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Mountaineering Gear Check with Northwest Alpine Guides

When you sign up for a trip with us, you will be emailed a full gear list. Before leaving for any of our trips you must have every item with you. When you arrive the morning of your climb, a guide will go over all your gear with you to make sure that you have all the required items. Most of our climbs will meet at our BaseCamp in Sedro Woolley at 8am where you will have time to try on rentals and buy or rent anything you might be missing.

This blog will go over the required gear for most of our Northwest Climbs like Mount Baker, Mount Rainer, Mount Shuksan etc.

Head and Face:

  • Warm hat: one that can fit under your helmet and is preferably synthetic or wool so if it gets wet or damp it will stay warm. A great option that we have for sale at our Guide Hut is the Himali Backcountry Beanie.
  • Buff or a balaclava: to keep your face warm from wind and the cold on a chilly day and protected from the sun on a clear day. The Northwest Alpine Guide Co-Branded Honeycomb Buff by Himali is a great option as it is warm and breathable.
  • Sun Hat: one that is comfortable to use under your helmet. We recommend a baseball cap due to comfort such as our Northwest Alpine Guides “N” Truckers Cap.
  • Glacier Glasses: One of the most important items is having proper glacier glasses to protect your eyes from the radiation on the snowpack so make sure you have properly rated glacier glasses with side protection. Such as the Julbo Mountebianco 2/Mountaineering sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen and Lip balm: We recommend that both have at least SPF 30 to properly protect your skin and lips from the glacier glare. Even though it might be cold you must make sure you are keeping any exposed skin protected from radiation. We sell both sunscreen and lip balm at the guide hut if you need to grab some before your climb.
  • Headlamp: We use headlamps around camp in the dark and for alpine starts when we are up before the sun. An important reminder with headlamps is to make sure you always have an extra set of batteries or if you have rechargeable batteries that you bring a battery pack and cord to charge your headlight if needed. There are lots of great headlamps but we sell and recommend the Petzl Actik Headlamp.
  • Helmet: Make sure that the helmet is made for mountaineering or rock climbing and fits you with a buff or warm hat under it, and that it has attachment points for a headlight. A great option is the Petzl Boreo Helmet that we rent in our guide hut.

Upper Body:

  • Base Layer Tops: We recommend that you bring two base layer tops to have an extra if the first one gets wet or sweaty. A great option is using a sun shirt as a base layer to have as sun protection for a hot day on the glacier. You defiantly want something with long-sleeves to protect you from the snow and the sun and a hood is highly recommended as it helps you shelter from the sun and often the wind. Something like the HIMALI Eclipse Sun Hoodie is a great option.
  • Softshell Jacket: one that is slightly breathable but helps to keep you warm and protect you from wind without having to use your hardshell which is to protect you from the elements.
  • Hard-shell Jacket: One of the most important layers to have is a trustworthy hardshell jacket! The Pacific Northwest is known for its rainy days and variable weather so having a hardshell jacket that can fit over your other layers and has a hood that fits over a helmet is important for staying protected in the elements. Something like the HIMALI Monsoon Hardshell Jacket is a great option!
  • Down Jacket: A very critical layer to have any time of year especially for camp or while taking rests on the mountain. It’s important to make sure the jacket has a hood that will also fit over a helmet. Check out our down jacket blog to understand the differences in down jackets and which is right for the trip you are taking.


  • Softshell Gloves: It’s important to always have on gloves when working and climbing in the snow. Having a lightweight glove to use on warmer days or to have more flexibility when practicing knots is a good idea.  The Black Diamond Lightweight Softshell glove is great because it has a leather palm that helps with abrasive snow.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Heavyweight gloves are important for summit day when your hands aren’t moving much and can get cold as you get higher on the mountain. Gore-Tex gloves are great to protect from the elements and are often more durable against rock and snow.

Lower Body:

  • Base layer Bottoms: Synthetic or wool long underwear or leggings for cold days in camp or to put under your softshell pants on a cold summit day.
  • Softshell Climbing Pants: A very important layer that should be made from synthetic material as well and is a bit thicker than a normal trekking pant but not as heavy an insulated ski pant.
  • Hard-shell Pants: Just as important as our hardshell upper layer to protect you from any hard wind, rain, or snow. You want to make sure that these pants have a full-length side zip to be able to fully unzip the pant put them on with mountaineering boots and even crampons if the weather turns while climbing. We rent the Marmont Hardshell Pants.


  • Socks: You want to have three pairs of socks total with at least two medium weight wool or synthetic socks for training days and the hike into camp and one pair of heavyweight mountaineering socks for cold days or the summit push.
  • Mountaineering Boots: Make sure that you have full shank and crampon compatible mountaineering boots for our trips. There are many types of mountaineering boots that are suitable for our climbs so make sure to check out our blog on boots to understand which is the right one for you. If you plan to rent from us we rent the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX which is a great all-rounder.

Sleep Systems:

For more in-depth information on sleep systems check out our Sleep System blog

  • Sleeping pads
    • Foam: foam pads such as the Thermarest Z-Lite are great to have for early season climbs when you are most likely to be sleeping on snow still and the foam pads create a great layer of insulation.
    • Inflatable: A pad like the Thermarest Pro-Lite plus is a great pad to bring on all trips for comfort, warmth and a better nights sleep overall.
  • Sleeping Bags: For early and late season climbs we recommend that you bring a 0-to-10-degree bag to stay warm but during mid-season you can get away with a lighter 20–30-degree bag. We rent the Thermarest Questar sleeping bag which is a 0 degree bag that we use all season.


  • Backpack: You will want to bring a mountaineering backpack that’s 65-75 liters to make sure that everything that you will need to bring both to camp and to the summit will fit in your pack. Make sure to watch our Packing a Mountaineering Backpack video to see the best way to pack all your things for your hike to camp.
  • Contractor bag: to line the interior of your backpack to keep water out.
  • Climbing Harness: You can use an alpine harness or a normal rock-climbing harness for glacier mountaineering trips. We rent and sell the Petzl Tour Harness which is a lightweight Alpine Harness. If you bring a rock harness, make sure it is comfortable enough to walk in all day.
  • Ice Axe: There are many different types of ice axes but for most of our Cascade climbs you only need a straight shaft ice axe. Sizing can often be confusing but generally if you stand up straight and hold your ice axe, the spike, or the end of the axe should be just above your ankles. To get an idea of ice axes we generally rent the Petzl Summit Ice Axe.
  • Trekking poles: They are extremely helpful, having two to get to camp with your heavy pack is useful and then using one alongside your ice axe for the summit push is also recommended. Getting poles that are adjustable in length is important.
  • Carabiners:
  • 6mm Accessory cord: This cord is used to practice tying knots and hitches and to create your own prussik cord. We sell rolls of 30 ft of Petzl 6mm Cord in our guide hut for your convenience.
  • Crampons: Crampons come in lots of shapes and sizes, and which type of crampon your need depends on the type of boots that you have. We recommend in general having 12-point steel crampons with anti-balling plates for our climbs but make sure to check out our blog on crampons to get an idea of which ones are best for you. We also rent Petzl crampons at the guide hut.


  • Water bottles: It’s very important that you bring two 1-liter hard plastic wide-mouth Nalgene bottles as they are easier to fill up and can hold both hot and cold water.
  • Bladder: You can also bring, in addition to the two, 1-liter water bottles, a Camelbak or bladder. We don’t recommend that you rely on these as they can leak and often the drinking tube will freeze when temperatures get low.


  • Lightweight bowl: Something to eat out of.
  • Insulated mug: great to have an insulated mug to have hot drinks while at camp.
  • A spork: Need to have a spork or spoon to be able to eat your meals, we recommend a spoon because it is more versatile than a fork.
  • Waste Kit: A blue bag or a WagBag to pack out your waste.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Good to bring to be able to sanitize after using the restroom or before eating.
  • Toilet paper: Always a good idea to bring extra toilet paper for your waste kit.
  • Small First aid kit: All our guides carry a full medical kit, but it is a good idea to have your own small one for personal medicine or little items such as band aids, blister care etc. A great sized one is something like the Adventure Medical Kits Lightweight that we sell at our guide hut.
  • Any other necessary personal items you need.

If you have any additional questions about gear, you can email our knowledgeable office staff at and we will do our best to help you with any gear questions you might have before your trip.