helmet buff jacket trousers gloveleft gloveright bootright bootleft Axe left

Mountaineering Gear

Want some tips and advice on how to choose your mountaineering gear?

Arrow

Click on the mountaineer on the left to find out more about his gear

Mountaineering Gear

Choosing a helmet

Petzl
Meteor 111 Plus Helmet

On any winter adventure, there is a risk of injury and your head is particularly vulnerable.

The danger of slipping and falling, banging your head or being hit by falling debris such as rock, ice or snow is real.

A helmet is essential for protecting your head – it can manage the impact of a collision and stop sharp objects from damaging your skull. Most climbing helmets have a robust, hard shell with internal foam cushioning. Activity-specific helmets offer more targeted protection; they are designed to protect you head from the dangers that you might face in a particular sport. Some helmets can be used for multiple activities, so if you love climbing, skiing and even white water rafting, a multi-activity helmet might be a good option.

When you are thinking of investing in a helmet, there are a few important qualities you should look for. The ideal helmet is:

  • A good fit – A helmet will not offer efficient protection unless it fits. This means that your head should be held securely by the helmet and not slip around, without it being too tight that it becomes uncomfortable. Different helmets suit different head shapes so it is a good idea to find your local Cotswold Outdoor store to try some out.
  • Lightweight – The last thing you want is a heavy helmet. Most climbing helmets are relatively lightweight without compromising the amount of protection they offer.
  • Well ventilated – A hot head is not only uncomfortable, but it can reduce your performance and even result in errors of judgement. Make sure your helmet is breathable enough to keep your head cool, because you can always wear a buff or balaclava underneath for extra warmth.
  • Comfortable – Don’t forget, you need to be able to wear your helmet all day without thinking about it, so make sure you choose one that is comfortable. Again, the only way to ensure this is to go and try some on!
Buy Helmets

Gloves and Mitts

Tackling winter conditions can be incredibly demanding and exposed areas such as the hands need to be properly protected to avoid losing body heat, or worse, suffer frost bite.

Depending on your activity, one of the first things you should consider is whether you need a glove or mitt. Both have their advantages, and choosing the right one can make all the difference to your chosen application.

Mountain Equipment Women's Mountain Glove

Gloves

  • Closer fitting than mitts with individual fingers
  • Offer more dexterity and versatility
  • Suitable for more technical activities such as winter climbing

Mitts

Mountaineering mitts
  • Warmer than gloves due to fingerless design
  • Less dexterity than gloves
  • Suitable for non-technical ascents, high altitude or polar travel

Outers and inners

Outer gloves can be waterproof, insulated and windproof offering a great deal of protection, especially in alpine conditions.

Some gloves and mittens tend to come with an inner and an outer glove. The inner is constructed from a thin material designed specifically to sit under the outer glove. They can be worn on their own for much milder conditions, but when the cold really sets in, these are an essential part of your glove system. If your gloves do not have a removable liner, you might want to invest in a simple merino wool liner for extra warmth.

Buy Mountaineering Gloves

Choosing a mountaineering jacket

To combat the harsh conditions that you might face in the mountains, a flexible clothing system is essential - and your choice of jacket is key to staying warm, comfortable and dry.

Most mountaineers choose a combination of jackets to protect them in changeable conditions - an outer jacket with an insulating mid layer. Try to think of the outer layer as your skin. This is going to protect you from the elements such as rain and snow, keeping you dry. The insulating mid-layer is more like your body fat and its primary role is to keep in the heat, so you don’t suffer the wrath of the cold.

Outer Jacket

Your outer jacket (waterproof and/or windproof) is potentially the most important piece of kit you will invest in as this will be your protective layer against the elements. It will keep you comfortable and protected as well as keeping the rain, snow and wind out.

Insulating mid layer

A decent mid-layer is an essential part of the layering system. It can be either down, synthetic or fleece, but its principle role is to offer you additional insulation where you need it most while still being lightweight and of minimal bulk.

Buy Mountaineering Jackets button
More

Features to look out for

When you are choosing a mountaineering jacket, there are a few features that you will need to consider:

  • Length - A shorter length jacket allows a harness to be worn without discomfort
  • Fabric – You will most likely require a completely waterproof and/or windproof jacket that is robust enough to withstand mountain conditions. Many jackets now feature breathable fabrics that allow moisture to escape through the shell.
  • Insulation – Whether you choose down or synthetic, efficient insulation means that you will stay warm without carrying extra weight.
  • Arm design - Longer arms, articulated elbows or stretch panels allow ease of movement when technical climbing.
  • Ventilation – Pit zips allow sweat and moisture to escape when you are working hard.
  • Well-located pockets – Many mountain jackets have pockets that are located in a slightly higher position so you can still access them when wearing a harness.
  • Hood - A larger volume hood enables a climbing helmet to be worn underneath.
  • Zips – You will need to be able to open zips with your gloves, so robust zips are essential

Mountaineering trousers or salopettes

Durable, protective legwear that won’t let you down in testing conditions is essential for any winter mountaineer. Worn over your thermal layers, the right legwear will keep you comfortable and protected from the elements.

When you are choosing mountaineering legwear, there are some important features that you can look for:

Mountaineering trousers
  • Reinforced durable knee and seat patches – to avoid scuffs and scratches from rocks and ice
  • Stretchy material or articulated knees – for essential freedom of movement
  • Waterproof/windproof fabric – depending on the weather conditions you will be facing
  • Kick patches on the ankles – to avoid crampon puncture
  • Braces - for a secure and comfortable fit
  • Full length or ¾ length vented zips – for ventilation and comfort breaks
  • Minimal pockets or accessible pockets - for when you are wearing a harness

You will also need to decide whether you want trousers or salopettes – but this is down to personal preference!

Shop legwear

Boots and Crampons

Choosing the right boots

For mountaineering, boots with stiffer midsoles and uppers that provide extra support are essential. Most mountaineering boots feature a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry, underfoot cushioning to absorb shock and often some insulation to keep you warm in winter conditions.

Mountaineering boots are rated from B1 to B3. The boot rating you require will depend on what you intend to use them for and in which seasons.

Mountaineering boot
  • Boot rating B1 – More solid than low-level walking boots, ideal for winter hill walking
  • Boot rating B2 – Stiffer and more rigid for winter mountaineering
  • Boot rating B3 – Fully rigid climbing boots for snow and ice climbing

Most importantly, finding a great-fitting boot that suits your foot shape means that you can make the most of your winter adventures for years to come. Make sure you head to one of our stores for a free expert boot fitting.

Buy Mountaineering Boots button

Crampons

Once you have found the right boot, you will need some crampons. Crampons are made of hardened steel or aluminium, with forward angled spikes to help you grip on to snow and ice. They are fastened to your boots with a binding system or straps.

The crampon rating you need will depend on your boots.

Crampon
  • Crampon rating C1 – Flexible and ideal for winter hill walking, to be used with B1 rated boots
  • Cramping rating C2 – Less flexible for general winter mountaineering to be used with B2 rated boots
  • Crampon rating C3 – Stiffer for winter climbing, with longer more aggressive spikes, to be used with B3 rated boots

Certain crampons suit different boots better than others, so it is worth visiting your local shop to find the best fit. Find your local store.

Buy Mountaineering boots button

Choosing an axe

Whether you are walking in winter conditions or climbing on snow and ice, an ice axe is an essential tool for any winter mountaineer. Axes can be used to brake a fall when you slip whilst walking, or help you ascend a vertical ice wall.

Which type of axe?

As a general rule, shorter axes are best for climbing and longer axes are designed for walking. For many winter adventures, you will use your axe for a mixture of both. The shape of an ice axe handle (shaft) and head section (pick) is a better clue to its use.

Walking Axe

  • Use: To stop you falling, support when walking
  • Straight shaft
  • Nearly straight pick at 90° to handle
  • Longer handle

Mountaineering Axes

  • Use: Walking, climbing and belaying (using a rope)
  • Slightly shorter, straight shaft with grip
  • More curved pick

Technical Axes

  • Use: Steep climbing on snow and ice
  • Bent or curved shaft
  • Reversed pick at less than 90° to handle
  • Often used with adze or hammer (right)

Axe Ratings

There are two types of axe ratings, B-rated and T-rated.
B-rated or Basic Axes are designed for walking but strong enough to belay on if you need to. T-rated or Technical Axes are designed for mountaineering and climbing with a much stronger shaft and pick.


More

Features to look out for:

  • Leash – This will prevent you from dropping your axe. However, a leash can hinder you when you need to change hands regularly while climbing and can snag on your crampons. A removable leash is a perfect compromise.
  • Grip – A rubber section on the shaft is great for holding on and is often warmer than holding metal!
  • Weight – Many ice axes are now very lightweight (especially those designed for ice climbing), but it is important that you have enough weight to get a good swing with your axe. Try a few out in store and choose what suits you.

Buffs, Hats & Accessories

In winter conditions, snow and penetrating winds mean that you can lose body heat from any exposed area very quickly, and your head is no exception. Don't forget to invest in a buff or hat to keep both your head and ears warm.

How to wear a buff

The versatile buff

A Buff helps to keep those easy to forget about areas insulated with its unbeatable versatility. There are a wide range of buffs available from Merino Wool and Micro Fibre to a Polartec fleece lined construction. Most Buffs tend to be wickable, breathable and wind resistant, keeping perspiration away from your head and keeping you insulated.

Wear a buff as a…

  • Scarf: Simply pop over your head and around your neck to form a neck protecting scarf
  • Beanie: Turn the Buff inside out and put your arms through the middle. Lightly twist and pull one half over the top.
  • Full head and face protection: Pull the buff over your entire head with your face exposed. Gather up material under your neck and pull up over your nose.
Mountaineering hats

Hats

While a Buff will offer a degree of insulation, it is always useful to have a hat at hand to add layering to your head should the weather get particularly cold. A hat worn under your helmet will ensure that your head stays warm - choose microfleece for warmth or merino wool for its comfort and wicking properties.

Buy Buffs, Hats & Balaclavas