Whether you’re heading out to the woods or an arena for a day of paintball, you shouldn’t just slap on the same wardrobe that you’d wear any other day and hit the field. Paintball can be a lot of fun, but I’ve seen plenty of ill-prepared participants have a bad day because they didn’t think to choose their clothes carefully. From head to toe, here’s an overview of what you should be thinking about when you get dressed for paintballing.
Your choice in headwear can be flexible, but one thing that should always remain the same is a solid paintball mask. The most durable and comfortable paintball masks can cost hundreds of dollars, but you can get the protection you need for less than $20 online. I think the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. Spending $50 or perhaps a bit more on a higher-quality mask makes for a much more comfortable experience without spending too much money.
Beyond a mask, what you wear on your head may depend on the situation. Helmets can be great for mil-sim events, but they are bulky, expensive, and not ideal for hot weather. Lighter head coverings can provide a layer of protection between your head and incoming paintballs without feeling cumbersome. I prefer to wear a boonie hat, which offers plenty of shade without looking out of place, but I see lots of people wearing baseball caps, too. You might even want to consider wearing a shemagh, which is a type of lightweight headscarf that can be tied up in many different ways.
Upper Body Gear
Since your upper body is where you are going to get hit most of the time, you may want to invest in some decent clothes here, if nowhere else. First and foremost, you should always wear long sleeves when paintballing, unless you have a specific reason to go bare-armed. Long sleeves help to protect your skin and reduce the chance of injury from both incoming paintballs and any environmental hazards.
While any long sleeve shirts or hoodies can work, you should probably wear either an older set of clothes or a shirt dedicated to paintballing. Most paintballs come out easily in the wash, but you still shouldn’t risk staining or ripping clothes you enjoy wearing. I keep two shirts and a sweatshirt reserved for paintballing. That way, if they tear or stain while out on the field, I haven’t lost anything from my standard wardrobe.
Wearing additional items over your clothes won’t make you look out of place on the field, but again, don’t wear anything you worry about damaging. Camouflage can be great for mil-sim games and woodsball. You may also want to wear a chest rig to carry extra ammo and items with you in the field. If you cannot stand getting hit, wearing padding or a heavier outer layer of clothes can do a lot to soften the impacts from even direct hits.
Although you probably won’t get hit as much below the belt line, wearing a tough and comfortable pair of pants should still be considered vital to a good day out on the field. Just like with your shirt sleeves, wearing short pant legs only invites pain and possible injury. I wear long pants in even the hottest weather because I’d rather deal with a bit of heat than impacts and scrapes from my knees down.
Your pants should be durable but, like your shirt, either old or dedicated to paintballing. Most of the time, I prefer to wear a pair of tan cargo pants, since these blend in nicely with many environments, provide me with plenty of space to store my stuff, and offer good protection. Denim jeans and surplus camouflage military pants are also both acceptable choices, especially for woodsball events where you may be kneeling or prone on rough ground.
Shoes and Socks
The only hard-set rule with footwear is that you should wear closed-toed shoes. Sandals (including well-built and sturdy sandals that keep the toe open) are not suitable for running fast and over rough terrain. The last thing you’d want to do while under fire is trip and fall over a relatively small rock.
I prefer to wear a pair of tall and well-padded boots whenever I hit the field. Boots can tackle rough terrain and steep inclines better than ordinary shoes and also provide better ankle support and protection. Wearing a higher quality pair of broken-in boots should keep you comfortable and protected in any variety of paintball event. Regular shoes work fine as well, but may lead to aches or injuries, especially in a wooded environment.
Just as important as a good pair of boots are the socks that go in them. There is a variety of health benefits associated with higher quality socks, and they can just plain make your feet feel better after a long day of play. Athletic socks can cost anywhere from a few dollars per pair to as much as $30 for a single pair, but spending that little extra over value-brand socks can be a big boon for your experiences on the field.
Protecting Your Gear
Keeping your gear clean and protected can help you to get better value and longevity out of each item you wear. Make sure to bring some cleaning supplies to clean paint off before it can dry and harden, especially for items that are not machine washable. I always wash my clothes thoroughly after a day of play and hand-scrub any remaining paint residues away. Otherwise, your clothes could start to become stiff and stained beyond repair.
Paintball may not require hundreds of dollars of expensive gear and specialized clothing to get into, but taking the time to plan out and evaluate your clothing items could make your experience a much more enjoyable one. Dress for the weather and event, but never forget to keep things comfortable and protective.