In case you’re short on time, here’s the gist of my review here: the Patagonia Women’s Rock Guide Pants are, hands down, the best climbing pants I have ever owned. Period. If you want to know why these are the best climbing pants ever, then read on.
I’ve always had a hard time finding good climbing pants. While stretchy yoga-style pants almost always fit me, many non-cotton pocketed climbing pants (i.e. the kind you’d want to wear on a multi-pitch route) are either too big in the smallest size or are shaped pretty differently from me (I have curves, but Mountain Hardwear and Columbia pants often have several inches of extra space in the hips). Of the many brands that make climbing specific clothing, Patagonia makes stuff that fits me best. I have generally been disappointed in the past that they’ve tended to make many awesome climbing pants for dudes and mostly tights/yoga-style pants for women. Women need functional climbing pants too!
Anyways, Patagonia finally came around and made the Women’s Rock Guide Pants. I tried them on a couple times in the store before deciding to buy them because the smallest size, 2, is a little bigger than what I would usually go for. But I decided to go for it because the extra room means I can wear them with long underwear and it’s pretty easy to wear them with a low-profile belt. I haven’t had any issue with them falling off so far and I’ve actually worn them with my long underwear, so I’m satisfied with my sizing decision.
The Rock Guide Pants bring all the features that I’ve been longing for to a pair of pants that actually fit me. The fabric is lightweight, but still keeps me reasonably warm, even in light wind or cold weather. The pockets are extremely functional for climbing pants. The front pockets are high enough that you can still use them while wearing a harness. There is a zipper pocket on the right thigh that is the perfect topo pocket, which helps make up for the fact that Patagonia removed the pocket from the R1 Pullover. There are also 2 pockets on the back, which I don’t tend to use as much while climbing, but work perfectly well when hiking, chilling, etc. The length of the pants is just right for me, but they are also very easy to roll up, and they actually stay put when you roll them up, unlike a lot of other pants.
I’ve been using my Rock Guide Pants pretty heavily (practically every climbing trip, including our 18-hour day on Clyde Minaret) for the last several months and have had no issues with the durability. I probably wouldn’t use them for an offwidth-thrutching session (that’s what heavy duty cotton pants are for), but in general I’ve spared them no scrape or butt-slide. They also have great flexibility, which is important for someone who high-steps and stems as much as I do.
Beyond all these awesome functional features, the Women’s Rock Guide Pants are actually cute and flattering (on me, at least. All of us ladies are built differently, so I recommend trying these on first before buying). While far from skin-tight, the pants have a fairly slim cut. The side seams curve forward (rather than going straight down), which is flattering and makes me look taller (yay, taller!). For someone who usually has to choose between really unflattering and only somewhat unflattering non-cotton climbing pants, cute climbing pants with pockets are a welcome, awesome surprise.
My only small gripe with my pants is the color. Mine are the “Retro Khaki”, which is a great color, but it does get dirty pretty quickly. I don’t mind this that much, but some dirt just doesn’t seem to come off in the wash, leaving them always a little grungy looking… mostly I just couldn’t get away with wearing them to school/work (which otherwise I could actually do, since they fit so awesomely). I’d imagine the darker color (Forge Grey) is probably much better with dirt, although if you’re mostly climbing in warm weather (I usually switch to shorts), the lighter color would probably stay cooler.
And finally, I’ve had a couple of dealings with Patagonia Customer Service recently, and they were awesome. They were responsive and friendly, and worked very hard to make me a happy customer. At $79, the Rock Guide Pants are more than I’d usually consider spending on climbing pants, but with customer support like Patagonia has, it’s very worth it.
Have you tried the Rock Guide Pants? Feel free to add your opinion in the comments below!
P.S. If you want to check out more Dream in Vertical gear reviews, check out our Sweet Gear Review page.