19. Clothing Considerations

How do you dress for all the possible conditions you might encounter on an alpine climbing mission? In this video, we dive into layering clothes for alpine pursuits. You’ll notice that the clothes work as a system based on layers, that pack easily, dry fast, and that you can add or remove based on conditions/activities.

The upper body system may include up to 4-5 layers depending on the conditions.

Layer 1 – Also known as the base layer, this should include a short sleeve and/or long sleeve, breathable quick-drying material (synthetic or wool).

Layer 2 – This insulation layer should include a lightweight fleece that is breathable, yet warm and light.

Layer 3 – Soft shell jacket that can block wind, yet is breathable for high output activities.

Layer 4 – Insulated puffy jacket that is lightweight and packable. Consider heavier down depending on conditions, and synthetic insulation for wet environments.

Layer 5 – Wind shirt that is super light (3 oz) and blocks wind.

Layer 6 – Hard shell jacket. This is key for severe conditions or bad weather. You may leave this behind for summer missions in the Sierra Nevada—whereas if you’re climbing Mt. Rainier in July, you might never take it off. In most mountain ranges, a hard shell is absolutely necessary for safety.

Other miscellaneous clothing should include a warm hat, lightweight gloves (2 pair depending on conditions), a buff (protect from sun, wind, cold) and/or a balaclava.

Lower body clothing system should include a long underwear base layer, and a pair of soft shell pants. It can also include rain pants or gaiters depending on the conditions.

This system is not waterproof but it is water resistant and dries fast—solid for high output activities. Note: Each of the jackets should have hoods for additional warmth and protection from the elements.

The system you choose to use will vary based on conditions, environment and activity, but the goal is always to be thermally efficient.

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk