What Gear Do I Need to Hike a 14er? Try My Free 14er Checklist.
Climbing a Colorado 14er is an exciting adventure with great summit views to enjoy. However, as you think about a hike you might wonder, “What gear do I need to hike a 14er?” There are a few different categories of gear you need to consider, including the ten essentials, clothing, food, water, boots, backpacking, and other gear. Here’s my-depth review of what you need for a safe and successful fourteener summit, whether you’re doing a class 1 hike or class 2 scramble. It will answer the question, “what gear do I need to hike a 14er,” thoroughly!
Start with the Ten Essentials
The ten essentials are a good place to start when it comes to fourteener gear. The list consists of all the key pieces or categories of equipment you need to meet two standards in the mountains:
- First, they help you respond actively to emergencies instead of waiting for help.
- Second, they help you survive an unplanned night out in the mountains.
You should adapt the list for each specific trip. For example, you need warmer clothing and more food for an overnight trip in the Fall than a day trip in summer. The full list of the Ten Essentials includes:
- Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger
- Headlamp: plus extra batteries
- Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
- First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
- Knife: plus a gear repair kit
- Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove
- Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
- Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation
- Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation
- Extra clothes: Beyond the minimum expectation
Wear Layered Clothing
When considering your clothing, you should plan to layer your clothes so you can adapt to the temperature and conditions as you climb. The weather conditions can change quite dramatically as you ascend to the summit, and again as you descend. Storms can develop with little warning, with rain common in the summer. Here’s a quick guide to layering:
- Start with a base layer, long underwear in winter, or a light t-shirt and shorts in summer.
- Add a mid-layer pullover and hiking pants.
- Bring a puffy jacket and light snow pants in case you need them.
- Don’t forget a rain jacket, hat and warm pair of gloves!
If you start to warm up and sweat through your clothing, pause to take off a layer and put it in your bag. This will keep you from getting too wet, which can quickly chill you down.
Bring the Right Food & Water
Fourteeners are long enough and grueling enough to require a bit of fuel to eat along your journey. In addition, you need enough to keep you healthy if you get lost or injured on a climb. I recommend packing at least 500-600 calories for your climb itself, with an extra 1,000 calories or more in case of an accident. You want to pack dense, high calorie food that packs a lot of energy in a small space. Here are a few examples:
- As you can tell from the image, trail mix is a classic favorite for a reason.
- Power bars, including popular brands like Cliff or Kind Bars.
- Beef jerky, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and other high-protein snacks.
- I always pack 1-2 backpacking meals – if I’m lost, I figure the comfort will be appreciated.
If you do bring any food requiring heating or cooking, don’t forget a small stove and utensils for cooking. This isn’t a necessity in summer, so make sure you pack that too. Still wondering “what gear do I need to hike a 14er?” Let’s cover backpacks next!
Store it All in a Dependable Backpack
With all this gear and food, you’re going to need somewhere to put it all. For most fourteeners, a day back will do with 15-30 liters of space. Longer trips, including overnight climbs, require more space for extra food, water. and gear, 40-70 liters. My favorite bag is the Osprey Talon-22. In addition to a solid amount of space, it offers extra features like an ice axe clip, stow-and-go attachment for trek poles, two water bottle pockets and a hydration bladder internal pocket. It’s stood up to more than 30 climbs and 50 hikes for me. Click here to see more and buy it.
Put on a Solid Pair of Hiking Boots
The last piece of gear that’s mandatory is a good pair of footwear. You can use either hiking shoes, approach shoes, or hiking boots to reach the summit. Hiking shoes work perfectly fine, but lack the ankle support that a good pair of boots provides. Approach shoes are intended for light climbing, and work great for class 3 and 4 peaks. However they lack a bit of the support that is ideal for longer 14ers.
For beginners, I recommend Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots, which I use for all my 14ers. With water-proof gore tex mateerial, solid traction and super comfortable fit, they’re a great option. Click here to learn more or buy a pair for your next hike or scramble.
My Favorite Optional 14er Gear
In addition to all the above gear, there are some optional pieces of equipment that aren’t strictly necessary but I find helpful. First, a pair of trek poles provide extra balance on rocky trails and let you channel upper body strength into your hiking. A GPS SPOT device allows you to call for help during an emergency, though it’s a significant investment. Third, a water bladder and tube let you take drinks along your hike without stopping to open your water bottle. I find it is very effective at preventing dehydration.
While you may not need these extra items, they’re helpful, which is why I’m including them in my answer to the question, “what gear do I need to hike a 14er?
What Gear Do I Need to Hike a 14er? Let's Review
Hopefully you can now answer the question, “What gear do I need to hike a 14er,” yourself! Here’s a quick review:
- Start with the ten essentials for safety.
- Wear layered clothing so you can adapt to the conditions.
- Pack the right food and water for your trip.
- Store it all in a good backpack.
- Wear the right hiking boots and socks.
- Consider optional recommendations like trek poles.
With all this in your pack, and an answer to the question “what gear do I need to hike a 14er”, you’ll be ready for a safe and successful fourteener climb. Save travels on the trail!
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.