 21st March 2024

Climbing is one of those sports where apparel can make all the difference. Just like you put aside the blue jeans for a 10k run, those hardy Carhartts with reinforced knees should stay at home when you’re heading out to pull down on rock. Whether you are going to the climbing gym or the local pebble area, when you introduce the demands of bouldering – athletic movement and flexibility – your choice of clothing becomes pretty important. 

If you’re the type of person who climbs in jeans and a checkered shirt, then read on, you’ll need all the advice you can get on what to wear bouldering!

Indoor Bouldering Grades

Men’s Rock Climbing Clothes

Let’s just start of  by saying, the ideal rock climbing outfit is whatever you feel comfortable in. No one is here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t wear (just don’t turn up in your underpants and you should be okay!).

When it comes to what to wear bouldering, your attire can significantly impact your performance and comfort. Unlike outdoor climbing, where you have to consider weather elements, indoor climbing allows for more flexibility and simplicity in clothing choices. Here’s a guide to help you dress appropriately for your next climbing session, outside and in the gym.



Cap Cool Graphic

Patagonia climbing shirt

The North Face

Sunriser Tank

North Face Vest

Opt for a breathable, stretchy t-shirt or tank top that won’t restrict your movement. Materials like moisture-wicking fabrics are ideal as they keep you dry and comfortable. 

Guys usually prefer to climb indoors with a vest (or topless if you are Magnus Midtbø)

Pants & Shorts


Vaha Pants

Mens what to wear climbing


Super Mojo

PrAna Climbing Shorts

Wear flexible shorts or pants. Shorts should be long enough to protect your thighs, while leggings offer full coverage and protection against scrapes. Avoid loose-fitting pants that could get caught on holds or impede your vision of your feet.

(Climbers in jeans, I am watching you…)

Light Layers



Patagonia fleece


Super Mojo

what to wear bouldering North Face jacket

Bring layers. While indoor facilities are climate-controlled, you may start feeling chilly if you’re resting or waiting your turn. A light, easy-to-remove layer like a zip-up hoodie or a fleece can be handy.

The same goes for outdoor bouldering too, especially in the winter months. A good jacket with a base layer and a beanie will keep you nice a cosy while you are spotting your friends or having a mid boulder snack.

Women’s Rock Climbing Clothes

Luckily for us ladies, there is an infinite amount of sport clothes we can wear. If you want to look cute, you can wear a nice pair of bicycle shorts and a sports bra. If you want to look like a hardcore rock climber, PrAna trousers are a great option (and they look pretty cool).

girls what to wear bouldering in winter

In the winter, I usually opt for my Gymshark leggings with a long sleeve top and a beanie. In the summertime, I tend to wear shorts and a sports bra.



sports Bra

Prana sports bra

Black Diamond

Tank Top

Black Diamond tank top

Choose a light, moisture-wicking t-shirt or tank top to keep cool and dry. A sports bra will keep you as cool as you can be during the summer months but are also great to wear under your winter clothes, in case you get too warm while climbing.

Pants & Shorts


Afro Pants

REI Afro climbing pants

Beyond Yoda


climbing shorts

Lightweight shorts like biker shorts are great for keeping it light and easy to wear. Breathable climbing pants work well too. Pants can offer protection against rough surfaces and vegetation. You can also wear leggings which don’t limit flexibility like some pants would.

How To Choose Bouldering Clothes

#1: Flexibility

The golden rule when getting dressed to go bouldering is to think “flexible.” When you’re trying a reachy move or doing a split between two footholds, the last thing you want is stiff fabric holding you back, potentially costing you the send!

what to wear bouldering girls outdoors

Typically, that means a higher crotch and lighter, more pliable fabric. Occasionally, and depending on the person, that might also mean a slightly looser fit. Be careful, though, as looser clothing could be a distraction. Moreover, it could impede your view of your feet. 

#2: Fabric

Most “street wear” is made of cotton. Across the sexes cotton bouldering shirts are pretty common, especially a slightly looser fitting one. While there is nothing inherently wrong with wearing a cotton t-shirt, there are draw backs. Cotton doesn’t breathe particularly well, so if it’s warm, get ready to sweat!

Katie Lamb climbs Box Therapy

Consequently, cotton fibers absorb, trap and produce a potent smell, if given half the chance. This is especially true once it has been tossed (and subsequently forgotten) in your gym bag. If you are planning on spending any time on the road for a bouldering trip – with breaks between access to a washing machine – cotton should take the backseat to other fabrics.

The better alternative is a fabric called neoprene or equivalent. This is what most of your athletic wear is made up of and has gained immense popularity. One of the biggest advantages it has over cotton is that it is designed to breath, giving your body a better chance at self-ventilation. 

Simultaneously, it can be treated with different chemical processes to help with moisture wicking, meaning that water molecules don’t cling as greedily to neoprene and the evaporation process is expedited. Not only does neoprene dry faster, the smell doesn’t get the same chance to set in.

#3: Slim Fit Vs. Baggy Fit

The nice thing about bouldering is that, as opposed to sport or trad climbing, you don’t have to worry about a harness fitting over your clothes. In this vein, wear what feels comfortable! As long as the fit of your clothes doesn’t restrict your movement, you’re golden.

That being said, be wary of a loose fit as even that extra fabric could make something as simple as seeing your feet a challenge. When bouldering, especially once you start pushing grades, it’s going to become essential that you have eyes on your feet and where they’re going.

guys what to wear bouldering in winter

The slim fit can also be something of a double-edged sword. Listen, I’m all for style points and put more than a moment’s thought into what I’m wearing before I head out the door. Still, function vs. fashion, an age-old debate, is reflected in this topic.

If skin tight is your thing, the investment in a type of fabric that stretches is key. Prana, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, and Patagonia are all brands which have countless models of slim fitting but stretchy clothes. Leggings, regardless of the manufacturer, will almost always have the durability and flexion needed for those high knees, drop knees and splits. And that statement is by no means directed solely at the women; in some climbing circles, the Lycra craze of the 80s and 90s is still very alive among the male population. Rise above gender norms, folks.

Wear What You Want!

At the end of the day, your choice of apparel while bouldering is a personal one. Your clothing choice and overall trends will evolve with your climbing. You don’t have to go out there and buy a whole new wardrobe all at once!



Born and raised in Northern Vermont, Zak's parents were hardcore adventurers, and the appearance of a child in their lives did not slow them down much. Each summer, they would toss him and an assortment of gear in the truck and gun it for the American West. After his first year at college, Zak applied for a job in Yosemite National Park, and for the next decade, he worked seasonally in Yosemite and on the Sierra Eastside, doing whatever he could to be close to those mountains. Currently, Zak lives on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, piecing together a living as a climbing guide, bartender and writer.

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