Mt. Rainier Gear List
Climbing Mt. Rainier requires a lot of gear. There's really no way to go 'ultralight' in the same way you can with backpacking. But by choosing quality, lightweight gear, you can keep your pack weight low and yet still be adequately prepared for any situation you might encounter while on the mountain. Making the right gear choices will increase your chances of success, and more importantly, your safety. Making poor choices will have the opposite effect, possibly putting yourself or others in danger. The gear recommendations I have listed are items that I personally use, or would buy, and are based on what is currently available on the market.
Of course there are numerous route and trip length variations on Mt. Rainier. Certain routes will require more technical gear than what is listed here.
(Updated January 2018)
Backpack - 40 to 70 Liter capacity depending on your packing abilities. It should be large enough to fit almost all of your gear inside, with a minimal amount of gear strapped to the outside. Smaller packs generally require more efficient packing, but are lighter and easier to carry. The best climbing packs have almost no pockets and minimal straps to reduce weight.
My Pick: First Ascent Alchemist 40/55, Black Diamond Mission 70
Sleeping Bag - 15-20 degrees either down or synthetic. Consider a 0 degree bag if you're climbing in early, late, or off season, or if you're the person on the team who's always cold.
My Pick: Marmot Phase 20, Feathered Friends Hummingbird 20
Sleeping Bag Compression Sack - Consider an oversized one that can fit your bag and parka for even more space savings.
My Pick: Sea To Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
Sleeping Pad - Either inflatable or foam (or both for more warmth and comfort).
My Pick: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker All-Season, Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol
Tent - Must be 4-Season. Either double wall or single wall depending on weight/comfort preferences. Be sure to include a set of anchors.
My Pick: Marmot Hammer 2p, Mountain Hardware Trango 3
Stove - On most parts of the mountain, this will be your only source of drinking water. Choose something reliable. The choice of liquid fuel vs. canister is a personal preference.
My Pick: MSR XGK-EX, MSR Reactor, MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Pot - A larger pot is more efficient for snow melting. The size and material depends on group size and personal preferences
My Pick: MSR Ceramic 2.5L Pot, Sea to Summit X-Pot
Ice Axe - A standard general mountaineering axe. It should be at least a few inches off the ground when held at your side. When in doubt, go shorter for more weight savings. (This can be optional if you're comfortable using your second tool for self arrest)
My Pick: Black Diamond Raven Pro, Petzl Summit
Second Tool - A 50cm Hammer for placing pickets and as a backup in case an ice axe gets dropped. One per team on DC/Emmons route, one per individual on more technical routes.
My Pick: Black Diamond Venom Hammer, Petzl Gully
Crampons - 10-12 point general mountaineering crampons (12-point crampons are better). Aluminum is not recommended, though could be used (if climbing independently) on certain routes and/or with caution.
My Pick: Black Diamond Sabretooth, Grivel G12, Black Diamond Contact
Harness - Light weight and packability are the two most important factors for a mountaineering harness. It does not need to have adjustable leg loops.
My Pick: Petzl Altitude, Edelrid Huascaran, Edelrid Loopo Light, Black Diamond Couloir
Trekking Poles - Not optional. These are energy-saving tools which increase stability and efficiency on the approach and descent. 3-section collapsable poles with snow baskets are ideal.
My Pick: Black Diamond Expedition 3 Ski Pole
Helmet - Must be a climbing-specific helmet - bike or ski helmets are not acceptable. Though these are generally required, there are few sections where they are actually needed. Choose something light.
My Pick: Petzl Sirocco, Edelrid Shield II, Black Diamond Vapor
Locking Carabiner - Used for clipping into the rope. Either twist-locking or auto-locking. Some guide services require a 'triple-action locking' carabiner. These are safer than standard twist or auto-lockers, but choose what you're most comfortable using.
My Pick: Edelrid Strike Safelock (triple-action), Black Diamond Magnetron, Black Diamond Rocklock
Climbing Rope - Must be dry-treated. Between 8-11mm in diameter and 30-60m in length depending on team size and personal preference
My Pick: Edelweiss Discover Rope, Petzl Volta
Avalanche Safety Equipment:
Avalanche Transceiver - Optional (depending on conditions). Renting may be a better option for most climbers.
My Pick: Backcountry Access Tracker D.T.S., Pieps Micro
Avalanche Probe - Optional (depending on conditions). Longer probes (300cm+) are the preferred choice for mountaineering, as they may also be used to detect crevasses in potential campsites. One per team should be sufficient.
My Pick: MSR Striker 320
Shovel - A mountaineering shovel. Used for collecting snow for water and in the event of an avalanche. 1 per 3-4 people.
My Pick: MSR Responder, Black Diamond Transfer 3
Crevasse Rescue Gear:
Pickets - Used for protection on tricky sections and in the event of a crevasse rescue situation. 2 per rope team minimum.
My Pick: MSR Snow Picket
Ice Screws - Secondary protection in case pickets can't penetrate the ice. Longer screws (16-22cm) are generally better for glacier travel. 2-3 per team minimum.
My Pick: Black Diamond Express
Ascenders - Optional. Used to facilitate crevasse rescue. Approximately 2 per team.
My Pick: Petzl Ascension, Petzl Tibloc
Runners - Used for building anchors, self-rescue, etc. Dynex/Dyneema/Spectra is lighter and doesn't absorb water, nylon is cheaper. At least 1 per rope team. 120-240cm is best for anchors.
My Pick: Edelweiss 7mm, Edelrid 8mm, Black Diamond 10mm
Cordelette - Approximately 20ft of 5-8mm cordelette to be used for anchor building. Can be substituted with sewn runners. Short cordelette lengths can be used as a lighter alternative to ascenders with a Klemheist or Prussic knot.
My Pick: PMI 7mm Cordelette with Lumi-Line
Locking Carabiner - Used for anchor building. Bring 1-2 per rope team (not including the ones you use to clip in).
My Pick: Edelrid Pure Slider, Black Diamond Mini Pearabiner
Non-Locking Carabiner - Primarily used for anchor building. 2-3 per rope team. Light is right.
My Pick: Black Diamond Oz, Edelrid Mission, Camp Nano 22, Edelrid 19G
Sun Hat - A simple baseball or 'trucker's hat is ideal. These are still recommended even if using a sun hoody
My Pick: Marmot Precip Baseball Hat, Outdoor research Sun Runner Cap
Glacier Glasses - There are two features that set glacier glasses apart from regular sunglasses - Very dark lenses and side shields. In fact the lenses are so dark, they're not recommended for driving. These are not optional.
My Pick: Julbo Explorer 2.0, Julbo Bivouack
Buff - An amazingly versatile piece of gear - this can be used to protect your face and head from sun, wind, and cold. Optional, but highly recommended.
Goggles - A standard pair of ski goggles is fine. These are rarely used in the case of a snowstorm or high winds.
My Pick: Smith Prophecy w/ Igniter Mirror Lens
Headlamp - Look for something lightweight, with a minimum of 100 Lumens and a red light mode. Waterproofness is nice, but not essential.
My Pick: Black Diamond Storm, Black Diamond Cosmo
Upper Body Layers
Baselayer - A lightweight, breathable next-to-skin layer. Though it will be worn from the parking lot to the summit, its primary purpose will be to provide sun protection on the approach. 'Sun Hoodies' are ideal.
Light Insulating Layer - Lots of options on the market for this piece. Anything from a simple quarter-zip fleece to the most advanced 'active insulation' pieces will work.
Softshell - A water-resistant, wind-resistant, breathable piece. Soft shells are often referred to as the 'action suit' in the mountains, as it's what you'll wear as your outer layer 90% of the time. Hardshells marketed as being 'breathable' do not count as a softshell. The only exception is for hardshells made of Polartec Neoshell.
Hardshell - waterproof/ windproof layer. Only worn approximately 5% of the time in the mountains (typically only when it rains), therefore ultralight shells are ideal. It does not need to be able to layer over your parka, as it won't be raining if you're needing to wear a parka.
Parka - This is your most important layer. It provides warmth during rest breaks, around camp, at the summit, and in case of emergencies. It should be filled with high-quality down and have an attached hood.
Lower Body Layers
Baselayer - A midweight layer to add some warmth for the summit bid. Synthetic or wool based on personal preference.
Underwear - 1-2 pairs for trips lasting up to one week. Either synthetic or wool.
My Pick: Smartwool Merno 150
Softshell pant - A breathable, water/ wind resistant layer. Generally worn from the parking lot to the summit. It should remain comfortable in a wide range of conditions. Err on the light-weight side. Extra warmth for the summit can always be added with an appropriate baselayer.
Hardshell pant - Waterproof/ windproof pants. Must have full side-zips as you'll need to be able to put them on without removing boots or crampons.
Mountaineering Boots - An insulated Mountaineering-specific boot with a rigid sole for crampon compatibility and kicking steps. The choice of a single (leather) boot or a double (plastic/hybrid) boot is a personal one and will depend on the conditions. Double boots are far more forgiving with fit and are therefore the preferred choice if renting.
My Pick: La Sportiva Nepal Cube, Scarpa Mont Blanc, La Sportiva Baruntse, Koflach Arctis Expe
Socks - Most hiking specific socks will work fine. Either wool or synthetic.
Leukotape/ Duct tape - Optional. Used for blister prevention. Put it on at the beginning of the climb and it will remain in place for days. Works much better for blister prevention than moleskin or liner socks.
Camp shoes - Optional. Can be worn on the approach until snow is reached, or at camp. Using this option will require you to carry your boots for the first 1-2hrs of the approach.
My Pick: Altra Lone Peak 3.0, La Sportiva Wildcat
Gaiters - Knee or ankle length depending on snow depth. Also prevents crampons from tearing up expensive soft-shell pants
My Pick: Outdoor Research Verglas, Outdoor Research Flex-Tec II
Water Bottles - 2-3 Hard-sided, Wide-mouth water bottles are required. Hydration systems are not recommended as it is hard to regulate intake and the tubes freeze on the upper mountain (even with the tube insulators).
My Pick: Nalgene 1L
Water Reservoir - Optional. This can be used to store extra drinking water at Camp Muir, Shurmann, etc., that way you don't have to do any snow melting when you return from the summit bid (and are tired).
My Pick: Platypus Platy 2.0 Liter Bottle
My Pick: GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug
My Pick: GSI Essential Spoon Long
Multitool - Something simple and compact
My Pick: Leatherman Skeletool