A great mountaineering experience requires great clothes. Without the right shoes, jacket and underwear you will have troubles enjoying your tour. However, finding the right products can be challenging. You often feel lost in the overwhelming flood of information and offers. We will discuss what aspects are important when choosing your equipment and present you our favourite products.
Clothes are a key factor for your tour
Why are the right clothes that important? Mainly for two reasons: The first one is comfort. Imagine you are going up the glacier of Cotopaxi. Although the view is amazing you feel a sense of unease and distraction. Your feet hurt because the badly manufactured seam of your shoes rub on your skin. The socks form wrinkles that make it even worse. Your wool underwear scratches on your legs. You sweat because your jacket doesn’t breathe. Stop! That is not what you want your tour to be like. You can prevent that by choosing the right equipment. Feeling comfortable in your clothes is the basis for a great mountaineering experience.
Secondly, you need proper clothing to protect yourself against the cold, the wind and the dirt. That is where good quality differs from poor quality. The conditions in the high mountains can be challenging. That’s why you should make sure to get a good jacket and high quality boots that shield you against wind and water and underwear that keeps you warm.
How much should you pay for the clothes? Inadequate garments can inhibit you from enjoying your mountaineering experience. Thus, we think that paying a bit more money for good quality is absolutely worth it! Additionally, this is a long-term investment. High quality gear will accompany you several years or even decades. You can use it over and over again.
Nevertheless, let’s be clear about something: A high price doesn’t necessarily indicate high quality. There is often a correlation, but not always! The list of products below will help you to find good quality for an adequate price.
Though, you can save some money by planning ahead. Normally, if you need a certain product very fast – especially in the main season – you pay a high price. However, if you know you will need mountaineering clothes next year you should check several providers in the off season where demand is lower and prices are often discounted.
Ecuadorian glaciers are more humid
All glaciers are cold. However, there is something special about Ecuadorian glaciers: They are generally more humid because of the tropical climate near the equator. That can influence your choice of equipment. In Ecuador it is important that your clothes breathe well. In a humid environment badly breathing clothes will cause you to sweat heavily. Your water-proof jacket doesn’t really help you if it only protects you against rain from the outside but causes you to sweat and thus become wet from the inside.
The boots are the centerpiece of your mountaineering outfit. You will walk several hours on difficult terrain with them. Thus, they have to be comfortable and technically adequate. Finding a good pair of shoes is probably the most crucial part of putting together the equipment.
For high mountains the boots have to be warm, stable, water-proof and compatible with crampons. Additionally, they should fit your feet. Every foot is different and that influences the choice of the shoes. The only way you can test that is by trying them out in a store. Feel into your foot, it will tell you if it likes the shoe. Moreover, you should buy them in a taller size than normal shoes. First, that’s because you have to wear one or two thick pairs of socks under it. Second, you need more space at your toes when descending. Besides, have a look on the fabrication of the inner material. Is everything smooth? Poorly made seams can rub on the skin.
After buying the boots make sure to break them in. Going on a walk around your town with heavy mountaineering boots might feel weird, but it prevents you from getting blisters on the mountain.
For women: La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX Women
For men: La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX
The mountaineering boots give you the necessary stability for the difficult terrain but they can be stiff on the long run. That’s why you can get an additional pair of approach shoes that you use for the first part of the tour where the terrain is still flat and easy. On the one hand, they give you more comfort until you reach the first hut or camp. On the other hand, they cause you to carry a bit more weight. Using approach shoes is optional. It depends on your personal preferences.
For the approach you can use normal trail running shoes. It’s important that they feel comfortable to you. Otherwise, they don’t fulfill their purpose and are unnecessary additional weight. Moreover, they should be lightweight and breathing well.
The outer jacket is your shield against the harsh conditions in the high mountains. It mainly protects you against water and wind. In addition it helps to keep you warm. However, note that only one jacket isn’t enough to save you from the cold. You need multiple layers. Normally for the upper body that includes underwear, one or more isolation layers depending on conditions and the outer jacket.
Two features are essential regarding the outer jacket: It has to be water-proof and breathable. Both will protect you against becoming wet. First from the outside through rain and snow and second from the inside through sweat. In addition, you can have a look at the pack size. The smaller you can crumple the jacket up the better. Hardshell-jackets generally do a good job in all of these features.
Isolation layer: Down jacket
A down jacket is perfect to keep you warm in the high mountains. The natural fibre isolates warmth very effectively. Besides, it has a good pack size. The disadvantage of down is its sensitivity to moisture. However, with a good outer jacket that normally isn’t a problem.
When buying a down jacket you should pay attention to the product´s “cuin”. That is a number which describes the jacket´s ability to bounce back and extend again after being compressed. The higher the number, the wider the down expands. Thus, the cuin is an indicator of the down´s quality. It can range from about 300 to 900 cuin. Most commonly the products have about 500 cuin. 650 cuin are considered as a very good rating, 800 is excellent. Why is this number important? Because the down has to be extended to isolate warmth. If it isn’t able to bounce back after compression, it fails to keep you warm. Please note that cuin is measured differently in the USA and Europe.
Isolation layer: Soft-shell jacket
As an alternative or additionally to down, all depending on conditions, you can also use a soft-shell jacket. In contrast to hard-shell, soft-shell jackets aren’t waterproof. However, they are far more breathable, elastic and comfortable.
When buying a soft-shell jacket there are a few things you have to consider. First, it has to fit well to your body. You should feel comfortable wearing it and have enough range of motion. Pick a size that allows you to wear other layers (underwear and one or two shirts) under the jacket. Second, look at the technical features. Does the jacket have practical pockets? Adjustable hems? A good wrist closure?
For women: Arc´teryx Gamma LT Hoody Women’s
For men: Arc´teryx Gamma LT Hoody Men’s
Like the other isolation layers the underwear helps you to stay warm. The experience of our team has shown that the natural fibre Merino wool is very comfortable on the skin. Moreover, it is breathable, quick drying and it doesn’t smell bad too fast.
Merino products are generally labeled with the fibre´s diameter. This figure provides information about the smoothness of the wool. It ranges from 17 to 24 microns. The lower the number the softer the underwear. Furthermore, pay attention to buying Merino underwear with a thick density for the high mountains. About 200g / m^2 are adequate.
For women and men: Icebreaker Oasis Longsleeve Crewe
Maintenance and storage
To make sure that your clothes have a long life span you have to maintain them. That saves you a lot of money. Therefore, remove all the rough dirt and debris from your hiking clothes after a tour. Next, wash them according to the guidelines on the etiquette. Remove any excess detergent since it can harm the material. You often find instructions for drying on the product tag. If not, hang or line dry is the best option.
Regarding your mountaineering boots you should also clean them according to the information on the product tag. Normally, it’s best to remove the laces and insoles, wash the shoes by hand and then let them air dry away from direct sunlight. After that you can add caring products to keep your boots waterproof. Double check if the product is suitable for your hiking boots.
Eventually, store your hiking clothes and shoes in a cool and dry area. There they wait for you. And for the next adventure.