MOUNTAINEERING ESSENTIAL GEAR GUIDE
Whether you’re buying kit for your first steps on snow and ice, or upgrading ready for your next Alpine adventure this is your guide to some of the vital pieces of kit you’ll need.
ICE AXES Back To Top
Whether you are walking in winter conditions or climbing on snow and ice, an ice axe is an essential tool for any winter mountaineer. Axes can be used to brake a fall if you slip whilst walking, or help you ascend a vertical wall.
As a general rule, shorter axes are best for climbing and longer axes are designed for walking. For many winter adventures you can use your axe for both. The shape of an ice axe handle (shaft) and head section (pick) is a better clue to its use.
There are two types of axe ratings, B-rated and T-rated. B-rated or Basic Axes are designed for walking but strong enough to belay on if you need to. T-rated or Technical Axes are designed for mountaineering and climbing with a much stronger shaft and pick.
HELMETS Back To Top
On any winter adventure, there is a risk of injury. Your head can be vulnerable to the danger of slipping and falling, banging your head or being hit by falling debris such as rock, ice or snow.
A helmet can manage the impact of a collision and stop sharp objects from damaging your skull. Most climbing helmets have a robust, hard shell with internal foam cushioning.
When investing in a helmet, there are a few important qualities to look out for…
A GOOD FIT
- A helmet will only offer enough protection if it fits. Your head should be held securely by the helmet and not slip around. Different helmets suit different head shapes so it’s worth finding your local Cotswold Outdoor store to try some out.
- A hot head is uncomfortable and can reduce your performance. Make sure your helmet is breathable enough to keep your head cool, but can fit a buff or balaclava underneath for extra warmth when you need it.
- You want to be able to wear your helmet all day without thinking about it, so getting one that’s comfortable is really important.
BUFFS & HATS Back To Top
- Buffs can be worn as a scarf, beanie or full head and face protection, helping to keep those easy to forget areas insulated with their unbeatable versatility. There are a wide range of buffs available from Merino Wool and Micro Fibre to Polartec lined fleece construction.
- While a buff will offer a degree of insulation, it is always useful to have a hat at hand to add layering to your head should the temperature drop. A hat worn under your helmet will ensure your head stays warm.
GLOVES & MITTS Back To Top
OUTERS & INNERS
- Outer gloves can be waterproof, insulated and windproof offering a great deal of protection in alpine conditions.Some gloves come with an outer and an inner. The inner is constructed from a thin material designed specifically to sit inside a glove and can be worn on their own for much milder conditions.When the cold really sets in these are an essential part of your glove system. If your gloves don’t have a removable liner, you might want to invest in a merino wool liner for extra warmth.
JACKETS Back To Top
To combat the harsh conditions that you might face in the mountains, a flexible clothing system is essential – and your choice of jacket is key to staying warm, comfortable and dry.
Most mountaineers choose a combination of jackets to protect them in changeable conditions – an outer jacket with an insulating mid layer. Think of the outer layer as your skin, protecting you from the elements such as rain and snow, keeping you dry. The insulating mid-layer is more like your body fat and its primary role is to keep in the heat, so you don’t suffer the wrath of the cold.
- Your outer jacket (waterproof and/or windproof) is potentially the most important piece of kit you will invest in as this will be your protective layer against the elements. It will keep you comfortable and protected as well as keeping the rain, snow and wind out.
TROUSERS & SALOPETTES Back To Top
- Re-inforced durable knee and seat patches – to avoid scuffs and scratches from rocks and ice
- Stretchy material or articulated knees for essential freedom of movement
- Waterproof/windproof fabric – depending on the weather conditions you’ll be facing
- Kick patches on the ankles – to avoid crampon puncture
- Braces – for a secure and comfortable fit
- Full length or ¾ length vented zips for ventilation or comfort breaks
- Minimal pockets or accessible pockets for when you are wearing a harness
You will also need to decide whether you want trousers or salopettes – but this is down to personal preference!
BOOTS Back To Top
For mountaineering, boots with stiffer midsoles and uppers that provide extra support are essential. Most mountaineering boots feature a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry, underfoot cushioning to absorb shock and often some insulation to keep you warm in winter conditions.
Mountaineering boots are rated from B1 to B3. The boot rating you require will depend on what you intend to use them for and in which seasons.
- B3 – Fully rigid climbing boots for snow and ice climbing.
Most importantly, finding a great-fitting boot that suits your foot shape means that you can make the most of your winter adventures for years to come. Make sure you head to one of our stores for a free expert boot fitting.
CRAMPONS Back To Top
Certain crampons suit different boots better than others, so it is worth visiting your local Cotswold Outdoor store to find the best fit.