Mountaineering Gear and Ice Climbing Gear

Mountaineering and ice climbing are harder on equipment than any other kind of climbing. Not only does the gear have to stand up to the harshest conditions, it also has to handle the abuse of being slammed and torqued into ice and rock. Only the best will survive more than a couple of seasons, and Climbing's field testers let you know what works and what doesn't, so you can trust your gear when you head into the mountains.
  • HPGearGuide15Alpine

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Alpine

    Weight, versatility, durability, and weather resistance are of the utmost importance in the high country. Here are 12 products that meet and beat all the requirements.

  • Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    As editors of a climbing magazine, part of our job description includes traveling to cool climbing areas with the latest and greatest gear and putting it through its paces—all in the name of “testing.” Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. We eventually have to decide which products are worthy of a mention, and which are better left on the shelf. Every year there are several items that shine brightest, proving themselves to be absolutely must-have pieces of gear. We bestow those top picks with the gear world’s premier prize: Editors’ Choice. This year, we winnowed a field of hundreds of products to select these 15 coolest, best-performing, and most drool-worthy gear picks.

  • HPECAlpine

    Gear Guide 2014: Alpine

    Rock, ice, or snow, these 12 tester-approved toys will get you to the top.

  • HPEC

    Gear Guide 2014: Editors' Choice Awards

    Innovative, smart, lust-worthy, and just plain cool: 10 new must-have products that topped our testers’ lists.

  • Soto-Windmaster-OD1RX-158

    Soto Windmaster OD-1RX

    Integrated cook systems like the JetBoil or MSR Reactor do a great job of deflecting wind and maintaining quick boil times, but you can’t use multiple pots or frying pans. Meanwhile, many pocket stoves suffer in the face of a stiff breeze.

  • Avex Highland Autoseal Stainless Travel Mug

    Climbers are serious about coffee. And this tricked-out travel mug is a seriously cool addition to the scene. With a large and easy-to-push button on the top side, you can effortlessly press the button down.

  • Swiftwick-Aspire-Socks

    Swiftwick Aspire

    Compression socks for climbing? Believe it. After shivering for a few hours on Castleton Tower near Moab, Utah, one tester decided to try the Aspires the next day for Washerwoman Tower, and she was immediately sold.

  • $59; outdoorresearch.com

    Summit or Bust

    Whether you’re stuffing a five-ounce model into a larger pack or you’re leaving the car with one pack on your back, we’ve got a choice to suit your needs.

  • Zamberlan-Fitz-Roy-660

    Zamberlan Fitz Roy

    “Just the right balance of stiffness and agility,” said one tester after three days of summer mountaineering above Chamonix, France. Credit the dual-density PU midsole with a full polypropylene shank for ultra-stable frontpointing and a flexible nylon notch for unencumbered ankle movement. “On low-angled glacial terrain, I could feel the pronounced rocker propelling my strides forward, even with crampons on,” said our tester.

  • apparel-guide

    Fall 2013 Apparel Guide

    Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.

  • Millet Miage Pant

    What makes a pant superior isn’t just about what it does do, but also about what it doesn’t do. It shouldn’t hinder upward progress; be too tight or too baggy; make you sweat or itch; look unstylish; have too many or too few pockets; or interact poorly with your harness and other gear. From the Alps of Switzerland to Boulder Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado, the Miage didn’t do any of those things, acting as a perfect all-around pant.

  • Eastern-Mtn-Sports-Helix

    Eastern Mountain Sports Helix Jacket

    With around 30 backcountry testing days, from climbing Utah ice to teaching avalanche courses and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, the Helix proved its worth as a perfect “quiver of one” waterproof/breathable shell. Polartec NeoShell’s updated membrane is more permeable than the previous version, allowing air to pull moisture away from the skin at the first sign of sweat, rather than building up moisture before it’s released (which causes that clammy feeling).

  • North-Face-Verto-Hoody

    The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie

    “Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.

  • Mountain-Equipment-Eclipse

    Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee

    Three testers raved about this midweight fleece after using it across the world, from bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, to climbing alpine routes in Patagonia. “It was the most efficient midlayer I’ve ever worn: It warms without overheating, and it breathes in all the right places,” one tester said. The Pontetorto Technostretch fleece provided plenty of insulation in the torso and arms, while a lighter version of that fabric allowed more airflow under the arms and around the hips.

  • Goal-Zero-Sherpa-50-Kit

    Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Kit

    This solar recharger has been around for a few years, but it got a sizeable downgrade (in a good way) this year, now weighing just 1.1 lbs. The whole kit (recharger, Nomad 13 solar panels, AC inverter) can charge anything from a smartphone to a laptop.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Katabatic

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Katabatic

    We’ve given this tent a lot of ink (and our sister pub Backpacker gave it an Editors’ Choice Snow award), and for good reason. From Everest to Peru, testers raved about the ideal combo of mountain-worthy features and livability that’s rare in four-season tents.

  • Millet-Axpel-42

    Millet Axpel 42

    Swiveling waistbelts and “dynamic suspension” are becoming pretty common among packs, but for its new line of mid-sized packs, Millet is doing something unique. The pivot point lies several inches above the lumbar pad, in the middle of your lower back. Our testers said these innovations significantly increased stability and carrying comfort: “It moved with me when I was boulder-hopping on the way to the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park,” one tester said.

  • Brooks-Range-Cirro-Pant

    Brooks-Range Cirro Pants

    Puffy jackets keep your upper half warm, so why not don some puff in the southern hemisphere? Our tester wore these PrimaLoft-insulated pants winter camping in four western states and raved about the light weight (11 oz. for a medium), packability, and warmth in temps as low as 8°F.

  • Cassin-X-Gyro-Leash

    Cassin X-Gyro Leash

    Leashless tools are great—until you drop one from the fifth pitch of an alpine route (though a guide we know met her husband that way). Cassin’s new tether makes drops inconsequential, and numerous innovations make this tether more versatile than its competitors. For starters, each of the three attachments (harness and two elasticized tethers) swivels independently from a connector at your waist.

  • Pieps-Alpinist-Pro

    Pieps Alpinist Pro

    A “workhorse for a variety of climbing” is how our main tester described the burly, 36-liter Alpinist Pro after using it for everything from ice routes in Washington’s Cascades to rock climbs in Arizona’s Cochise Stronghold. Despite weighing only 2 lbs., 10 oz., the pack has plentiful features.

  • Outdoor-Research-Lodestar

    Outdoor Research Lodestar

    After two seasons of ice climbing in this jacket, one tester compared it to an electric blanket. “It’s warmer than it looks,” he said. The secret is Polartec’s Power Shield High Loft, a precipitation-resistant, wind-blocking, stretchy fabric backed by a generously fluffy gridded fleece.

  • Grivel-G10-Crampon

    Grivel G10 Crampon

    Grivel has updated its classic G10 mountaineering spikes with a more secure heel spring called the Moletta, which locks the crampons down in the rear, so there is no accidental disengagement between the boot and the ’pon. The Moletta is also completely tool-free and “easier to adjust than other spring-pin systems I’ve used,” said one tester.

  • Athleta-Smartwool-Midweight-Bottom

    Athleta Midweight Pattern Bottom by Smartwool

    Finding a well-fitting, technical, and comfortable baselayer bottom for women can be inexplicably impossible. Athleta and Smartwool filled the void with their Midweight Pattern Bottom, which is 100 percent merino wool; testers praised it as “a lady’s baselayer dream come true.

  • Millet-Davai

    Millet Davai

    Twenty-eight ounces per pair is damn light for a 6,000-meter-ready, full-gaiter boot. But that didn’t limit its ability to stand up to harsh use in temperatures down to –20°F while scaling icefalls in Vermont, Quebec, and New York.

  • La-Sportiva-Galaxy-Hoody

    La Sportiva Galaxy Hoody

    Labeled as a “do-everything hoody for the do-everything athlete,” this full-zip midlayer really does all mountain sports well. Our testers took it (and the women’s version, the Avail Hoody) from boulderfields in northern California to the long multi-pitches of Red Rock to ski slopes in Colorado.

  • La-Sportiva-Stormfighter-GTX

    La Sportiva Stormfighter GTX Jacket

    The name says it all. This shell protected our testers from hail, rain, and eyelid-fluttering winds year-round in the Colorado high country. And at a whispery 11 oz., it’s stealth and compact enough to disappear into a pack and not be a weight liability.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Maximus-Duffel

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Maximus Duffel

    With trips to Smith Rock, Hueco Tanks, and Colombia, the Maximus Duffel proved to be an expedition-ready carry-all durable enough to stand up to any baggage handler’s abuse. With burly 1,000-denier tarpaulin and 210-denier nylon ripstop fabrics, this duffel showed almost no signs of wear despite dragging, throwing, and rolling it through airports, across sidewalks, and around camp.

  • Beal-Unicore-Tiger-10mm

    Beal Unicore Tiger 10mm

    The brunt of a rope’s strength comes from the core, and while the sheath doesn’t add significant strength, it does protect the core from damage. A sliced sheath will quickly unravel, exposing several feet of core, making the rope unusable. Solution? Beal introduced Unicore technology last year in two ropes; this bonds the core to the sheath via a thin, lightweight filament that’s woven between the two.

  • Mammut-RescYou-Crevasse-Kit

    Mammut RescYou Crevasse Kit

    Crevasse rescue skills are a necessary part of glacier travel, and although they seem complicated, the RescYou kit simplifies the setup of these intricate systems. This kit is a powerful pulley system set up in a compact, 14-oz. package that’s easy to keep in your alpine stash. Building a safe anchor is still necessary, but setting up your own 6-to-1 mechanical advantage is already done for you here.

  • Nemo-Spoon-Nocturne-Sleeping-Bag

    Nemo Stratoloft 25 and Nocturne 15 Spoon Bags

    Cheers to Nemo for making two of our favorite bags of the year. The Stratoloft 25 (right) is a down comforter that pairs with an insulated air pad (sold separately); the combo is the perfect setup for car camping and weekenders. “The pad with integrated pillow and lofty down bag with elastic in the seams made for a better night’s sleep than I get at home,” said one tester.

  • Stio-Origins-Jacket

    Stio Origins Hoody

    One of the founders of Cloudveil recently launched Stio, a brand with a similar spirit (Jackson, Wyoming-based, designed for climbers and skiers—and cracking beers back in town). The Origins Hoody has become a tester favorite.

  • La-Sportiva-Xplorer-Mid-GTX

    La Sportiva Xplorer Mid GTX

    Ultralight approach shoes are fine and dandy, but for ankle support when scrambling up a creek bed or surfing scree on a descent, look no further than the Xplorer Mid GTX. La Sportiva took its popular low-top Xplorer and beefed it up for heavyduty hikes, yet added only about 5 oz. to a pair.

  • Trango-Liberty

    Trango Liberty Harness

    A day in the alpine can bring a little bit of everything: hiking, rock, snow, choss, hanging belays, and multiple rappels. “After my first eight hours in this harness, I was sold,” said one tester after a late summer scramble-snow-rock ascent of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Longs Peak.

  • Patagonia-Encapsil-Down

    Patagonia Encapsil Down

    Patagonia’s own version of water-resistant down ups the ante by boosting loft to an astonishing 1,000-fill. They zap 800-fill down with radio waves until its molecular structure changes, allowing the plumes to accept a silicone DWR treatment without the use of chemical binders.

  • Edelrid-Nineteen-G

    Edelrid Nineteen G

    Tagged as “the lightest carabiner set on the market,” these clippers barely tip the scales at 19.5 grams (about 0.7 oz.) per biner—hence the name. That’s about 20 percent lighter than the sveltest micro-biners out there. Put another way, a rack of 10 Edelrid Nineteen G quickdraws with 10cm Dyneema slings weighs less than a pound.

  • Arcteryx-Acto-MX-Hoody

    Arc'teryx Acto MX Hoody

    Take the weather resistance of the best softshell and marry it to the breathability of an unlined fleece, and you have the Acto MX. “It’s great for high-output activities in the alpine,” said one tester after climbing the Breithorn outside of Zermatt, Switzerland, on a crisp, bluebird day.

  • Patagonia-Exosphere

    Patagonia Exosphere

    “It’s like wearing armor,” said one tester after a two-week stint in perpetually weather-beaten south Patagonia, during which he rarely took the jacket off. “From climbing to sea kayaking to horseback riding, this jacket is perfect for the cold and wet, and it handles abrasion better than just about any other shell I’ve seen.”

  • First-Ascent-Bacon

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Bacon

    Many “summit packs” are little more than stuff sacks with shoulder straps, but the Bacon is as hearty as its namesake. Ultralight (23 oz.) but tough, the 28-liter Bacon has a lightly padded back and internal webbing “skeleton” that kept loads centered squarely on the back and made it comfortable to carry modest loads up to 15 lbs.

  • Edelrid-Micro-Jul-Flycatcher

    Edelrid Micro Jul and Flycatcher

    For an ultralight alpine setup where two ropes are needed for rappels, it would be hard to top this package. The 6.9mm Flycatcher rope—you read that diameter right—is so thin that Edelrid had to invent a new belay device to handle it: the Micro Jul. A pair of 60m Flycatchers weighs just over 9 lbs.—about the same as one 10mm.

  • Trango-Raptor-Ice-Tool

    Trango Raptor

    Modeled after the popular curved, double-gripped Black Diamond Fusion and Petzl Nomic tools, the Raptor is a fairly worthy competitor. Female and small-handed testers especially loved this tool for its light weight (19 oz. without the optional 2-oz. pick weights) and smaller grip size. “I have tiny hands, and I didn’t have to over-grip for fear of losing a tool. With a mid-weight glove on, the main grip above the pinky rest encased my hand near perfectly,” said one tester.

  • Sierra Designs Gnar Lite DriDown

    Dry Heat

    It’s funny how much waiting happens at the crag: Belaying, spotting, gawking, sharing beta—these don’t require a ton of energy. What’s not funny is how far your core temperature can drop on cold days during inactivity. Solution? The Sierra Designs DriDown Gnar Lite jacket ($229; sierradesigns.com). While at first glance it looks like any other 800-fill down jacket (and indeed its weight and warmth are comparable to most in that category), it’s the invisible treatment to the down itself that makes the difference.

  • Gregory-Alpinisto-35-158

    Pack Mules

    Finding a pack that is perfect for everything from trad cragging to backcountry pursuits can make you feel like a whiney Goldilocks. It should be comfortable and stable enough to haul a double rack, food, layers, and water five miles or more into the alpine, but light and trim enough to stay out of the way when leading a crux pitch 500 feet off the deck.

  • Arcteryx-Jacket-660

    Don’t Leave Home Without It

    Bailing off the sixth pitch of Petit Grepon (5.8) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, in the face of a rain and hail storm, our tester put this “emergency storm jacket for an alpine environment” to the test. The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Jacket ($319; arcteryx.com) was a godsend for the two-hour downpour while the tester and her partner rapped down almost 800 feet.

  • TNF-Glove-660

    Helping Hand

    Would you rather drop a few hundred clams for an ultra-specialized glove that ends up relegated to ski-slope use or pay way less for a warm workhorse glove that handles your dirty work? That’s what we thought. The North Face Work Glove ($80; thenorthface.com), an all-around and full-leather paw-warmer, stood up to plenty of rappels and belays.

  • Lowa-Boot-660

    Stellar All-Arounder

    On steep and technical ice—or loose, sketchy ledges—precise foot placement is critical. The Lowa Weisshorn GTX ($460; lowaboots.com) made even the most unstable terrain manageable. “It fit me like a second layer of skin—never awkward or bulky,” said a Vermont tester after multi-pitch ice climbs at Lake Willoughby. The secret?

  • First-Ascent-Tent-660

    High-Altitude Home

    Take a bomber four-season tent and make it comfortably livable, and there you have the First Ascent Katabatic ($599; firstascent.com). Our seasoned tester and guide put this tent at the top of his all-time-favorites list after taking it to 26,000 feet on Everest and braving 40 mph winds in it. He then rounded out his testing with another high-altitude stint in wind-whipped Peru.

  • TNF-Radish-660

    Middle Management

    As gear and apparel get more specialized, you wind up owning a quiver full of pieces that are perfect for a few things and, well, less than awesome for others. Enter new technical midlayers that our testers have used from last winter through the beginning of fall. We focused our test on synthetic fleece, which provides warmth and breathability in a slim profile. Bonus: Many are $100 or less. From the dozen midlayers tested, we culled the five best— each would do well for any and all of your upcoming adventures.

  • Climbing-Tech-Concept-SGL-Biner

    Cross-Check

    Although I’ve heard anti-crossloading carabiners derided as “taking a problem that doesn’t exist and making it worse,” that would only be true if the cross-loading protection made the biner a pain to use. In fact, carabiners rarely—if ever—break during belaying, but cross-loading can cause untimely opening of improperly locked gates and other problems.

  • Brooks-Range-Snow-Fluke

    Not Dead Yet

    Snow flukes (aka deadmen) have been around for ages, but most mountaineers today seem to prefer carrying pickets for snow anchors. The new Brooks-Range Deadman will challenge alpinists to add this gear back into the mix. These flukes (available in three sizes) feature a single-cable design—unique in the fluke market—which makes placements faster and stronger in firm snow, especially in the smallest size, since the cable readily slices into the snow.

  • Scarpa-Rebel-GTX-158

    Alpine Alternative

    Right out of the box, the Scarpa Rebel GTX Carbon ($439; scarpa.com) was an excellent addition to our tester’s alpine boot quiver. At a scant 21 ounces per boot, it’s no surprise that speedster Ueli Steck had a hand in designing them. Our tester found them best suited for moderate alpine rock and snow climbing in environments where you need more support and warmth than an approach shoe, and may want to wear crampons.