What To Wear Indoor Rock Climbing | Beta Life Magazine

What To Wear Indoor Rock Climbing | Beta Life Magazine

what to wear climbing - What To Wear Indoor Rock Climbing | Beta Life Magazine

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The first time at the climbing gym can be intimidating if you’re new to the sport. But it doesn’t have to be. Having a good experience starts with the proper clothes. Good thing you don’t need anything technical. Just the right kind. In fact, you probably have everything you need in your closet already! 

We help you learn the ins and outs of what to wear indoor rock climbing, including:

What To Wear Indoor Rock Climbing

Your indoor rock climbing outfit is as simple as wearing comfortable workout clothes. You’ll rent the rest of the technical gear at the gym. Show up wearing your current workout clothes, socks, and slip-on shoes with these guidelines: 

Fabric: Wear clothing that is light, flexible, and breathes well: wool, spandex, or synthetic blends. Be prepared to sweat with moisture-wicking gear. 

Fit: Keep clothes loose without being baggy. Think non-restrictive or stretchy

Chalk-Ready: Expect climbing chalk to get on your gear. It washes away with the laundry, but this may be a factor in your color choice (stay away from black!) and help you aim for less-fancy options. 


It’s helpful to wear something that you’ll be able to see your feet the first few times, whether it’s pants or shorts. The gym may get a little cold when you’re not climbing, so bring layers if you climb in a tank top and shorts. There are plenty of people who will be looking at you from below. Do a quick check to make sure you’re covered from all angles and won’t show anything you don’t want to.  Avoid fabric that rustles when you move in it. You’ll thank yourself on the wall. Before leaving the house, check that you have a full range of motion in your outfit. For example, move your arms & legs to make sure they are unrestricted. 

Indoor Rock Climbing Clothes

Specifically for your climbing clothes, we recommend the following: 

Tops: A breathable, loose tank-top or t-shirt with a sports bra. We prefer sleeveless for better arm mobility. The harness will be at your waist, so wear something that can tuck under it if you prefer to not have it on your skin. 

Bottoms: Leggings, shorts, or loose pants to move freely on the wall. Yoga pants, climbing pants, or running shorts with a liner work great. 

Socks: Rock shoes usually are worn without socks. But if that weirds you out, you can bring socks with you and wear them when needed. Use thin, lower-than-ankle socks. Your goal is to get as close to barefoot as possible without compromising your performance if you prefer to wear socks.

Hair Tie: If you have long hair, secure it out of your face to avoid using your hands to adjust.

Shoes: Wear sandals or easy-to-remove, slip-on shoes to the gym. You’ll be taking them off to climb but will need them to slip into if you need to run to the restroom.

Indoor Climbing Rental Gear

The climbing gym will outfit you with technical gear. You’ll get fitted for a harness, chalk bag, and shoes. Even though climbing shoes are meant to be worn barefoot, we recommend wearing socks with the rentals. 

You cannot wear street shoes or your sneakers indoors and must either buy, borrow, or rent rock shoes. A trained gym employee rents shoes to first-time climbers without a big financial commitment. They’ll properly outfit you.  

Here’s an average cost break-down: 

Rock Shoes:  $7

Harness: $5

Belay Device: $3

Chalk Bag: $5

Full Package: $13

The climbing gym sanitizes items between rentals, so you can trust that your pair of climbing shoes is hygienic. If you are uncomfortable wearing the shoes barefoot, pull out those socks. 

Pro Tip: Bring sanitizer wipes to wipe your feet down before and after you use the shoes as an extra precaution. 

The rental gear pricing is in addition to a Day Pass, which costs about $22 ($16 for Students). Most gyms offer packages if you’re ready to commit beyond a single visit. They can range from about $100 to $200 a month or in the form of a 10 visit punch-card. Check out new guest specials, too—most gyms offer great rates or a trial period for beginners. 

Renting gear from different gyms is also a great way to know which brands you prefer before you purchase your own. Plus, you can buy equipment slowly and fill in with rentals as you build your set over time. 

Pro Tip: Ask the people at the gym about their gear! It’s a great way to strike up a conversation and get the best advice for when you’re ready to buy. 

Why Is It Important To Wear The Right Gear For Indoor Climbing? 

Safety is the number one reason to wear the right gear for indoor climbing. Loose, baggy clothing can get caught on rocks or equipment, and ultra-tight clothing can restrict your movement. 

In addition, the fabric of your clothes can affect your grip on the rocks, so it’s important to choose clothing that will give you the best possible grip. With the right clothing, you’ll be able to focus on the challenge of the climb and enjoy the experience.

Plus, you want to create the best possible experience your first time. The proper clothing helps you focus on what you’re learning and not what’s getting in your way. You’ll perform a wide range of motion, like heel hooks, high-steps, and drop-knees that need high mobility. 

Advantages of an Indoor Climbing Gym

Indoor climbing differs from outdoor climbing mostly because you don’t have to worry about inclement weather. You can pick the most comfortable gear without thinking about wind, rain, sun, etc., and choose lightweight fabrics that move better. 

Plus, you don’t have to wait for the forecast to be clear or where to find the right equipment, crag, or difficulty level to learn. And there will always be experts available to assist you, share tips, and look out for your safety. 

When you’re comfortable enough to move to the outdoors, start with places that have a lot of options for beginners (and even training schools), like Smith Rock[1] near Bend, Oregon.

What Not To Wear Indoor Climbing

Don’t wear anything that presents a safety concern when you’re indoor climbing. This includes anything that can fall out of pockets, that you can get caught on, or that gets in the way of moving freely.

Jewelry: Jewelry, watches, and especially rings pose a safety risk. They can catch on a hold, potentially leading to serious injury. Take all jewelry off before every climb.  

Keep these things at home or on the ground before your start the route:

Baggy Clothing: Another overlooked item to catch yourself on or catch on the wall.  

Jeans: Sometimes jeans may work in a pinch, especially stretchy skinny jeans, but we don’t recommend them because of the material thickness, non-breathability, and little flexibility. Leave them at home unless it’s a specific pair of climbing jeans. 

Caps: Baseball caps have bills that interfere with visibility and can easily fall off.  Take them off before you ascend. Beanies are fine for climbing. 

Gloves: Part of climbing is in the subtle grips and holds. Gloves get in the way. Instead, your hands will directly contact the wall with chalk to create a better grip. After a few climbs, your skin will get a feel for the grip. 

Keys: Anything in your pockets is at risk of falling. Take out heavy items that could fall and injure climbers below. 

Rock-climbing helmets are for the outdoors to protect you from falling rocks. Since that’s not an issue in the gym, you do not need to wear on.

What To Wear Indoor Bouldering

Bouldering outfits are similar to climbing—they need to have high mobility, breathability, and loose but not baggy fitting. Because you’ll be closer to the rocks, choose a material that can handle the abrasion of the rock. Generally, cotton over synthetic material holds up to the rock face.

What To Bring To The Climbing Gym

Bring a water bottle, snack, and easy slip-on shoes if you need to take a break and run to the restroom between climbs. Wear layers for temperature fluctuations when you’re not climbing.

Where Do I Indoor Climb For The First Time?

Photo | Derek Anies

Visit a climbing gym or wall for your first time indoor climbing. Major and outdoors-enthusiast cities have climbing and bouldering gyms. In addition, colleges often have a climbing wall where you can get discounted rentals.  

There are national chains to look for specific to climbing. They’re familiar with helping new climbers feel comfortable, have a fun experience, and learn as they go. Plus offer discounts for students and families. Some gyms additionally provide other gym options, such as yoga. 

US Climbing and Bouldering Gyms: 

Vertical EndeavorsREIMovement Central Rock Gym

Athletic woman climbing indoors, view from the back

Best Climbing Clothing Companies

When you’re ready to purchase climbing-specific gear, go with companies that know what they’re doing. Here are the top five brands: 

Black DiamondLa SportivaPatagoniaPetzlArcteryx

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CONCLUSION : First time at the rock climbing gym? Don’t worry about specialty gear. We help you know what to wear for a great indoor experience.

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