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The Ultimate Mountaineering Kit List: a Beginners Guide

So, you’ve decided to take on a sweet little mountaineering trek, pitting yourself against the altitude and the elements…no big deal. A couple of things to think about before heading off up Denali or Mount Elbrus like some kind of frenzied animal, 1) what do I need to take and 2) what do I not need to take. Note: there are many, many more things to prepare for a Denali or Elbrus attempt, we know!
 
Firstly, it should be said that each mountain, trek or expedition is unique, and you must (must must must) consider the size of the challenge, the weather and the obstacles and adjust your kit list accordingly- an Everest base camp trek and summiting Mount Everest are to incredibly different trips, duh. This is a general guide to packing for a mountaineering trek, which should help you to gather some key bits of equipment that you can use over and over again on all of your adventure trips.
mountain range
Now, you might be thinking about cost. Mountaineering equipment aint cheap, so we’d recommend splashing out on key items that you need and will use over and over again, and save some money on less important items, an obvious example:
 
Hard shell jacket = need/crucial/might die without Vs water bottle = carries water/could probs get by with an old Evian bottle?
 
Alternatively, you might be able to hire essentials. So anyways, here it is, the basic mountain trekking kit list.
 

Mountaineering head gear:

 

Need:

  • Beanie or one of those odd looking head socks known as a head gator
  • Sun hat (doesn’t matter what, just be a grown up about it. If you don’t want look silly on the gram, get some kind of cap but put some damn sun cream on your neck)
  • Sun glasses, of course
  • Head torch. Even good ones are cheap, lots of summit attempts are made in the dark

Don’t need:

  • Any kind of wicker or other fashionably styled hat from last years Coachella. This will be rubbish
  • Hair products, straighteners, curlers, their aint no mirrors and there aint no power!
 

Mountaineering upper body gear:

 

Need:

  • Base layer. Readily available at most outdoor gear stores, cheapish, skin tight and very flattering…
  • 3-4 short sleeve trekking tops and a couple long sleeve. What is a trekking top? It’s a top made from a composite material that wicks away sweat and helps regulate your temperature. Don’t wear cotton, it will be awful.
  • 1 fleece. Zip up is easier. This is something you should really spend some money on and will last for years and years
  • Insulated winter jacket, or down jacket. Super light weight, still relatively cheap for good one.
  • Hard Shell Jacket: This is just a weather proof jacket, that’s warm and goes over all other layers. Buy a good one, it’s worth it.
  • Optional- lightweight rain gear, like a poncho.

Don’t need:

  • Any kind of non-functional tops- basically anything that looks remotely different to the tops you’d expect a child to draw
  • More than one fleece (unless trekking for a long ol’ time, more than a week)

 

Mountaineering bottom gear:

 

Need:

  • 4-5 pairs of underwear, 1 pair per day not required (top tip, if you chafe then sack off the underwear and opt for a compression short of some kind).
  • Base layer. Skin tight wicking base layer- designed to help regulate temp down below. Not expensive but important.
  • Trekking trousers. Yes, these are a thing. You may also have seen convertible trousers that switch into shorts. Not a bad shout to be fair. Get 2-3 pairs.
  • 1 pair of waterproof/insulated trousers. These will cost a bit more, but are very much worth it.
  • Some comfy shorts to sleep in/hang about camp

Don’t need:

  • More than 2-3 pairs of trousers, any jeans, or joggers of any kind (1 pair per 3 days roughly)
  • More than 1 pair of waterproofs

Mountaineering footwear:

 

Need:

  • Hiking boots. these can cost a lot of money (like, hundreds), but do last ages. The cost generally goes up in line with how much abuse they need to withstand. But, you can get a decent pair for £50 quid in one of the regular outdoor store sales, that will be fine for most trips. See our boot choosing guide for more info.
  • Camp footwear: You need to let those tootsies breathe, crocs, sandals or other lightweight footwear is ideal for camp.
  • 3-4 pairs of trekking socks. What is a trekking sock? It’s a sock with no seams to prevent blisters. Cheap ones are fine.
  • 1 pair of warm trekking socks, just in case.

Don’t need:

  • Super deluxe extreme hiking books, unless you’re taking on an extreme task
  • A pair of socks for each day- save the space and weight and recycle the pairs

Mountaineering accessories

 

Need:

  • Water bottle/bladder
  • water purification tabs (depending on location)
  • baby wipes
  • loo roll
  • suncream
  • blister plasters
  • insect repellant
  • general meds (paracetamol etc)
  • Tooth paste + brush
  • Some snackaroos. In all honesty, totally dependant on the challenge. What ever you take, make sure its high calorie Vs weight/size.

Don’t need:

  • Selfie stick
  • Drone
  • Multiple cameras/lenses
  • Camping chair
  • Any other Instagram props

Mountaineering sleeping gear:

 
This depends on the trip entirely, some trips can include some of these items, which will save a lot of space and hassle.
  • Sleeping bag
  • Insulated sleeping mat
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Ear plugs
  • Tent

 

FAQs

 

Do I need a sleeping bag to climb a mountain?

With many mountain treks, if you’re using a decent tour company then camping equipment is typically provided, or hired out for a reasonable fee. If you’re trekking up un-aided, then yes of course you’ll need to take your own equipment.
 

How much should my hiking bag weigh?

Short answer, as light as possible. Typical daypacks will weigh between 5-12kg at the most, but you should aim to reduce weight and size as much as possible. Don’t be that person hauling the kitchen sink and slowing everyone down (plus also potentially dangerous, and could mean you won’t complete the challenge).
 
For more info check out our 32 questions about mountaineering article

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