The equipment you bring can really improve your day out on the ice. You’re only as warm as your clothing layers and only as comfortable as your jacket and pants.
Below, we’ll help to steer you in the right direction, including our guide’s picks for their favorite clothing. If you go through your closet and find you don’t have the right clothing, don’t worry, not having the perfect jacket isn’t going to spoil your day of climbing.
Believe it or not, ice climbing involves a bit of standing around in the cold. Whether you’re waiting for your partners to climb, eating your lunch, or grabbing a few minutes of rest between laps up the ice, you can get quite cold. Having a big warm jacket to put on when you’re doing the hard work of climbing helps A LOT to keep you comfortable.
The classic Puffy Jacket, down and synthetic insulation both work well. The more the better. More puff equals more warmth and having a water repellent material on the outside helps to shed the water when the snow is falling.
Climbing can be hard work, and hard work makes a lot of heat. A lighter, more breathable jacket to climb in helps you not overheat while you’re working your way up the ice. Windproof, water shedding layers will keep you dry and warm while the breathability keeps the inside of your coat from becoming a sauna. Light insulation for colder days, which are common up here, goes a long way.
Climbing without pants doesn’t seem like a great idea. Climbing with right pants does. Normal snowpants work fine but waterproof, stretchy and warm materials make the best ice climbing pants. Some sort durable fabric on the inside of the ankle to protect from crampons is a nice feature as well. Crampon holes are common among beginner, and advanced climbers.
Also known as long underwear, this is the layer next to your skin. Synthetic materials or merino wool are the key here as they effectively move moisture away from your body without compromising the warmth. Avoid cotton as it will soak up the moisture and turn cold and clammy.
Between your base layer and your jacket and pants comes the mid layer. This one can be the key to a comfortable day in the cold. Thicker and warmer than the base layer, it acts as extra insulation or can be exposed if you overheat and take off a jacket (or take off your pants if that’s your thing…). Synthetics and wool are the rule here to as moving moisture from the base layer to the outside is critical for avoiding that soggy feeling.
Warm feet is the foundation of a warm body. If your feet get cold, it’s all down hill from there. So a good warm pair of wool sock is key. Well fitting socks are even better as the won’t bunch in your boots and just all around make you feel good.
Probably the most critical piece of equipment you’ll have out on the ice. Cold hands are terrible, there’s no way around it. Gloves can fix that. Thin gloves for climbing help reduce fatigue and improve blood flow keeping your hands warmer. Big thick gloves for all the time you’re not climbing keep your hands toasty. Extra gloves for when your first pair get wet and even more extras for when your second pair get wet.
Backpacks carry your stuff. They are pretty simple, but some do it better than others. Make sure your pack is comfortable and large enough to carry all of your extra clothes, snack, water and whatever else you bring along.