Gear Guy

Who makes the ideal pants (stretchy, rugged, and comfy) for climbing?

Are there climbing pants out there that are rugged and stretchy, and that actually make wearing the harness more comfortable? I’d appreciate any suggestions to make a long day of climbing more enjoyable. Tony Montreal, Quebec


That’s actually a very good question. It can be difficult to find the right pant for wearing under a harness—something that’s comfortable, wearable in varied weather conditions, and reasonably tough. I’ve long preferred tights for this application because they tend not to bind or snag and fit well under a harness. Outdoor Research, I think, used to make a great pair of climbing tights out of a Cordura blend that wore like iron and offered good protection from skinned knees, pokes from sharp rocks, etc. But today it’s hard to find tights that aren’t aimed more at cold-weather sports or that have the heft to stand up to climbing.

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pants

Gamma LT Pants

Most companies now offer pants, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fabrics have improved so much in recent years that pants now have stretch, durability, and multi-climate performance. Outdoor Research, for instance, sells the Exos Pant ($165;, which has some Cordura in the fabric for a very tough pant. They have a lightly brushed interior, so may be too warm when temps are above 50. For warmer weather, Mountain Hardwear’s Runout Pant ($60; is made from tough cotton canvas and cut so that a harness won’t bind around the waist and your legs have room to move. Patagonia’s Stretch Jackalope pants ($85; are made from nylon with a touch of Spandex for stretch, and are specifically designed for climbing, with pockets placed where a harness won’t cover them.

Right now, though, I think the supreme climbing pant in all but summer conditions is the Arc’teryx Gamma LT ( These pants have an amazing temperature range in which they’re comfortable (from below freezing to around 60 or higher), and they stretch for comfort, fit great, and are made with Schoeller fabric that’s surprisingly tough, given it’s soft hand. Yeah, they’re $150, which is pretty steep. But once you wear them, all you can say is... “Oh!"

Check out the new 2007-2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide, packed with reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves. It’s available on newsstands now.

Filed To: ClimbingClimbing GearPants
Lead Photo: courtesy, Arc’teryx