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Long Version of the Arborwear Pants Article

Submitted by maculated on 2005-01-18

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“Inventing pants is not rocket science. But it’s pants science. And that makes me a pants scientist.” – Paul Taylor,

These days, climbing has gotten popular enough that options abound to satisfy our wildest dreams: we have sophisticated nylon ropes, simple, lightweight natural protection, rubber that sticks to glassy glacial polish, and we even have varying form and content for something as simple as chalk. So why is it that if you talk to anyone for any length of time, climbing pants is an inescapable topic?

If Black Diamond has created the benchmark cam, 5.10 the most hallowed rubber, and every other company out there has something arguably “the best,” then why is it that when the pants question is breached, most people recommend Old Navy or the thrift store? With all this time and energy devoted to high cost, high science technical protection, how’d we go wrong in the apparel department? Soft goods are definitely more profitable than any specialized piece of climbing gear, and could enjoy a crossover with other outdoor markets, but no one has produced the definitive climbing pant. It may come in different lengths and fits, but face it, we humans need two pieces of fabric sewn together to cover our private bits and keep our legs from getting too cool or burned. Or maybe not, but I dare you to try ‘sending in a kilt. I’ll even host the photos.

Back to the point: why is it that my best climbing pants have come from Ralph Lauren (much to my gifting mother’s dismay) and Dickies? From these countless conversations with people, it comes down to what you want in a pant for climbing: something that lasts or, inevitably, something that is cheap and easily replaceable. Climbing pants have unique requirements:

1. They should fit well.
2. They should either stretch or be roomy enough to not impede with climbing movement.
3. They should stand up to wear and tear: specifically important is the way they hold up in the occasional off width, chimney, and butt-scootch descent.
4. They should be neither too hot nor too cold.
5. They should dry quickly.
6. They should be stylin’ and look good with a beanie.

Ever since I began to get a little wiser to the needs of a climber, I’ve been on the quest to find the perfect pair of pants. Being a woman has made this a bit cruxy if I want to fill the sixth requirement, as it seems most manufacturers of climbing pants think girls do nothing but face climbing on fair weather days. I’ve gone through any number of mid-range climbing pants, but I still have always gone back to my tried-and-true khaki-cut offs. I mean, I’m a khaki-wearing gal in real life, so when they get ugly and frayed, cutting them into capris makes them fill requirements 1, 2, and 4 without me spending a dime. I’m always sad when they die, too.

Sending in Kentucky requires consumption of the official beverage - no, not whisky - Ale-8-1!

The thing is, sometimes we all just want some nice climbing pants. In my search for the perfect climbing pant, it makes sense to search out niche-markets. Old Navy makes ‘em cheap, but my pants last no more than a few months without a lot of repair investment. Sorry Prana, I’ve tried both your men’s and women’s lines and neither last very long. Sickle, I thought you’d finally done it, but lately they look like I sat on a belt sander. It’s not like my biggest hobby in life is jumping into the rough-and-tough quartz monzonite off-widths of Joshua Tree and flailing around like a beached whale. I’m your average climber – I get out as much as I can, sometimes for months at a time, but I’m not doing the Harding Slot on Mt. Conness.

Another pair of pants bites the dust. Note pink spot on butt-seam. And that's on a flat, white girl's tuckus.

Enter Arborwear.

Before you go any further, I’m giving you very bad advice from a writers’ point of view: Leave this article and check out their website.: If the sounds of bleating sheep and Paul’s face don’t intrigue you, nothing I say or do to entice you to check out the company’s wares will help; you might as well just stop reading.

Tree climbing pants, you say? You see, we rock/ice/mountain climbers forget that the climbing desire is strong. Some people’s brains get wired funny and they have to resort to trees. These people have created a niche market for Paul Taylor and his cohorts, and thus a “tree-climbing” company was born. I heard about Arborwear when I was trying to figure out how to create my own line of actually functional climbing pants. I contacted Paul Taylor with questions and he quickly became my “pants mentor.” When I was in Salt Lake City for the gear show this summer, I saw the booth and hoped to finally meet him. Bad luck, he hadn’t made it out, but an employee was intrigued by my interest from a climbing standpoint and suggested I try some “Arborist Tech Pants” in exchange for an honest review.

Aside from reveling in the excellent humor and good people in the company, I’ve found there are a number of excellent reasons to consider dropping the better part of a c-note on Arborwear pants, and I’m here to tell you why: In the six months that I’ve had them, they look brand-friggin-new.

So let’s analyze them with my six-point pant requirements:

They should fit well. – Since they come in men’s sizes, even women can get very accurate sizing, thanks to waist/inseam measurements on the order. Arborwear tapers all their pant styles at the ankle, making them great to use when climbing – no more catching long cuffs on your climbing shoes!
2. They should either stretch or be roomy enough to not impede with climbing movement. – Arborwear may not have been thinking specifically of climbers when they designed their line of pants, but it becomes clear that it doesn’t matter. One of the main draws for climbers is the standard gusseted crotch. The catalog states that this feature “gives you strength and mobility right where you need it – about 50 feet above the ground.”
3. They should stand up to wear and tear: specifically important is the way they hold up in the occasional off width, chimney, and butt-scootch descent. This is of course the most important feature for a climber looking to buy the only pair of pants he or she will need for a season – and it’s the reason why another pair of Old Navy pants is not enough. I’ve had these pants for six months now. They’ve seen the off-widths of Yosemite, crack climbing in Eldorado Canyon, butt scotching descents in Joshua Tree, and the cold, damp conditions of an alpine storm in Tuolumne. Yes, all this and they still look new. Not a single pair of pants that I’ve had can boast this for a half-year’s worth of climbing in unforgiving terrain. Part of this has to be the fabric. You’ll also find that it’s reinforced where you want it: The low-profile back pockets (featuring strong Velcro flaps) provide ample butt-sootch barricading, and the fabric is doubled up and articulated on the front of the legs all the way up. If Arborwear were to focus more on climbing, I would suggest this for the rear of the pants as well, but it makes sense for tree-climbing.
4. They should be neither too hot nor too cold. – 100% nylon, yet I was wearing them in hundred-degree temperatures this summer to test them out. These suckers breathe. They go great on nippy winter ascents, too – and fit large enough for some fleece pants to go under them if you should decide to. If you’re in the market for specifically warmer-temperature climbing, consider the cotton or twill models (which are also cheaper).
5. They should dry quickly. – Nylon, enough said. I didn’t get cold or wet while being exposed to hours of snow flurries.

Cold, but she still sends!
6. They should be stylin’ and look good with a beanie. – Lots of color choices, and my artsy friend saw me wearing them and said, “Nice pants!” I told her they were for climbing and she said I could get away with wearing them out. This, coming from someone who hates my usual khaki/t-shirt/sweater combo. Word of warning to sensitive folks, however – the big cargo pockets on the sides can make you look a bit hippy.

My thighs are NOT that big.

So, if you are in the market for a pair of pants that actually lasts, don’t need brand awareness (although, sporting pants with an “Arborwear” logo does start conversation), and are as fed-up with the market as I am, skip on over to and get yourself a pair of pants.

Hey, they even stand up to liebacking gym cracks, and they look SEXY!

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