Topo Designs Boulder Pants Review: These Pants Look Good, but Climb Harder

Topo Designs Women's Boulder Pants Detail

Two-thirds of the way up the climb, I checked which protective gear I had left; this pitch seemed to go on forever! Counting my cams, I figured I had just enough left to safely finish the climb. One hundred feet of sustained jamming, stemming, and laybacking led me to the crux; after a steep pull over a bulge, I was home free. 

During a tricky traditional lead climb, I want the climbing and protection to be my only focus, without the added distraction of uncomfortable clothing. Wearing the Topo Designs Boulder Pants for this pitch made that possible. With a full range of motion and a comfortable elastic waistband, I was able to stay present with the movement and keep my head together long enough to clip the chains. 

In short: Though Topo Designs clothing doesn’t seem like the most technical gear at first glance, the Boulder Pants don’t sacrifice performance for fashion. For a style-conscious climber looking for clothing that looks good and climbs well, the Boulder Pants are a great choice.

Topo Designs Boulder Pants


  • Weight 12 oz.
  • Material 90% nylon, 10% spandex
  • Number of pockets Four
  • Special features DWR Finish, ankle drawcord
  • Fit Relaxed


  • Four-way stretch nylon provides great mobility
  • Good weather resistance
  • Bold colors and cute style
  • Comfortable elastic waistband


  • Only one zip pocket in the back

Topo Designs Boulder Pants Review

A four-way stretch fabric won’t keep us down; (photo/Greg Petliski)

As a year-round climber and guide, I have mountains of outdoorsy and athletic pants filling my closet. So when I find a pair that I can also wear for a casual night out after bouldering, I hold onto them. 

The cute and functional Topo Designs Boulder Pants are just such a pair, and are even offered in a wide array of bold color choices to boot. The high-waisted fit looks great with a cropped top, and I like the contrasting navy and bright red details against the slate gray pair that I tested. Also made in hues of forest, brick, pond blue, and classic black, there’s a cheeky hue for every adventurer. 

Durability and Protection

Style aside, I put these pants through the wringer, testing them while bouldering and climbing through the coldest months of the year in Joshua Tree. During a blustery day with gusts up to 40 mph, the stretch nylon fabric provided wind resistance comparable to the Mountain Equipment Squall Jacket that I was wearing. These pants can really turn a breeze.

They’re not quite as windproof as my Arc’teryx Gamma Pants, but the material is a bit lighter, and the tradeoff is that they are more comfortable in warm conditions. The fabric also held up well, with no visible snags from the spiky plants and coarse granite of the desert. 

Flexibility and Features

I also wore the Boulder Pants while leading several traditional climbs at my limit. When I’m climbing a route that’s hard for me, I don’t want my clothing to be restrictive or distracting, and the stretchy fabric of the Boulders allowed me to move freely up the wall. 

The elastic waistband is comfortable and tight enough that it doesn’t slip down under a harness. The lack of zippers and buttons also allows for easier readjustment after using nature’s bathroom, especially if you’re navigating a harness weighed down by a full trad rack. 

The single zippered pocket on the Boulders could have easily been a thigh pocket, in our opinion; (photo/Greg Petliski)

While I appreciate that the Boulder Pants include one zip pocket on the back, it’s not the most functional size or location for a pair of climbing pants. I’m always looking for a zip pocket on the thigh that’s big enough to fit a phone and low enough that it won’t interfere with my harness or a hip belt. For a longer, multipitch route, I’d probably choose a pair of pants with this type of pocket, in case I want to easily check route information or snap some photos. 

The cinching mechanism at the ankles is just a simple elastic band that’s hidden under the hem. It’s a little tricky to adjust, but there is no extra plastic toggle that could fall off with repeated use. The Boulders are only offered in one inseam length, so at 5’2” I have to roll them up or cinch the ankles. Worn like this, I was still able to make precise foot placements while climbing and scrambling, but the fit may be a bit baggy on some.

Topo Boulder Pants: Conclusion

These boulders got bite, but the Boulder Pants hung tough and survived our torture tests; (photo/Greg Petliski)

If you’re looking for unique-looking climbing pants that don’t sacrifice performance, the Boulder Pants are a solid choice. They’re great for single-pitch climbing or bouldering in a range of weather conditions, and they’ll also transition seamlessly from an afternoon of cragging to casual drinks. 

For longer and more technical objectives, I prefer pants with a slimmer fit, better weather protection, and side zip pockets, like the Patagonia Altvia or Arc’teryx Gamma Pants. But when I’m closer to the ground and heading out on the town, I’ll choose the Boulders any day.

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