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Women's climbing pants: love 'em or hate 'em


Original Post
Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 302

Hey friends. 

In light of the recent Outdoor Magazine article, years of personal experience on and off the rock (but always in the dirt), as well as through the stories, cheers and complaints of my fellow ladies... I would like to hear what you have to say in regards to women's pants- specifically pants marketed for climbing and heavy-duty outdoor excursions. 

What do you love about them? What do you hate about them? What do you want in your ideal pair?

Personally, as a wide-shouldered, long-torsoed, tomboy sorta gal, I have these frustrations: way-too-form fitting tops, bottoms that don't stretch enough and items that bunch up/ride up in all the wrong places. In addition, I love me some earth tones and am frustrated with the pink/lavender saturation we encounter as female consumers. Give me ochres, yellows, burnt oranges, emeralds, heck, maybe even a loud chartreuse. No more Easter-pastel-only palettes. 

(That being said, if anyone has a favorite pair of high-waisted women's climbing pants they'd like to recommend...) 

Thanks all!

Adrienne DiRosario · · Troy, NY · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0

I love men's pants, the colors, the style, everything. Except they don't make them small enough. We complain that they "shrink and pink" gear well I wish they would just shrink men's clothes. Instead I'm stuck with form fitting, small pockets, or pink. I haven't bought new climbing pants in at least 5 years. I have two pairs old old EMS pants that I live in. Unforuntatly all their clothes went to crap too. 

SkyB · · PDX, OR · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

By high waisted pants do you mean sits at natural waist? I am pretty frustrated with all the low-to-mid rise pants out there myself. I also find that I wear lots of holes in the seat or knees of my climbing pants. So natural waist and superior abrasion resistance are the two features I'd want in climbing pants. 

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 768

I "geared up", starting a year ago, toward layers for winter. That got ramped up this fall, when my first ice climbing trip loomed.

Honestly? I prowled our two consignment outdoor gear shops. One, Backcountry Pursuit, is just across the street from work, so I could go in often.

I got almost all of it that way, and a few new pieces, after trying stuff on and knowing I could wear a size larger or smaller. My base layer top, I tried on the one the guy at the store was wearing! I ended up with at least three versions of everything, which has helped with layering.

Pants for rock climbing? Sigh. Not looking forward to that. So far? I just wear stretchy or baggy (or both) jeans, outside. 

Inside, some sort of yoga something's, I think, Old Navy brand, is what I currently have. From a thrift store. No pockets, so they are undoubtedly women's.... I will say, they are holding up well. I'm pretty brutal to clothing.

Ditto on natural waist, and functional pockets. I like the style, colors, functionality (or at least the looks of it) of Title nine stuff, but I've not tried outerwear there, yet.

Good luck!

Best, OLH

Francesca Parratt · · England · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 160

Ugh, I hate pants shopping! It’s one of the worst experiences in the world... As for finding decent climbing pants, that’s a mission in itself! I used to opt for basic H&M cargo pants, but now, due to fashion demand, all you can buy there is leggings, skinny fit pants and the occasional super wide leg tent type pants in patterns that wouldn’t look out of place in grandmas lounge! 

However, I’ve discovered Rab pants, although a little on the pricier side, are super hard wearing, have a little more room in them and also have pockets which you can fit a phone and a wallet in!

I also got a pretty decent pair of hiking pants from Montane. 

Good luck ladies!

Abbie R · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 5

My favorite climbing pants are E9 - it's an Italian brand, but you can buy them in the U.S. here. What I like about them most is the elastic waist and roomy legs. It's already so difficult for women to find pants given our wildly varying hip-to-waist ratios, and an elastic waist eliminates most of that problem. The colors can be a bit yikes, but I have people ask me where I got my pants on probably 75% of my gym visits - men and women.

My other favorite climbing pants are the Temple pants from La Sportiva. They also have an elastic waist and roomy legs. If they had one ZIPPERED pocket that would fit a smartphone, they would be the perfect climbing pants.

I totally agree with you about the color choices for women's outdoor wear. We don't all love pink and purple. Not only that, but for some reason, women's clothes are always in cool tones, and men's are in beautiful warm tones. I have huge envy for the warm greens and browns of men's outdoor clothes.

Ruth23 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

Fit is everything, so everyone's mileage there probably differs. I'm short and curvy, so I wind up either hemming, or rolling up cuffs in almost everything. That said, I hate low riding pants for climbing. Plumber's butt when sitting back in a harness is not a good look for anyone.  I also like a zip rear pocket, and front pockets that are deep, but don't flap out and catch onto biners when I'm clipping things onto gear loops. Zips can help with this, but aren't always necessary.

I'm also on record as being a huge fan of pants that have a zip thru crotch for anything requiring a harness, or winter weather.  Yes, I have a system of baselayers, softshell pants, puffy pants, and hardshells that I can use together in various combos. I really don't know why more women's pants don't offer this feature.

Deirdre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 10

My partner gave me a pair of North Face climbing pants that I love. Otherwise, I am too cheap to spend the money for climbing pants. I'm not doing Alpine climbing or anything that requires special clothing and I don't need to look good at the gym or crag. 

 I also find that it can be hard to get pants that fit my build. I am built like a very short T-Rex. Generally I have to safety pin or roll up the bottoms of my pants. So pants with cuffs at the bottom work best.

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 1,672

My wife has a few pairs of Prana Halle pants that she likes. It's a women's climbing pant, made with the same fabric as the popular stretch Zion men's pants. I also have the Stretch Zion pants, and we both like the fabric. Stretch fabric, breathable, a very durable, and it looks good; I wear mine all the time. You can almost always find them on sale somewhere, so never pay full price if you can help it.

My wife has both the regular and convertible versions of the Halle's. Being women's pants, of course the pockets are small, but the zippered thigh pocket on the convertibles is slightly larger. She can fit her phone (the rather large Google Pixel XL) in the zipper pocket on the convertibles, but not on the regulars. I believe they're mid-rise waist, which she likes, but as always, YMMV.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,095

I have older Patagonia pants that I adore, but they are literally falling apart.  I bought them used from Dolgio here on MP in 2013-ish.  They are Simple Guide pants, I believe.  I think they are the perfect pants.  They are somewhat water resistant, but the fabric is totally soft with none of that rustly, plastic feeling.  The pockets are big and all have zippers.  I have spent many weeks climbing, hiking and sleeping in these pants.  They look reasonable in town and don't show dirt that easily.  They are women's pants, so cut to allow for hips and butt.  Of course they don't make them anymore.  The butt of mine is getting a bit transparent and the leg pocket is almost ripped all the way off.  I'll probably duct tape the pocket and wear them until I am mooning everyone.

I have tried the newer Patagonia pants.  The Venga is just a cotton pant.  The Simul Alpine is plastic and stiff feeling.  Quandry has flimsy fabric and smaller pockets.  I now cruise used clothing sites looking for Simple Guides.

Similar case with Stonemaster jeans.  Great for climbing.  So comfortable.  Absolutely the most durable pant I have encountered.  Looks great in town.  No longer available :(

If anyone has similar pant taste and is aware of something good that is still sold in stores, please give a girl a recommendation!

DRusso · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 740
JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,006

My go-to climbing pants are a pair of Arc Teryx men's pants, the Gamma LT model, that I got at the Vancouver outlet a decade ago (I'm pretty impressed the pants are still alive).  They're a stretchy tech fabric that breathes well enough and sheds moisture well.  Elastic waist with a simple belt pull.  The women's version was too skinny leg.

What I hate: outdoor gear that follows fashion "trends".  Recently that has meant a "skinny" fit that, unless you actually have skinny legs (and many if not most of us don't) ... you can't move in, let alone highstep.  "Low-rise" pants need to die a quick death.  I loathe the "cargo" thigh pocket, it just gets in the way of gear and moving, and almost every pair these days still has them.  The "flare" a few years back was super annoying, because I like to see my feet when I'm climbing.

La MoMoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 60

My favorite climbing pants ever came from costco. I'm a big fan of highwaisted pants/tights, I don't want my muffin top getting squeezed out between my pants and my harness. 

Kari V · · Alamosa, CO · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Have never been able to find a "true" climbing pant due to my pickiness about how my pants fit and my refusal to pay much money for them. Whether I am indoors or outdoors, I climb in stretchy, synthetic leggings, capris, or running pants. Maybe when I'm not a grad student anymore, I'll be willing to pay the extra money! But for now I scour secondhand stores. 

I would love to invest in a pair of Prana's Halle pants someday, but I'll have to make the trek to REI to try them on first. I live in a fairly rural area and I don't trust that I can find a good fit online. I would love to find women's pants with deep pockets that are form-fitting and attractive but not tight, stretchy, and allow a full range of movement. I also love earth tones and would be thrilled to find a tawny sienna hue in climbing pants.

Suburban Roadside · · Abovetraffic on Hudson · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 1,454

not great choice of fabric,types, but durable, bar-tacking,  doubled seat & Knees  (w/pad pockets)  




   (they make pants w/ less pockets)


While you will have to deal with all that goin' Taco, entails - there are 2 threads 


Z Winters · · Mazama, WA · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 220
Alicia Sokolowski wrote:

I have older Patagonia pants that I adore, but they are literally falling apart.  I bought them used from Dolgio here on MP in 2013-ish.  They are Simple Guide pants, I believe.  I think they are the perfect pants.  They are somewhat water resistant, but the fabric is totally soft with none of that rustly, plastic feeling.  The pockets are big and all have zippers.  I have spent many weeks climbing, hiking and sleeping in these pants.  They look reasonable in town and don't show dirt that easily.  They are women's pants, so cut to allow for hips and butt.  Of course they don't make them anymore.  The butt of mine is getting a bit transparent and the leg pocket is almost ripped all the way off.  I'll probably duct tape the pocket and wear them until I am mooning everyone.

I have tried the newer Patagonia pants.  The Venga is just a cotton pant.  The Simul Alpine is plastic and stiff feeling.  Quandry has flimsy fabric and smaller pockets.  I now cruise used clothing sites looking for Simple Guides.

Similar case with Stonemaster jeans.  Great for climbing.  So comfortable.  Absolutely the most durable pant I have encountered.  Looks great in town.  No longer available :(

If anyone has similar pant taste and is aware of something good that is still sold in stores, please give a girl a recommendation!

I have an old beat up pair of Simple Guide Pants too. Love 'em. I agree that the newer Patagonia stuff isn't as good. My current favorites are the BD Alpine Light, which are a similar type of fabric, but significantly thinner/lighter. Kind of like the Quandary but bigger pockets and more stretch. They make them in W's too, but can't comment on fit for ladies.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 745

E9 pants are really awesome. In fact, I'm wearing a pair right now... Stretchy waist, roomy legs with articulated knees, long-lasting, good-looking, great color choices, and POCKETS THAT ARE DEEP ENOUGH FOR PHONES!!!

I have also liked a pair of Mountain Khakis, and Rab makes good climbing pants, too, though E9 definitely wins for me.

But when all is said and done, I don't like climbing in pants. I prefer tights/leggings/yoga pants. I have climbed some easier multipitch in pants, but the way I generally climb I feel like there is more flexibility in yoga pants. It is just me though, maybe mental/force of habit. There are crusher women (e.g. Alex Puccio, just to name one) who climb in E9s, and do not have any problem throwing heel hooks over head.

If you don't have a place to try the E9s on, a word of caution. they are generally sized small, by US standards, and the fit varies greatly with the model. For example, the pair of Onda Slim pants that I am currently wearing is size M. I am 110 lb, and XXS in Athleta size, or 00 on Gap/Ann Taylor, etc. I COULD fit into a size S, and even XS but then they fit more like tight pants, and forget about using those pockets for a phone...
Fleur is another model that fits really tight, and I wouldn't want to go any smaller than medium.

Neve, on the other hand, fits me really roomy in size S, and Gianna Story is perfect in S, and OK-but-tightish in XS.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,095
Z Winters wrote:

I have an old beat up pair of Simple Guide Pants too. Love 'em. I agree that the newer Patagonia stuff isn't as good. My current favorites are the BD Alpine Light, which are a similar type of fabric, but significantly thinner/lighter. Kind of like the Quandary but bigger pockets and more stretch. They make them in W's too, but can't comment on fit for ladies.

Thanks!  I will definitely try on the BD Alpine Light.  They weren't even on my radar, so much appreciated!

Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 302

Thanks for all the insight so far, this is super interesting/informative/validating to read. 

Has anyone here tried the Patagonia RPS rock pants or the women's Arc'teryx Gamma Rock? 

Abbie R · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 5
Lena chita wrote:
If you don't have a place to try the E9s on, a word of caution. they are generally sized small, by US standards, and the fit varies greatly with the model. For example, the pair of Onda Slim pants that I am currently wearing is size M. I am 110 lb, and XXS in Athleta size, or 00 on Gap/Ann Taylor, etc. I COULD fit into a size S, and even XS but then they fit more like tight pants, and forget about using those pockets for a phone...
Fleur is another model that fits really tight, and I wouldn't want to go any smaller than medium.

Agree that E9 sizing is super weird and all over the place. I own three pair, three different styles - one is size Small, one is Medium, and the other is Large.

thatboyaintright . · · Mammoth Lakes, CA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 25
Jess Arnold wrote:

Thanks for all the insight so far, this is super interesting/informative/validating to read. 

Has anyone here tried the Patagonia RPS rock pants or the women's Arc'teryx Gamma Rock? 

Love the RPS pants. I’m very tiny so the zero is a bit big on me, but some stretchy cord fixes that problem. I could live in those pants. 

I also own the Gamma LT pants but just got them and haven’t had a chance to take them out climbing yet.  They fit really nicely in the store though and were light and comfy and seem perfect for summer alpine climbing 

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