Ice Climbing Clothing: What Rock Climbers Should Wear

Ice Climbing Clothing: What Rock Climbers Should Wear

Are you a rock climber looking to take your skills to the next level by trying out ice climbing? It’s crucial to have the right clothing to ensure your safety and comfort while navigating icy terrain. In this article, we’ll explore the essential clothing items that every ice climber should have in their gear arsenal. From base layers to outer shells, we’ll cover everything you need to know to stay warm and dry during your ice climbing adventures.

Importance of Proper Clothing in Ice Climbing

When it comes to ice climbing, having the proper clothing is essential for staying safe and comfortable in harsh conditions. The right clothing can provide insulation, waterproofing, and breathability to help climbers perform at their best.


Insulation is key in ice climbing clothing as it helps to keep the body warm in cold temperatures. Insulated jackets, pants, and base layers are important for retaining body heat and preventing hypothermia. Look for clothing with materials like down or synthetic insulation to provide warmth without adding too much bulk.


Waterproofing is crucial in ice climbing clothing to protect against wet conditions. Ice climbing often involves exposure to snow, ice, and water, so having waterproof jackets, pants, and gloves is essential for staying dry and comfortable. Look for clothing with waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex to ensure protection from moisture.


Breathability is important in ice climbing clothing to prevent overheating and moisture buildup. Climbing can be physically demanding, so having clothing that allows sweat to evaporate and air to circulate is key for staying comfortable. Look for clothing with breathable materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics to help regulate body temperature during strenuous climbs.

Overall, proper clothing in ice climbing is essential for staying warm, dry, and comfortable in challenging conditions. Insulation, waterproofing, and breathability are key factors to consider when choosing the right clothing for your next ice climbing adventure.

Layers for Ice Climbing

When preparing for a day of ice climbing, it’s important to dress in layers to stay warm and dry while also allowing for easy movement. Here are the key layers that rock climbers should wear:

Base Layer

The base layer is the first layer of clothing that comes into direct contact with your skin. It’s primary function is to wick away moisture and keep you dry. For ice climbing, it’s best to choose a base layer made of moisture-wicking material such as merino wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon. Avoid cotton as it retains moisture and can leave you feeling cold and damp.

Mid Layer

The mid layer is the insulating layer that helps to trap heat and keep you warm. For ice climbing, a mid layer made of fleece or down is ideal as they provide excellent insulation without adding too much bulk. Fleece is a popular choice as it is lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. Down is also a great option for extreme cold conditions as it is highly effective at retaining heat.

Outer Layer

The outer layer is your first line of defense against the elements. It should be windproof, waterproof, and breathable to protect you from snow, ice, and wind while allowing moisture to escape. A good outer layer for ice climbing is a waterproof and breathable shell jacket and pants made of materials like Gore-Tex or eVent. These materials are not only waterproof but also highly breathable, ensuring that you stay dry and comfortable throughout your climb.

By dressing in these layers for ice climbing, you can stay warm, dry, and comfortable while tackling the challenges of the frozen vertical world.

Specific Clothing Items for Ice Climbing

Climbing pants

When it comes to ice climbing, it is important to choose climbing pants that are not only durable but also provide flexibility and freedom of movement. Look for pants that are made of water-resistant and quick-drying material to keep you dry and comfortable throughout your climb. Additionally, consider pants with reinforced knees and seat for added protection against abrasions and tears.

Climbing jacket

A good climbing jacket is essential for staying warm and protected during ice climbing expeditions. Look for a jacket that is insulated and waterproof to keep you dry and comfortable in cold and wet conditions. It is also important to choose a jacket with adjustable cuffs, hood, and hem to help seal out the cold and wind. Additionally, consider a jacket with underarm vents for added breathability during strenuous climbs.

Gloves and mittens

Having the right gloves and mittens is crucial for ice climbing, as your hands are exposed to the elements and can easily get cold and frostbitten. Look for gloves and mittens that are waterproof, insulated, and offer a good grip for handling ropes and equipment. Consider wearing a thin liner glove inside a thicker insulated glove for added warmth and versatility. Additionally, make sure your gloves or mittens are dexterous enough to allow for easy handling of gear and tools while climbing.


In conclusion, choosing the right clothing for ice climbing is essential for both comfort and safety. It is important to prioritize warmth, moisture-wicking properties, and durability when selecting clothing items for this extreme sport. By investing in high-quality base layers, insulating layers, outer shells, and appropriate accessories, rock climbers can stay comfortable and protected in cold and challenging conditions. Remember to always layer up, avoid cotton materials, and dress appropriately for the specific weather conditions to ensure a successful and enjoyable ice climbing experience.