Best Climbing Pants of 2019

Climbing pants (or trousers if you speak the Queen’s english) tend to be something of an afterthought.  We may think very carefully about which climbing shoes to invest in or which puffer jacket offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio but we sort of just forget about climbing pants.  But when you think about it, having the wrong pair of pants on when climbing would be a disaster.  Just think of all those high steps, knee drops and mid-air split moves! That would be impossible in a pair of tight corduroys.  

You’d want something durable, stretchy (I’ve seen my fair share of ripped crotches) and hopefully something that makes you (and your bum) look half decent. So have a look and if we’ve missed your favourite pair of climbing pants then add them to our article in the comments.

If you’re in a hurry we’ve summarised our findings in the table below.   Click on a category to be taken directly to that category in this article or click on a product to be taken to the seller.  Enjoy!

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Overall Best Climbing Pants for Women

The Good:

  • Comfortable
  • Durable quality construction & materials
  • Light
  • Stretchy
  • Flattering cut
  • Water repellent

The Not So Good:

  • No petite/short option available
  • More expensive than Prana Halle and Columbia Anytime

Don’t ask me why but for some reason when it comes to womenswear (and the outdoor industry is no exception), manufacturers often get it wrong.  Whether the issues are to do with poor fit, poor construction/materials or the wanton use of shallow ‘for show’ pockets – let’s face it, women find it hard to find a good pair of pants.  However, our prayers have now been answered in the form of the rather wonderful Outdoor Research Voodoo Pant.

What makes them so special?  Well, when compared to the bestselling Prana Halle or Columbia Anytime Outdoor Pants, it quickly becomes very obvious the greater care that has been taken with construction, materials and just the overall quality.  Let’s face it, when it comes to our outdoor clothing, most of us would rather pay that bit extra to get a product that’s built to last.

The OR Voodoo is not only durable and comfortable but also has a flattering cut AND lovely deep pockets – hallelujah!  The Voodoo withstands washes very well unlike the Columba Anytime which is prone to pilling after a few washes. They are also versatile with some testers wearing them in scorching hot deserts without issue or in alpine conditions with a pair of long johns underneath.  The Voodoo repels spills and water so you can feel confident taking them out in the snow or in light rain.

Unlike the Prana Halle, the OR Voodoo features a roomy zippered cargo pocket large enough to keep your phone and all pockets are functional without sacrificing form.

Notable alternatives:

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Overall Best Climbing Pants for Men

The Good:

  • Stretchy
  • Breathable
  • Quick drying
  • Durable
  • Light
  • Water repellent
  • Wrinkle resistant

The Not So Good:

  • Knowing which size to get can be tricky
  • Front side pockets could be deeper

It’s pretty rare for a product to have as much success as the Prana Stretch Zion pant, I mean just look at the thousand 5 star reviews it’s gotten on Amazon!  There’s no doubt it’s a best seller and for good reason. Made out of Prana’s own secret sauce woven stretchy Zion material with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating that repels water.  The material is lightweight, resists wrinkles (who likes ironing?) and quick-drying. The pant cut is streamlined without being overly baggy, features a cleverly angled cargo pocket and a ventilated inseam gusset (to keep the crotchal zone happy).

Another useful feature are the roll-up leg snaps so you can quickly make them into three quarter length pants if you’re about to go through a muddy patchy or if you need some quick cooling air action on your legs.  The Zion pant comes in a range of suitably outdoorsy colours and has a handy built-in waist strap for easy adjustability and removing the need for a belt.

The only cons we could think of was that knowing which size to get can be difficult just looking at the sizing chart so we recommend buying several different sizes if you can to find the best fit.  And if we’re really being picky, the two front side pockets aren’t the deepest we’ve ever seen – but that is us being very picky! All in all, a fantastic versatile pant that is also available as shorts.

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Best Ice Climbing Pants for Women

The Good:Comfortable

  • Durable
  • Breathable
  • Stretchy
  • Warm
  • Versatile
  • 4 zipped pockets
  • Stretchy
  • Boot lace hooks
  • Crampon protection for inner ankles

The Not So Good:

  • Sizing can be tricky – a petite version would be welcome
  • More colour options would be nice

Outdoor Research have really done a good job as their Cirque pant has been awarded our best climbing pant for both men and women.  This stretchy yet warm and durable mid-weight softshell is perfect for those alpine adventures. Designed with high energy activities in colder environments, OR’s quality construction and material is obvious.  Everything is pretty much the same as the men’s apart from the cut – they even have the same four zippered pockets (a miracle considering manufacturers love to reduce women’s pockets!) as well as a hugely useful velcro waist adjuster so you can cinch in that waist for the perfect fit.

Other features include boot lace hooks, inner ankle protection from crampons and the ability to cinch in the bottoms of the pants to help spot footwork better.  Sizing was even trickier for the women’s just down to the sheer variety in hip-to-waist ratios out there – buying several sizes is crucial to check for inseam lengths and to know if you have enough space in the thighs for an extra layer underneath just in case.  And petites best be aware that OR don’t offer shorter lengths and at present is available only in a black or pewter colour.

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Best Ice Climbing Pants for Men

The Good:

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Breathable
  • Stretchy
  • Warm
  • 4 zipped pockets
  • Stretchy
  • Boot lace hooks
  • Crampon protection for inner ankles

The Not So Good:

  • Sizing can be tricky
  • Even more large pockets would be nice

The OR Cirque is a tried, tested and trusted technical softshell pant made from an incredibly durable double weave stretch fabric.  OR have beautifully balanced the need of these pants to withstand the harsh and sweaty demands of climbing, mountaineering and skiing in alpine environments.  They’ve done this by creating a fabric that is water, wind and abrasion resistant as well as highly breathable.  Nobody wants sweat running down their legs and lower back when they’re out working their butt off in the backcountry!

The OR Cirque is just packed with features including a bevy of deep zippered pockets (four to be exact) so you can stash away your energy bars, ski passes or extra belay devices without fear of them falling out on the move.  These versatile pants also feature a gusseted and reinforced crotch, crampon protection for the inner ankle regions and boot lace hooks to prevent snow entering your boots.

The articulated knees and stretchy material allow for ease of movement including high stepping and harnesses fit comfortably over the waist belt.  The cut allows for easy layering up underneath if really hitting the lower temperatures (these pants are considered mid-weight) though if you have very large thighs you may want to try going up a size.

In terms of cons, the only ones we found were relating to difficulty in sizing so we recommend buying a few sizes to try on or if possible or to try them on in a store beforehand.  Also those that are taller or shorter than average may have difficulty with length though the runner up Black Diamond Dawn Patrol pant has the same issue. Some also thought the Cirque could have benefited from the addition of even larger and more numerous zippered pockets.

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Best Indoor Climbing Pants for Women

The Good:

  • Comfortable
  • Free movement
  • Durable
  • Lots of colours available
  • Brush holder
  • Flattering cut
  • Supportive mid-rise waist

The Not So Good:

  • Can be too long for petites
  • Material may attract lint

The Prana Avril is a fantastically comfortable, flexible and flattering pair of climbing pants.  Made from Prana’s ‘Tess’ stretchy canvas material (97% cotton) with articulated knees, the Avril has a relaxed straight boot cut with a mid-rise waist that falls just below the belly button (perfect for that supported feel in my opinion).  The waistband features a drawcord to dial in the fit just right as well as the ability to cinch the bottom hems as well if you need to check out your footwork more clearly.

On the side you’ll find a loop to keep your brush – yay!  The stretch canvas feels reassuringly thick and durable while still allowing freedom of movement so you don’t need to worry about getting your knee caught during a high step on the crux move.  There’s an impressive range of both bright and more muted colours available and each pair comes with a contrasting back patch pocket which we felt was a nice touch.

Downsides of the Avril were that some testers found the length too long, this can be somewhat mitigated by tightening the hem cords or of course getting them hemmed and as of yet Prana have not come out with a petite version.  Also, a few testers found the material was prone to attracting lint.

For those that prefer to wear leggings indoors, Prana’s Leda Pants are a great option and we’d also recommend E9 styles such as the E9 Lem Pant which not only looks distinctly climber-y but is also fantastic quality as well.

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Best Indoor Climbing Pants for Men

The Good:

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Ease of movement
  • Brush holder

The Not So Good:

  • Expensive

The La Sportiva Arco pant is not just highly functional but let’s face it – they also look quite cool.  Made from a light and stretchy combination of cotton twill with a bit of lycra, this combined with the Arco’s gusseted crotch and articulated knees allows for complete freedom of movement.  

Much like the women’s indoor winner, the Arco features a brush holder on the side, several pockets and drawstring cords on the bottom hems (which can be tightened with one hand may I add).

The downside is that the Arco is pretty pricey for a pair of climbing pants but the durable fabric and quality construction means these pants will be with you for many years to come.

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Best Climbing Jeans for Women

The Good:

  • Stretchy
  • Full range of motion
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Water, sweat and odour repellent
  • Deep pockets
  • Made in Canada
  • Now also available as a straight cut and in different colours

The Not So Good:

  • Bit on the pricey side but no more expensive than other climbing jeans

On the lookout we didn’t actually find that many options when it came to women’s climbing jeans – a possible gap in the market perhaps? I mean who wouldn’t want the cool look of a jean that can transfer seamlessly from the crag to a night out?  Having said that, the women’s offering by Boulder Denim has been very well received. Boulder Denim is a fairly new player in the game and started out from a Kickstarter campaign back in 2015. These jeans are made from an impressively stretchy denim that allows stretch in all directions and yes you can do the splits in them!  

They’re made in Canada, fit fairly tightly (it being a skinny fit and all) and the waist comes up to just below the belly button so you feel supported.  The waistband has been designed specifically to curve with and to not fight against the contours of us ladies without digging in.

A major advantage of these stretchy jeans is that they all have reinforced stitching as standard and the fact they retain their shape after being stretched climbing all day.  Who knows how they’ve managed this wizardry but we love it.  They’re also coated with a hydrophobic coating called Nanoshere (PFC-free might we add) which gives the jeans repellency to water, sweat and spills. This also means these jeans don’t retain odours as much so you can go a few weeks/months in these without a wash – perfect for long days on the trail.

The Boulder Denim Skinny Fit also features deep pockets big enough to fit a phone as well as a trap pocket (with a hidden zipper) to stop your change falling out when performing a bat hang (obviously).

Though it’s disappointing the men’s had both a more skinny and straight cut option while the women just had the skinny – don’t worry – that is all about to change.  Boulder Denim are bringing out a women’s straight fit jean option hurrah!  They are also updating their range with more colour options – double hurrah!  They are available for preorder from their second crowdfunding campaign.

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Best Climbing Jeans for Men

It was a tough battle for top spot but in the end we just couldn’t argue with the sheer number of positive reviews the Prana Axiom has cultivated.  Delightfully stretchy with gusseted inseams, the Axiom allows for full range of motion for heel hooks and high steps. The cut is a straight leg that’s not too skinny or too baggy but has enough room in the crotch area to feel comfortable.  Features five pockets, one is a stow pocket for show while the remaining four are exceptionally deep and large enough to hold a phone and more.

The Axioms are available in multiple inseam lengths and have a trendy worn look to them.  The largely cotton material with a hint of spandex feels reassuringly thick and we know it holds up well to day in and day out hard wear.  Being a pair of cotton jeans they’re not waterproof so if you want something for long days hiking we’d recommend a light, water resistant and moisture-wicking option like the Prana Stretch Zion instead.  However, the Axiom is faster-drying and more breathable than your average pair of jeans.

In terms of cons, sizing could be tricky to get right with some finding the waist diameter larger than expected so if possible try on in store beforehand or buy a few different sizes.  Also, a few testers found the button came off soon after wearing which may point to some quality issues Prana may be having with these bestselling pants.

Other notable options:  

And that’s it from us – as always, thanks for reading 🙂

Outdoor Wildling

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