I think it was Brad Pitt in Seven who once said “What’s in the bag?!?!? Well, close…
I’m always asked what kit I’m carrying, when I’m running courses so in this blog I’m going to go over my standard mountain kit. I’ve spent years in the hills so have I’ve learnt what works for me, everyone will have their own little nuances and recommendations, and as you spend more and more time in the mountains you’ll discover your own preferences. The kit I describe below is pretty similar whether I’m running a Mountain Leader course, an intro to scrambling or even multi pitch rock climbing in the mountains. It should be said that not all of this will be in the pack at all times, but it’ll spend some of it’s time in there, usually depending on the weather.
Rucksack, this has to be the right size and fit well, it’s also an area you can save up to a kilo in weight, which is a lot! My pack of choice is the Black Diamond Speed 30, which weighs around a kilo and is a little over 30 litres, it fits me well and has the right sort of features without any faffy ones. It has also lasted really well, which is why I reckon it’s worth the little bit of extra weight over some of the other packs available. It’s a brilliant all rounder, I use it for cragging, scrambling, mountain leader courses (including overnighters) and also alpine stuff.
I also use a big waterproof liner inside it in all but the nicest of conditions.
Waterproofs, living in Wales teaches you a lot about waterproofs! I have a few pairs of tops and bottoms which I choose depending on the forecast but usually it’s my Patagonia Super Alpine jacket and Haglofs Couloir trousers, these are both on the heavier side of things but I expect my waterproofs to be tough and simple. The jacket fits well, has big chest pockets which also sit above a harness / waist belts, has underarm vents and a decent hood which also fits over a helmet. The trousers have full length side zips, a couple of waterproof pockets and importantly for me, braces.
The other jacket I often reach for in the summer is an OEX Stretch, which I’ve reviewed here: OEX kit
Layers, not in my bag, but my layers start with merino stuff which is nice to wear, breathes well and doesn’t get as stinky as the horrible plasticy wicking stuff. On top of that will often be a thin fleece such as a Mountain Equipment Eclipse or a Black Diamond Coefficient, for me this layer has to have a hood to keep me cosy.
The next layer will be something along the lines of a Patagonia Simple Guide or Levitation softshell, both are fairly thin, but windproof and with decent hoods that work with helmets.
Last but not least I’ll have a layer in my bag that I’m not really expecting to wear except for a lunch break or in an emergency. In the winter this will be my Mountain Equipment Citadel which is a beast of a jacket, like being hugged by a friendly polar bear! In warmer times, I’ll swap this out for a thin Primaloft top of some variety.
Gloves and hats, no matter what time of year it is I’ll have a couple of pairs of gloves and a beanie in a dry bag in the pack. Gloves will normally be a decent pair of waterproof leather ones which are dexterous enough to use the compass etc and a cheap pair of fleece ones.
That’s about it for clothing, but there’s a few other bits…
Group shelter, there’s a few companies that make these in all sorts of sizes, but I use an Outdoor Designs one. These are a lifesaver, if you’ve never used one they really are amazing. With a few people in them they warm up super quickly for use in an emergency but they’re also great for your lunch stops!
Maps and Compass, I’d never leave for a day in the hills without a map and compass, plus a spare of both. My personal preference is for the Harveys 1:40k maps and Silva Type 4 compass, but whatever you use it’s an essential skill to know how to use them properly – If in doubt seek instruction.
Headtorch, and a spare. Get the best you can afford, because when you actually need it, you’ll want the brightest light available. I use an LED Lenser SEO7r, which is super bright and has reactive lighting too, my spare is a Black Diamond something or other.
GPS, I used to keep one of these in my pack but these days my phone does that job, as does my Suunto Ambit watch. They’re a great tool to get a quick fix, measure distances etc, don’t forget to keep on top of your bread and butter map skills though!
Food and water, you’ll know what works for you, but make sure there’s a few calories in there plus a litre or so of water, in the UK we can normally collect more during our day if necessary.
Sticks, I’m a big fan of walking poles, with my favourites being the Black Diamond Z poles, because when I’m not using them they fold up super small so fit inside my bag. They take some impact off your knees, help if you do get an injury during the day and give some extra balance for river crossings.
First aid kit, it’s always in the bag and I keep up to date by going on first aid courses, if you’ve never done one, attending one could save someone’s life.
The only other thing to mention is boots… This could be a blog in it’s own right! Obviously they never go in my pack but it seems remiss not to mention them.
Boots, in non winter conditions for general mountain stuff I have two main choices. The first is a pair of La Sportiva Trango boots, the blue ones. Great all rounders, the extra stiffness helps with edging on rock and digging in to softer terrain – you can often spot people slipping around in soft bendy boots. The second option is for dry conditions only – a pair of Adidas Terrex Solo trainers, these are light, super comfy, well grippy on rock, but not even remotely waterproof. Whilst these are my two main choices, you need to try on loads to make sure you get the right fit for you.
Want to know what kit I take on advanced scrambling courses? Take a look at this blog too!