It’s the most common question I get asked by new 14er hikers: What to pack for a 14er? Thankfully, most 14ers can be climbed with just a few pieces of key equipment. If you already hike, bike or camp, you probably have a lot of it already. Here’s my guide on what to pack for a 14er.
Start with the Ten Essentials
The starting point in packing for any trip to the mountains are the ten essentials. These ten types of gear help ensure you’re ready for anything and let you respond positively to emergencies like injury or sickness on the mountains. Here are the ten essentials in brief:
- Navigation: Map, compass, [GPS device], [PLB or satellite communicators], [extra batteries or battery pack]. I recommend this map series from National Geographic.
- Headlamp: Plus extra batteries. I use this Black Diamond headlamp.
- Sun protection: Sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and sunscreen
- First aid: Including foot care and insect repellent (if required). This set is great!
- Knife: Plus repair kit. I use this leatherman with numerous tools.
- Fire: Matches, lighter and tinder, or stove as appropriate
- Shelter: Carried at all times (can be light emergency bivy)
- Extra food: Beyond minimum expectation
- Water: Beyond minimum expectation, or the means to purify
- Extra clothes: Beyond minimum expectation
Pick Layers to Match the Weather
Wearing layers allow us to add or take off clothing to adapt to changing weather conditions. This is important, as the temperature on 14ers can shift widely from night to day. Even more problematic, wind, rain, snow and hail is possible at anytime. Storms frequently develop above you in a matter of minutes. It’s a good idea to bring something for every occasion. Here’s my go to clothing layers for 14ers.
- Merino Wool 200 Thermal Underwear:
- Synthetic Hiking Pants
- Under Armor Synthetic Base Layer
- Polyester Mid-weight Pullover
- Micro Puffy Jacket
- Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Jacket
Good Footwear & Backpacks are Key
When it comes to footwear, you can use low ankle shoes or high-ankle boots. I recommend full-ankle boots, as they provide extra protection from trips and falls. These are common in the rocky terrain you’ll come across on mountains. I wear these Saloman Hiking Boots – I’ve summited over 30 peaks in them but they’re still going strong and dependable.
For my backpack, you want something with between a 15 and 35 liter capacity. This is more than enough space to carry all the water and gear you need. Be careful with the abundant, cheap bags popping up online. While they have a small price tag, they don’t provide good support and usually have poor stitching which means they won’t last. I use the Osprey Talon 22, which has been working well for nearly 2 years. It also features two water bottle pockets and trekking pole and ice axe attachments. I highly recommend it.
Helpful but not Necessary Gear
Beyond a good bag, layers, and the ten essentials, I use a few extra pieces of equipment. They make the hike a bit easier and more safe. First, I recommend trekking poles for nearly anyone. While many people relegate these helpful tools to the hands of the elderly, they provide hikers of all ages support and balance. I use this pair.
Secondly, I always keep my microspikes with me in case I run into unexpected snow or ice on your route. This is especially likely in May and June. I use Kahtoola classic spikes.
Third, a light pair of gloves are helpful in the early morning or when scrambling on sharp rocks is required. I use this lightweight but sturdy pair from Amazon.
What to Pack for a 14er?
Your list of gear should always depend ultimately on the weather and local conditions. Take the time to research the temperature and conditions you’ll expect. Use this list as a good starting point in figuring out what to pack for a 14er.
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About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.