Mountain climbing is one of the most exciting sports/activities, but also among the riskiest things to do. It’s one of the activities where you put yourself against nature; so, you need to be very careful. What you need to emphasise most is your safety. Choosing the right gear is a crucial part of the safety precautions, but it can be intimidating and confusing especially for newbies. For starters, you need to know the must-have gear for this activity. In this article, we have rounded up vital pieces of the kit that a mountaineer must have regardless of weather, season or the height being travelled.
Top 10 Must-Have Gear for Mountaineers
Here is your ultimate guide to mountaineering gear:
• Ice Axes
This is an important tool that any mountaineer must have. Whether you are climbing on snow and icy mountains, or just walking in winter conditions, this is a must-have tool. Axes are mostly used to brake a fall if you accidentally slip, but also used to ascend a vertical wall. Don’t just come with any axe. If you are planning to walk, you need to shop for long axes, and for climbing purposes, you need shorter axes. While shopping, there are two types of axes, distinguished as B-rated and T-rated. B-rated are designed for walking while the T-rated (technical axes) are designed for climbing. Technical axes are ideal for snow climbing.
The conditions as you climb up the mountain will become harsher. For temperature, it will start going down to extremes and that’s why you need to have the right clothing. Jackets are crucial for mountain climbing; you must select one that will keep you warm, comfortable and dry. The jacket should be rain/windproof and also very lightweight. The outer shell should primarily keep you dry while the inner layer helps in trapping the heat to keep you warm. You’ll find numerous brands on the market but go for the quality as opposed to cost.
Jackets will only offer protection from the waist upwards, thus you need to have legwear that can offer the same protection on your lower half. Mountaineering trousers should come with reinforced durable seat and knee patches to avoid scratches and scuffs from ice and rocks. They should also be stretchy for ease of movement and ensure that you don’t strain while moving. Don’t forget to look for water/windproof properties while shopping for trousers. Make sure that they are designed with braces for a secure and comfortable fit. Some climbers find salopettes to be more comfortable as opposed to trousers but this comes down to personal preference.
Footwear is an essential part of mountaineering gear. There are special boots designed for climbing. Boots with a stiffer midsole and uppers to provide extra support while climbing on harsh terrains. These boots come with waterproof properties to keep your feet dry even under wet conditions. It’s important to note that before reaching the summit, there will be lots of wet conditions; from small pools of water to entire rivers. That’s why you need footwear that can overcome these conditions with absolute comfort. Note that the boots are rated from B1 to B3. B1 boots are more solid than the typical walking boots and ideal for light winter hill walking. For the B2 boots, they are stiffer and great for winter mountaineering. If you are planning for ice and snow and ice climbing, then you should go for the B3 boots. But the most important thing is to find a perfect fitting boot for ease of movement.
For an excellent grip, you need to carry crampons with you. These are hardened steel or aluminium spikes designed to help you to get a perfect grip on ice and snow. All you need is to have them fastened to your boots and you are ready to go. Crampons are rated from C1 to C3. C1 cramps are perfect for the newbies and are ideal for winter hill walking and used with B1 boots. C2 and C3 are used with B2 and B3, respectively. It’s important to note that certain crampons works best with different boots, so ask the dealer if you are buying the right ones.
Injuries from falling debris such as rocks or ice is a common thing during mountaineering and that’s why helmets are an essential gear to have. Slip and fall accidents are also common, thus you need to keep your head protected. A helmet can manage most collision impacts, hoping the fall doesn’t end worse than just a head bump. One feature that’s common with mountaineering helmets is a hard and robust shell with internal foam for cushioning purposes. But when shopping for a climbing helmet, look for a good fit, well ventilated and comfortable to wear. Make sure that it’s firmly on the head and it can allow for easy air circulation.
• Gloves and Mitts
Gloves and mitts are another essential part of your mountaineering gear. The cold conditions as you go up the mountain require you to carry along gloves or mitts to protect loss of body heat via hands. You can choose between gloves and mitts. Note that mitts are distinguished from gloves due to being fingerless and they are also warmer than the latter. If you are going for technical climbing, gloves are a perfect choice due to their grip. Gloves provide a closer fit and offer more versatility and dexterity. It’s also important to have both inner and outer gloves.
• Buffs and Hats
With the cold conditions, you need to cover any part of the body where heat can be lost. Buffs and hats are crucial for minimising loss of heat through the head. Wearing a helmet is not enough to keep your head warm, and thus you will require other headwear from the inside. Buffs are the most versatile in that you can wear them as a scarf, face protection or beanie. There is a wide range of buffs from merino wool to Micro Fibre and more to choose from. Hats are just meant to add a layer of heat insulation to your head before putting on a helmet.