Paintball is a hugely enjoyable combat simulation sport that’s enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
However, when you’re just starting out it can be a little daunting – especially because of all the gear and equipment that it looks like you need.
But the truth is, it doesn’t take much to get you started. It’s when the paintball bug bites and you want to get serious that you have to worry!
In this article, we take a look at the basics, and cover what to wear for paintball – particularly if you’re doing it for the very first time.
And even if you’ve been playing for a while, you might discover some tips and advice you might have overlooked.
So, read on to discover how you can prepare for this ultimate adrenaline rush.
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- What is Paintball?
- Types of Paintball Games
- What to Wear for Paintball – The Basic List
- What NOT to Wear for Paintball
- Extra Advice
- Can you wear jeans to paintball?
- Do paintballs stain clothes?
- How do you wash clothes after paintball?
- What should I wear on my head for paintball?
- Do I need to wear camouflage for paintball?
- Can you wear leggings to paintball?
- What to wear for paintball in hot weather?
- Do I need to wear extra padding for paintball?
- Do paintballs really hurt?
- How many layers should you wear for paintball?
What is Paintball?
Paintball is a competitive sport that can be played either one on one or in teams.
It uses paintball guns called “markers” that use compressed air or carbon dioxide to fire specially-made dye capsules that splat on impact – thus eliminating the player hit.
The origins of this high-energy pastime date back to the early 1980s, when it was created by chance over an argument about whether a city dweller would survive in the woods against an outdoorsman.
Stalwart of birthday and bachelor parties, today paintball is enjoyed recreationally all over the world, but also has a popular professional following with tournaments, sponsorship, full-time pro players, and world events.
It’s also utilized by the military and law enforcement for training purposes.
Types of Paintball Games
The object of paintball is to eliminate your opponent(s) from the game, but there are several variations on this theme.
The most popular of these (and likely the first game beginners will play) is woodsball or recreational paintball.
Games are usually played in the woods (as the name suggests), sometimes indoors, or in specially built arenas, bases, or forts. Cover can be provided by anything from old vehicles, to oil drums, to bunkers and palisades.
In these games, different scenarios can be played out, such as capture the flag, assassination, hostage rescue, king of the hill, last man standing, or total annihilation.
Because of the larger field of play, games can take several hours to complete, and particularly keen players often enjoy extended campaigns that might go on over the course of a few days.
As such, it’s often the preferred paintball variant for those who enjoy military-accurate scenarios, and team tournaments are very popular.
As you would expect, game play is rapid and intense, as players can see each other as soon as the combat begins. It is most often played on a points based system, and is the only form of the sport played professionally.
For those who enjoy role-playing, scenario paintball will be right up your street.
This is a form of the sport whereby players will reenact famous battles, historical encounters, movies and TV scenes, or other themes and stories.
Games usually take several hours if not days, as organizing such events will often involve hundreds of players.
Other types of paintball exist, but they will largely be variations on the most popular games listed above.
In order to understand what you should wear for paintball, it’s probably a good idea to understand what a paintball is, and what it’s fired from.
The paintballs themselves are a combination of two parts – the shell and the fill.
The shell is made from a spherical gelatin, while the “paint” inside is usually a combination of polyethylene glycol, non-toxic substances and water-soluble dye.
As they’re made from food-grade ingredients, they’re not harmful if eaten, but they don’t taste particularly nice.
Polyethylene glycol is also used as a laxative, so needless to say you don’t want to be swallowing too many paintballs, and given their bright, attractive color, they should always be kept out of reach of young children.
Teenagers have been eating Tide Pods, so imagine if toddlers got their hands on a box of paintballs.
The “paint” is designed to wash off clothing easily, so good-quality paintballs should never stain clothing. However, it’s highly advisable that you launder clothes immediately after the game to be on the safe side.
Paintball guns are called markers, and these days they come in all shapes and sizes, calibers and quality.
They’re powered by canisters of compressed air or carbon dioxide, although compressed air is preferred.
Paintballs are contained in a “hopper,” which is a dedicated plastic container that is most commonly located on the top of the marker.
Rounds are fed into the chamber by a spring action, by gravity, or electronically – depending on the type of gun.
.68 is the most popular and common paintball gun caliber, with the average marker shooting pellets between 250-300 FPS.
Early markers were pump-action guns that fired a single round before requiring a pump reload, but today, paintball guns with motorized hoppers can fire anywhere between 8-35 BPS (depending on if they’re full auto and/or how fast you’re pulling the trigger).
And mag-fed paintball markers have become very popular, catering for the ultra-realistic, wargaming crowd.
Bear in mind that commercial/recreational paintball sites will likely impose their own, in-house limits on the power and speed of paintball guns allowed in the field of play.
As such, it’s a good idea to confirm this before bringing your own equipment to the site.
What to Wear for Paintball – The Basic List
Before we get started – a quick reminder for all beginners.
You don’t need to purchase any special paintball clothing or equipment before your first game. Don’t feel you have to turn up kitted out like a pro before you’ve fired your first ball.
All recreational paintball arenas around the world will provide masks for hire at the very least. Many also offer additional clothing options such as overalls, knee and elbow pads, ammo belts, and jerseys.
Just remember to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Although good paintballs will wash out, grass, dirt, and other filth might not.
Easily the most important and non-negotiable piece of equipment is your paintball mask. You will not be allowed anywhere near the game if you’re not wearing one.
Note that a paintball mask is different from an airsoft, motocross, BMX, ski or snowboard mask. While they all might look the same, paintball masks are designed to be much stronger and stand up to direct projectile impact.
A mask will consist of the goggles, head/chin straps, the jaw/face skirt, and possibly a visor. Some masks can be totally taken apart for cleaning, repair, and customizing, others are a single unit more suitable for beginners.
As previously mentioned, mask hire will be offered at any decent paintballing location, and they will provide adequate, ANSI approved protective gear.
However, if you’re serious about the sport, or you’d just prefer to use your own gear and don’t like sharing, then you should check out this review of the best paintball masks in 2022.
Perhaps the most important thing about understanding the best clothes for paintball, is that you should dress for the weather.
You’re going to be running around like a mad man/woman, so it’s a good idea to bring layers you can remove if you get too hot, and likewise put back on if the temperature does drop.
A lightweight hoodie is an excellent choice, with a long-sleeved T-shirt under it.
Try to wear clothes that are loose-fitting and on the baggy side. Not only will they keep you cooler, but there’s a chance paintballs might deflect and not break as easily as they would on tight clothing.
It is often said that a pair of old jeans is an ideal choice when it comes to what pants you wear for paintball.
They offer a decent amount of protection, are relatively comfortable, and readily available – it’s likely that everyone has an old pair of jeans in the closet.
Cargo pants are also a good option, and have the additional benefit of having extra pockets for gear.
If you don’t feel like wearing either of those options as your paintball pants of choice, then they can be substituted out for sweatpants – but it’s a good idea to wear leggings or some other layer underneath.
Intermediate and pro players will choose a pair of the best pants for paintball, but as a beginner, jeans will be just fine.
Getting hit on an unprotected hand with a paintball isn’t a fun experience, so it’s a good idea to bring along a pair of gloves.
Now, they don’t have to be the best tactical gloves for shooting that law enforcement or military personnel might use. (Although, if you really want to look the part, you should follow that link for some inspiration.)
Just so long as they cover your hands, while at the same time allowing unrestricted movement to your trigger finger, you’ll be protected.
Obviously, you need to take into consideration the kind of terrain you’ll be playing on and through, but generally speaking, you’ll want comfortable, supportive footwear with decent grip.
Most commercially available sneakers are perfectly adequate for first-timers. Tennis, running, or training shoes are all worn regularly at paintball locations every day.
However, it’s a good idea to make sure whatever you do wear has enough support at the ankle, as ankle injuries are by far and away the most common of all paintball-related accidents worldwide.
As such, combat or hiking boots are often preferred – at least in recreational, woodsball situations.
On turf and grassy surfaces, such as in a speedball arena, players often prefer using footwear with cleats for extra traction, with baseball shoes being the optimum choice.
For more advice and experience from regular players, take a look at this thread on what shoes paintballers wear.
Going into your first game there’s a strong chance you’ll be apprehensive about how hard a paintball can hit.
Sure, it might nip and sting a little, but providing you have covered your arms and legs it really shouldn’t be too bad.
Therefore, you don’t need any extra protective padding as a first-timer.
That said, many players employ knee and elbow pads – not as paintball protection – but to save any injuries when they’re diving, kneeling, or crawling around on the ground.
Again, they’re not required for first-timers, but if you’re thinking of yourself as something of a Rambo – they’re not a bad idea at all.
On the Head
Although headshots in paintball aren’t encouraged (and in some places banned) they can and do happen.
If you’re not wearing a full-head mask, or at least one with a visor, wearing a beanie or baseball cap is advised.
You might see professional speedball players all wearing bandanas or headbands to protect their foreheads, as well as to prevent sweat from running behind the goggles and into the eyes.
Either that or it’s just to look really cool.
Tips for the Girls
An extra-padded sports bra or chest protector is highly recommended for the ladies. Make sure you wear enough layers and cover this sensitive region or you will regret it later.
Other than that, women will likely wear exactly the same paintball clothing as the men.
Check out our article about the best tactical pants for women 2022.
Tips for the Boys
Wearing a jockstrap or some form of genital cup protection isn’t really necessary, but if you’re that concerned about the family jewels then you’re more than welcome to stick a box down there.
“Athletic supporters” are more common in speedball and tournament play. And bear in mind that it’s unlikely that such an item will be available to hire at any paintball site…
What NOT to Wear for Paintball
Now you’ve had a run down of the best clothes to wear for paintball, it’s worth noting a few items that one should not be tempted to take on to the battlefield.
- Short sleeve T-shirts, vests, and shorts are not a good idea, or anything that exposes the skin. Sure, you might see some more experienced players rocking them, but you’re still asking for a nice, juicy welt.
- Inferior quality goggles or masks. That skull face cosplay headgear might look badass – but a pellet hitting you in the eyes is what’s really terrifying.
- Too many layers. Don’t be overly concerned with the sting of the paintball – you’ll get used to it. But trying to haul ass looking like the Michelin Man is going to be very uncomfortable.
- Any tight or movement restricting clothing should be worn for when you want to show off your figure, not when you’re trying to protect it. Baggy is best for paintball.
- High heels. Just don’t. That goes for the guys, too.
- Smart or dress attire. Unless, of course, you’re invoking Reservoir Dogs for an epic bachelor party photo shoot – in which case…let’s go to work.
It’s worth bringing a change of clothes when you go paintballing, unless, of course, whoever is driving home doesn’t mind the car getting covered in filth.
Pack a towel as well – you’ll need something to clean your sweaty self when it’s all over.
You may or may not need a squeegee – which is a pipe-cleaning device to clean your marker when a paintball inevitably breaks inside it. Generally for woodsball players only, but still very useful.
It might not be clothing-related, but don’t forget to stay hydrated. Running around like a headless chicken playing paintball is knackering – so bring a water bottle and keep taking on those fluids.
Can you wear jeans to paintball?
Most certainly. In fact, an old pair of jeans is probably the best item of clothing a beginner can wear when paintballing for the first time.
Look at any video of entry-level ‘ballers and you’ll see plenty of them wearing jeans.
Do paintballs stain clothes?
Yes and no. There are a couple of things to remember here.
- First – good quality paintballs won’t stain clothes. However, if you’re cutting corners and using inferior paint, then the chances of damaging your garments significantly increases.
- Second – always wash your paintball attire as soon as you get home. Straight into the laundry, no messing about.
Never let paintball clothes sit and fester otherwise you run the risk of not being able to remove the stains when you do come to wash them.
Remember – life is too short to use inferior quality paintball paint. Any decent paintball company will know and understand this.
How do you wash clothes after paintball?
Check out the video below for a visual guide on how regular players wash their paintball clothing.
What should I wear on my head for paintball?
Your mask will be covering your face (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and jawline).
If you’re not using a full-head mask, you might want to wear a beanie or baseball cap to cover the top, front, and sides of your head.
Bandanas and headbands are also popular as they protect the forehead and keep sweat at bay. They’re often favored by speedball players for these reasons.
Do I need to wear camouflage for paintball?
Great question – as we’ve not touched on this yet in the article.
It’s totally up to you, but bear in mind that for first-time paintballers, everyone will either be wearing different colors, or the paintball site will provide each player with overalls that will be identical.
Different types of camouflage clothing are preferred by players who are aiming for maximum authenticity, and for casual, drop-in paintball play it won’t really make a difference.
It will also depend on the type of game. Camouflage for speedball is pretty useless, but for woodsball, it will certainly give you the edge.
Still, you should always try to wear darker colors for indoor or wood play – so you’re not walking around with a giant target on your back, or giving away your position.
Either way, wear whatever you’re comfortable in – if you want to turn up in a full ghillie-suit then you’re more than welcome.
Just remember to take some good pictures.
Can you wear leggings to paintball?
Leggings are ill-advised paintball attire if you’re just wearing them on their own. A little too thin and snug to the skin, paint is going to break easily on your legs – and that’ll leave a mark.
Try wearing leggings under loose sweatpants instead.
What to wear for paintball in hot weather?
Again, loose-fitting clothing is ideal – just make sure your skin is covered.
Light, long-sleeved T-shirts are recommended in warmer weather. Try cargo pants instead of jeans.
If you can, a good tip is to wear a top that is a size bigger than you would normally wear – providing it doesn’t restrict your movement, that is.
Do I need to wear extra padding for paintball?
You don’t especially need extra padding at entry-level, unless you’re particularly concerned about the paintball impact, or if you’re the type of player that’s going to be throwing themselves around like a Navy SEAL wannabe.
If you’re thinking of becoming a regular paintball enthusiast, then purchasing knee and elbow pads are highly recommended.
Women should always wear extra chest protection, and while crotch-shots are rare, both sexes might want to consider a bit of padding in that sensitive region.
Again, it’s all up to you and what you’re comfortable with. So long as you have the mask and goggle system – you’re pretty much good to go.
Do paintballs really hurt?
Joking aside, paintballs can hurt, depending on how and where they land.
Personally, I’ve been peppered with the things from close range and felt nothing more than a mild annoyance, and shot once in the pinkie and howled in agony.
Watch the video below for more information on if paintballs hurt or not. (Note – don’t try it at home and take it with a pinch of salt.)
In the end, everyone has a different tolerance to pain, but providing you’ve covered your skin well and protected yourself, it’s nothing more than a light, swift sting.
How many layers should you wear for paintball?
It depends on the season. Obviously, in winter you can wear hoodies and extra layers, but for the summer you will need to travel lighter.
Remember that you’ll be running around and sweating buckets in no time. Seriously – paintball is one of the best sports for losing weight as it’s like a sauna in minutes no matter the climate.
Use common sense and suit your clothes to the weather and you should be fine.
Easily one of the most enjoyable, energetic, and exciting sports in the world, paintball is loads of fun for all the family (providing you’re over 12, that is).
It’s great for team building, bonding, birthday and bachelor parties, and any time you just want to get even.
And as “what to wear for paintball” is one of the most frequently asked questions about the game, I hope this article has enlightened new players, or given old ones some fresh tips.
Stay safe out there – and happy paintballing!