A lot of the rock climbing season is during the warmer months — a.k.a. shorts season. Depending on your preferences and the environment, rock climbing pants might not be the ideal clothing for your trip to the crag. If you’re interested in giving your legs a little more freedom and breathing room without sacrificing durability, flexibility, and functionality, these are the best climbing shorts to do just that.
How to Choose Climbing Shorts?
As you can guess, buying rock climbing shorts isn’t the same as buying regular shorts. There are several additional factors you’ll need to keep in mind when purchasing rock climbing shorts like durability, flexibility, comfort, length, and features.
Your rock climbing shorts are going to go through a lot during trip after trip to the crag. From rock scrambles to kneebars to lead falls, the fabric of your rock climbing shorts will need to pull through a lot of scrapes, pulls, and abrasive situations. Even off the wall, hanging out at the crag generally means sitting in the dirt. And things aren’t always dry. Do you climb somewhere with a lot of rain? Somewhere hot enough for excessive sweating to be a problem? Maybe you’ll need shorts with waterproofing or water-resistant durability. All of these different factors mean durability is one of the most important things you’ll need to consider when purchasing rock climbing shorts. Most rock climbing shorts designed specifically for rock climbing will already use materials that are thick, tear-resistant, and durable — all the shorts on this list, for example, are made with special combinations of durable material. But if you plan to diverge from this list, keep an eye on what types of materials are used. How thick is the material? Is it too easy to stretch over your fingers? Is it going to hold up against rock?
On the other hand, you don’t want your rock climbing shorts to be too stiff — flexibility is also key. The idea that your upper body is the only area where you’ll need ease of movement is a misconception — from heel hooks to kneebars to feet cuts to hand-foot matches, your lower body needs to be able to move just as easily. Keep an eye out for flexibility features when you’re looking for rock climbing shorts. Do they have a gusseted inseam? Are they made of a flexible material that stretches easily without sacrificing durability? Some rock climbing shorts also come with elastic waistbands to avoid the additional binding that a belt would cause. The last thing you need is your shorts to inhibit a crucial move whether that’s the crux of a boulder problem or a dyno on a lead climb. While this might be hard to test out in a fitting room, pay attention to how the fabric feels, what it’s made of, and if the shorts include any additional flexibility features.
Depending on what type of rock climbing you’re doing, there’s a chance you’re going to spend an extended amount of time in your rock climbing shorts. While it’s less likely that you’ll wear shorts up a long, multi-day, multi-pitch route — it gets cold up the side of a cliff face no matter what season it is and pants are generally the wiser move — you might spend a whole day of bouldering in your rock climbing shorts or even a multi-day trip to a top rope, sport, or trad crag. You want your rock climbing shorts to be comfortable. Since a lot of rock climbing pants are designed to be flexible, they’re generally made with materials that wear relatively comfortably. However, fabrics that are water-resistant and durable tend to be less comfortable. If comfort is a more of an issue for you than water-resistance or super durability, maybe be on the lookout for a pair of shorts with softer, more flexible materials. Again, however, there’s a possibility of sacrificing durability for comfort. Keep this in mind if you’re planning on rock climbing in more aggressive environments that could take a harsher toll on the fabric of your shorts.
This is one of the less important factors and depends a lot on your personal preference — but it’s still certainly something to keep in mind. Wearing shorts means that you’re sacrificing some of the skin protection that comes with wearing long pants on rock climbing trips — you might be in for some scraped knees or shins. There are longer length shorts to mitigate this danger to your legs. If you’d rather not deal with a lot of scrapes, keep an eye out for shorts with a longer inseam. There are also dynamic moves to keep in mind. Rock climbing involves a lot of high heels and far stretches. If you’re interested in full coverage, make sure you try on the shorts and see how effective your chosen length is at doing what you want it to do.
A lot of rock climbing shorts come with additional features designed specifically for rock climbing. These include angled pockets for easy gear retrieval, integrated belts, gusseted inseams, thigh pockets with zips, UV protection, integrated toothbrush pockets, and more. Keep an eye out for these features as they are all specifically designed to improve your climbing capabilities.
Best Climbing Shorts on the Market Reviews
1. prAna Mojo - Best Overall
In first place for the best rock climbing shorts available on Amazon is the prAna Mojo. It’s no surprise that prAna — of course, known for its quality rock climbing clothes — shows up multiple times on this list of best rock climbing shorts. The Mojo starts at $37 making it one of the expensive options on this list — a pleasant surprise from prAna’s line of clothing. The material is quick-drying and UPF 50+ making it perfect for the summer climbing months. It does only come in one color — black. The 10” seam is also one of the shorter options, but the gusseted crotch ensures that you still have plenty of space to move around in these shorts.
They come with all of the durability you’ve come to expect from prAna’s line of clothing. They also come with plenty of pockets for secure storage including two front hand pockets and a back pocket with a velcro flap for protecting those all-important items like keys. The elastic waistband provides plenty of flexibility and movement, but if you’re the type of person that likes the security of a belt you might want to consider that before purchasing a pair of shorts with an elastic waistband. The only downside to these shorts may be that some climbers thought they could be stretchier.
Price: Starting at $37
Features: Quick-drying, UPF 50+
Pockets: Two front pockets, back pocket with velcro flap
Comfortable lightweight polyester fabric
UPF 50+ fabric resists wrinkles and protects skin from UV
Diamond gusseted crotch
Could be stretchier
2. Arc’Teryx Parapet - Best for Women
If you’re looking for a pair of shorts specifically designed for females, you can’t go wrong with the Arc’Teryx Parapet. These shorts start at $65 — about what you might expect for an Arc’Teryx pair of shorts. In fact, this is rather inexpensive compared to some of their other clothing items. That being said, it is one of the more expensive options on this list. They do tend to run large so consider sizing down if you’re interested in a snugger fit. As with all rock climbing gear, it is — of course — in your best interest to try these shorts on before you purchase them.
There are plenty of options for colors on these shorts — choose anything from black to creekside to dark masset to purple reign to fiesta to fit your personal style. The mid-thigh inseam leaves plenty of space for high knees, knee drops, toe hooks, heel hooks, and other movement your legs might need to make. As far as pocket storage goes, you’ve got two hand pockets, two back pockets, and a zippered thigh pocket to secure your belongings however you see fit. With 94% nylon and 6% elastane, these shorts are going to stretch however you need them to, and a UPF 50+ material will resist wrinkles and protect your skin from UV.
Price: Starting at $65
Features: Gusseted Crotch, Trim Fit, Quick-Drying, Sun Protection
Colors: Black, Creekside, Dark Masset, Purple Reign, Fiesta
Pockets: 2 hand, 2 back, 1 zippered thigh
Waistband: Belt Loops
Terra Tex (94% nylon, 6% elastane)
UPF 50+ fabric resists wrinkles and protects skin from UV
Diamond gusseted crotch
Sizes run large
3. prAna Stretch Zion - Longer Inseam
If you have a preference for more coverage, the longer inseam of the prAna Stretch Zion might be what you need. These shorts start at $69 so you’re paying a little more for those extra inches of length — but you’re also paying for everything else that prAna shorts come with such as abrasion-resistant Stretch Zion performance fabric, UPF 50+ protection, and not one, not two, but 14 color options.
The prAna Stretch Zion also includes fun additional design features like a dual-entry cargo pocket — anything you store in this pocket will be secure, and you can get to it in multiple ways. It also has a streamlined adjustable waistband so you can make the waistband as tight or loose as you want without worrying about a belt getting in your way. Again the 12” inseam is one of the longer inseams you’re going to find on rock climbing pants. The extra length won’t hinder your movement, however, because the shorts are also designed with a gusseted crotch and ventilation. Keep in mind that these shorts are known to run small.
Price: Starting at $69
Features: Abrasion-resistant Stretch Zion performance fabric, UPF 50+ ultraviolet protection
Colors: 14 color options
Pockets: Angled dual-entry cargo pocket
Waistband: Streamlined adjustable waistband
Abrasion-resistant Stretch Zion performance fabric
UPF 50+ fabric resists wrinkles and protects skin from UV
Free-range gusseted crotch
Sizes run small
4. prAna Stretch Zion Convertible - Best Convertible
If you’re particularly interested in convertible pants that can be worn as long pants or shorts, the prAna Stretch Zion Convertible has everything the prAna Stretch Zion short offers — plus it’s convertible. These pants can be either 30” or 12” depending on what you need at the time. And, based on the elements, convertible pants can certainly come in handy. Start with shorts at the bottom of a multi-pitch and — once things get cold up the cliff face — add that extra length back on for warmth and protection. The pants are made of an all-weather nylon and spandex finish so they’ll hold up to anything the rock can throw at them. And they come in two colors.
You’ll get two front hand pockets, 1 rear welt pocket, and a zippered cargo pocket with these pants along with an integrated webbing belt so you can adjust them to fit however you’d like. They’re quick-drying and 3% spandex so they’ll stretch exactly how you want them to and need them to at just the right time. Climbers have said they wear a little baggy so if you’re interested in a slim or more-fitted style you might want to size down.
Features: Convertible, All-Weather Nylon/Spandex Finish, Inseam gusset,
Colors: Charcoal, Dark Khaki
Pockets: 2 front hand, 1 rear welt, zippered cargo
Waistband: Integrated Webbing Belt
Inseam: 30 in” or 12”
97% Nylon, 3% Spandex
Built-in adjustable belt
5. Singbring Men’s - Budget
If you’re interested in cheap rock climbing shorts, you’re not going to find a better pair than the Singbring. They’re certainly no prAna or Arc’Teryx — but that’s why they’re $15 unlike the $60 to $90 you’re going to drop on a pair of rock climbing shorts from prAna or Arc’Teryx. What do you get for $15? Everything you need in a pair of lightweight rock climbing shorts. These shorts have some of the shortest inseam length out of the rock climbing shorts on this list at 7”. If you’re not interested in that style and prefer more coverage, Singbring does make shorts with longer inseams — they’re just slightly more expensive.
The Singbring shorts are made of a 95% polyester and 5% spandex material so they’re plenty stretchy. They come in three colors — black, Army green, and gray. With three zipper pockets, you’re not going to lose track of your belongings. However, some climbers have said that the zippers aren’t the smoothest and you might find yourself in a pickle if you need to get into one of them relatively quickly up on the wall. But if you’re looking for a lightweight, quick-drying, inexpensive rock climbing shorts these are the ones you’re looking for.
Features: Lightweight, Quick-Drying
Colors: Black, Army Green, Gray,
Pockets: 3 zipper pockets
95% polyester, 5% spandex
If you’re looking for something a little more exotic than the above rock climbing shorts, you might be interested in the Fjallraven Nikka. These foreign shorts come with a $120 price tag and all the bells and whistles you would expect in a rock climbing short. They come in three colors — dark olive, black, sand, and beige. They also have two zipper pockets and one button cargo pocket to store everything you might need headed up the wall securely. The waistband is a button, unlike the other pairs of shorts on this list. Keep this in mind if you’re concerned about things catching, snagging, or breaking. A button closure is far less streamlined than a lot of the other waistband options.
These pants are durable, water-resistant, and feature additional pockets for storage. However, these are the most expensive option on this list and — as far as we can tell — the quality is not that far superior to that of the prAna or Arc’Teryx shorts. Keep this in mind if you’re working with a budget. They also have wider legs than some of the other pants on this list — if you’ve got a bulkier bottom half these might be helpful to give your legs a little more breathing room. On the flip side, if you’re interested in a slimmer fit, one of the other pairs of shorts on this list might be more appropriate.
Colors: Dark Olive, Black, Sand, Beige
Pockets: 2 zipper, button cargo
7. Outdoor Research Ferrosi - Most Versatile
Of all the pairs of shorts on this list, none are more versatile than the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. Looking at these shorts, you wouldn’t know that they were specifically designed for rock climbing. They certainly look like they’d be fine for casual wear out on the town or down days at work. And yet, they have all the features and durability that you want in a pair of rock climbing shorts.
At $50, these shorts aren’t the cheapest option out there, but they’re also far from being the most expensive. They come in 9 colors with UPF 50+ protection and abrasion-resistant material. With 86% nylon and 14% spandex, they’re super stretchy. The waistband is adjustable with a button, zipper fly, and belt loops — use what you want and don’t use what you don’t want to in order to get your fit just right. The 10” seam is a moderate length — not the longest on this list nor the shortest. In every way, these shorts are a versatile, middle-of-the-road pair of rock climbing shorts. Some climbers found them baggy.
Features: Gusseted Crotch, UPF 50+, Abrasion-Resistant
Colors: 9 colors
Pockets: 2 front, zip thigh pocket, back pockets
Waistband: Button and Zipper Fly with Belt Loops
Can be dressed up or down
86% Nylon, 14% Spandex
Rock climbing can be a year-round activity with the right gear and apparel. This includes rock climbing shorts. Whether you’re interested in a pair you can dress up or down, a pair you can wear long or short, an inexpensive pair, or a pair with all the bells and whistles, this list has the best climbing shorts for you.