Women's gear, up first

Dawn Patrol

Our Favorite Women's Climbing Pants

We had climbers from sizes 2 to 14 put dozens of pants to the test. These are the standouts.

Ariella Gintzler, an assistant editor at Outside, bouldering. (Hayden Carpenter)
climbing

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We had climbers from sizes 2 to 14 put dozens of pants to the test. These are the standouts.

Climbers come in all shapes and sizes, and different climbs, climates, and style preferences call for different pants. Six of our editors who love everything from desert bouldering to alpine trad tested pants from more than a dozen brands to find the ones that were just right for them. The testers behind this review are between 5’2” and 5’11” and range from a U.S. size two to 14. These are our favorite climbing pants for fit, functionality, durability, and, of course, style.

Mountain Hardwear Dynama ($70)

climbing
(Courtesy Mountain Hardwear)

The Short: Great crossover gym/outdoor pants that fit well even if you have a butt and strong thighs.

The Long: The Mountain Hardwear Dynama is the closest option to a climbing/yoga pants hybrid I’ve found. They’re formfitting and flattering without sacrificing stretch or movement, and the lightweight fabric is durable, even when I’m skidding down quartzite slabs. The wide elastic waistband lays flat and hits high enough to fit comfortably under a harness. Drawstrings at the bottom cinch the wide legs to a climbing-appropriate length and width when it’s go time. —Abbie Barronian, assistant editor

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Black Diamond Alpine Lite ($99)

climbing
(Courtesy Black Diamond)

The Short: Super-versatile and breathable alpine pants perfect for all types of outdoor climbing.

The Long: These are by far the most versatile pants I tested. The style is flattering and simple, with a tapered leg and a built-in belt to ensure a snug fit. I was worried the slim cut would leave them too tight through the thighs (my other sport is skiing, and you can tell), but they’re stretchy enough to make a slim cut comfortable. The durable fabric is wind- and water-resistant, but most notable is their breathability: I’ve never willingly worn full-length black pants on a hot summer day in the desert, but these felt breezy. They also work well for hiking, and I find myself in them whenever I’m in the mountains—not only when I’m climbing. —Abbie Barronian, assistant editor

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Gramicci Original G ($50)

climbing
(Courtesy Gramicci)

The Short: Inexpensive, classic, wide-leg cotton pants great for cool-weather climbing.

The Long: Gramicci pants are a climbing classic with a straightforward design meant for freedom of movement and comfort. They’re an easy fit for most body types, since they’re cut roomy through the butt and legs and have an elastic waistband. Made with a soft cotton blend, they’re not exactly quick-drying or ultra-breathable, but they’re great for crisp fall days and cooler temperatures. Plus, the classic look means I can wear them around town as well. —Abbie Barronian, assistant editor

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La Sportiva Sharp Pants ($109)

climbing
(Courtesy La Sportiva)

The Short: Roomy, breathable, technical climbing pants that work on a wide variety of body types and in variable conditions.

The Long: As a woman with leg muscles and curves, I often struggle to find pants that fit my thighs without gapping at the waist. The Mantra has a drawcord inside the elastic waistband, which makes for the most dialed-in, no-slip fit I’ve experienced in a pair of climbing pants (or any athletic pants, for that matter). As a bonus, the nylon/spandex blend is lightweight, breathable, and feels soft next to your skin, but it’s still rugged enough to hold up to sharp crystals. Cinch in the ankles for fancy footwork, or keep them loose and rolled up. —Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor

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Ortovox Corvara ($200)

climbing
(Courtesy Ortovox)

The Short: Old-school pants with new-school details, built to withstand rough treatment in the outdoors.

The Long: Lightweight tech fabrics are great, but there’s something comforting about the boxy fit and thick, protective feel of old-school climbing pants (that is, painter’s pants). The Corvara pants invoke that early heritage with a modern twist: highly durable waxed-cotton/nylon that’s treated with DWR for water repellency. Stretch panels in the crotch add freedom of movement. A waistband lining made from a blend of merino, lyocell, and polyester wicks moisture. With that comfortable boxy fit comes the dreaded waist gap, but a tech belt fixes that problem. —Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor

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Topo Designs Climb Pants ($89)

climbing
(Courtesy Topo Designs)

The Short: Simple high-waisted pants that offer a unique look without skimping on performance.

The Long: I wore the Topo Climb Pants for a couple months while pulling plastic at the local gym and scaling basalt cliffs in Diablo Canyon. These pants shined in their simplicity. The no-frills fit was loose enough to encourage airflow, which was a nice bonus at high noon in New Mexico. I was a big fan of the midrise cut that landed right below my belly button, and the cinch waist made sure they stayed there. I’m 5’11”, so these measured in as dorky high-waters, but it was nothing a single ankle cuff couldn’t fix. —Abigail Wise, online managing editor

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Mammut Alnasca ($99)

climbing
(Courtesy Mammut)

The Short: Thoughtfully designed pants that show off your shape without compromising on technical details or freedom of movement.

The Long: These are my new favorite pants for everything from outdoor and gym climbing to wearing around the office. I love how tough they are—even after taking a clumsy fall on some rhyolite in the Jemez, they didn’t show a single sign of wear. Plus, the high snap waist and slim jogger style made for a flattering fit that’s relaxed enough to allow me to move on the wall but snug enough that they still held a shape. A zipper pocket housed my lip balm, mini sunscreen, and other essentials. My only gripe: As someone who lives in constant fear of butt-sweat stains, the slow-dry cotton fabric caused me some alarm on exceptionally hot days. —Abigail Wise, online managing editor

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Rab Helix ($100)

climbing
(Courtesy Rab)

The Short: Versatile, technical climbing pants equally suited for long approaches, bouldering, and sport climbing.

The Long: I typically climb in yoga tights or other pants with a similar, stretchy waist so I’m free to bust flexy moves, but the Helix is a game changer. These pants are stretchy enough for high steps and stemming yet tough enough to withstand cheese grating on gritty cliffs. With their lightweight and quick-dry fabric, they perform well even in warm conditions. The legs can also be rolled up and secured with a hidden interior button. The midrise waist is flattering and stayed in place through long sessions. —Ula Chrobak, freelance writer

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Patagonia Women’s RPS Rock Pants ($89)

climbing
(Courtesy Patagonia)

The Short: Slim-fitting technical alpine climbing pants designed for an athletic body.

The Long: As a quick disclaimer, I’m still in search of the perfect rock pants—but this pair comes pretty darn close. They are 100 percent designed for a rock climber, with features like stretchy fabric, articulated knees, and adjustable waist. There are a couple of caveats, however. For my particular body (a petite 5’3” with a booty), my usual size four limits flexibility compared to totally free, loose pants. For me, this means squats are a little harder but not impossible. That said, these have quickly become my favorite pants to climb and boulder in, and I’ve found that washing them sparingly has significantly increased the upper-thigh flexibility. —Jenny Earnest, social media editor

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Prana Midtown Capri ($85)

climbing
(Courtesy PrAna)

The Short: Easy, stretchy crops perfect for gym climbing.

The Long: Before testing this pair, I was very anti-capri pants. But somehow, the loose (but not too loose) fit and the angled pant legs end up looking very flattering on the booty and my average pair of calves. Performance-wise, I dare you to find a more comfortable pair of pants to climb in. There are absolutely zero constraints when you wear these—get ready to enjoy unlimited above-the-head heel hooks and figure-4s! Finally, the wrong-size risk is very low with this style, thanks to the elastic waistband and drawcord. —Jenny Earnest, social media manager

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Sherpa Adventure Gear Devi Ankle ($90)

climbing
(Courtesy Sherpa Adventure Gear)

The Short: Feminine-cut pants for the style-conscious climber.

The Long: I didn’t expect to climb in the Devi pants—they look like travel-ready lifestyle pants when you try them on—so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they work as well in the gym as they do at the bar afterward. A jogger-style cinched bottom hem keeps them out of the way during fancy footwork and creates a modern silhouette. The fabric is on the stiffer side; opt for a looser fit to avoid limiting your range of motion. —Emily Reed, assistant editor

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Arc’teryx Levita ($120)

climbing
(Courtesy Arc'teryx)

The Short: Loose-fitting, lightweight canvas climbing pants great for warm-weather bouldering.

The Long: After I ripped a massive hole in the butt of my favorite Lululemon leggings while bouldering, I knew I should join the climbing pants club. Enter the Levita pants. I don’t sacrifice any freedom of movement, but instead of body-hugging spandex, I’m wearing loose, lightweight canvas fabric that provides the durability rock demands. The bottom hem has a drawstring, so I can turn them into capris or cinch in the leg to see extra-dainty footwork when needed. The top spandex waistband never bunches or feels uncomfortable and provides a little support—much like a pair of leggings. —Emily Reed, assistant editor

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Filed To: Pants / Climbing / Style / Women’s / Clothing and Apparel