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.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST ROCK CLIMBING SHIRTS

PICTURE
BRAND
BEST USE
MATERIALS
STYLE
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
BRAND
BEST USE
MATERIALS
STYLE
PRICE
RATING
SMART WOOL
Overall
Merino Wool
T-shirts, longsleeves
$$$
5.0
OUTDOOR RESEARCH
Overall
Polyester, Cotton
Tank tops, t-shirts
$$
4.6
PRANA
Overall
Cotton
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$
4.4
ARC'TERYX
Overall
Cotton
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$$
4.3
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR
Overall
Cotton-Polyester Blends
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$$
4.0
LA SPORTIVA
Budget
Cotton
Tank tops, t-shirts
$
4.5
BLACK DIAMOND
Budget
Cotton
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$
4.0
REI
Budget
Cotton-Polyester Blends
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$
4.0
DYNAMITE STARFISH
Making a Difference
Cotton-Polyester Blends
Tank tops, t-shirts
$
5.0
PATAGONIA
Making a Difference
Cotton-Polyester Blends
Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves
$
4.9
ACCESS FUND
Making a Difference
Cotton-Polyester Blends
T-shirts
$$
5.0

 

 

ROCK CLIMBING SHIRTS 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST ROCK CLIMBING SHIRTS

 

1. CLIMBING STYLE

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.

 

2. FLEXIBILITY

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.

 

3. MATERIAL

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

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.

 

MERINO WOOL

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

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.

 

4. COLOR

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.

 

5. 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.

 

what shirt to wear for rock climbing

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/alexbrylov

 

ROCK CLIMBING SHIRT REVIEWS

 

1. BEST OVERALL ROCK CLIMBING SHIRT BRANDS

SMARTWOOL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Smartwool

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, cold weather outings

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: Merino Wool, occasionally blended with Nylon

AVAILABLE STYLES: T-shirts, longsleeves

PROS: Great for layering with other tees, warm, natural, helps to minimize body odor

CONS: Expensive, wool can break down more quickly than other fibers

 

 

 

OUTDOOR RESEARCH

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Outdoor Research

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, casual wear

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: Featured shirt is 100% heathered polyester; others 100% cotton

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts

PROS: Anti-bacterial treatment on polyester prevents odor, multiple shirt styles available, including button-ups and zips

CONS: Not climbing specific

 

 

 

PRANA

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Prana

BEST FOR: Climbing, yoga

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: 100% Organic Cotton

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

PROS: Fair trade certified, premium organic cotton resists shrinking, great for multiple lifestyle activities

CONS: Some styles may run a little small

 

 

 

ARC’TERYX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Arc’teryx

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, layering

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: Organic Cotton

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

PROS: Biowashed fabric for softness and longevity

CONS: Expensive, several Amazon users report unknowingly purchasing knock-off tees

 

 

 

MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Mountain Hardwear

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, casual wear

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: 50% cotton, 50% polyester

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

PROS: Moisture-wicking fabric keeps you cool and dry, wrinkle-resistant, lightweight

CONS: Some users reported material snagging relatively easily

 

 

 

 

2. BEST BUDGET CLIMBING SHIRT BRANDS

LA SPORTIVA

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: La Sportiva

BEST FOR: Climbing, bright colors

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: Yes

MATERIAL: Organic Cotton

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts

PROS: Lightweight, breathable, designed specifically for climbers, cut for movement and includes a diagonal side insert for added range of motion and flexibility, stylish

CONS: Bold logos and colors are great for some tastes but not all

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Black Diamond

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, bright colors

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: Yes

MATERIAL: Organic Cotton, elastane

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

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

 

 

 

REI

Check out the latest price on:
REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Available

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, casual wear

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: 50% cotton, 50% polyester

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

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

 

 

 

 

3. BEST CLIMBING SHIRT BRANDS FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE

DYNAMITE STARFISH

Check out the latest price on:
Dynamite Starfish

WOMEN’S VERSION: Available

BEST FOR: Climbing

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: Yes

MATERIAL: 60/40 combed ringspun cotton/polyester

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts

PROS: Tees designed to fit the climbing lifestyle, fun designs that reflect the climber’s experience, “happy mistakes” are discounted mis-printed tees, portion of the profits from every item goes towards climbing advocacy

CONS: Small scale production, harder to come by

 

 

 

PATAGONIA

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Patagonia

BEST FOR: Climbing, hiking, casual wear

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: No

MATERIAL: Cotton, polyester, polyester-cotton blends

AVAILABLE STYLES: Tank tops, t-shirts, longsleeves

PROS: Fair-trade certified production, soft and durable, taped shoulder seams for comfort, phthalate-free ink

CONS: Several Amazon users report unknowingly purchasing knock-off tees

 

 

 

ACCESS FUND

Check out the latest price on:
Access Fund

WOMEN’S VERSION: Available

BEST FOR: Climbing

CLIMBING SPECIFIC: Yes

MATERIAL: 50% cotton, 50% polyester

AVAILABLE STYLES: T-shirts

PROS: Supporting the Access Fund with the purchase of a t-shirt is a direct way to support, protect, and raise awareness about America’s crags; the design on the shirt changes to something new and exciting annually

CONS: Only one t-shirt per year, fits a little small

Top 10 Best Rock Climbing Shirts of 2017 – Best Rock Climbing Clothes for Men and Women – Rock Climbing Outfits for Summer and Winter – What to Wear When Climbing Indoors

About The Author

Climbing Junkie

Kim is an all-around climbing addict. She’s been pulling down on rock and plastic for 12 years and has travelled all around North America to climb. Her favourite disciplines are sport climbing and bouldering, but you may find her plugging gear as well. When not away on climbing roadies with her husband, she is based just outside the granite wonderland of Squamish in British Columbia, Canada.

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