Gear Up for 14ers

Spring is in the Rock­ies and over the com­ing months, most of the snow­pack will recede from jagged peaks to leave jut­ting rock faces and rolling moun­tain trails.

Thou­sands of hik­ers will hit the hills to tack­le some of the 88 tow­er­ing 14ers (and hun­dreds of 13ers and small­er moun­tains) in the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States. While the vast major­i­ty of these hik­ers will have noth­ing but won­der­ful mem­o­ries, sore legs and great pic­tures from their climbs, a few will run into rough weath­er, rock fall, and oth­er obsta­cles that put their par­ty at risk. Some won’t make it home.

A few pieces of impor­tant equip­ment can mean the dif­fer­ence between an uncom­fort­able day and a seri­ous­ly bad sit­u­a­tion. Make sure to car­ry these manda­to­ry pieces of gear on every sum­mit bid in the Rock­ies. Many climbs will require more equip­ment, but this basic list should get most climbers through basic one-day sum­mer sum­mit hikes. Be sure to research your route before leav­ing home and pack appropriately.











You will need a back­pack. A small day­pack should do the trick for most routes, just be sure it is com­fort­able and remem­ber you have to car­ry every­thing you pack, so stick to the basics.

Water­proof shell
It doesn’t mat­ter if the weath­er calls for sun­shine all day long, you need a water­proof (or at least high­ly resis­tant) shell. Even moun­tain run­ners are required to car­ry tiny, pack­able shells dur­ing ultra-marathons in the Rocky Moun­tains. For most peo­ple, a light water­proof breath­able shell is the best choice.

Fleece or insu­lat­ing layer
The amount of insu­la­tion need­ed in the moun­tains varies dra­mat­i­cal­ly through the sea­sons, but be sure to bring at least one light fleece or oth­er insu­lat­ing lay­ers per per­son for sud­den tem­per­a­ture drops even in the summer.

Thin, light­weight gloves can be a bless­ing when an after­noon storm drops the tem­per­a­ture by 30 degrees in min­utes and they take up near­ly no room in a pack.

Hat or Buff
Real­ly you should have two, one with a brim for sun and anoth­er for warmth. Choose syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als and light but warm designs.

Syn­thet­ic base layer
Leave the cot­ton tee shirt in the clos­et. When dress­ing for a 14er, choose a syn­thet­ic base lay­er designed to dry quick­ly. Meri­no wool is a favorite of many out­door enthu­si­asts as are blends of nylon and poly­ester made by out­door companies.











Don’t even think of head­ing into the moun­tains with­out water. Yes, it’s heavy. You don’t need much, but just 12 to 16 ounces will make your day much more enjoy­able and could be crit­i­cal in the event of an emer­gency. Plan accord­ing to your route and make sure to car­ry enough.

Most 14er’s that can be climbed in one day don’t require exten­sive food pack­ing, how­ev­er, a nice lunch makes a climb a lot more fun and keeps ener­gy lev­els high. Pack high-ener­gy foods like PB & J sand­wich­es, ener­gy bars, dried fruit, and can­dy bars. Don’t wor­ry about count­ing calo­ries, you’ll need all you can get!

It is impor­tant to get off the moun­tain before after­noon storms. Keep track of the time to main­tain a safe trip.

Knife or multitool
Nev­er leave a trail­head with­out one. Moun­tains are no different.

This one can be easy to for­get dur­ing pre-dawn starts, so be sure to pack sun­screen and apply it through the day. At high alti­tude, the sun burns even on cloudy days.

Hik­ing pants/nylon shorts
Syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als will dry quick­ly in brief rain show­ers and be less like­ly to lead to hypothermia.

Many climbers begin before sun­rise when a head­lamp is def­i­nite­ly need­ed. Even if you plan to climb entire­ly dur­ing the day a head­lamp can be a life-saver in an emer­gency late in the day.











A day on the moun­tains with­out sun­glass­es can be real­ly mis­er­able. Don’t leave home with­out them.

Many peaks have well-worn trails to the sum­mit, but maps are still impor­tant in route find­ing when trails con­verge. Car­ry small maps of your route and know how to read them.

Espe­cial­ly on remote moun­tain tops, get­ting turned around hap­pens. A com­pass is a cheap, easy way to un-con­fuse your­self and save a lot of mis­ery. Pack one on any trip to the wilder­ness. It’s small, light and can save your life.

Duct Tape
This is the one tool that can fix just about any­thing. Bring about 5 feet worth wrapped around a small dow­el or rolled onto itself. You just nev­er know what will need fixing.

Because nature calls.

Trash Bag
Because it’s nature and we want to leave it that way. Prac­tice leave-no-trace hik­ing prac­tices and pick up after yourself.