Guide to Women’s Climbing Shorts – Summer 2016

Welcome to shorts season!

Welcome to shorts season!

The only thing that rivals the difficulty of finding good climbing pants is finding good climbing shorts. We’ve done some “work” for you and tried out a bunch. For the reviews below, Mary is 5’4″ with an athletic build, usually size 2-4 in outdoor brands and Emily is 5’1″ with a small, athletic build and usually size 0-2.


Outdoor Research Ferrosi Summit Shorts
Reviewed by Mary

Form: The cut on these shorts is straight-forward and cute. They have everything you need: two open front pockets, one zipper pocket on the side and great stretchy, lightweight fabric. They come in 4 colors: black, mushroom, paprika, and pewter, which are all fine, but none make me swoon. I have the very orange paprika color and I have a hard time finding good colors to pair them with. One pro is that they come in so many different lengths! I have the 5″ inseam, but there is also 7″, 13″ and 17″ capris.

Fit: Great in the fit department! The rise is just right and they hug me in the right places. You’ll need to size down in these shorts, which unfortunately means that if you’re very petite the smallest size offered (2) may still be too large. That said, these will look great on curvier ladies.

Function: The 86% nylon and 14% spandex fabric makes them super stretchy, allowing for full range of motion while climbing. They dry quickly and keep everything in place while you’re on the wall and the trail.

Finances: They’ll cost you $65 which is a little steep, but between the sturdy construction and great function while climbing, I’d say you’ll get your money’s worth.

Crush Status: Solid. They have everything you need for a reliable climbing short.


Kuhl Kendra Shorts
Reviewed by Emily

Form: These shorts are the most comfortable shorts I’ve ever worn! Unlike other shorts designed for outdoor use, these are soft, comfortable, breathable, and not too scratchy or synthetic feeling. They are really comfortable to move in on the wall–whether going for a wide stem or shimmying up a vertical face, they are flexible and not too exposing (even when going for a high heel hook).

Fit: I would definitely advise sizing up–the size 2 was a perfect fit for me (and I’m usually between size 0-2 in outdoor apparel). The length is really flattering for shorter people, since I tend to find that outdoor shorts can be a bit long. There is an inner elastic drawstring that can be tied for a better fit up top.

Function: I would easily wear these at the crag, the beach, on a hike, or even in every day casual summer wear.

Finances: The shorts come in at $60, which is a good deal for the high quality and versatility. I am wearing them on the regular at the crag this summer!

Crush Status: For me, these shorts were the dark horse winners of this year’s shorts post! The soft, yet durable material in fun color options comes in a flattering cut for shorter, smaller climbers.


Patagonia Quandary Shorts
Reviewed by Mary

Form: These shorts are super comfy and stretchy without looking spandexy. I like that they have two types of back pockets so you can safely stow away items in the zipper pocket or just quickly stash things in the open one. They come in three “classic” outdoor colors: khaki, moss, and gray, and one much more fun, pink option, that happens to be my favorite. I know the word pink scares some of you off, but it’s more of a bright salmon.

Fit: I am a size 2-4 in outdoor clothing and the 2 fit me well, so err on the side of sizing down. Other reviews echo that these shorts run large. They also have an internal drawstring on the waist so that you can size them to your liking.

Function: Between the 96% nylon and 4% spandex fabric and a gusseted crotch, you really have full range of motion while climbing in these. The fabric is lightweight and water repellant, so they stands up to sweat and rain.

Finances: Coming in at $59, these are right in the middle of the pack in terms of price.

Crush Status: Overall, I really enjoy climbing in these shorts and would definitely recommend them to a friend (and to you!).


Outdoor Research Essentia Shorts
Reviewed by Emily

Form: Finding a pair of spandex shorts that aren’t too short (because who really likes climbing in booty shorts?), but still a cute length (ie: not cycling shorts) turned out to be really difficult! These shorts from Outdoor Research were the best option we found. They are comfortable, lightweight, breathable, and still work well with a harness. My only wish is that they came in more fun colors or patterns.

Fit: Not too short and not too long, these were just right! I usually size up in spandex shorts, but the XS was a perfect fit in these shorts. They are form fitting, but not restrictive nor thigh-hugging. I would size up if you’re curvier in the bottom or on the long-legged side.

Function: These shorts can be used for more than just climbing! The light, breathable material with a small pocket for ID cards and keys makes them perfect warm weather running shorts, and are easy to pack in a work bag for hitting the weight room or yoga class in the evenings.

Finances: While they aren’t a huge bargain, the price seems to be on par with other high-end spandex shorts at $55.

Crush Status: If you just can’t leave the spandex at home this summer, these shorts are a great option for cute, not-too-short shorts.



Arc’teryx Parapet Shorts
Reviewed by Emily

Form: These shorts were the most lightweight, breathable, and quickest-drying of the bunch, and feature a zippered pocket, which was handy for stowing a small snack or hair ties at the crag. However, I found the material was a bit stiff and rough on my legs after a long day in a harness. I am a sucker for all things purple and loved the color of these shorts.

Fit: I found the crotch and leg openings to be a bit stiff and inflexible for climbing. The length and cut is very flattering for taller, curvier climbers.

Function: These are great for hiking or water sports, but not my first choice for climbing. The durable material will stand up great to bushwhacking and brushing up against rocks.

Finances: The most expensive of the bunch ($85), the price was as expected for the brand and high quality of material.

Crush Status: While normally a huge Arc’teryx fan, I think these shorts are better suited for activities other than climbing, but a worthwhile addition to your summer wardrobe if you’re into hiking, backpacking, or water sports!

Share the love and tell us about your favorite climbing shorts!

Climb on!
Emily & Mary

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14 thoughts on “Guide to Women’s Climbing Shorts – Summer 2016

  1. Kathryn says:

    I’m so psyched for this post! I have been shocked at how little is out there for small climbers. A petite build was feeling like a curse when trying to find climbing shorts. This is so helpful, thank you!

  2. I’d like to add the Stonewear Vibe Short! It’s style is compression and comes in black with two options to add color flare at the waist. Inseam is 5″ so it’s perfect with a harness and for bouldering. There’s a hidden pocket at the waist, and is made of poly/Lycra blend for moving and sweating. It’s not the most durable of the Stonewear shorts, and if you like more pockets there are many more styles. I’m a 5’0″ climber, and downsize in these shorts and most of the Stonewear line. I don’t mind down sizing, but most brands like OR Patagonia and Northface make it impossible for me when they don’t provide sizes smaller than 2. What a shame!

  3. Michelle says:

    The Outdoor Research shorts are my favorite!

  4. Christina says:

    I’d like to add the Cotopaxi samburu shorts! Great for petite ladies. I also like their samburu pants for climbing.

  5. Isa says:

    It would be great to see a post like this for bathing suits – guide to women’s bathing suits for climbing and deep water soloing 🙂

  6. prAna says:

    Hey gals be sure to check out our Halle and Hazel shorts!

  7. Tracy says:

    Really helpful! Was so glad to see a clothing review by some fellow short people. I would love to see you both review women’s climbing pants… I’m 5′ and the Prana Halle pants are several inches too long, even in the short version of 0-2. Thanks again!

    • Mary says:

      Hey Tracy!
      Glad you found the review helpful. Here is a link to the pants review we did last fall, but I guess based on that review our best pant for shorties was the Halle! Oh no. Hmm… Emily also has the 3rd Rock Eden pants in XS, Short and they fit her. Let us know if you find any that work for you!

    • Valarie Anderson says:

      I hem every pair of paints I own. Thanking my momma for teaching me how to sew! 4’11 3/4″. I never consider length when purchasing. Just giving into the lot of my life!

  8. Kristan Culbert says:

    Any suggestions for folks who are larger than a size 4? Plus size climbers (like me) like to wear cool clothes too.

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