Pin Me

Mountain Climbing Equipment Checklist

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 4/30/2010

Mountain climbing equipment becomes essential when climbers want to summit peaks that require technical skills. Some of this equipment is also needed when you’re doing a non-technical peak, which is why it’s included in this series and broken down into equipment here, and tools in the next piece.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Why You Need It

    Mountain climbing equipment is all designed to make the process of getting climbers to the peak safely while hopefully making the endeavor a little easier. As climbers gain more experience, and move on to expedition peaks that have obstacles and rock faces that can’t be overcome just by hiking, tools of the trade are needed. In days of old, climbers wore silks and wools instead of the waterproof and breathable synthetic materials available today. And to deal with the hard pack ice prevalent on higher mountains (which is impossible to keep a footing on with any boots), they simply affixed nails to their boots. On steep mountainsides, a slip could result in a long, disastrous fall. A climber’s equipment and tools are therefore made to keep slips and falls from happening, and also to give you methods of self-arrest should a fall occur either over the side or through crevasses hidden under snow.

    This article gives you a cursory knowledge about this gear but it is highly advisable that you go to one of the schools I mention later, or climb with a guide/climber with a lot of experience and knowledge about how to use them. Up there in freezing conditions, when you’re brain and all your energy is being taxed to its ultimate limits, is no place to learn. You have to know how to use your gear like it is second nature because in some cases, you’ll have split-seconds to employ it successfully.

  • slide 2 of 4

    The Integration of Backpacking and Rock Climbing in Mountaineering

    Crazy Peak Prong Since it usually takes a sizeable trek to even get into the range of a mountain-top, mountain climbing essentially overlaps with the concept of wilderness backpacking. So it would be a good idea to read about all that should be in that backpack first, without the additional climbing equipment yet, which is laid out for you in The Best Backpacking List for Primitive Camping. All those items listed there you will likely need for climbing expeditions too, so learn about what should be in your first aid kits, cooking gear, along with many other important items. Use it as a starting point.

    The gear associated with rock climbing is essentially the same equipment technical mountains call for. What it boils down to is all the stuff you need to be roped in and have the ropes fastened safely and securely to you and the mountain (whether its rock or ice you’re attaching to). Rock Climbing for Beginners explains what to expect and how you should get started. Learning the ropes from an instructor on an indoor climbing wall will certainly be helpful, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

    The following section contains the list of climbing equipment you’ll need for expeditions to rugged peaks. I broke this down to basic equipment here, and the meat and potato tools (which you should probably invest in first)are described in the following article in this series. Make sure you read it all to understand where you should learn how to use it all. For instance; the ropes on this list won’t be of much use to you if you don’t know how to tie the proper knot for a given situation.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Essential Mountain Climbing Equipment List

    • Helmets are necessary because loose rocks, ice, and other debris can always submit to the forces of gravity above you so you want your noggin protected.
    • Mountaineering boots are designed so that the toe gives little or not at all in order that you traverse those steep inclines safely. Double plastic boots are required for really cold, high-altitude, difficult peaks.
    • Carabiners are metal 'D' ring clips with a spring latch. You will need some that screw the latched portion shut so it can't open.
    • Ropes of various sizes and strengths are used to tie climbers together, to the mountain, and for the purposes of rappelling/belaying.
    • Anchors are very strong straps or other gear that are used to secure climbers to the mountain in one way or another.
    • Special gloves to contend with various climbing scenarios and differing temperatures are needed. You’ll probably need more than one pair because of these different variables.
    • Pulleys are used in rescuing climbers that fall in something like a crevasse.
    • Ascenders and descenders are ingenious devices made to move up and down ropes safely
    • Belay devices create friction on a rope so climbers can move down a rope at the pace they desire and can quickly and easily arrest themselves at any given moment.
    • Tents that are very rugged are a must. After reading this Kelty Radiant 2 Tent Review, you will learn what I’m partial to on my expeditions.

    That is a good list for the beginner to digest for now. As stated earlier, knowing how to use them all well is most important, and we’ll get to how you do that in the final article of this mountaineering series. REI and are good places to shop for them. Finding a store where the people are knowledgeable about mountaineering is to your advantage but that might not be possible where you live. provides excellent customer and expert reviews for all the excellent gear they sell. And they’re not partial to one brand. I left the most important tools that a climber should become familiar with for the last article in this series in case you see prominent items missing already from this list. All the other intricacies of this equipment should be learned from experienced and accomplished climbers.

  • slide 4 of 4


    Traditional Mountaineering

    Graydon, Don. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (7th Edition). Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2003.

Ascending Great Heights: Mountain Climbing Initiation

Becoming a mountain climber starts with just one step. This five-part article series is designed to provide inspiration, instruction, and the information about the right equipment in order for you to begin a journey to great heights. Learn all about this truly fulfilling outdoor sport right here.
  1. How to Start Mountain Climbing
  2. Mountain Climbing Equipment Checklist
  3. These Tools for Mountain Climbing that Are a Must