This is going to be a very practical post on the simple question what you should bring to a multi-day climbing trip.
I have been on many climbing trips ranging from a few days to more than 6 weeks (read this post about my last trip to Céüse) and it constantly amazes me what some people bring on such trips. Sure, I have taken many unnecessary things in the past and sometimes I forgot a few crucial items but overall I am now pretty happy with my packing system.
I’ll be giving you a commented packing list for a climbing trip, listing all the things that I deem necessary and talking a little bit about what you likely shouldn’t pack.
Some basic considerations
What you pack often depends on your destination, the weather, the type of climbing you want to do and on your means of transportation. Your accomodation is also an important factor and – of course – you will have to think about a lot more when you plan to go camping instead of renting an apartment. This list is geared towards sport-climbing (because this is what I do) and it assumes a summer trip to a warm destination. It is also geared towards camping, so if you plan to stay in an apartment just leave those items out.
My general philosophy when packing is that you should try to take the least amount of stuff that is necessary. If you’re not traveling by car it is kinda self-evident that you can’t really exceed what you can carry (probably a bigger backpack and maybe a smaller secondary bag) but even if you have a car it is not advisable to pack too much stuff. It’s heavy, you have to worry about it, it clutters things up … too much gear is just never a good thing.
I usually take a 45+10 litres backpack and my ropebag with all my climbing gear in it. This applies more or less regardless of the length of the trip as I tend to (hand)wash some clothes during my trips instead of just taking more clothing (highly recommended). Sometimes, if I don’t go camping, I can even fit my rope into the backpack and end up with just one piece of luggage.
The Packing List
Climbing (assuming sport)
- 80m rope
- 10 – 20 quickdraws
- Belay device
- A few slings
- A few extra biners
- Chalkbag (filled with chalk, if empty steal chalk from your friends)
- 1 – 2 pairs of climbing shoes
This allows you to do long sport routes and you can even do sport multi-pitch. If your friend brings a rope you won’t have to bring one and it can be beneficial to discuss the number of quickdraws that will be needed. Note that I always take 2 pairs of climbing shoes but it is very rare that I actually need both of them. If you always climb in the same pair anyway then don’t bother with taking 2 pairs as one will just end up not being used.
- Belay jacket (down or synthetic, warm, a crucial piece both in summer and winter, never forget your puffy)
- 1 pullover (fleece or wool, geared towards outdoor use)
- 1 normal pullover
- 1 pair of long climbing trousers
- 1 – 2 pairs of short climbing trousers
- 2 – 3 climbing shirts
- 2 normal shirts
- 1 longsleeve
- 1 pair of normal trousers
- The amount of socks and underwear you feel comfortable with (I usually take 4 boxershorts and 4 pairs of socks and wash them frequently)
- Some sort of hat or beanie
- Flip-flops (good for communal showers)
- 1 pair of approach shoes (I can recommend the La Sportiva Mix)
This is not the minimal amount of clothing and you could take a lot less. You have 1 – 2 outfits for restdays (city outfits) and you could also cut down on some of the climbing apparel. If you’re going in winter just take out the short climbing trousers and consider taking another long one. You could also substitute some t-shirts for longsleeves and might want to pack a scarf, gloves and a second (or warmer) jacket. I stopped taking a hardshell because I don’t climb in the rain and never get wet on climbing trips. This is assuming that you’re always close to a warm and dry location. If you can’t easily dry your clothes if you do get wet, then you should take a rain jacket.
- Shower gel / Shampoo (all in one)
- Nail clippers
- Hand balm (if needed)
- Deodorant (if you have to)
Go light here, you don’t need to look good in the woods. Only take the essentials! The nail clippers are essential to keep your fingers, nails and hands in shape (you might also want to bring some sandpaper for sanding down rough skin).
- Insulation matress
- Sleeping bag
- Pot and pan
- (it can be nice to have a camping chair)
Take light stuff if you can. Choose a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the climate. No need to pack a pillow, just use a pullover or your towel. I have a therm-a-rest prolite as a matress and I am very happy with it. Lightweight and comfortable! In regards to tableware, I take a proper spoon and a proper fork. They are very light as it is and there is no need for special camping tableware (or some abomination like a spork). Makes dinner time much better! As a knife I take a small Opinel, it is essential to have a sharp knife for cooking and it can come in handy pretty often. You don’t really want to bring a water bottle. While I never use plastic bottles when I am at home (the environment), I use these exclusively when on a climbing trip. They are light, disposable, can be found everywhere and one bottle won’t be enough anyways so there’s no need to bring one.
- Cellphone and charger
- A good book
- basic first-aid kit (don’t go overbord, if you don’t know how to use it then don’t take it with you)
In this list, only the headlamp is really essential. You don’t have to take your phone or a book but it can make things nicer. Your phone can double up as a camera and it is very useful in case you need to call help. A high-capacity powerbank can be pretty handy if you can’t charge your phone regularly.
Some last remarks
In the end, it is all about developing a system that works for you and finding gear that you can rely on. By now, I have most of my gear and clothing items figured out and am pretty happy without having to buy new stuff whenever I go on a trip. If I take all the things I have listed here, I find that I couldn’t increase comfort even if I brought more stuff. To arrive at a good system it is crucial to assess every item and think really long and hard about it. Will you really need it? And then, after a trip, think about what items you used, which ones were not used much and what stuff you could have left at home. Also, was there anything that you were missing? Write it down and remember to bring it next time.