If you are just beginning to rappel, you might be wondering what is the best clothing to wear rappelling. Well, for starters, you’ll want to wear more than just your underwear. You’ll definitely want something between you and that harness while you’re rappelling. In all seriousness, there is a lot to consider when you are deciding what to wear for a day of rappelling. Before I get into the individual pieces of clothing and equipment I want to stress the fact that all clothing should not be loose fitting. It needs to be free from any extra strings as well. Loose fitting clothing, jackets, or strings can potentially get caught in the ropes creating dangerous situations. Always wear slim fitting, stretchable clothing. Now let’s start at the top:
Shirts and Tops
When the weather is nice and warm, many men go shirtless and women often wear a sports bra or tank top. Remember if you choose to go shirtless, you will be exposed to more scrapes. If you aren’t the shirtless type, cotton is sturdy fabric that will provide a lot of protection and is perfect for a mild-temperature day. That being said, cotton can become hot quickly, so if your adventure for the day includes hiking or a long climb along with your rappel, consider a shirt made from a different material. There are shirts made from a synthetic-spandex or wool-spandex mixture. These have become popular to control moisture, and are also stretchy so you can move comfortably during your rappel and other activities.
Pants and Shorts
Again, weather always plays a huge factor in what I am wearing no matter the activity. If you chose to wear shorts for the day, the women should especially pay attention to length. You’ll be much more comfortable if you have a layer of clothing to completely cover your skin over the harness, so be sure to pick shorts that will provide you that protection. You’ll also want to chose shorts or pants that you will be able to stretch in and will
This brings me to the next item. If you will only be rappelling, and your activities don’t include rock climbing, a durable pair of shoes will do. However, consider all your activities and the nature of your rappel. If at any point there will be footwork along rocks, I’d recommend wearing a good pair of rock climbing shoes, otherwise a sturdy pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots will do. If you need help picking rappelling and rock climbing shoes, you can read my article here on How to Choose Rappelling Shoes. Again, consider all your activities, and shoes your shoes from there.
I always recommend bringing sunglasses. That sun can really glare off those rocks sometimes. I’ve been in situations without sunglass and I just could not see because of the reflection of the sun. At the end of the day, I had a bad headache from squinting the whole time, and an overall unenjoyable experience. My recommendation for sunglasses is to make sure they will stay firmly on your head, but not squeezing over your ears too tight. That’ll cause a headache too. When you try the sunglasses on bend over and move your head in all directions. You want to shake your head up, down and all around to make sure they don’t wiggle on your face. You may look a little silly, but mimic the movements you make when you are rappelling. You don’t want them to fall off your face mid-rappel.
I cannot stress this enough. Wear a helmet! Even on the easy rappels. You never know what may happen with your equipment and unpredictable situations happen. Not every day, but they happen. Rocks or debris may come falling. Our bodies need protection and our head is the most vulnerable. So always wear a helmet that meets all safety requirements. You can read our article on how to pick out a helmet here.
You will obviously need a harness to put on during your rappel. With the harness, you will tie yourself into the ropes and lower yourself. There are many harnesses to choose from, heck you can even make your own with rope or webbing. Although, I’d always recommend using a traditional harness if you can. The harness is the most important item that you will wear during your rappel. It should meet all safety standards, and be worn correctly. If you are a beginner, have your harness checked by a safety instructor to be sure you have put it on and adjusted it correctly. You can read our article on harnesses here. All harnesses should have a label proving that it has met all levels of safety standards, and there are quite a few.
Jackets and Sweaters
If you are going out on a chilly day, you’ll want a jacket. Be sure this jacket is again, not loose, and stretchy to allow you to use your full range of motion. Many sweaters and jackets come with strings around the hood. Be sure your outerwear is free from a hood or any strings to avoid the risk of getting caught in the equipment and ropes. You won’t need a hood anyways, if you’re wearing your helmet. This is the last area you’d want to get caught!
Other Things to Consider
- Always wear sunscreen! Even if your wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants, lather up your face. The sun reflecting off the rocks will get you! And even if it’s a cloudy day, those UV rays will still burn you up. You don’t want to return home looking like a beet! In fact, many clothing items come with UV protection, so that is something to consider when choosing your clothing as well.
- Remove all jewelry. You don’t want anything getting in the way of the ropes, or anything getting caught on something it shouldn’t. Jewelry can create dangerous situations. Best be safe and keep it at home in the jewelry box. Plus, you wouldn’t want anything to happen to your precious gems anyways.
- Ladies, get that hair UP! If you can put it in a braid or a bun, I’d highly recommend that. Get it secured. It sounds a little funny, but I know someone personally who had long hair and put it up in a pony tail to do a simple climb and rappel on an outdoor rock climbing wall and her hair got caught in the equipment and she hung there until someone came with scissors and had to chop her hair. A braid or a bun would have prevented this situation.
- Always check the weather before you begin your rappelling adventure. You may have a general idea of what the weather will be, but its best to be sure there haven’t been any last-minute updates. While rock climbing is a physically demanding sport, rappelling, in general, is not. You don’t work up too much of a sweat rappelling and often times you are out in open areas that don’t provide a lot of protection from the wind. It can get pretty chilly when the wind picks up and I’ve often been grateful for the extra layers.
Like I said when I started this article, wear clothing that isn’t too lose and provides some stretch. Check yourself before you put your harness on. Look all around and even give yourself a pat down. Is there anything that maybe too loose or anything hanging off your clothing. If there is, take it off. Pick clothes that will be breathable and comfortable for a day outside where you’ll be bending stretching and allows for full range of motion.
Remember to choose your clothing carefully. Clothing may not seem like a huge deal, but it can make or break your experience on the ropes, and some clothing is flat out dangerous. If you want to have an enjoyable rappel, remember the two S’s. Slim and Strings. Slim and close fitting, free of strings. After you have checked yourself for your S’s, strap into your harness and give that a good double check too. Once you’ve got your helmet on, your ready for the ropes!