YOU’RE STOKED. You’ve been training, booked your tickets and now comes the fun part—picking your gear. Everything but your credit card will enjoy this process. Your gear selection will be as varied as the mountains you’re about to climb, but in general, you can break your list out into three sections: climbing hardware, clothing, general gear. Start out by making a few lists—and checking them twice. Then check them a third time. Like any big trip, there are some things you can forget and still be fine, while leaving other stuff behind might spell disaster for the whole expedition. Below is a straightforward breakdown of the complicated process of packing by Madison Mountaineering, a boutique guiding agency in Seattle that operates major expeditions to the Himalaya and beyond. You’ll find downloadable packing lists separated by continent and objective, gear selection tips, and storage suggestions for pre- and post-trip. Read on to become an expert expedition packer.
CLIMBING HARDWARE—This is gear you use for the actual ascent, meaning items like carabiners, crampons, ropes, etc
CLOTHING—This is what you will wear at any given time after you walk out the door. There will be some overlap in clothing, but these can be further subdivided into:
Travel/trekking • Basecamp • Climbing
GENERAL GEAR—This includes anything that supports travel, the trek, or the climb and is not a garment you wear. This includes tents, sleeping bags, duffels, packs, goggles, trekking poles, camera, electronics, and so on.
Chances are you have most of the equipment you’ll need for the technical climbing, whether it’s a first ascent or an established route. Cams, stoppers, harness, helmet, chalkbag, single rope, carabiners, belay device, etc.If you’re tackling a big peak, you might need to add:
These should be long (sized from a hanging hand to the ankle) with a straight shaft to use as a walking pole on slopes, self-arresting, and climbing low-angle snow. It will have an aluminum shaft and a steel head with adze and curved pick.
On expeditions, the line between clothing and “climbing protection” gets blurred as the terrain gets technical and the conditions become savage. Make a list. Start naked (in your mind at least) and go from your feet up. Divide what you wear into three categories:
Travel/trekking • Basecamp • Climbing
Some clothing will carry over into other categories. For example, you might wear softshell pants in Kathmandu, for the trek and load carrying. If doing a lower elevation climb you might be able to layer thermal underwear underneath and stay nice and toasty. On an 8,000-meter peak, you might wear an expedition-weight down parka in basecamp and layer up into a one-piece down suit above 6,500 meters.
- Wool or synthetic socks
- Trekking shoes/town shoes
- Sandals/flip flops for basecamp and town
- T-shirts - Men's or Women’s Diamond Peak™ Short Sleeve T-Shirt
- Long sleeve t-shirt - Men's or Women’s Ghee™ Long Sleeve Crew
- Button up shirt - Men's Canyon™ Long Sleeve Shirt or Women's Willow Spring™ Long Sleeve Shirt
- Two pair jeans/pants or similar - Women's Hardwear Twill™ Ankle Jean or Men's Selvedge Denim Climb™ Pant
- Light insulated jacket (synthetic or down) Men's or Women’s Ghost Whisperer/2™ Down Hoody
- Daypack as carry-on and for errands - Crag Wagon™ 35 Backpack
- (2) Large travel duffels - Juggernaut™ 115
- Insulated or microfleece pants - Men's Ghost Whisperer™ Down Pant
- Shell jacket - Exposure/2™ Gore-Tex Paclite® Jacket
- Shell pants - Exposure/2™ GORE-TEX PACLITE® Pant
- Softshell pants - Hardwear AP™ Pant
- Sun hat/ baseball cap, bandana - Trucker Hat
- Fleece hat - Dome Perignon™
- Fleece/softshell gloves - Power Stretch® Glove
- Thermal top Men's Diamond Peak™ 1/2 Zip or Men's Diamond Peak™ Thermal Hoody
- Thermal bottom
- Expedition down jacket/Pants or Down suit Men's Absolute Zero™ Parka and/or Absolute Zero™ Suit
- Shell Bibs - Exposure/2™ Gore-Tex® Pro Bib
- Gauntlet gloves Superforma™ Gore-Tex® Glove
- Mitts - Absolute Zero™ Gore-Tex® Mitt
- (2) Pair heavy wool socks
- Hat - Dome Perginon™ Pro
- Balaklava - Alpine™ Balaclava
- Thermal top - Diamond Peak™ Thermal Hoody
- Thermal Bottoms - Diamond Peak™ Thermal Tight
- Small pack for personal gear - Scrambler™ 35 Backpack
- Down or synthetic sleeping bag (0-20 degrees) Phantom Alpine™
- Camp towel
- Sleeping pad
- Camp shower
- Trekking poles
- Down or synthetic sleeping bag (-40-20 degrees) Phantom™ Gore-Tex® -40F/-40C
- Climbing pack - South Col or Direttissima Backpack
- Personal basecamp tent - Trango™ 2 Tent with Trango™ 2 Footprint
- Group basecamp tent - Stronghold™ or Space Station™ Dome Tent
- Climbing tent
- High-altitude Sunglasses/Goggles
Madison Mountaineering provides gear lists for 27 different objectives on all seven continents. Even if you’re not visiting any of these specific climbs, these can be a great starting place for building out your own lists.
Everest Base Camp trek is here ›
- Clean gear post expedition.
- Dry tents, packs, and hardware before putting them away, and then store them in a cool, dry place.
- Use steel storage racks, shelves, and slat wall for hardware.
- Use plastic bins with lids and label them with category of gear.
- Use large duffels for bulky items like clothes, sleeping bags, and down suits.