How to Pack for Mountain Climbing: Organize All Essentials


A huge part of mountain climbing is preparation, which involves knowing what to pack and how to do so.

How do you pack for mountain climbing? The first thing to do is to create a list of items that you will bring and not one of them must be unnecessary. You must also bring only the amount needed for the duration of the trip, so don’t bring 10 sets of underwear for a trip that lasts only three days. Pay attention to the weight, as well.

It’s no exaggeration to say that how well or how bad your climbing trip will go will depend a lot on your preparations, with mistakes even leading to injury or death.

Priorities When Packing for Mountain Climbing

When packing for your mountain climbing trip, there are going to be some things that will take priority over others. This is not just something you can base on your gut or whims, either. There are real consequences to you being careless with what you pack and how you pack. You’re not going on a vacation to the beach, after all.

Your packing could affect many things during your climbing, including such things as:

·         Your pace

·         Your rate of energy loss

·         Your number of breaks

·         Your balance

·         Your mobility

·         Your safety

Remember that when you are ascending a mountain, the main driving force behind your movement will be you. If you are carrying something heavy of unbalanced, you are more likely to tip back or to your sides. This is dangerous when on a mountain path. This is why it is important to have priorities when packing, which you will find in the table below:

PrioritiesDescription
BackpackChoosing the backpack of appropriate size and functionality
EfficiencyThe speed of which you can pack or unpack
WeightChoosing items based on how light they are
UsefulnessGetting only functional items
OrganizationHow organized the packing is
Climb DurationBringing only enough for the climb
Food & SuppliesNo sweets, only food, and supplies that will last on the mountains

So, there you have it; your priorities for when you are packing for your mountain climbing. It cannot be overemphasized that when you are doing this, you must trim both your gear and your activities for a leaner climb. Just as you should not do anything unnecessary for the sake of your safety, you should also not bring anything unnecessary in an unnecessary fashion.

Always remember that mountain climbing is not a game no matter how the experts might make it look easy or how marketing may make it seem like a piece of cake. It is not and you will be sealing your fate the moment you make a mess of your packing. You will literally need to prepare your equipment and storage items like your life depends on it.

Backpack – The size and shape of your backpack will have a huge impact on how well your trip will go for several reasons. One of them is the temptation to put in too much stuff if it is too big and another is having too much pressure to limit what you bring if it is too little. There are various considerations that come with choosing the pack that you will bring, after all.

To start with, its size will need to be relative to the duration and nature of the climb that you will be doing. A pure mountaineering trek will come with different requirements compared to a pure rock climbing one, after all. What you will need to bring more of will vary depending on the circumstances, so keep that in mind when choosing.

What’s more, the backpack itself should come with the right functions. For example, an ideal mountain climbing pack should be able to accommodate not only your clothes and gear but also your camping equipment. This includes your sleeping bag, your tent, and whatever cooking implements you might have brought with you.

Then again, those would only apply to mountain climbing trips that will last for several days. When your upcoming escapade will only be good for a few hours, there is no need to make such extensive preparations. Nor will you need a back that comes with such features. Again, you must avoid being tempted to bring more than what is necessary.

Efficiency – When you are up a mountain, you will need to be able to bring out and pack in things in a relatively quick fashion. This means anticipating what you will be bringing out first and in what order. You might not be able to afford to open your backpack wide enough for a thorough search and in any case, you are not really advised to do so.

This is why you need to pack with efficiency in mind. You need to make sure that all through your climb, you will be able to bring out the things that you need and put them back with ease. This could be done in a few ways, but just throwing in your stuff into the bag haphazardly is certainly not one of them. Naturally, one of the typical methods for increasing efficiency is folding the clothes.

Not just in a manner that would allow you to put them away in a dresser, either. You need to pack them tight and in a way that will make it difficult for them to unravel easily. You could also pack them individually in biodegradable plastic bags, which you will bring back with you, of course. The point of the bags is to simply keep the items in place.

Doing this will allow you to interact with the items with ease, even if you were just groping around without looking. More than anything else, how you pack your outfit and gear will impact how well you will be able to make use of them.

Weight – Since we are talking about packing things here, it is only obvious that the weight is going to be a major issue. That is to say, you will need to think about how heavy the items you are intending to bring will be, which will contribute to the overall burden that you will be shouldering. Weight affects many aspects of the climbing experience, after all.

For example, if you bring unnecessary things that then turn out to be too heavy, you will be lugging that around until you get back home. You won’t be able to throw it away easily when you are on a mountain, especially if it is relatively remote. You could have someone else carry the burden for you, but that would detract from the experience, wouldn’t it?

What’s more, there is also the consideration of balance when you are climbing. Normally, you would be tipping forward regardless of whether you have a bag or not when you are ascending. However, this does not mean that you will be doing so all the time. On those occasions when you have to straighten up, bringing heavy things could force you to tip over.

If that happens, you would be risking injury and death by rolling down the mountain or over a cliff. Your rescue would be impeded, as well, because the others will now have to contend with the weight of your backpack and your own body. It’s just a bad deal, overall.

Usefulness – The concept of only bringing what you need applies to mountain climbing perhaps more than any other activity. This is because a vast majority of the time during the trip, the burden of transporting your equipment falls squarely on your shoulders. This means that you should only have brought the things that you can’t live without during the climb.

You have absolutely no room for luxury items like a hairdryer, for example, if you are going to climb. The same goes for such things as candy or clothes that make you look cool when you take a picture on top of the mountain. Your own climbing gear should take care of that anyway.

No, what you should focus most on is how you will be able to use all of the items that you are going to bring and for what purpose. If the item will only serve to stroke your ego or give you a momentary sense of satisfaction, then it is not worth bringing. The same goes for those items that will only be used once and won’t have any other function.

The only consumables that should be useful for only one time are food and even then, you should strive to bring sustenance that you can use several times. Naturally, you will need to bring something like a first aid kit, but don’t go overboard and bring an entire bag full of dozens of rolls of bandages. You don’t need that much.

Organization – This should go without saying, but everything in your pack should be organized in such a way as to make sense. This means putting a priority on the items that will need to be brought out in a hurry at the top and those that can be taken out at leisure should be at the bottom. As with the matter of efficiency, you should also put some thought into sorting your pack for expedience.

After all, as you climb a mountain, there will be times when you need to take out some things in a hurry while with others, you can take your time about it. Binoculars, for example, will need to be brought out fast and the same goes for your climbing equipment.

Tools and potential weapons should be particularly easy to get at and the same goes for your snacks. You may not think it, but your snacks will play a major role in basically allowing you to climb as efficiently as you need to during your ascent. At that time, you will be burning a lot of energy and calories, and the consistent supply of energy from snacks gives you plenty of fuel.

On that note, you should also place some considerations on your body’s daily functions. More specifically, you should keep your need for evacuating your bowels in mind when you are packing. You need to be able to take out the toilet paper and the container you will be placing the poop in out as fast as possible, after all. Delays here can be quite unfortunate.

Climb Duration – Sometimes, it can be difficult to decide how many of the things that you want to bring to pack for a climbing expedition. One way you can decide is by taking the length of time that you will be spending ascending the mountain into consideration. If you are set to travel for a few days, for example, you will need to prepare enough items to last that long.

Now, it is worth pointing out that if you are going to be heading out for a trip to a mountain, you will not likely be getting the same amenities or services as you would otherwise. You will need to make sure that you have enough to last, for sure, but you also need to understand the conditions of your trip. This means that you might be washing the clothes that you bring instead of replacing them.

You might also need to make sure that the items that you bring will last as long as possible, which could then mean that you might need to wear a few things for longer than you normally would. This is why you should be bringing things like functional underwear that are meant to last.

You should avoid anything that will only be used once because of how stylish or flashy it is. As for food, you should certainly avoid bringing anything that is meant only to be eaten once. So no pastries, please.

Food & Supplies – Finally, there is the matter of the food and supplies that you will bring. There is no getting around this; you will need to bring preserved or dried food. Trying to take anything fresh with you on a mountain climbing trip only puts you at risk of getting food poisoning, so don’t even try it. What you want to do, instead, is to bring consumables that will last for a long time.

Think beef jerky, dried fruits and nuts, sardines in packets, and other preserved items. Try not to bring anything canned because they add too much weight and can be unwieldy to pack. If you can bring dried fish, this would be even better. However, try not to overindulge in such fares since you might end up getting sick, as a result.

You have to always remember that you are putting yourself in danger when you climb a mountain. As such, suffering from digestive issues like food poisoning or indigestion will have a huge impact on your ability to keep going. This is just something that you will need to pay attention to and you might also want to bring some medicine for your stomach.

What to Bring When Mountain Climbing

When it comes to deciding what you are going to be bringing with you when you climb a mountain, a few things are likely to come to mind immediately. Among them is your climbing gear, which you would, of course, need to have with you. The appropriate clothes will also be on that list, so make sure that you actually keep that in mind.

Then there are the various food and supplies that will be keeping you alive, as well as tools for helping you navigate treacherous terrain. All of those are important, for sure, but there are many who might not really understand those points. As such, is worth discussing them on a finer level, starting with the climbing gear.

As you might have already surmised, this is basically the equipment that you bring with you to conduct your climbing activities. These usually include ropes, walking sticks, carabiners, anchors, climbing axes, and many others. Depending on the destination and the kind of climb that you will be doing, you might need special shoes or shoe accessories, as well.

The important thing to remember is to keep the conditions of the mountain that you are heading towards into consideration while making your preparations. What are its surroundings like? What are the climate and weather conditions? Will there be lots of ice or loose gravel? By asking and answering these questions, you can narrow down the list of items to bring.

With regard to your outfit, one of the biggest points of concern when climbing is staying warm. As you go higher, things will get colder, so you must make sure to cover yourself up with the appropriate clothes. Winter jackets, thick socks and pants, and a sweater underneath it all are the usual fares. Thermal underpants might be necessary, as well.

On that note, you should take care not to over-prepare when it comes to the clothing that you will be preparing. After all, not every mountain is going to be sub-zero in temperature, so wrapping yourself up in the warmest, thickest clothes might not even be necessary given the situation. You would only be adding an unnecessary burden on yourself.

Then there is the matter of the food items that you will be bringing with you, as well as first aid supplies, navigation materials, and communication items. Preserved and dried consumables are best for a mountain trip and keeping your first aid kit to the bare minimum are advised, as well. As for navigation, it might still be worth bringing a compass and a map.

GPS will not always work in the mountains, especially in the more remote regions of the world. It might be worth bringing analog navigation items to address such circumstances. As for the kind of communication device that you are going to bring, a satellite phone can work. The same goes for short-wave radio.

Smartphones have a smaller range of coverage than you might think. It would not be unusual if there was no signal in the place you will be climbing.

Best Practices for Organizing Your Stuff

There are always things that you can do to improve the conditions of your packing and being organized is one of them. Simply put, you need to be able to choose and sort your items in a way that will allow you to place them in your bag safely, and then enable you to take them out with no issues. You can start by planning.

This will involve creating a list of the things that you are likely to bring with you if you are going to climb a mountain. We already discussed what those are likely to be and how to make such decisions. From there, you will then want to go through the list and see if you can eliminate some items based on whether or not you actually need them.

Once this is done, you will then need to purchase those items but keep their packing viability in mind. Do not get items that are in containers that are difficult to pack. You need to be able to get as many of them in your bag as you can safely get away with, after all. From there, we turn to the actual packing.

Whether you decide to fold your clothes or pack them in biodegradable plastic bags, the order will still be the same. The most essential items will need to be on top while those that are of less importance will be at the bottom. You will also need to organize your bag in such a way that it will make taking things out and then putting them back as easy as possible.

Do this right and you likely won’t have trouble responding to emergency situations in a hurry. You don’t want to have to take out all the contents out of your bag just to find your flashlights, do you?

Related Questions

Can I Wear Rash Guard for Climbing?

You actually can and for short trips, this particular piece of clothing can be quite helpful in preventing sunburn. However, when worn for too long, it can get quite stuffy and if you are not careful, it can start chafing against your skin. So make sure to keep that in mind.

Are Jeans Good for Climbing?

It would not be advised for you to start climbing while wearing jeans simply because they are not meant for such activities. They are too confining, too heavy, and too inflexible for the job. You need clothes that are sturdy but light, breathable but protective, and flexible without being brittle. These do not apply to jeans, at all.

What Qualified as Unnecessary Items

With the qualifications for necessary items having been covered already, let’s take a look at what you can look at and judge to be unnecessary for your trip. Without a doubt, the most important point of consideration when making these kinds of decisions is the role that the item will play during the trip. The way to know this is to ask yourself one question.

Are you absolutely sure that you will use it?

Think of lights that you strap on your head, for example. The only time you will actually need such a thing is if you need illumination and both of your hands need to be free. With this being the case, you will then need to know ahead of time that such a scenario will play out.

Then take an ice ax or climbing ax as another example. Will you actually be in a situation that will compel you to use such a tool? Will you be climbing an ice wall or scaling a snowy mountain? If not, then it’s not really necessary, is it?

Consequences of Bad Packing

So, assuming that you did not apply any of the tips presented in this guide and ended up packing badly, what would happen then? Depending on the circumstances, a lot of things can occur and none of them are good. Let’s start with the weight first.

If your bag is too heavy, it will obviously hinder your movements and this can only be a problem for you. Not only will you get tired faster but you will also have trouble maintaining your stability. Just imagine trying to clamber up a steep slope with someone trying to pull you backward. This is basically what happens.

Then there is the issue of poor organization. In the event of an emergency, you risk losing precious seconds to react when you could have saved yourself or someone else. Even if we just consider non-emergency situations, do you really want to dig out all of your stuff first before you find that item you want?

Finally, you have the problem of bringing unnecessary things. This issue presents similar issues with the poor organization except magnified. Basically, you combined having to dig through mountains of other stuff with the stuff being completely pointless and only getting in your way. 

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