What to Wear to Play Paintball

13 Key Pieces of Clothing

David McBryan, Paintballer-in-Chief

David McBryan
Paintballer-in-Chief
Updated: 11/21/20
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Asking yourself “What clothes to wear for paintball?” You’re in the right place.

Playing Paintball - What to Wear - primary image

Paintball is an awesome game, but all that fun can be ruined if it's your first time and you don’t know what to wear.

This guide is a complete paintball clothing list so you can maximize your effectiveness while avoiding painful paint-on-skin impacts and other (more serious) injuries.

What To Wear To Play Paintball

13 Key Pieces Of Clothing +4 Tips

You won’t need every piece of clothing on this list for every game you play, but it covers everything you might want to wear. I’ve labeled each piece of paintball gear as required or optional, making sure to explain the pros and cons. This article should be especially helpful if you're playing paintball for the first time.

You can also find four extra tips for what to wear at the bottom.

Onto the list!

1. Long sleeve shirt (required)

Rule number one when dressing to play in a paintball game is to leave no skin exposed. That starts with a long sleeve shirt, preferably loose with some bulk. You've probably seen players wearing jerseys made of synthetic material but certain t-shirt fabric blends are okay. Loose clothing is easier to move around in and helps reduce the chances of impacts breaking on you, keeping you in the game longer. Bulky attire reduces the sting of impact, and it’s best to wear clothes in layers if both the weather and your comfort allow.

2. Jersey (optional)

Paintball jerseys are unnecessary but some paintballers like to wear them for three reasons:

  • Added layer of protection
  • Designed for optimal ventilation
  • They just plain look cool

If you’re starting out, don’t worry about getting one. Save some coin and use that long-sleeved camouflage t-shirt that's been collecting dust in your closet.

Paintball jerseys aren't required but definitely look cool.
Paintball jerseys aren't required but definitely look cool.

3. Pants (required)

If you ask me (and you are) your pants and mask are the two most important pieces of paintball clothing. Your pants should be comfortable to move in, breathable, preferably water-resistant, and offer sufficient padding.

However, you’ll also want to consider the type of game you’re playing. Woodsball players generally want heavier pants with more padding than speedball players, who instead value lightweight clothes with extreme maneuverability.

Paintball-specific pants exist and are great for their comfort, ventilation, and well-placed padding designed for how paintball players move around. If you’re a beginner or looking to keep costs down, a well-worn pair of work pants or jeans will be fine. Cargo pants with extra pockets can be useful as well. Pretty much any long pants that cover your skin and that you can run around in. Playing paintball in stretchy jeans isn't anything I'd recommend but it'll do in a pinch.

If you’re going without actual paintball-specific pants, you may want to double up on extra protection with knee pads and a soft cup to protect your groin. Don't wear shorts. Seriously, what is up with you people trying to wear shorts everywhere?

4. Gloves (optional)

Some paintballers love the added hand protection gloves afford. Others hate having their hands feel restricted and play paintball without gloves. I like to wear gloves and prefer fingerless gloves that protect the top of each hand yet still let me feel the trigger. There’s always the risk of a paintball-to-finger or thumb shot that stings your hands like crazy.

Paintball gloves are designed for the sport but aren’t necessary. Baseball batting gloves, football gloves, weight lifting gloves with the finger and thumb portions cut off, or even utility gloves from your local hardware store all get the job done. Thick winter gloves aren’t ideal, but, ultimately, it’s all about personal preference. One thing you might do before you play paintball is to try on different gloves to see how your hands feel on the trigger.

5. Mask or goggles (required)

You absolutely need eye and face protection, but you also need to be able to see what’s happening around you, so don’t skimp on the safety of your eyes and face. There are two key things to consider when it comes to masks.

  • Wide field of vision
  • Snug, comfortable fit

Let’s look at each.

First, make sure you have a wide field of vision with anti-fog and anti-glare coatings. Some come with interchangeable lenses, which can be extremely useful if you want dedicated eyewear for both consistent indoor play and unpredictable outdoor conditions.

Second, make sure your eyewear fits comfortably but snugly on your face with proper sealing around the edge of the frame. Foam generally is superior to a rubber seal around the outside - don't forget that when you're playing paintball you’re going to be sweating—but ultimately it all comes down to personal preference. Keep scratch-resistance in mind when buying your paintball eye protection too.

Wear face protection every single time you play paintball.
A mask or well-fitting pair of paintball goggles is essential equipment.

6. Head protection: helmet, baseball cap, hoodie, bandana

When I say you should wear clothes that cover all parts of your body, that also means your head. Paintball helmets offer the best protection and look awesome, but there’s no doubt they also add bulk and aren’t a necessary expense. Some people insist on spending money and if you have the ability to pay then go for it - if there is any part of your body worth protecting when paintballing then it's your head.

At the very least a thick headband or head wrap protects the front of your skull above your mask. Some players even wrap a t-shirt around their head as a low-cost alternative. Other players like to wear a baseball hat. The point is that you have more than one option when it comes to this type of thing. Ideally you'll be focused on your performance and not your clothes when you hit the fields.

It's critical to protect your eyes and ears, but remember paintballs aren’t the only thing you need protection from. Hours of the sun beating down on your uncovered head can really take its toll, so a lightweight head wrap or sunscreen are strongly encouraged. Sunburned skin is one of the ways to wreck your paintballing experience so be sure to check weather conditions.

7. Pod packs with harness, tactical vest or belt (required)

Almost all paintball players need to refill their hoppers mid-game, which means you need a comfortable, convenient way to carry extra paint. Enter paintball pods (or paintball tubes). Each pod holds around 140 paintballs, and they strap to your body in a few different ways.

Many players have pod pack harnesses that look like paintball-specific utility belts, generally holding 3-5 pods of around 140 paintballs. A paintball hopper usually holds around 200 paintballs, giving you several complete reloads.

Tactical vests and tactical belts are another alternative. Tactical vests, in particular, have tons of uses and offer an added layer of protection around your core. (Plus, they have a more authentic military-style look.) They may be too bulky for speedball or hot, sunny weather, but they’re extremely practical for woodsball, especially in cooler weather. Whichever type you pick it will give you quick access to paintballs and help you keep your hands free so you can focus on your opponents.

When you play paintball the adrenaline kicks in so you want to remain as distraction free as possible.

8. Shoes, cleats, or tactical boots (required)

The right footwear can make all the difference on the paintball field. There are a ton of different footwear options to consider with only a few true no-gos, so I’ll give you four footwear guidelines before elaborating:

  • Never wear open-toed shoes. Leave your sandals at home.
  • Don’t wear brand new shoes. Unless you don't mind getting them filthy.
  • Consider your terrain, meaning whether it’s indoors and level, uneven, muddy, hilly, etc.
  • Look for strong ankle support.

Football or soccer cleats are popular, especially in speedball where lightweight footwear with grip is important. Heavy hiking boots or even those designed for army/tactical purposes work great in uneven outdoor terrain. Running shoes will work but be careful not to roll an ankle if you go with this option. I always prefer waterproof or water-resistant footwear when playing paintball playing outside as few things slow you down worse than a water-logged foot. The first time I played I made this mistake. One time was enough, I haven't made it since. Another player safety tip is to not overlook the importance of shoelaces that stay tied.

Our guide to the 11 Best Tactical Boots has everything from heavy-duty jungle to light and fast boots worn by uniformed officers.

Players lacing up their boots
Tactical boots offer great ankle support and are very beneficial in woodsball.

9. Socks (required)

An under-considered piece of paintball clothing, the right socks can make or break your day. With so much moving and sweating, you absolutely do not want to wear cotton socks. Your best bet is some kind of wool, which offers superior breathability with both wetness and odor protection, but synthetic fibers like Nylon wick moisture away as well. So there's a little bit of paintballing wisdom for you: wear good socks!

10. Underwear (required)

No “complete list of paintball clothing” truly would be complete without mentioning your unmentionables. It's a bit of a personal choice but I wouldn’t recommend any kind of cotton underwear. Compression shorts or boxer-briefs are your best options for comfort and security, but some people like to wear slider shorts for added layer of protection for their body.

11. Groin protection (optional - strongly encouraged)

Sticking in the same region, you’ll probably hate the discomfort of proper groin protection until the inevitable moment when you praise the heavens for having worn it. Most paintball pants come with groin protection built in, but it's also a good idea to wear a soft cup to put some padding between incoming paintballs and your most precious parts. Getting shot in that region by your opponents is a level ten emergency and the nightmare of every player in the history of paintballing.

12. Neck protection (optional - strongly encouraged)

Paintball-specific paintball neck protectors exist but usually aren’t necessary. Really, all you want is something to cover your bare skin in case of impact. A scarf or turtleneck (not cotton!) works fine. (Come on, you know you've been waiting to bust out that turtleneck you never wear.) Most paintball players will tell you that getting shot in the throat is rare and usually the result of some kind of dumb decision by the player.

13. Knee, elbow, and forearm pads (optional - strongly encouraged)

If your style of paintball play lends itself to a lot of jumping, sliding, and crawling, you’ll probably want to get an inexpensive set of knee and elbow pads, especially if you play woodsball. Shin pads are available as well if you don't mind shelling out for them. Look for something that’s comfortable and stays in place.

You don't need all of this tactical equipment play paintball, but it helps deal with the uneven terrain of woodsball.
You don't need all of this tactical equipment play paintball, but it helps deal with the uneven terrain of woodsball.

4 Clothing Tips For What to Wear

The best paintball pants, masks, shoes, etc. are all highly individualized and situation-dependent. As you’re getting ready to outfit your equipment, keep these options in mind.

Game type

While there are several different types of paintball games, they boil down to two main versions:

  • Woodsball
  • Speedball

Woodsball, as the name implies, is played in the woods. This means there are plenty of obstacles, uneven terrain, darker colors, and tons of coverage. The playing area typically is larger than a standard speedball field, meaning you have more ground to cover and play is more spread out.

If you’re playing woodsball, typically you’re moving more slowly and can afford the added bulk of gear like sturdy hiking boots, tactical vests, and plenty of extra paint. Your footwear should be durable and water-resistant with strong ankle support, and you definitely want knee and elbow pads as you crawl over roots and rocks to avoid being seen. Your clothes should match the environment you’ll be playing in with darker colors and camouflage likely preferred. Yes, when you're playing paintball this is your chance to wear that stylish camouflage turtle neck your uncle Herbert gave you. Isn't paintballing fun?

Speedball, also as the name implies, is all about speed. It’s played on a flat field, typically half the size of a football field, with no trees or other natural obstacles. Instead, all you’ll have are man-made bunkers; everything is just way more open. The smaller field size and fewer things to hide behind mean speedball is played at a blistering pace when compared to woodsball, and your clothes and equipment choices need to reflect that. Your shoes should be lighter, more like baseball cleats, and your shirts and pants should be lightweight and allow for easy movement. Check out our choice for best low profile tactical boot You’ll still need to carry extra paint, but you may not want the added bulk of a heavy tactical vest loaded with paintballs.

Curious which one of these paintball games to play? Check out 17 Types of Paintball Games to learn the range of options once you've figured out what clothes to wear.

Avoid cotton

Steer clear of cotton as it's a nightmare material when it comes to physical activity. Most paintball players sweat profusely during play, and cotton is a sponge for moisture. Before long, your clothes will be soaked, making it harder and more uncomfortable to move. Not to mention getting covered in paintball dye, even though it's water soluble.

Instead, opt for synthetic fibers that are lightweight and wick away moisture. As mentioned above for socks, wool (a natural fiber) is a fantastic option that keeps your feet dry and skin cool in nearly all environments. You can add and remove layers as weather and playing conditions change.

Weather

There’s a huge difference between playing speedball on a 90°F summer scorcher versus woodsball on a wet 55°F day in the fall. If the forecast looks dry and clear, plan accordingly. The old outdoor rule of thumb that layers are your friend holds true for paintballing. If you feel like your body is overheating, remove a layer. If the environment is cold then throw on a hoodie or beanie.

Conversely, if you’ll be in the woods and it’s been raining all week, you’lI definitely want to find some sturdy hiking boots or trail runners. One more time for the people in the back: no sandals or flimsy running shoes when paintballing!

If you're unsure what to wear for that day’s forecast, bring multiple options. Having the right clothes to play paintball will make you feel better and help you play your best. It can also reduce the risk of injury. Paintball shots can hurt and leave bruises using your clothes as protective layers is a must. The layers are for both temperature regulation and bruise protection. Twisted ankles and dehydration are two of the most common injuries paintball players face. Both can be avoided when you know what to wear.

Get ready to get dirty

Paintball is a messy sport and definitely for those who don't mind getting dirty. Whatever you wear, prepare for it to get absolutely covered in dirt, sweat, and, yes, paint. If you're a little bit squeamish about a mess then paintballing might not be for you.

If you don’t have the proper attire and need to buy something, check out your local thrift store. You can find quality items like heavy cargo pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking shoes or boots for just a few bucks each. If you're a player who likes to wear gloves see if they have any winter gloves or a sporting section with golf gloves, weightlifting gloves, or similar). If you live near a military base then you can likely score some camouflage.

Don't forget to have an extra t-shirt on hand to use as a head wrap or to change into. Bring your lucky baseball cap if you don't mind getting it dirty. As mentioned, wear an outfit of several light layers of clothes so you can adjust as your body and skin need.

Playing paintball is amazingly fun, but your fun times can be ruined quickly if you don’t wear the right clothing or gear. If it's your first time then it is definitely a good idea to plan ahead. While this list is a complete look at the clothes you may need, what to wear is still highly individualized. Consider the game you’ll be playing, how protected you want to be, the weather, and your budget, and then go out there and have fun dominating the paintballing competition.

Good luck with your next paintball playing adventure!

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I wear to paintball for the first time?

You should definitely wear the following:

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Pants
  • Mask/goggles
  • Tactical vest or belt to carry paintball pods
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Boots or shoes with strong ankle support

These items are optional but strongly encouraged:

  • Elbow pads
  • Knee pads
  • Groin protection (compression shorts, cup)
Can you wear jeans to paintball?

Jeans aren't ideal unless they have some stretch and allow full movement. The weather will play a factor too.

Does paintball wash out?

One of the most common questions is if you can get paintball out of clothes. The answer is usually yes, just throw your clothes in the washing machine as soon as you get home. Use a stain remover if the first attempt doesn't work.

Do paintballs hurt?

Yes, getting hit can sting and leave a bruise. Wearing layers of loose clothing helps reduce this and also helps you adjust to varying conditions.

Should I wear a supportive cup?

Better safe than sorry. Some prefer compression shorts to address this issue.

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