Ever look at another climber’s pack and wonder? Come on admit it, I know you do!
Packs come in all sizes and shapes. Some are lean and mean while others are fat and dumpy. However most of this is not due to the pack; it is what’s inside that counts.
This is the first in the series “What’s in Your Pack?” where I will look at gear from simple day hikes to overnight trips to treks to Everest Base Camp then climbs to 8000m and above.
But first, lets take a look at packing for a simple day climb of a Colorado 14er in the summer and winter. It all starts with the so called 10 Essentials – those items you should always have in your pack.
The term was coined by Seattle’s Mountaineer’s Club back in the 1930’s. Today they even have a book about the 10! The original concepts were simple and have been updated from items to systems.
3. Sunglasses & sunscreen
4. Extra food and water
5. Extra clothes
7. First aid kit
8. Fire starter
|1. Navigation (map & compass)
2. Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, lip baum)
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
5. First-aid supplies
6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food)
9. Hydration (extra water)
10. Emergency shelter (tent/garbage bag)
With these lists forming the basic concept, this is what I have in my pack on every 14er climb:
- GPS with extra batteries, altitude watch with calibrated compass, topo map, compass
- sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, ball cap, bandanna, knit cap
- wind shirt with hood, rain paints, socks, down vest, softshell with hood, buff, light gloves
- headlamp with extra batteries
- basic First Aid Kit (TP, band-aids, alcohol pads, moleskin, tape, Ibuprofen, hydration salts, water purification tabs, hand warmers, eyeglasses, mirror, paper, pen)
- matches, fire starter, lighter
- Leatherman multitool, pocket knife, 10’ cord, duct tape
- hard candy, nutrition bars, gels
- 2 liters water with electrolyte
- emergency bivy bag
And in these modern times, these are my additional essentials:
- camera with extra battery and storage cards
- cell phone
- iPod Shuffle, earphones
- trekking poles
- helmet (depending on the route)
All of this weighs under 10 pounds without water which adds another 2.2lbs per liter.
In the winter, the list stays the same however I add a few additional items:
- down jacket with hood
- heavy insulated gloves
- down mitts
- fleece face mask
- ice axe – long handle and/or short depending on terrain and type of climb
- avalanche shovel, probe, beacon and snowshoes depending on conditions and route
What to wear?
In terms of what is on my body, again it stays pretty much the same regardless of season and routes:
- synthetic pants
- synthetic or light merino wool shirt
- wool socks (one pair)
- light but sturdy boots
winter just adds layers but with a different pant:
- insulated pants
- heavy merino wool shirt
- fleece farmer john suit
- double plastic boots that fit crampons
- 800 fill down jacket with hood
Check out my gear page for specific brand and model recommendations. I have worked on this list for years and am very happy with it today.
The Neat Pack
Now back to packs. I like smaller packs that are versatile and sturdy. I will trade a few extra ounces in return for flexibility. Currently I use a 55L (3350 cu in) Black Diamond Shadow pack that is a few years old these days. I use it both in the summer and winter.
It is a bit heavy at 3+ lbs but I have used it on treks to base camp at Everest, Broad Peak, and Aconcagua and on 50+ 14ers. It is bomber construction and shows no wear. Crampons and axe straps are convenient and when loaded, it looks like a pack should look.
Once on Denali I overheard a young guide chastising his group – he was very concerned about appearances. He insisted that nothing dangle from their packs and all straps were secure. He felt if you looked sloppy then you climbed sloppy.
I think he had a point.
Next up: Spending the night