Kit List: The Beginner’s Guide to Mountaineering Gear

Mountaineering is probably one of the most exciting, challenging sports out there. But it’s also one of the most gear-intensive. The physical act of climbing itself requires a lot of gear, but adding in altitude changes, extreme weather and overnight camps ups the ante. Simply put, you need a lot of gear to climb mountains safely and successfully.

But don’t let that turn you off. By your second trip, you won’t even give that pile of gear a second thought – you’ll just be pumped about taking off.

As a general rule of thumb, weight is the most important factor when buying gear. The lighter the weight, the better – even if it does cost you more.

Here’s what you’ll you need for your next mountain climbing adventure:

1.    Clothing

The right clothing can mean the difference between making it to the top, and stopping halfway because you can’t handle the elements. And you’ll need a lot of clothing for each climb, depending on the time of year and where you’re climbing.

Here’s a rundown of the basics:

  • Base Layers: Merino wool is a good choice. It’s lightweight, moisture-wicking and warm.
  • Softshell Pants: These are breathable, comfortable and allow for natural movement.
  • Softshell Jacket: Lightweight, comfortable and breathable.

Extreme Conditions Gear: Light and Heavy Insulation

No matter when or where you’re climbing, there’s a significant change in temperature when you reach higher altitudes. In the very least, you’ll want a light insulation layer. Ideally, you’ll want to bring a heavy insulation layer and a hardshell jacket.

A light insulation layer is pretty self-explanatory. Opt for lighter weight options, like fleece or down.

You’ll need a heavy insulation layer if you’re climbing in extremely cold or harsh conditions, like when you’re summiting or belaying. The goal is to provide maximum insulation, but you also want it to be weather-resistant as well.

A hardshell jacket should be in your pile of gear because it offers protection in the most extreme weather conditions, like snow, wind or rain storms.


Gloves are an essential piece of gear that every mountaineer needs. They should be well-insulated to keep your hands toasty warm, but still offer you enough flexibility to use your hands for gear adjustments and working with ropes.


A good pair of mountaineering boots are essential because they not only protect your feet from the harsh elements, but they also provide you with a platform to mount snowshoes and crampons. Mountaineering boots come in a range of materials, and double boots are ideal because they offer removable insulating layers.

Not all climbs require a heavy-duty pair of mountaineering boots, and you’ll find lighter varieties for less intense climates.

2. Climbing Essentials

Clothing is just the start of the gear you’ll need. Climbing requires specialized gear to ensure you can tackle whatever Mother Nature throws your way.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Crampons: These provide extra traction in winter weather.
  • Ice Axe: To help you ascend or descend icy slopes.
  • Helmet: To protect your head.
  • Trekking Poles: To make hiking safer, faster and easier.
  • Rope: An essential piece of gear to prevent falls and allow for rappelling.
  • Harness: To connect you to the rope.
  • Belay Device: To control the rope while you’re climbing.
  • Carabiners and Cords: To attach and connect essential accessories and tools.

3. Camping

Camping gear is essential for most trips, unless you’re venturing on a quick one-day climb. A basic list of the camping gear you’ll need includes:

  • Large backpack for overnight trips and harsh weather.
  • Lighter summit pack for one-day trips only.
  • Opt for tents or shelters that can withstand high winds and heavy snow loads.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Cooking gear.
  • A good knife.
  • Emergency supplies.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the basics of what you’ll need when mountaineering. You’re sure to find more items to add to your gear list as time goes on, but start with the basics and work your way up from there.