BOOK YOUR NEXT TRIP | 206.378.1927

Top-10 Gear Misconceptions

Misconceptions about climbing gear can leave you wandering in the woods.

In this article, we’ll look at the top-10 most common gear-related misconceptions for those newer to mountaineering, and offer some quick comments in answer.

  1. “My hardshells need to fit over all of my layers, including insulation.”
    • Once it’s cold enough to need a down parka or insulated pants, it’s typically cold enough that any precipitation falls as snow- which will shed easily off of your parka & insulated pants. Thus, you want to size your hardshells to fit over all of your layers EXCEPT for your insulated layers.
  1. “If a jacket is 800-fill, it is warm enough to use on Rainier or beyond.”
    • Fill-power (800-fill, 700-fill, etc.) indicates the quality of down in a jacket. The higher the number, the higher the quality of down used. The warmth of a down jacket is much more strongly indicated by the amount of down used in a jacket (also known as fill-weight) than by the fill-power. A typical Rainier parka will contain about 200-300g of high-quality down (700+ fill-power), and weigh about 1.5-2.5 lb.
  1. “What I wore to climb a 14’er will be sufficient for Rainier.”
    • Mount Rainier can be a ferocious place. Proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes for high wind, cold temperatures, and plenty of damp precipitation. Even though Rainier is not much higher than most 14’ers, it is far colder, far tougher, and makes most “feel the altitude” in a way that is starkly different from most 14’ers.
  1. “Plastic boots and double boots are very uncomfortable, and cause blisters!”
    • Plastic boots and double boots don’t cause blisters- poor fitting and bad travel techniques cause blisters! With proper fitting, we’ve seen countless climbers use rental plastic boots, and come away from a trip with warm toes, happy faces, and no blistering.
  1. “Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods are the only option in the backcountry.”
    • Unless you are traveling fast-and-light, there are many great backcountry meal options that are not freeze-dried or dehydrated. In fact, many meals used by Alpine Ascents’ staff & guides are cheaper, more nutritious, and nearly as light as freeze-dried options.
  1. “Marathon running is the only training I need to climb big mountains.”
    • Mountain climbing requires a unique kind of fitness. Where running a marathon requires cardiovascular endurance, mountain climbing requires the cardiovascular power of a sprinter, strength of a weight-lifter, stamina of a multi-sport athlete- AND the cardiovascular endurance of a runner – the best training programs for mountaineering consist of a mix of activities that build both strength and endurance.
  1. “Bars & Gu packets- lunch!”
    • Most seasoned guides & climbers avoid bars or Gu packet-style energy foods except for high-altitude summit days. These foods have their place, but most people feel better and are happier eating familiar, everyday foods while climbing. It is much better to pack “real food” like sandwiches, chips, cookies, trail mix, fruit, and candy for any climb.
  1. “Living at sea level puts me at a big disadvantage for my climb.”
    • Though living somewhere significantly above sea-level can be advantageous for higher altitude climbing, many climbers (including most of Alpine Ascents’ guides) live at sea level in cities like Seattle. Training hard before a climb is much more important than merely living -or sleeping-at altitude.
  1. “Backpacking & hiking don’t help me prepare for mountain climbs.”
    • Climbing big mountains requires constant self-care. Knowing how to dress, eat, sleep, pack, organize, and relax outdoors is a key skill, developed only with practice. We always encourage you to go backpacking & hiking- no matter the weather- as it is excellent training for any climb or expedition. In fact, heading into the mountains in inclement weather can be great training for the arduous conditions found mountaineering!
  1. “I should sleep with my foam pad beneath my inflatable sleeping pad.”
    • While sleeping with a foam pad beneath an inflatable pad is fine, and can even be preferable if you are camped on sharp or rocky ground, it is actually warmest to sleep with your inflatable pad against the ground and your foam pad on top of it. This system keeps your body from having to constantly heat the large quantity of air inside your mattress throughout the night, which can be important when camped in very cold conditions on snowy or icy terrain.

ALPINE ASCENTS BLOG

  • Tents for Mountaineering

    Brendan gives us a quick introduction to the different styles of tents often used for mountaineering. From ultra-light bivy style single-wall shelters, to lightweight double-wall 4-season tents, to expedition-ready double walled dome bunkers, each style has a specific designed use. Stay tuned for in-depth looks at each of these varieties!  

  • What are Glacier Glasses?

    We are often asked why we specifically require “Glacier Glasses” on our climbs, rather than regular sports sunglasses. The answer to this questions is best understood with a bit of background knowledge regarding the effects of a high altitude snowy environment on the solar radiation to which you are exposed. Altitude and Solar Radiation Lots […]

  • Down Insulation 101

    Finding the right insulated jacket for a particular trip can be overwhelming – there are many aspects to consider, including different construction styles, weights, and fabrics. Here, we break down the fundamental properties of down insulation so that you can better navigate the options and come prepared for your next mountain adventure. Why Down Keeps […]

Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
Copyright © 2017 Alpine Ascents International. All rights reserved.