Top 10 Pieces of Mountaineering Gear

Top 10 Pieces of Mountaineering Gear
Mountaineering is an excellent way to combine a love for the outdoors with a more technical skill set. Imagine the thrill of climbing mountain peaks thousands of feet above sea level and seeing the world from the top. Getting to the top, however, is only a part of the journey. You need the proper gear along with a skill set that has been refined through training. Following is a discussion of the key components that you will need for your gear closet in order to train and refine your skills for your first or next mountaineering adventure.

Glacier Travel Harness

Roped glacier travel skills are essential for any mountaineer and you will need a harness to properly tie-in. While any rock climbing harness will do, it is generally bulkier than a glacier travel harness. The mountaineering harness is minimalist in design and has detachable leg loops for putting on over your clothing and heavy boots and crampons as well. The Black Diamond Alpine Bod harness is an excellent example of a mountaineering-specific harness.

Static Rope

A rope used for glacier travel is static. This means that it has very little give or stretch when put under tension. You will definitely want a rope that has been dry-treated as well. As ropes vary greatly in weight and diameter, finding one that meets your needs and budget should not be a difficult task.

Ice Axe

A mountaineering ice axe is designed for traction, stability, self-rescue and utility. They vary greatly in weight and design, some with hollow-spiked ends and some with a closed spike end. A leash attaching the axe to the climber's wrist is used in conjunction with an ice axe to avoid loss in the event of a slip or self-rescue situation. Axes are available in different lengths to fit people of different height.


Crampons designed for mountaineering will provide solid traction as you walk across snowy and icy surfaces. They have between 10 and 12 points and are designed to fasten to a mountaineering boot's sole using a combination of straps and bails. Note that when shopping for crampons suitable for mountaineering, you do not want to mistakenly purchase a pair designed for vertical ice climbing. The spikes are shaped differently and those for mountaineering are designed for horizontal as opposed to vertical traction.

Climbing Helmet

Since you are surrounding yourself with sharp crampons and axes, a helmet is a must. This can be a multisport helmet or a traditional climbing helmet, but certainly one that provides a secure fit both while wearing a hat and without.


Gaiters for mountaineering will not only protect your pants from crampon point and ice axe snags, but also prevent snow and other debris from entering your boots. They also keep out wind and add an additional layer of insulation. Make sure that the gaiters you buy for mountaineering are sturdy and rated for mountaineering applications, as many are lightweight and more suitable for hiking. Fabrics to look for are Cordura nylon and GoreTex.

Sleeping System

A mountaineering sleeping system is comprised of a sleeping bag, open cell pad and a closed cell pad. Some prefer just to use one type of pad, though the decision is ultimately yours. Sleeping bags for mountaineering can be rated as low as -40 F. Be sure to research the conditions of your most likely destinations to help guide your decision. Your open cell pad (self-inflating pad) should be rated for four season use and your closed-cell pad can be rated for three or four season use. A sound sleeping system will protect you from the cold and provide you with a comfortable night's sleep.


Tents for mountaineering are generally rated as four season tents. They are windproof, include a rain fly and generally have a built-in footprint. Four season tents are also a bit heavier than a three season tent due to the additional material thickness and windproofing. The pole structure of a four season tent will also be sturdier to withstand more extreme weather and wind conditions along with zippers and other parts designed to withstand sub-zero temperatures.

Camp Stove

You have to eat so you will want a camp stove designed to work in more extreme conditions and at any altitude. This should steer you away from isobutane-fueled stove systems, though the MSR Reactor has been tested to be competent at higher altitudes (over 12,000 feet). Most mountaineers prefer white gas-fueled camp stoves. These have to be primed, however. With a wind shield, they will cook in most any weather condition and let you melt snow, boil water and cook as needed. The MSR DragonFly and MSR WhisperLite are two of the most popular stoves of this type available.

Hydration System

Water is of the utmost importance during a mountaineering trip, so pay special attention to how you will carry it. Collapsible hydration packs, such as Camelbaks and Platypus, bladders are popular yet the Camelbaks are more prone to freezing. A definite advantage of the Platypus bladders is that you can pour boiling water directly into the bladders. You may also choose to use Nalgene bottles to carry your water (boiling water can be poured directly into these bottles as well). Bottle insulators are available to help prevent freezing and ensure that you have water available for drinking throughout your trip. Whatever system you choose, you should be comfortable carrying it and understand the limitations of each system.

Article Written By Erika Napoletano

Erika Napoletano is a full-time professional writer and social media consultant based in Denver, Colorado. Her skills include experience as a formerly licensed securities professional and extensive real estate work including over 18 months in hard money lending. Recently featured in the Denver Business Journal for her social media expertise, Erika is a prominent figure in the Denver and Colorado social media communities.

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