How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip – Light-is-Right

Learning how to pack for a mountaineering trip is important because a lighter pack is easier to carry.Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker.

Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker. ©Kitty Calhoun

The main tenant when it comes to how to pack for a mountaineering trip is that light is right! 

Light is right for many reasons not least of which is that light is much easier and more enjoyable to carry.

However, light-is-right is especially important to me because I go to the mountains to get away from stuffGetting down to basics allows me to focus simply on what I need and to be more appreciative of what I have. I find freedom in knowing what I can do without.  

With light-is-right in mind, here are my top weight-saving tips for how to pack for a mountaineering trip:


The most important thing when packing mountaineering gear is don’t bring more than you need and know how to use it all!

Knowing what you’ll need is often a process of trial-and-error as you gain experience. And knowing how to use all your gear takes a willingness to practice. For example, set up your tent in your living room a few times before you leave. Or, take a wilderness first-aid course. 


Limit yourself to a 45L pack lined with a trash bag (if it’s going to rain).


Share a light, 3-season tent such as the Slingfin 2Lite.  


Down compresses more, but if it’s going to be wet, it will not hold up. Synthetic is a better choice for rainy weather and wet conditions.

Sleeping Bag

Use a 30° bag and wear clothes to sleep or tuck in with a hot water bottle if it’s colder. 


Use a small Therm-a-Rest, such as the NeoAir.


Food is heavy, yet proper nutrition is important for long mountaineering days.

  • Add hydration tabs to your water bottle for increased electrolytes.
  • Use an Energy Drink mix with Roctane to get more branch-chain amino acids.
  • Always drink a recovery drink when you get to camp.  
  • Eat easily digestible, complex carbs when you’re moving. 
  • Eat protein and fat at camp when you’re resting and can digest better.  
  • Choose nutrient rich, calorie dense food.  


  • Use collapsible water bottles.
  • I treat my water with iodine tabs because they are so light!


Don’t bring any more clothes than you can wear at one time. For summer mountaineering approaches I’ll bring runners, synthetic shorts and a t-shirt. 

However, for most mountaineering trips I only bring– 

Upper Body:

  1. Next-to-Skin layer
  2. Insulating layer 
  3. Shell (for rain) 
  4. Belay Jacket (for cold)

Lower Body:

  1. Next-to-skin layer 
  2. soft shell 
  3. hard shell (rain) layer

Other Mountaineering Essentials

  • Small repair kit
  • Small first aid kit
  • Communications device such as SPOT or Delorme 
  • Map and compass
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Toothbrush (toiletries)
  • Phone/camera

We cover How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip in detail before we begin all our mountaineering courses. Go to All Chicks Mountaineering Courses to learn more.

You can also refer to for more information.