Women's gear, up first
The pro climber recommended her go-to pieces, and then our writer tested them to find gear that's flattering and durable
Brittany Griffith, a 49-year-old professional athlete, has been climbing in Patagonia clothing for more than 20 years. As a veteran ambassador for the company, she works closely with Patagonia’s design team on the fit, style, and function of its climbing apparel. “Do I draw the lines? No,” Griffith says. “But I give them direct feedback every year and test every fit and fabric heavily.”
When it comes to climbing wear—especially pants—Griffith focuses on two main features: pockets and fit. The latter, she says, is the hardest thing to get right. “That’s why so many women wear yoga tights, because they fit everyone,” she says. “We have all just given up on regular pants.”
For shirts and tanks, she likes them simple, easy to layer, and good at hiding dirt.
I asked Griffith for her favorite goods from Patagonia’s summer 2018 spread. I climbed in these items for a few months and called her back to compare notes.
Women’s RPS Rock Pants ($89)
Griffith: I like the RPS because they have good features. I love how loosely they fit and the zippered thigh pocket. I wear them in warmer weather because they’re lightweight. If I take them somewhere colder, long underwear fits underneath without bunching. Whenever I’m hiking, I’ll cinch the ankles tight and push the pants above my knees. I can also cinch the ankles to keep out the air if there’s updraft on a wall or open them up if it’s hot. I’ve even tied my shoes to the cinch cords at belays on a multipitch climb to prevent them from dropping to the ground.
Me: The versatility, weight, and fit all worked well for me. Even before testing products for this article, I’d climbed in RPS pants for years. I can do anything in them from bouldering to summer mountaineering missions in Boston Basin to long traverses in the Tetons. I bring them on every climbing trip. My only gripe: I have to tug up the low-rise waist from time to time.
Hampi Rock Pants ($79)
Griffith: I don’t like wearing shorts when I’m climbing, but most pants are too hot in summer. These aren’t, because they’re made from a combination of three superstar fabrics: hemp (durable and lightweight), polyester (for staying cool and dry), and spandex (for stretch). I climb in them when I’m in Africa, where it’s hot as fuck and you can’t have bare skin because you still need protection from the elements. The Hampi pants are lightweight and simple. I like how I don’t have to tie, clip, or adjust anything when I pull them on.
Me: Hemp is highly durable, yet these pants don’t feel like crunchy workwear. They feel more like linen. Polyester is quick-drying and breathable. That combination—along with spandex—is what makes these pants so great to climb in.
Fleur Tank Top ($49)
Griffith: I’m a fan of this tank because it doesn’t have a fixed bra. Most fixed bras fit me too tightly, and as a smaller-chested woman, all I really need is a light sports bra underneath a shirt for coverage. This tank is simple but not boring. It doesn’t have a bunch of strappy straps, and I like the bright yellow color—surprisingly, it seems to go with everything. It’s the black of bright colors.
Me: Griffith is right. This tank top is simple and classic. It’s also really, really soft. The extra length and thinner material are perfect for fitting it comfortably underneath a harness. But my favorite Patagonia tank top of all time is actually designed for running: the Gatewood tank. I wear it climbing a lot or casually with shorts or jeans. It’s seamless, moisture-wicking, and superstretchy. I love its good high neckline.
Western Snap Shirt ($79)
Griffith: I wore this shirt for the duration of my last trip. It resists wrinkling, hides dirt well, and looks nice. When traveling, I need to be able to clean my clothes with a baby wipe, and I can definitely do that with this. Plus, if you’re using a shirt to layer, buttons are deal breakers because they take so long to fiddle with. This working shirt comes with snaps.
Me: This layer is comfy and flattering. It has a longer hem and a straight fit, so it doesn’t flare out at the bottom like a lot of plaid or collared shirts. The hemp blend feels good on my skin. I have the Bear Brown color and don’t worry about getting it dirty. The first time I took it to the crag, it rode up above my harness as I climbed and was really annoying. Brittany told me to tie it in the front, Daisy Duke style, and that solved the problem.