Cotton Climbing Pant Review

Steamy mid-summer days bring on cravings for cool dips in a mountain tarn after a big route or high country traverse. Cragging requires the energy for dawn patrol shade and north faces. Though many of us risk a bruise or two baring our knees for the coolness of shorts, most climbers prefer pants.

Cotton may “kill” in cold wet climes but comes alive on hot dry days. Though designed for gym or crag, some of these pants were loved on hot, dry, multi-pitch climbs. We tested these pants at local crags and high backcountry walls with approaches. Though we stayed clear of ugly forecasts, they often endured light rain and breezy, cool climbs. Some brands offer a light water repellent finish for added protection. 

Not all cotton is created equal. Most of what we tested is organic though some still use chemically laden conventionally grown cotton. The fabric in this review reflects vastly different thicknesses and blends with spandex and/or nylon. The pants we tested come in a variety of weights, styles, stretch and durability and they offer a plethora of choices for different aesthetic tastes, body types, pursuits and temps.  

Most of these pants feature open hand pockets, back pockets for ‘aesthetics’ and lack the crucial side zip phone pocket needed for more committing outdoor climbs. This is understandable, given cotton’s challenge with weather and durability. It’s a great opportunity for brands to broaden their use and functionality for those who love cotton’s cool comfort and want to take it on multi-pitch climbs. We’re bold enough to say that most women would prefer a side thigh phone pocket to useless back pockets any day!

Best All-Around Crag to Mountains Pant

LA Sportiva

Mantra Pants

Price: $99
Weight: 293 g
Fabric: 94% recycled nylon and 6% spandex with an interior lining of 98% organic cotton and 2% spandex

What rocks: Our testers loved this fabric as it’s not too heavy and not too light, great all around and the nylon adds durability and decreases dry time for long mountain adventures.  The hand pockets are useful and the tapered leg enables a perfect view of delicate foot moves. They have great color hits and good stretch. We loved them for hot days on multi-pitch climbs.  Overall, they are a versatile and comfortable pant from the gym to crag to hot alpine rock routes. 

What doesn’t: The sizing is variable year to year on this classic pant and a challenge to determine one’s size consistently.

Model is wearing a size small.
Model's measurements | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam: 29

Best Multi-Pitch Pant

Outdoor Research

Wadi Rum Joggers

Price: $99
Weight: 434 g
Fabric: 68% cotton, 29% Cordura nylon, 3% spandex

What rocks: This pant had a very trim cut on our xs testers. They loved it when they first tried it on but found there is not enough stretch for good freedom of movement when climbing. The Cordura nylon makes it the most durable of the bunch and the unique thigh zip phone pocket means you can confidently take this on multi-pitch climbs. 

What doesn’t: The rise is high and is a challenging fit for more straight waisted women testers. Our testers wanted to love this pant, but when climbing they felt binding. The phone pocket would be a huge benefit but its low placement on the quad made it dysfunctional as a phone sits right on the knee.

Model is wearing a size 2.
Model's measurements | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam: 29

Best Hot Weather Pants

La Sportiva

Temple Pant

Price: $89
Weight: 9.4 oz. 
Fabric: 98% organic cotton, 2% spandex

What rocks: Our testers loved this pant for their lightweight cool feel. The wide encased elastic waistband is soft, stretchy, and not too hot. They are trim with a tapered lower leg but plenty of room for high heel hooks and wide stems. The combination of fabric and cut made you forget you were even wearing these pants. The color hits were a welcome style hit. 

What doesn’t: The front pockets are too shallow to carry a phone comfortably even up to the crag.

Model is wearing a size extra small.
Model's measurements (photos 1-6) | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam: 29

Best Hot Weather Pants


Valkyrie Pant

Price: $80
Weight: 10.4 oz.
Fabric: 98% cotton canvas, 2% spandex

What rocks: These offer another comfortable, simple stretch waistband that is easy to pull up and down for a pee break with a harness on. Our testers loved the conventional snap and zippered “constructed” waistband in front that make it look like a “normal” pant and keep it from bunching up in front. This is the lightest pant we tested and the best for hot weather. Its lower leg is simple and can be rolled up easily, while the drawstring closure also allows it to cinch down on breezy days. The fabric stood up to multi-pitch in the Cascades on brutally hot days.

What doesn’t: The cool feel of this light fabric’s downside is their lack of durability. They inevitably end up with the dreaded knee tear that results after a number of days in these pants. They also seem to permanently stain easily and discolor over a short period of use.

Model is wearing a size extra small.
Model's measurements | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam: 29

Best Cooler Weather Pants


Onda Slim2

Price: $118
Weight: unlisted
Fabric: 97% cotton, 3% spandex

What rocks: The silky soft fabric is luscious on the bod and its unique style is a welcome difference from most American brands. The stretch waistband is ultra comfortable under a harness and simple to pull up or down when you need relief. They come with an adjustable waist, leg hem and embroidered back pocket. 

What doesn’t: These are much longer in their size than others tested, great for tall bods but tough on our shorter legged testers. When our testers rolled them up, the bulky fabric blocked a view of their feet. But this cozy satin fabric just keeps drawing us back on cooler days.

Model is wearing a size small.
Model's measurements | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam:29

The north face

Routeset Pants

Price: $89
Weight: unlisted
Fabric: 97% ripstop cotton, 3% spandex

What rocks: The durable ripstop fabric and very wide but straight cut allow good airflow and double as a stylish urban tourist pant. Our testers struggled a bit at first with this pant’s town style (high waist and pleats) and ankle length but for those wanting a versatile pub to crag pant they offer a unique style.

What doesn’t: We found the fabric to be a bit stiff with little stretch and heavy for hot days. Their ankle length allows needed airflow to offset the warm fabric.

Models are wearing a size 6.
Model's measurements (photos 1-3) | Bust: 35 Waist: 28.5 Hips: 38.5
Model's measurements (photos 4-6) | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32 Inseam: 29


Caliza Rock Pant

Price: $99
Weight: 340 g
Fabric: 93% organic regenerative cotton, 7% spandex

What rocks: This pant comes in a broad array of sizes, two lengths and a variety of colors. The stretchy waistband is easy to pull down for a pee break with your harness on. Overall, the fabric has a good combination of stretch, cool comfort and moderate durability. 

What doesn’t: Our testers found the legs quite baggy and the ankle hem closure lacks stretch and presents a hard plastic snap that can be uncomfortable when in a tight crack move or just when rolling it up on a hot day. The angled front pockets sit partway under pack straps making it tough to put your hands in them on the approach to the crag.

Models are wearing a size 6.
Model's measurements (photos 1-3) | Bust: 37 Waist: 32 Hips: 37
Model's measurements (photos 4-8) | Bust: 32 Waist: 27 Hips: 32.5

Black Diamond

Notion Relaxed Fit Pant

Price:  $95
Weight: 324 g
Fabric: 98% organic cotton, 2% spandex

What rocks: Our testers found the trim lower legs nice for seeing their feet on cruxy moves. Reinforced knees add much needed durability in a critical place.

What doesn’t: The relaxed fit is quite baggy in the legs relative to the waist, We had a hard time finding any size tester that loved the fit. The encased elastic waist stretches nicely but is not soft or very flattering. The external drawstring waist gets in the way of the harness and there is no secure phone pocket.

Models are wearing a size small.
Model's measurements (photos 1-5) | Bust: 32 Waist: 27 Hips: 32.5
Model's measurements (photos 6-8) | Bust: 34 Waist: 28 Hips: 32

Header photo courtesy of Drew Smith

Disclaimer of Liability: Technical rock and ice climbing is inherently dangerous. Neither Broad Beta, LLC., nor any of its employees, shall be held liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information described and/or contained herein, and Broad Beta, LLC. assumes no responsibility for anyone's use of the information.
Any person using our gear in any manner is personally responsible for learning the proper techniques and good judgment. We strongly recommend that every climber seek instruction by a qualified professional.

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