What to Take for Winter Climbing: a 7-Point Checklist

Dec 18, 2019

Man climbing a snowy winter mountain path

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You’re about to embark on an exciting expedition. Before you, a wintry mountain marked with obstacles, unseen perils and dangers. With ice and snow (and God forbid, freezing rain), you need to keep your wits about you. Unless you’ve gone climbing many times before, it’s tough to know what you’ll need until you’re actually out on the trail. Winter climbing brings its own challenges, with low temperatures and other concerns.  

Before you head out on your next adventure, read this seven-point checklist to guide you in the right direction. With the proper gear, you’ll have a great time no matter what kind of weather you face or where you go.

1. Quality Climbing Pack

Before you leave for your trip, you’ll probably check the weather forecast. It might predict sunny skies and semi-warm temperatures, but that can change at a moment’s notice.

Don’t trust the security of your supplies to the whims of the weather. Invest in a quality climbing pack that won’t weaken in direct sunlight or fail in freezing temperatures.

Look for one that’s durable in all temperatures, so you can climb wherever and whenever you want.

2. Four-Season Tent

The weather can change quickly in the colder months, which is why a four-season tent is the smartest option for safe shelter. You can remove siding for extra ventilation during the warmer afternoons and still count on excellent heat retention during the night.

Choose a tent you can use year-round so you don’t have to keep track of your stored seasonal varieties.

3. Lightweight Sleeping Bag

Winter Climbing means you’ll have everything you need on your back, so get a lightweight sleeping bag to make things easier.

Don’t worry about not staying warm at night, either. Many lightweight sleeping bags are made with thermal technology to keep you insulated when you need it without adding bulk to your pack.

4. Garbage Bag Lining

Taking extra precautions can be a good thing when it’s just you and nature alone on a trail together. You never know what might happen when you’re out exploring.

With that in mind, line your pack with garbage bags so everything inside stays dry if you’re caught in the rain. That way, you can hang it to dry overnight without ruining the contents in the process.

If you’re not sure that the lining will last, you can always pack a few extra bags to use as needed. While you climb, your pack’s contents may move around and rip the bag. It’s good to be a little extra prepared for something that could save your belongings.

5. Clothesline and Pins

How long do you plan to spend on your expedition? If it’s more than a couple of days, you’ll have to think about washing your clothes. You can do this in a river, pond or lake with a bit of soap, but the challenging part is getting everything to dry.

Put a clothesline and some pins in your pack for this purpose. They won’t add any significant weight, and they’ll guarantee your clothes dry in time for you to leave the next morning. If you don’t have clothespins, sub in bread or chip clips to save a few bucks.

6. Backpacking Water Filter

Don’t make yourself carry around the weight of water jugs on your climbing expedition. It’s much easier to pack a water filter.

Even if you come across a dirty stream, a high-quality filter will transform it into clean water whenever you need a drink. Get one now and reuse it on future trips well into the winter and spring.

7. Electric Arc Lighter

You’ll need to start a fire on most camping or climbing trips, but especially in the winter when the weather takes a turn. You could bring a box of matches and hope they don’t get wet or run out, but why do that when you can buy an electric arc lighter?

It’s a modern lighter that uses electricity to zap a fire to life whenever you need one. Try one out at home on candles to get the hang of how to use it and bring it on your next expedition. As long as you can find some fallen leaves for kindling and dry wood, you’ll create a fire in no time.

Don’t Forget Your Socks

When you’ve zipped up your tent, lined your pack and picked out a water filter, you’re almost ready for a winter climbing expedition.

Don’t forget about the little things, like extra dry socks and a comfy hat to keep warm on chilly mornings. With the right amount of planning, you’ll have everything you need for the cold climb ahead.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.