Are you looking to get into climbing but wondering where to start with your wardrobe? Fortunately, there are almost no rules when it comes to dressing for climbing. Picking your outfit comes down to style and personal preference. If you’re seeking to embrace the “climber look,” however, you’ve come to the right place. We at The Adventure Junkies have assembled a list of top clothing brands making the best rock climbing shirts on the market.
Climbing-specific tees and tanks are designed with the movement of a climber in mind. In other words, buying from a climbing specific brand will ensure you get a flexible fit that doesn’t inhibit your range of motion. This concern is definitely important because of all the bending, reaching and twisting that climbers do with their upper bodies.
For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out the Best Belay Jackets.
Quick Answer - The Best Rock Climbing Shirts
- Black Diamond Big Wall
- Outdoor Research Ignitor
- Prana Climb the Line
- Arc’teryx Archaeopteryx
- REI Co-op T-Shirt
Comparison Table - Best Rock Climbing Shirts
|Black Diamond Big Wall||Cotton, Elastane||T-Shirt, Tank Top, Longsleeve||$||4.0|
|Outdoor Research Ignitor||Polyester, Cotton||Tank Top, T-Shirt||$$||4.6|
|Prana Climb the Line||Cotton||Tank Top, T-Shirt, Longsleeve||$||4.4|
|Arc’teryx Archaeopteryx||Cotton||Tank Top, T-Shirt, Longsleeve||$$||4.3|
|REI Co-op T-Shirt||Cotton-Polyester Blend||T-Shirt, Tank Top, Longsleeve||$||4.0|
Reviews - The Best Shirts for Rock Climbing
Black Diamond Big Wall
BEST FOR: CLIMBING, HIKING, BRIGHT COLORS
PROS: Some of the women’s tops have built in bra for support, company guarantee their products and promises to repair, replace or refund if customers are unsatisfied, 1% of April sales are donated to the Nature Conservancy
CONS: Several fun designs available in men’s tees are not available for women, no tank tops for men
Outdoor Research Ignitor
BEST FOR: CLIMBING, HIKING, CASUAL WEAR
PROS: Anti-bacterial treatment on polyester prevents odor, multiple shirt styles available, including button-ups and zips
CONS: Not climbing specific
Prana Climb the Line
BEST FOR: CLIMBING, YOGA
PROS: Fair trade certified, premium organic cotton resists shrinking, great for multiple lifestyle activities
CONS: Some styles may run a little small
BEST FOR: CLIMBING, HIKING, LAYERING
PROS: Biowashed fabric for softness and longevity
CONS: Expensive, several Amazon users report unknowingly purchasing knock-off tees
REI Co-op T-Shirt
BEST FOR: CLIMBING, HIKING, CASUAL WEAR
PROS: Comfortable casual t-shirts produced by number one consumer co-op in the USA. REI offers satisfaction guarantee, gear and outdoor advice, and 10% dividend return for members
CONS: Many users find that the fit and quality of shirts changes with updated versions, no tank tops for men
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST ROCK CLIMBING SHIRTS
Choosing the right shirt (or shirts!) for your day on the rock comes down to the type of climbing you plan to do. If you’re heading out sports climbing or bouldering, your biggest clothing concern might be showing off your personal style. If you’re going trad climbing and will be hitting a bunch of chimneys, you may want to consider a long sleeve shirt to protect your skin from rock abrasion.
Are you headed up a big wall? Consider packing a couple of layers and a light jacket into your day pack in case the weather changes.
Weather conditions are the biggest considerations when it comes to choosing your shirt for a day of climbing. Always check the weather in advance if possible. Be prepared for rapid changes to conditions, which can happen unexpectedly especially in the desert and the mountains.
A lot of climbers consider perfect conditions to be t-shirt friendly. But, you still need to wear your puffy jacket while hanging out or belaying. On days like these, you will likely need several layers between your tee and your puffy for the time spent just hanging out.
Ease of movement is super important for climbing. On a warm day in the boulder fields, you’ll often find men with their shirts off and women in sports bras as they enjoy that unrestricted feeling while they embark on their latest project. Climbing movement is three-dimensional and full of crazy pulls, twists and bends, so the ability to move freely is paramount.
Many women opt for tank tops when climbing to allow for complete mobility in the shoulders whereas men often prefer loose fitting t-shirts and tanks. When you’re picking a shirt for climbing, look for something that is either loose enough that it won’t inhibit any motion or stretchy enough to move with your body.
It may surprise you to hear that the material your shirt is made from is less important in climbing than in other sports. Climbing tends to be slower and more methodical than endurance-type aerobic sports, so building a sweat is less common. If you have a long approach to get to your crag, however, consider a breathable, sweat-wicking shirt for the hike in. Then, you can just switch to your climbing tee upon arrival.
Cotton shirts are quite popular for climbing due to their durability against an abrasive rock. Fortunately, climbers typically need not worry about the sweat-drenched-cotton risks that hikers have to keep in mind. Many climbing apparel brands also offer cotton-polyester or cotton-spandex blends for increased stretchiness.
One thing you may need to keep in mind, especially if you’re on one of those seven-days-between-each-shower road trips, is the smell. Merino wool can be a great choice to help keep body odors in check. It is also great at wicking moisture and keeping your temperature regulated.
Synthetic fabrics are an obvious choice due to moisture-wicking properties and enhanced flexibility. You’re likely to find climbers decked out in a variety of synthetic shirts especially when it comes to tank tops. Poly-spandex blends are common as these are cotton blended with polyester or nylon.
The popularity of bright, colorful tops in the climbing industry is growing. Bright colors and patterns are fun. Of course, there’s also the added side benefit of color popping in photos. If you’re hoping to capture a shot of yourself pulling the wicked hard moves on your crux, remember that wearing a vibrant colored tee will let you stand out way more against the rock.
That being said, color and style are subjective. Fortunately, you should be able to find the perfect match for you considering the many choices available on the market today.
MEN’S VERSUS WOMEN’S
Most companies offer completely different options in apparel for men and women to accommodate body types and styles. For example, many women prefer to wear tank tops as opposed to t-shirts when climbing. Amidst all the brands we covered here, there are other styles and designs to meet whatever look you’re going for when heading out to hit the rock.