For some people, climbing can only be done in shorts. While they might not protect the legs as much as pants or knickers, shorts are going to be a much cooler option during the summer months. That can make a huge difference if climbing for hours at a time.
Below is a look at some of the most popular climbing shorts available today. As readers will notice, there is a wide variety of pricing when it comes to climb in shorts. It all comes down to the features a person is looking for, the quality of material and how long they want the shorts to last.
There is no doubt about the fact that the right pair of shorts can certainly make for a much more enjoyable overall experience when outdoors. People want to be comfortable and not restricted in any way when climbing. Here are the top climbing shorts on the market in 2020.
- 1. prAna Stretch Zion Short
- 2. Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Short
- 3. Ucraft Xlite Rock Climbing Bouldering and Yoga Knickers
- 4. Blike Men’s Outdoor Sports MTB Cycling Shorts Climbing Loose Fit Shorts
- 5. prAna Men’s Brion Shorts
- 6. Cycorld Mens Mountain Bike Biking Shorts, Water Repellent MTB Shorts
- 7. Columbia Women’s Sandy River Short, Breathable, Sun Protection
- 8. Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Long Short Water & Stain Repellent
- 9. Singbring Men’s Outdoor Active Quick Dry Hiking Shorts
- 10. CQR Men’s Urban Tactical Lightweight Utiliy EDC Cargo Classic Uniform Shorts
- Climbing Shorts Selection Tips
- Types of Climbing Shorts
- Top Climbing Shorts Brands
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. prAna Stretch Zion Short
A pair of shorts that look good casually and to climb in are always going to be popular. Throw in over 10 different colors, and that is a recipe for a great pair of shorts. The pants are 97% nylon and 3% spandex, making them very stretchy when moving around, and filled with technology to keep a person cool and dry when it is very hot outside.
This is not the last time a pair of prAna shorts will make the list. It is one of the more respected brands in the climbing community. Sizing can be a little bit tricky to figure out for some people purchasing their first pair, but other than that, there is not a lot to complain about with the prAna Stretch Zion Short.
- Extremely durable and rugged
- A wide array of color choices available
- Wicks moisture away well
- Sizing can be tough to figure out the first time purchasing
- Bigger legs might have too tight of a fit in the thigh and crotch area
2. Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Short
These shorts, made of UPF fabric to help protect against the sun, is another great performance pair for casual wear, or on the rocks climbing. They have a ton of pockets, including a few with full closures.
Despite all the pockets, this is still a very lightweight option. The ripstop fabric used by Columbia is 100% nylon, with polyester lining. Pricing can vary quite a bit depending on the size and color needed, but it is a great, neutral option for climbers.
- Outstanding UVA/UVB protection
- Multiple colors
- Offered in a 10" and 12" inseam
- The fit is a little too baggy for some people
- Does a lot of things pretty well, but nothing outstanding
3. Ucraft Xlite Rock Climbing Bouldering and Yoga Knickers
Yoga pants, knickers, capri pants and 3/4 pants are all ways to describe this option from Ucraft. This is the first pair of shorts on this list that a person might not be inclined to wear casually, but it definitely performs well when climbing.
These pants have everything a person could need while climbing. There are four outer pockets and two zipped pockets, not to mention brush and chalk bag loops. The pants are 92% polyester and 8% spandex, making them very strong and durable when wearing all day long.
Perhaps the best feature is the belt, which allows for a very customized fit overall. The thin band used is easy to close properly at any point.
- Durable, light material
- Provides coverage below the knee
- Belt allows for customized fit
- Shallow pockets
- Zipper durability is subpar
4. Blike Men’s Outdoor Sports MTB Cycling Shorts Climbing Loose Fit Shorts
These boldly designed climbing shorts from Blike are very affordable, and capable of handling just about anything thrown at them. In fact, many use these shorts for a variety of outdoor activities, and since they are waterproof, they even handle the rain well.
The shorts definitely look heavy, but they are still relatively lightweight. They do weigh slightly more than most other options discussed in this article, but nothing too noticeable. The tradeoff is that these shorts are capable of staying warm and dry when the temperature drops in a hurry.
For a versatile pair to use for multiple activities, this is a smart investment. Even the casual climber will find these to be their go-to option.
- Excellent padding
- Versatile for nearly any outdoor activity
- Bold design stands out
- Only a few color options
- Zipper durability has been an issue after a few washes
5. prAna Men’s Brion Shorts
This is another great, versatile pair of shorts from prAna that can be worn casually or to tackle an outdoor activity like climbing. They don't have the craziest amount of tech, the most amount of pockets or anything else like that, but it is a great option for a person who climbs every once in a while.
The slimmer fit is definitely a modern look that a lot of people are looking for these days. This is the first thing that really stands out. It also handles water very well, and the fabric is pretty stretchy. The 97% nylon and 3% spandex combination is the same as the Zion short, but with a shorter inseam and a slimmer fit through the seat and thigh, it's a matter of personal preference between the two.
- Very minimalistic look perfect for work or play
- UPF 50+
- Sizing is once again tricky (seems to be a prAna issue in general)
- Might not have enough pockets/tech for more serious climbers.
6. Cycorld Mens Mountain Bike Biking Shorts, Water Repellent MTB Shorts
These Cycorld shorts are another versatile pair for those who do a variety of outdoor activities. In fact, according to a lot of reviews done online, the majority of people opt to use these as cycling or biking shorts. Those shorts are usually still very good for climbing, and these are no exception.
With cationic yarn-dyed fabrics, shoppers can expect a very durable, breathable and virtually waterproof fit. No matter what the weather conditions are like, this shorts adapt to it.
The pockets are some of the deepest on the market, which makes them perfect for those carrying a lot of things around with them. The are a pair of shorts that just work, and the amount of customization that can be done for the proper fit really stands out.
- Very deep pockets
- Reflective strips are a great touch for dusk/night wear
- Comfortable fit with a slight taper at the knee
- Doesn't hold up particularly well after a few washes
- Run very small, making it difficult to order the right size
7. Columbia Women’s Sandy River Short, Breathable, Sun Protection
Women climbers are usually looking for the perfect blend of style and comfort when climbing. No company does it better than Columbia, with a number of options to choose from. The amount of colors the Sandy River option has is pretty remarkable, making it a true fan favorite.
These 100% nylon shorts have UPF 30 protection, three pockets (one being zippered) for storage and the perfect inseam for casual and performance wear. A woman can also adjust the fit easily at the waist, depending on the activity.
For frequent climbers, this might not be performance-based enough for regular climbs. Those who just want a versatile pair of shorts for a variety of activities might get a little bit more out of them.
- Versatile shorts for different activities
- Many different colors
- Extremely lightweight
- Not a ton of storage/pocket options
- Not designed for serious climbers
8. Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Long Short Water & Stain Repellent
This makes the third Columbia option on the list, and the second straight option for women. A slightly more expensive model, the Anytime Outdoor long shorts are more performance based, without sacrificing style too much.
For casual use, the shorts above are often picked. These shorts are more durable though, and they protect climbers very well. Made of 96% nylon and 4% elastane, these shorts look and feel like yoga pants for a lot of women out there. The drawstring closure allows for a customized fit, and it has some of the best UPF protection on the market.
Pockets are once again limited to three, but there is a bit more storage space in these compared to the Sandy River model. It is definitely something to consider when picking between the two.
Due to the material and design, women in all shapes and sizes have really noticed just how easy it is to get a customized fit. That is extremely important, especially when shopping online.
- Fits a wide array of body shapes and sizes
- Very lightweight and breathable
- UPF 50 protection
- Material can age somewhat quickly
- Drawstring can be a bit too long for some people, leaving a lot of material hanging down
9. Singbring Men’s Outdoor Active Quick Dry Hiking Shorts
For a simple, effective pair of climbing or hiking shorts, it doesn't get much better than these from Singbring. They are not an extremely well known company, but they provide affordable essentials for those who love the outdoors.
The pockets are deep on these shorts, which are made up of 95% polyester and 5% spandex. All of the pockets have zippers too, which is a big plus for a lot of people.
Durability isn't the greatest, but most expect that when shopping for shorts under $20. They should hold up long enough for people to feel like they have their value out of them.
- Very inexpensive
- Each pocket has a zipper
- Dry very quickly
- Not the most durable
- All color options are very dark
10. CQR Men’s Urban Tactical Lightweight Utiliy EDC Cargo Classic Uniform Shorts
A pair of cargo shorts can serve a variety of purposes, and climbing is definitely one of them. These shorts are known for being inexpensive, versatile and available in a ton of different colors.
Climbers particularly will like six different pockets on the shorts if they carry a lot of things with them. They might not be crazy about the material (64% cotton, 30% nylon, 6% spandex), but in weather that is not extremely hot, they should hold up fine.
For those who are looking for a pair of shorts they can use on several different occasions, this is a great option overall. They might not be made specifically for climbers in mind, but that does not mean that they can't be used in that way. In fact, some might like the extra bulk and material used that so many others are shying away from.
- Very inexpensive
- Plenty of pocket space for anything imaginable
- Comes is a lot of different colors
- Material isn't as breathable/lightweight as other options
- Pockets can be too much for some
Climbing Shorts Selection Tips
1. Ensure a good fit for comfort.
It’s nice to look good but it is even better if you can feel good while you climb. After all, it is already a strenuous activity. You don’t want to make it harder for yourself just because of your clothing. Make sure that you have something that provides a good fit. The waist should ideally be stretchable or adjustable in some other way. The length of the fabric should be enough to provide coverage but not so long as to get in the way. Some people like to have a lot of room for air to circulate while others prefer a tighter fit.
2. Look for weather-specific features.
If you are only climbing indoors, then you will not have to worry about the weather since the environment inside the gym will always be ideal. This will be far from what you will encounter outdoors where conditions can change from season to season or even from day to day. Climbing in the summer calls for thin breathable clothing, mesh pockets, and loose-fitting gear. Climbing in the colder months call for thicker fabrics, multiple layers, and greater skin coverage. The types of fabrics used for season-specific shorts also differ.
3. Get enough pockets for organization and easy access.
You must make sure that you have everything you need before you climb since it is incredibly difficult to go down every time you have to fetch something that you have forgotten. Climbing with a backpack is not advisable since this can restrict your movement. It would be better to wear shorts with ample pockets to store gear and essentials. Most will have two pockets in front. Others will add two at the back. A few will throw in some side pockets. The vast majority are open although you can find pockets secured via zipper, Velcro, or buttons.
4. Check the UPF rating for sun protection.
Being out in the sun is generally a good thing, especially these days wherein a sedentary lifestyle is the norm. Yet there are also dangers that you should be aware of. If you are going out on a sunny day, then you should be mindful of UV exposure. Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors must always see to it that they do not get too much ultraviolet light on their skin. Such can cause cancer and other problems. Sunscreen can be applied across the body to minimize risk. Just remember that UV can penetrate regular clothes. Some outdoor clothing have special coatings to reduce penetration.
5. Style should have substance.
You can still be stylish even if you are in the mountains doing hardcore activities. If you really like certain cuts, colors, and patterns, then go ahead and buy the clothes that have these. Just make sure that these items are also function also that you can get the best of both worlds. For example, you should not wear dark clothes if you are going to be climbing on a hot summer day. Black absorbs sunlight so you will only feel hotter. Save these on cold days and use white or other light-colored clothes in the heat.
6. Make sure that you get full range of motion.
The climbing holds in the gym come in all shapes and sizes. They can be close or spaced far apart. Outdoors, the rocks are even more random which make them difficult to navigate. Climbers have to bend, stretch, and contort their bodies just to reach their next target. They need to be able to move freely with a full range of motion. They should be selecting climbing shorts that will help them and not hinder them in this regard. The fabric should be able to stretch without much resistance or getting any damage.
7. Opt for high quality materials and durable construction.
When it comes to climbing gear, sometimes you really have to spend more money to get better results. Those who are just trying out the activity out of curiosity may not have to purchase specialized clothing but those who are serious about their performance have to take all advantages they can get. They don’t mind splurging if this means they will be able to enjoy high quality materials that will make them comfortable and propel them to the top. They will pay for branded items that have proven to be durable. After all, shorts that can remain intact despite brushes with sharp rocks also protects their skin and saves them money in the long run.
Types of Climbing Shorts
Regular climbing shorts go from the waist to just above the knees, similar to chinos. They are more comfortable than hiking pants since there is less fabric to limit movement and there is better ventilation at the bottom. These are great for summer climbing and trips with short approaches. Once you get to the site, you can start climbing right away. However, they do not offer much protection from the sun or sharp plants along the way. Exposed legs can be prone to wounds and burns. It is possible to wear hiking pants while trekking to the climbing site and then just change to shorts.
Some of the shorts used for climbing are actually derived from convertible hiking pants. This design offers users the best of both worlds. They can use the garment in full during long treks and cold weather outings. If it gets warm, then they can ditch the lower half and allow their legs to feel the breeze. The good thing about this setup is that you will only have to bring one piece of garment instead of two. That means less weight and bulk in your backpack. This may not seem much, but every little thing counts.
Leggings are popular alternatives to regular pants and shorts for climbing. They can be worn by themselves or used as an inner layer on colder days. They come in different lengths from full leg coverage to much shorter options. Capris are highly visible in many gyms. Their ability to stretch is very useful in this type of activity. Women love them because they don’t have to worry about what people might see down below. They can concentrate on the task and perform much better.
Top Climbing Shorts Brands
In the past, even the best climbers would simply wear whatever made them comfortable. No one really made shorts that were dedicated this this type of pursuit. The rise of the sport and the increased competition has since paved the way for better gear. Now climbers of all levels can enjoy better fit, comfort, and features thanks to the products on the market. Among the brands to watch out for are Black Diamond, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, Marmot, and La Sportiva. These brands are known for producing quality outdoor clothing and equipment. Their products are tested by the best athletes in the world so you can be confident in their performance.
Anyone should be able to find shorts that would fit their budget. The cheapest ones go for around $20. They may not have a lot of bells and whistles but they might be enough for short and easy climbs. The most expensive ones are around $150 and feature plenty of pockets, solid construction, good flexibility, and water resistance. Those in the middle tend to offer the best value for money. If you are not climbing in extreme conditions, then you can save a significant amount of money without making compromises by going for midrange items.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I wear shorts or pants for rock climbing?
It is possible to use either of them. Many prefer shorts because they are more comfortable and less intrusive. However, they also offer little to no protection to the knees and lower legs if they come in contact with rocks. Capris offer a good middle-ground between these two extremes. If pants are chosen, then the wearer must make sure that the edges are not so long that they make footwork problematic. Extra fabric can be folded or cut so that they do not get in the way.
2. What are the best climbing shorts for hot weather?
Heat makes people sweat profusely. Wet shorts will stick to the skin and make it feel uncomfortable. It would be best to look for products with moisture-wicking fabrics from synthetic that help make sweat evaporate faster. These will dry quicker and make climbs more enjoyable. Cotton should be avoided for extended outings, including those that require a long hike to get to the destination.
3. What are the best climbing shorts for women?
The top women in the sport wear different types of garments for their lower half during training and competitions. Some are more comfortable with petite shorts while others go for full or capri leggings. Some even wear pants indoors and outdoors. Most women prefer high-waisted options that stick close to their body, whereas men tend to go for looser pieces.
Elizabeth Sparks received a Masters Degree in geology from The University of Colorado. Elizabeth has been working as a full-time geologist for the past 5 years. In her spare time, Elizabeth participates in rock climbing competitions and frequently goes camping with friends.