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Photo credits: Mark Seaton collection, Charles Sherwood, John Norris, Jeff Brown & Faerthen Felix.
Site design: Faerthen Felix, 2005.

List for climbing | List for skiing | Hut Kit | General advice | Equipment manufacturer web-sites

The list below is for advice.

If you need or want to buy new kit then this is a good way of starting , but it goes without saying a
lot boils down to personal preference and in this fashion conscious world “Brand Loyalty”.

A lot of the specific stuff on the list is what Mark Seaton uses and has used for many years; it works well for him.

Kit with an asterisks (*) can be easily hired.


Alpine Climbing Equipment List.


Boots*: They should have stiff soles and accept a clip-on crampon. Stiff means you cannot really bend them, even with considerable effort. It is important to have a boot that is laterally stiff so that you can edge while scrambling and rock climbing. An example might be La Sportiva Trango Extreme, but a lot will depend on your shape of foot:

  • La Sportiva generally has a narrow last.
  • Scarpa tends to fit a wider foot. Either are very good.

Heat packs for feet: nice to have but not essential. These are like tea bags which you open and shake. They give you up to 6-hours extra heat. Consider them as back up if the plan is to climb big 4000-meter + mountains.

Crampons*: 12 points. Must be fitted with anti-balling plate. Petzel-Charlet Vasak are the gold standard at present. They are light and pack down well.

Don’t forget a crampon bag. Simple as possible, flap closure with elastic. Bags with zips are over complicated and create unwanted hassle. Rubber bung point protectors are very 1980’s.

Ice axe*: 55/65-cm classic mountaineering axe. Petzl Summit. Whatever you choose it should not be longer than 65-cm no matter how tall you are.

Helmet*: Petzl Ellios is pretty good although there are a lot of very good helmets. Like your feet, it will depend on your head shape.

Harness*: Black Diamond Alpine Bod or Black Diamond Couloir; something simple and light. The goal should be to be able to put it on without taking your feet off the ground.

Rucksack*:

  • “A mountaineers competence is inversely proportional to the size of his rucksack.” -- Reinhold Messner.
  • “All the gear and no idea" -- Don Whillans.

So: the simplest and lightest climbing-style pack with no side pockets. Your goal should be to find a tube with shoulder straps on it. You probably will not find such a thing, but you should try and get as close as possible. I currently use a Black Diamond Speed 30-litres.

Waterproof dry bag: Does not need to line the rucksack, just needs to be big enough to put a few things in that you really want to avoid a soaking from, say, a punctured Camelbak. 10-liter size would be good.

An excellent place to get these on line is Alpkit.com

Gaiters: You don't need big long gaiters like you might use in the UK. Short ankle gaiters are best. Like the Black Diamond Talus.

Anorak: with big hood. Try to get a Patagonia TorrentShell Pullover. We have not found anything better for all alpine climbing. Don’t let the shops bullshit you into buying something that is totally overbuilt with lots of stupid pockets and ridiculous “pit zips”. Remember pockets and zips add weight, make the jackets more expensive, and leaky. It is important that you use an anorak that has a well-designed hood. You don't want a jacket with a flimsy nylon hood that pulls out of the collar.

Over-trousers: water and windproof, these should have full-length zips to the waist. Once again, you should be able to put them on without taking your feet off the ground. Make sure this is possible while in the shop. Again, do not accept any bullshit from an ignorant sales assistant.

They need to be light. The plan would be for them to live in the bottom of your rucksack and only come out very occasionally and hopefully not at all. Patagonia Rain Shadow are a good example.

Mountaineering trousers: These can be made of poly-cotton or supplex, or the best for high mountain climbing is a fabric called "Schoeller".

Thermal shirt: high-wicking clothing. Merino wool is a favorite and of course does not stink. Cotton should be avoided at all cost--it is slow to dry and can make you very cold. So, don’t bring any for use on the hill.

Fleece jacket: Not sure where to begin--a fleece is a fleece. Depends on your brand loyalty.

Lightweight duvet jacket: Patagonia Nano Puff with hood, or similar.

Thermal underwear long-johns: Tend to only wear them on the summit days on Mont Blanc. Normally if it gets cold just stick on waterproof trousers. If it gets really cold then head for home.

Socks: Worth carrying a spare pair.

Warm gloves: With a removable inner for easy drying. Again, don’t be bullshitted: the only waterproof glove is a washing up glove.

Thin gloves: Black Diamond Scree. Or leather gardening gloves. This is because gloves are often worn for protection as opposed to warmth.

Wooly hat: The saying goes, “If you have cold feet put a hat on.” The ability to regulate your heat by keeping your hat in your pocket can not be over-stated.

Sun hat: Your chance to make a statement...but make sure it's as light and as packable as possible.

Sunglasses: Wrap around high altitude lenses. Category 3 or 4 protection. Ray Ban Aviators are defiantly not suitable.

Water bottle: Consider hands-free drinking: Camelbak/Platypus drinking system, 2-litres. Also a normal bottle as a back up because hands-free tube can freeze up.

Head torch: Black Diamond Storm. These are good; we especially like the red light option as it helps with the night vision and doesn’t piss people off in the huts when you shine your head torch in their eyes at 2.00am. Get lithium batteries for the torch. They have hugely more power and importantly weigh 5 times less than conventional batteries.

Sun block: High protection factor. Piz Buin factor 30 or 50. Try not to turn up with a family value pack that you bought at the airport on the way out.

Personal medical supplies: i.e. aspirin, Compeed or 2nd Skin plasters for blisters. Remember, the Guide will have all the stuff for a really bad accident.

Mobile Phone: with key emergency numbers plugged in.

Camera: this should be small and compact and be carried around your neck. It does not matter if you have the best camera in the world. You will not be able to take photos with it if it is stuck in your rucksack. Most smart phones have very good cameras on them. However this can chew through the power and it is not possible to recharge the phone. So consider extra batteries for your Android, or if you have an iPhone, an...

External Charger: whichever model you get, make sure you test it beforehand. Read reviews before purchasing--some don't work at all. Goal Zero is good, designed for the outdoors with a solar panel source.

Hut equipment, if our itinerary involves an overnight in the mountains.

10 Things You Definitely Don’t Need:

  1. Map & particularly, a map case.
  2. Compass.
  3. GPS.
  4. Multitool.
  5. Plastic survival bag.
  6. Binoculars.
  7. Video camera.
  8. Summit flag.
  9. Mascot (“My child asked me to carry her Bunny Rabbit to the top with me".)
  10. Dead relative's ashes (yes, someone once turned up with their mother's, ready to scatter on Mont Blanc).

Equipment List for Ski Touring.

In short, for ski-touring you need to choose clothes that are made for mountaineering rather than resort skiing. It is a good idea to cross reference the Alpine Climbing kit list because it blends the lines between mountaineering and skiing.

* * *

Ski-touring boots*: modern ski touring boots are fantastic. They are far, far better for off-piste skiing than traditional ski boots. Once people have skied in them they rarely, if ever, ski in normal boots again. There are many good brands on the market and to a great extent it will depend on the shape of your foot. Scarpa, Scott, La Sportiva, and--if you want really light but stiff boots--Dynafit are all excellent. It is highly recommended that what ever boot you choose it is Dynafit-binding compatible.

Alpine skis with touring bindings*: the skis must be fitted with brakes, skins & couteaux (ski crampons). If you are buying a ski touring set up then the Dynafit system is the best. It does take a bit of getting use to, rather like getting use to toe clips on a bike, but after that the benefits are huge, both on the up and on the way down.

Velcro ski strap: this is used to make the skis into an A-frame in order to carry the skis on the rucksack.

Ski poles*: avoid telescopic poles; they are not strong enough. Your normal ones will be fine. Avoid thin carbon fibre poles; these tend to be too thin to grip half way down the shaft and they break easily.

Climbing crampons*: these are heavy and because we would hope to only occasionally use them it is worth getting hold of specific ski touring crampons like the Grivel Haute Route model. These lightweight crampons can’t easily be hired.

Rucksack: 40 litres capacity, it must have straps for carrying skis. The simpler the design the better. Dedicated ski touring sacks such as the Black Diamond Alias Avalung are excellent. Avoid “Clam Shell” design packs with zips. Top loading sacks are more reliable, weigh less and swallow more kit than their zippered counterparts.

Glacier harness*: there are many specifically designed harnesses for ski touring which offer considerable weight savings. Another company which specializes in this kit is Cilao.

The harness should be fitted with a sling which is then clipped into the collar of the jacket with a small locking carabiner. So if you fall into a crevasse it is easier to grab the krab as opposed to rummaging around your groin for the attachment point.

Avalanche Transceiver: 457 kHz compatible. We use Backcountry Access transceivers. They are the most appropriate because they are the simplest to use IF you have to use one. (rental included in the Guiding fee).

Shovel (rental included in the Guiding fee).

Probe (ditto).

Waterproof anorak with large integral hood. Patagonia lightweight alpine shell jackets are great. It is important that you use an anorak that has a well-designed hood. You don't want a jacket with a flimsy nylon hood that pulls out of the collar.

Waterproof ski-mountaineering over trousers.

Fleece jacket (see Alpine Climbing kit list)

Thermal underwear: Patagonia "Capilene lightweight or silkweight"

Woolen socks: 2 pairs, i.e. a spare pair.

Warm gloves: also consider bringing unlined leather gloves as worn by mountaineers. This is because gloves are often worn for protection rather than warmth. Warm gloves should have removable fleece lining so that they are easier to dry.

Woolen ski hat or balaclava.

Sun hat: peaked cap.

Sun glasses: category 3 or 4.

Goggles with bad weather lenses: check that the googles “ fold” as if not they are likely to crack and break in your rucksack.

Water bottle: the hands free drinking tubes are brilliant for ski mountaineering. These allow you to drink while on the move. The Camelbak or Platypus two-litre model is recommended. However they do freeze up, so it is worth having a normal water bottle too.

Head torch: ideally this should be something like a Petzl "Tikka Plus" model. Fit it with new lithium batteries. They have hugely more power and importantly weigh 5 times less than conventional batteries.

Sun block: there are two main choices: "P20" is good as it only needs to be applied once a day and can be bought at the Duty Free at UK airports. The best traditional sun screen is Piz Buin; they make small, flat tubes of factor 50 which are perfect.

Personal medical supplies, i.e. Compeed or 2nd Skin plasters for blisters, aspirins, etc. But make sure it's a small pack- you have to carry it.

Mobile Phone: with key emergency numbers plugged in.

Camera: this should be small and compact and be carried around your neck. It does not matter if you have the best camera in the world. You will not be able to take photos with it if it is stuck in your rucksack. Most smart phones have very good cameras on them. However this can chew through the power and it is not possible to recharge the phone. So consider extra batteries for your Android, or if you have an iPhone, an...

External Charger: whichever model you get, make sure you test it beforehand. Read reviews before purchasing--some don't work at all. Goal Zero is good, designed for the outdoors with a solar panel source.

Hut equipment, if our itinerary involves an overnight in the mountains.



Additional Equipment for Hut Trips.

When a climbing or skiing itinerary stretches to more than a single day, we will stay in mountain huts. This is the additional kit you will need for hut trips.

* * *

  • Sheet liner: Not to be confused with a sleeping bag liner. More and more huts are stating these are obligatory. It goes without saying that it needs to be as light as possible. So silk is the only sensible option. Try and get one that is box-shaped as opposed to mummy-shaped otherwise you’ll end up having an even worse night's sleep and end up in the morning trussed up--well--like a mummy.

  • Ear Plugs: Possibly the most important bit of kit on the list. Spare no expense get the best money can buy. Have a look at Quies--they specialize in keeping people asleep.

  • Wash kit?: Depends on you? A flannel and a small bit of soap could be an idea. + maybe a mini deodorant. + toothbrush (no family sized pack of tooth paste). There is no or very little running water in the mountain huts. All the water has to be melted from snow. Consequently there is virtually no opportunity to wash. So don't consider carrying a real towel, shower gel, razors etc. It is for this reason that the inclusion of "Wet Ones" in your kit are recommended. They have been known to take on a form of currency between group members.
  • Book: Make sure it's light, in both senses.
  • Hut shoes: All the mountain huts we'll use have "hut clogs"; it is therefore not necessary to carry an extra pair of shoes.

General advice.

  • The items above which are in italics are examples of equipment which we use and recommend.
  • Try to choose a clothing system that is based on layers (these layers should not be cotton, but should be made from wicking materials; the ideal for hut-to-hut touring is merino wool, as it doesn't stink as much as synthetics). With layers, you can control your temperature much more easily than if you were wearing one thick jacket.
  • One of the major enemies of the ski tourer is weight. A rucksack that is too heavy can make skiing a nightmare. You should aim to carry only what is on the above list. In other words: If it is not on the list then you "probably" should not be carrying it.

There will also be a certain amount of extra kit which will be distributed around the group, such as:

  • Dyneema Rope
  • Ski repair kit
  • Bivouac sack [group shelter]
  • Stove [for melting snow]
  • VHF emergency radio and spare batteries
  • Emergency sled 
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