It’s been a busy winter for me. When I’ve not been running winter skills day courses for mountain walkers in Snowdonia I’ve been up in the Lake District assessing fell top conditions on Helvellyn, so I’ve been out in it most days. There have been days of minus 20C with windchill, and others with winds of 80mph. It’s days like these when it’s particularly important to know and trust your kit. Anything that isn’t up to the mark simply gets left out of the rucksack as there’s no point in carrying dead weight up the hill. Every single piece of kit has to have a purpose, and has to be the best it can be for winter mountaineering. Here’s the kit that got me through the winter. My own top 12 pieces of outdoor equipment that went out with me practically every day.
Starting with the head, and working downwards!
Snugbug Baked Beanie Hat – A lovely, well crafted, warm hat made of the perfect combination of quality wool and fleece. http://www.snug-bug.co.uk/shop/beanies
Petzl Nao Headtorch – An ultra-powerful (575 lumens), multibeam rechargeable headlamp with reactive lighting technology that automatically adjusts brightness and beam pattern. A stunning piece of kit for late afternoons on the winter hills, and night navigation courses alike. Oh, and it’s USB rechargeable too! http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/PERFORMANCE-headlamps/NAO?l=INT#.VS5mP9zF_84
Bergans of Norway Storen Jacket – A really solid piece of kit, this low-weight, stretchy, super-breathable and waterproof jacket was impossible to beat. Every single feature of this jacket was in exactly the right place, and did precisely what it was meant to do. Impressive stuff indeed. http://catalog.bergans.eu/clothing/jacket/Shell/Storen-Jkt-Lime-Green-Tea-Br-SeaBlue-L-157904-p0000950393
Sherpa Adventure Gear Gombu Hooded Jacket – The Gombu just seems to radiate an inner warmth, making you feel like that kid in a certain breakfast cereal add back in the 80s who had an orange glow around him all day. I love the fit, the warm hood, fleecy lined pockets, and the low-weight packability of this insulation layer. http://www.sherpaadventuregear.co.uk/mens-c1/gombu-hooded-jacket-sarkar-blue-p272
Mountain Technology Ice Axe – This is a slightly odd one to have on this list, mainly because the company Mountain Technology of Glencoe isn’t around any more. That said, I bought this axe about 15 years ago, and have tried and tested a number of wannabe replacements since then, but just keep going back to my old axe. It’s a friend. It’s been with me on a lot of adventures. And I haven’t yet found an ice axe for walking and winter mountaineering that I like and trust more than my old Glencoe.
Force Ten Alpine 45 Rucksack – This sack was only introduced this year, and the minute I put mine on I knew it was quite simply the best pack I’ve carried in years. Every attention to detail has been worked on and designed to the point where it just simply couldn’t be made any better. And better still, anything that is superfluous to requirements has been ditched. This is one amazingly comfortable, simple sack, and I truly hope it lasts, because I intend using mine for many years to come. http://www.force-ten.co.uk/gb/28-rucksacks
Harvey British Mountain Map – I know there are many of you who aren’t convinced by Harvey maps, but I can only assume that you’ve never actually tried them properly in the hills. They are clear, easy to understand, virtually impossible to trash, not as bulky as a laminated map, and will outlast an OS no contest. If there’s a Harvey map available for the area I’m heading to, they are always my map of choice. http://www.harveymaps.co.uk/acatalog/british-mountain-maps.html
Powermonkey Explorer 2 – I’m not known for carrying lots of gadgets around in the hills with me. That said, I use my smartphone a lot when I’m out in the hills as it’s my link to my clients, and that’s what keeps me going out into the hills! I’ve also recently started dabbling in Viewranger mapping, and all this does have a drain on your phone’s battery. So, enter the Powermonkey Explorer 2. This is a smallish bit of kit that has quickly become invaluable for keeping that phone charged, but I also use it for giving my Petzl Nao headtorch a boost while on the hill too! https://www.powertraveller.com/en/shop/portable-chargers/outdoor-adventure/powermonkey-explorer-2/
Silva Expedition 4 Compass – The Silva range of compasses has been at the forefront of my life in the mountains since I was a kid, and for me nothing else will ever be as good as the Expedition 4. It does what I need it to do, which often involves navigating in tricky situations, in dreadful weather, and at night. http://silva.se/product-family/expedition
Bergans of Norway Storen Pants – The same superb build quality and immaculate design that Bergans have put into their jacket goes into these winter mountain pants. They’re not full-on salopettes, but do have braces, which is nice, and the soft material and light weight makes you forget that you’re wearing waterproof trousers. I love the fact that they don’t turn to cardboard when it gets really cold too, as many other types of winter waterproofs do! http://catalog.bergans.eu/clothing/Hosen/hardshell/Storen-Pnt-Dp-Sea-Lime-L-157991-p0000952038
Scarpa Manta Pro GTX Boots – Despite being told in a certain well-know outdoor chain branch that Scarpa boots won’t suit my feet (I’ve only been wearing Scarpa’s for about 25 years!), I love the new Manta Pro boots. I’ve used them extensively with crampons on snow, ice and mixed terrain up to grade III or IV, and also bashed them around a fair bit on rock scrambles and easy climbs too. So far, they’re hard to beat. http://www.scarpa.co.uk/trek/manta-pro-gtx/
Petzl Vasak Crampons – A very well-tried and tested design, these are very easy to put on and take off (yes, I did go for the Flexlock version, and still get them boot-snug quicker than most folk do in their clip-in ones!), are hard working, good on snow, ice and mixed ground, and as far as I can tell they are the perfect all-round crampon. http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Crampons/VASAK?l=INT#.VS5wZ9zF_84