Heading to a climbing gym? We’ve got something to tell you first.
Never been to a climbing gym before? Wondering what to wear for this outdoor sport … indoors? Maybe you’re worried that you need to go out and buy some specific new technical clothes. Or that you need to show up in skin-tight athleisure wear. Or that you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t have exactly the right thing on.
As someone who’s been a completely insecure beginner, terrified of looking dumb, I can sympathize. But I’ve learned something in the years since I started gym climbing. So let me just put this out there: You can wear whatever you want to the climbing gym. Whatever makes you comfortable. And if anyone tells you otherwise, well, you don’t need to be friends with them.
Of course some gyms may have policies about going shirtless, and you should always be respectful of the people around you. But when it comes to taking the belay test, cinching up your harness or monkeying around on the bouldering wall, just know that whatever makes you feel comfortable and true to yourself is the right thing to wear.
Right now you might be saying, Yes, but don’t you make “climbing” clothes? Yes. In fact, we do. We have a bunch of great clothing designed to be stretchy and tough and wicking—all important things for climbing outdoors, where weather can change quickly and rocks and plants can rip less sturdy material. But one of the best things about climbing indoors is that you shouldn’t have to keep a rain jacket stashed in your bag or worry about thorny bushes along the path to the crag.
Technical outdoor climbing clothes can work great indoors, too. But we’ll be the first to say that a T-shirt can, too.
We asked five of our climbing ambassadors what they wear to the gym, just to give you an idea of the different things that make a few different people comfortable.
“I normally wear a baggy tee so it doesn’t cling too much during hard sessions. I’m not big on shorts when I bash my knees or shins, so I usually go for a pair of stretch chinos. Either something pretty light or with a bigger leg so it still moves alright. An OR 5-panel cap keeps my hair in check. I’d say most of what I like isn’t typical climbing clothes. If I wouldn’t wear it outside the gym, I won’t wear it in the gym.”
“I usually wear cotton lycra leggings or joggers, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt. Basically whatever I've been wearing cooking breakfasts and lunches, I'll just mosey out to my home wall in. For the gym, I might make sure I have another layer in case it's cold since I can't control the temperature there. I climb in most everything I own, but I own mostly comfortable things and not too much dressy stuff! I guess that must just give away what clothes are in my closet. But I think anything can be something you climb in as long as you are comfortable in it!
“I always go for comfort while I’m at the gym. My typical outfit is something stretchy and loose. I tend to avoid super-tight clothing that will restrict my movement. I love a good loose cotton shirt for comfort and movement, along with a favorite pair of earrings for personal motivation. I personally love my small hoops with a woman climber in the middle.”
“I generally just wear a kind of baggy cotton tee, striped ideally, and comfy pants—shorts if it's hot, but I much prefer climbing in pants. As for pants, I generally wear chinos or the new cords I've been working on with OR. … I think the new cords aren't ‘typical’ climbing pants, but I wanted to design them because I love the style and comfort. If they're done right, they're great for climbing!”
Psssst! Stay tuned for those corduroy pants we’re collaborating with Keenan on. They’ll be hitting the website this coming spring.
“I prefer wearing the same clothes in the gym as I do outdoors. That way, climbing outdoors seems slightly more familiar. I'll pretty much always wear a T-shirt and shorts to the gym, since that's what I like climbing in when I'm on real rock. Though I'm not much of a fan of khaki style or cargo shorts and would never wear them when I'm not climbing, I wear them all the time in the gym since they're comfortable and flexible.”