Not on the Gear List, But in our Backpacks

Not On The Gear List, But In Our Backpacks

Off-List Must-Haves

Gear lists are honed utilitarian tools for packing for a trip. Our gear lists represent years of carefully considering only and exactly what is needed for a given climb. You might wonder: are there things worth bringing into the mountains, not on our gear lists? Absolutely!

Loaded Smartphone (the Electronic Multi-Tool)

A smartphone is about as useful as a Leatherman multi-tool and about as versatile. Equipped with a camera, compass, endless entertainment possibilities, occasional cell service, and handy apps, phones are worthwhile on many mountain adventures. The key is to take time to pre-load the apps and entertainment you’ll want to use in the backcountry.

Apps & Entertainment We Recommend

  • Audiobooks, podcasts, and music! These are great for downtime around camp or to drown out the wind a bit when sleeping.
  • E-books. A Kindle is great, but a smartphone is smaller and more versatile. Yep, you can read books right on your smartphone! The Kindle App, Libby (via your local library), and other sources like Gutenberg are available to download reads.
  • Camera/photo app. Useful for recording your tent mate snoring for later blackmail, or for saving down route photos – and getting that summit shot!
  • Skyview. This rad app identifies stars, planets, and constellations.
  • PeakFinder. Pop your phone up against the skyline you can see from camp, and it’ll identify all the peaks by name. This is useful for plotting future routes and projects, as well as become better able to identify mountains based on their visible features.
  • Gaia GPS. We all have it, and we all use it. Gaia doesn’t require a cell signal to pinpoint your location, but you’ll want to download the maps you intend to use before heading into the backcountry. This is also an excellent app for training metrics.

Phone Tips

Following a few small tips will allow you to make maximum use of your smartphone in the backcountry:

  1. Keep your phone in airplane mode or fully off.
  2. When using Bluetooth or Location Services (GPS), carefully monitor your battery and turn these features off when you aren’t using them.
  3. Waterproof, dustproof cases. Period. We mostly use LifeProof cases.
  4. Stash your phone in an interior jacket pocket when it’s cold on summit day, or inside your sleeping bag overnight.

Other Items Not on the Gear List

Beyond our smartphones, we often take other off-list items with us into the backcountry. Naturally, we vary which and how many of these “extras” you bring based on the length of the trip, your overall pack weight, and your own physical conditioning. Those who have prior experience or know their training is exceeding what’s required can usually bring more. Here’s our list of favorites:

  • Camp Booties. Nice for walking around camp, the hut, or for wearing to bed in the winter. Even for shorter climbs, booties can be nice.
  • Battery Packs. These are heavy, so think twice before hauling one. There’s no need to bring battery packs on short climbs, but heavy electronics users might consider a small battery pack on climbs lasting more than four days.
  • Solar Lanterns. These add glamor to basecamp life or can make waiting out a storm a bit more enjoyable. Choose light models that blow up or fold.
  • Rite-in-the-Rain Notebooks. While key for taking instructional course notes, these are less key on short trips. However, it’s nice to take notes of camps, elevations, progress, and weather patterns. Reflecting on the day by journaling in the alpenglow has its benefits, too!
  • French Press or Pourover Coffee System. Can’t lace your boots without a quality brew? Does instant coffee make you shudder? Small luxuries like good coffee can make a big difference. On trips where the pace allows a more relaxed morning, upgrading instant coffee to french press or pour over can be worth the weight and effort.
  • SmartWatch. We use watches with either GPS or barometer altimeters to track pace and elevation gain. Many smartwatches also offer handy features like GPS tracking and heart rate monitors. Watches can also be handy as a backup alarm for that summit day alpine start.


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