May 5, 2022

What to Wear While Rappelling? [For Beginners and Pros]

by Brad

If you are a beginner in rappelling, you probably wonder what to wear while rappelling. There are many reasons why you’d want to wear some comfortable clothes during rappelling. One of them is the need to stay warm or cool while rappelling; however, this depends on the weather and the region’s climate.

You should also select proper rappelling clothes to protect your skin from rope burns. Your clothes should be made from a thick material to protect your skin yet flexible enough to allow you to move more freely.

Finally, you’ll have to dress in layers for climbing and rappelling. This lets you remove some clothes if you feel too warm or add another layer if you feel too cold during abseiling.

Finally, you’ll have to avoid wearing loose clothes with strings since they may get entangled in the harness or ropes, which may be hazardous.

Your clothes for rappelling should allow you to be comfortable and mobile enough to make any moves comfortably. Now, let’s dive in and make an in-depth analysis of what to wear while rappelling.

Table of Contents
What Clothes Do You Need While Rappelling
What Clothes Do You Need While Rappelling?

What to Wear While Rappelling?

Choosing what to wear while rappelling can be the difference between an awesome experience and an uncomfortable struggle. This is a list of the most essential rappelling clothes you need to wear so that you can stay comfortable and agile during rappeling.

  • Shirts for rappelling
  • Climbing Pants or Shorts
  • Jackets and Sweaters for rappelling
  • Rain rappelling gear
  • Climbing shoes suitable for rappelling
  • Essential rappelling accessories

Shirts for rappelling

Your shirt for rappelling serves two purposes while rappeling besides keeping you decent. It stops the harness from rubbing against your skin and protects you from the sun.

Whether you choose to wear a long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirt depends on how much you want to be exposed to the sun.

Long-sleeved shirts will protect your arms; however, you risk getting too warm for your liking. On the other hand, wearing t-shirts may seem like a great idea.

However, you’ll have to invest in sunscreen to protect your skin from dangerous UV rays. You can also invest in clothes with SPF protection to protect your skin from sunlight.

If your choice of shirts depends on how much they protect you from the harness rubbing against your chest, you should consider the length.

For instance, the shirt should be long enough to tuck the shirt without the risk of coming off whenever you are rappelling. The perfect shirt will protect your skin and prevent you from developing a painful rash.

SUNTECT UPF50+ Sun Protective Performance Apparel for Outdoor Workers – Women's Contractor Short Sleeve Tee
  • SUNTECT: A trusted Leader in Sun Protective Apparel. Specifically designed for people who work outside in extreme sun conditions
  • Permanent UPF50+ protection is guaranteed to block 98% of UVA/UVB rays for the lifetime of the garment
  • Cotton/ Spandex blend Performance fabric provides excellent Stretch and breathability

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Climbing Pants or Shorts

Choosing between shorts and rock climbing pants depends on the weather and your personal preference. You could opt for pants if you want to protect your legs.

Pants are also better since they don’t get bunched as much as shorts. Alternatively, you could also choose shorts because they are more breathable than pants.

You can also choose zip-off pants since they provide the best middle ground between pants and shorts. For instance, you’ll be able to remove the pant’s lower half and convert them to shorts if you want a more breathable option.

They are most preferable if you’re rappelling in locations with fluctuating temperatures.

However, you should not try to unzip the lower part mid-rappel since it could lead to many dangerous situations (you should be extra careful if you have to).

Instead, you should wait and remove them later if you are involved in a series of rappels and are on stable ground. You should get climbing-specific pants if you are concerned about the material.

Hiauspor Hiking Pants Women Convertible Lightweight Zip Off Pants Quick Dry Outdoor Stretch Pants UPF 50+ (Black, Large)
  • [Comfortable& No Noise]: Hiauspor Women's Hiking Pants made of 4-way-stretch fabric with breathable & quick dry feature, keep you cool and no noise when you exercise.
  • [3 IN 1 Pants]: Zip off legs can be changed to inseam shorts or rolled up into capri pants in no time. Our hiking pants for women suitable for hot and cool weather and seasons.
  • [Flexible Waist& Knees]: The entire back elastic waist and articulated knees designs allow for ultimate comfort and mobility when being active outside, giving you the freedom to flex.
Ucraft "Xlite Rock Climbing Bouldering and Yoga Pants. Lightweight Stretchy Trousers
  • ★ AVAILABLE AS PANTS AND KNICKERS for hot and cold environment. We recommend having both. GREAT FOR ANY ACTIVITY like Climbing, Bouldering, Yoga, Hiking, Running, Tai Chi, Capoeira, Slacklining, Trampolining, Camping etc.
  • ★ DESIGNED BY CLIMBERS for maximum performance: lightweight, stretchy, durable, adjustable, 4 outer pockets (2 zipper), chalk bag & brush loops.
  • ★ BREATHABLE AND DURABLE STRETCHY FABRIC protects you from scratches. Combination of 92% polyester and 8% Spandex makes them light, stretch, breathable, quick drying and durable.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Related Article: Best Climbing Pants for Women

Jackets and Sweaters for rappelling

Jackets and sweaters for rappelling can come in handy if the weather gets cold. They can keep you warm and dry when suspended in mid-air.

Maintaining your body’s temperature can prevent instances where you are wet, cold, and shivering, which could be perilous during your rappelling adventure.

You should wear a jacket if the weather is chilly. However, you should ensure that the jacket is well-fitting, not stretchy, and allows unhindered movement.

Most jackets and sweaters have strings in the neck that you can use to make them fit more snugly. However, you should be careful with the strings since they could become hazardous if caught in the rappelling gear.

You should avoid wearing jackets and sweaters with strings, or remove the strings, if possible. However, you can also do away with hoodied sweaters and jackets if you have a helmet.

Choose the right sweater or jacket to help you stay warm and focused without affecting your focus and judgment.

RAB Men's Nexus Pull-On Lightweight Fleece Jacket for Hiking and Climbing - Denim - Medium
106 Reviews
RAB Men's Nexus Pull-On Lightweight Fleece Jacket for Hiking and Climbing - Denim - Medium
  • A Layer For Everything | From walking the dog to alpine climbing, the Nexus is a lightweight fleece pullover offering warmth without sacrificing mobility and comfort.
  • Thermic Stretch Fleece | Lightweight, moisture-managing fleece material moves with you so you can adventure unrestricted.
  • Low-Profile Seams | Reduces the amount of friction between layers for enhanced comfort.
SITKA Gear Men's Stratus Windstopper Water Repellent Ultra-Quiet Fleece Hunting Jacket with Removable Hood, Elevated II, Small
298 Reviews
SITKA Gear Men's Stratus Windstopper Water Repellent Ultra-Quiet Fleece Hunting Jacket with Removable Hood, Elevated II, Small
  • GORE-TEX INFINIUM WINDSTOPPER TECHNOLOGY - The Sitka Gear Stratus Jacket nestled the GORE WINDSTOPPER membrane between a wet-printed Micofleece shell and a micro-grid fleece backer, giving you one of the quietest 100% windproof jackets
  • REMOVABLE HOOD - A removable hood with specialized hearing ports that improve the ability to hear deer approaching and double layer PolarTec Alpha Direct panels retain heat
  • SAFETY HARNESS PASS-THROUGH PORT - The innovative Constant-Connect SITKA Safety Harness Pass-Through Port with Cobrax secure slide-to-lock snap and magnetic closure eliminates the need to disconnect from a harness when adding or removing gear

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Rain rappelling gear

Getting caught in the rain when rappelling isn’t fun. Instead, it makes the process taxing, especially if you don’t have the proper rain rappelling attire.

Rain makes you uncomfortable and wet. It’s also dangerous, so you should invest in appropriate clothes that’ll help you stay warm and dry. The best material to keep you warm even when wet is wool.

You should begin by checking the weather forecast and prepare the correct gear and clothes in advance. For instance, you should pack an appropriate jacket if the forecast cust predicts it will rain.

It would be best if you also had some rain pants and even carried a separate pair of dry clothes that you can change into when you’re done rappelling.

However, it would be best to keep in mind that using a jacket and rain pants during hot and dry weather can be uncomfortable and hinder your mobility.

The waterproof material can hinder breathability and make you less mobile. Therefore, you should bring them in advance but use them when necessary.

Helly Hansen Men's Standard Moss Hooded Waterproof Windproof Raincoat Jacket, 344 Essential Yellow, X-Large
  • HELOX: Helox+ fabric is fully waterproof and windproof, with a full stretch construction for unrestricted movement and a soft interior fabric for complete comfort (fabric is not breathable.) Complete with welded seams and a garmet repair kit.
  • FEATURES: PU Main fabric, Full front zip, Two front pockets, Welded seams, PU Repair kit
  • GOOD FOR: Urban & City Life, Rain Protection, Commuting

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Climbing shoes suitable for rappelling

Rappelling shoes are essential since they affect your rappelling experience in many ways. It would be best to consider a few things, including their weight, grip, and protection.

For instance, you should have sufficient grip to help you control your downward motion. Additionally, the shoe’s sole should be thick enough. This should help protect your feet from sharp rocks.

Holding your feet in a parallel position can be tiring. It can be even more tiring if your shoes are heavy. A common saying in hiking is that a pound on the feet equals three in the back.

This means that your body uses a lot of energy to keep your feet up. Therefore, there is no point in making your feet work harder than they should.

Your shoes should also add a protective layer to your feet. Thus, you should choose the best type of shoes that protect your feet from the elements and various hazardous conditions.

For instance, you should not wear sandals when rappelling. Instead, you should invest in shoes with a sufficient protective layer that could protect your feet from getting crushed.

You can check our best approach shoes for men and women. For a light rappelling route, you can use traditional climbing shoes.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Essential Rappelling Accessories

Most people often forget some essential accessories when they go rappelling. The accessories may seem unimportant; however, having them can significantly improve your experience.

You’ll need to consider the accessories mentioned below before going rappelling.

Hats for rappelling

There are two reasons why you may need a hat while rappelling. They protect your face and neck from UV rays and help increase visibility.

They are also important when it’s raining since they help keep the raindrops from your eyes. We recommend that you bring your hat with you regardless of the weather condition.

The type of hat you choose depends on your preference. For instance, you could choose a wide-brimmed hat since it’s better at keeping the sun off your neck and face; however, your backpack can interfere with the brim.

You could also use a baseball cap, but it isn’t as protective, especially for your neck.

Rappelling gloves

On the other hand, rappelling gloves can be listed as a necessity. They are essential for preventing painful blisters that may result when rappelling over long distances.

There are various options to choose from, including fingerless and fingered gloves. Your choice should be dictated by your personal preference and what works for you.

You can substitute your pair of gloves with less specialized alternatives. For instance, you could use regular gardening gloves, especially if they are made from rigid materials like buckskin leather.

However, if you have the time, you should invest in better quality alternatives that are better fitting and more effective.

PETZL CORDEX Gloves - Lightweight, Breathable Leather Belay Gloves for Climbing and Rappelling - Tan - M
  • DURABLE and BREATHABLE: Sometimes 'durable' gloves are bulky, stiff, and uncomfortable. With the Petzl CORDEX gloves, you don't have to compromise. Soft, premium leather requires no break in period — striking a perfectly balancing between dexterity and durability. Enhanced protection in high-traffic areas (fingertips, between thumb and forefinger) help prolong the CORDEX's lifespan.
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Ocun Crack Gloves for Crack Climbing I Rock Climbing Gloves, X-Small
325 Reviews
Ocun Crack Gloves for Crack Climbing I Rock Climbing Gloves, X-Small
  • MATERIAL: Made with microfiber stretch suede and adhesive rubber CAT 1.1 for the perfect balance of performance and protection.
  • DESIGN: Specially designed gloves engineered for maximal comfort while crack climbing, with a Velcro closure that tucks away so they stay secure while climbing.
  • CLIMBING ADHESION TECHNOLOGY: Features CAT Rubber 1.1 a “super sticky” compound developed with an emphasis on high adhesion that significantly increases friction.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Sunglasses for rappelling

Wearing sunglasses while rappelling is also suitable for improving visibility, especially if you are photosensitive.

They can help you get more comfortable and safe; however, similar to hats, you’ll need to be aware of any risks involved with dropping your sunglasses.

Therefore, you’ll need to invest in properly fitting sunglasses or bands to secure the sunglasses to your head.

You should also invest in good-quality, polarized sunglasses for better protection. Some companies have wrap-around designs that can protect you from all angles.

While they may be a good accessory, they aren’t necessary when rappelling, and you can do without them if you don’t usually use them.

ROCKBROS Polarized Sunglasses for Men Women UV Protection Cycling Sunglasses Sport Glasses
  • POLARIZED SUNGLASSES: Dazzling design makes you stylish in the crowd, polarized sunglasses restore true color, eliminate reflected light and scattered glare to protect your eyes perfectly.
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Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Backpacks (rope bags) for rappelling

Your backpack used for rappelling or rope bag should be big enough to store all your gear comfortably.

Additionally, it would be best to learn how to pack your backpack by closely following all the necessary steps and ensuring that everything is easily accessible in case of an emergency.

It would be best if you bought a close-fitting backpack that has enough straps you can use to adjust and tighten it to your body to make it more comfortable.

It would be best if you didn’t leave your bag dangling from your body because it’ll make your rappelling experience more uncomfortable. You can choose from a selection of climbing-specific packs if you don’t have a preference.

Petzl S41AY 025 BUCKET Fabric Pack, Remains Upright, 25 L, Black/Yellow
  • Bag remains upright and has an exterior folding lid system that allows easy access to the contents of the bag
  • External zippered pocket for personal effects
  • Transparent external window for displaying an equipment identification card

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Warm socks suitable for rappelling

To wear socks or not, that is the question! 

You should also invest in a good pair of socks to help your feet stay comfortable and dry. A good pair of socks can also help make an uncomfortable pair of shoes more tolerable.

You can opt for wooly socks since they absorb moisture and are more breathable than other materials.

Bug and Sunscreen Spray

Bug spray and sunscreen can help you get more comfortable and make your rappelling experience safer. So, it’s a plus if you choose to bring them along. However, there are a few things you should consider.

You can bring along waterproof sunscreen if you are rappelling near a waterfall. It can also prevent you from sweating it off. Additionally, it would be best to be careful when using sunscreen near your rope.

DEET can damage your gear and compromise the equipment’s integrity if exposed. You should stand far away when applying your sunscreen and prevent contact with your rappelling rope.

Elbow/Knee/Shoulder Pads

Shoulder, knee, and elbow pads are less common but still useful, especially when navigating tricky terrain. As such, they deserve mention.

They could be great protection, especially if you’re rappelling down a wet ledge right in the middle of a canyon.

They are a lifesaver when rappelling against hard rock and are commonly used in canyoneering trips and caving rappelling expeditions.

You could purchase specific gear for rappelling and climbing or use something commonly available like volleyball pads.

Situational Awareness

Developing situational awareness is essential when you are rappelling. Situational awareness is important when rappeling and preparing for your rappelling adventure.

Choosing the proper rappelling wear can mean the difference between having a fun rappelling experience and living your life’s worst and most dangerous nightmare.

Two situations will force you to change your attire. They include waterfall rappelling and cold weather.

Waterfall rappelling

Waterfall rappelling often involves preparing for moisture. You should ensure that your clothes are breathable and quick-dry in such cases.

Additionally, your shoes should be water-supportive and lightweight. Ideal types of shoes should be closed-toed sandals.

In some instances, you should invest in a wet suit if you think the water will be too cold to handle. You should also bring a spare pair of clothes if you have to trek long distances to get back to your camp.

Cold Weather

Cold weather has its problems. In such cases, you are better off using a toque instead of a baseball and substituting your shorts for pants. You should also have an extra layer of clothes in your bag to use if the temperatures become unbearable. 

Additionally, it would be best if you kept your hands warm, and the best way to do this is by buying good gloves made with materials that trap warmth. Keeping your hands warm helps get a better handle on the rope and necessary gear.

You should bring two gloves: the first one should be small enough that you can use it to tie and untie knots. The second pair should be big enough to be worn over the smaller pair and used to keep your hands warm when you’re sitting around.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2022 by Roger

About the author


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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