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Ideal Climbing Clothing Systems || January 2024

Updated: Jan 28

Been testing some ideas in Ouray this month – Nano Airs and Protons and old Cap 4 Hoodys (with a pocket!) and new Cap 4 Shirts (without a pocket!) and Nucelis and Houdinis and G Techs and Injinjis and SuperFeets and MaxiFlexes, and Geckos, and liners and mid liners and shell gloves etc. Have a bunch of time so I decided to share the culmination of 8 years of dreaming and doing and failing, although I am sure I am cursed refining these ideas until I die.

I've sectioned clothing systems into 4 categories :

Single Pitch Rock

Single Pitch Ice Multi Pitch Rock (includes dry alpine rock)

Multi Pitch Ice (includes snow and mountaineering)

Generally single pitch rock and ice have shorter approaches, are more stark in activity and therefore temperature fluctuations, receive more wear and tear, and have a warm comfortable camp nearby to dry and clean items. Guiding in Josh or Ouray or Squamish, sitting in the snow or abrasive rock, standing around belaying or rigging, climbing for 1 or 2 laps and then returning to a staging area to put on a puffy, change gloves, have a snack, reset. The requirements therefore to single pitch clothing systems, besides the baseline of quick to dry, comfortable fabrics and fit such that you can sleep in them, are :

  1. Very warm for standing around

  2. Durability in face fabric AND insulation (Google "Max Neale insulation durability") OR cheep, sustainable, and easily avaliable.

  3. Easy to take on and off, particularly sweaters and jackets

  4. Ability to wear any layer as the outer layer (ie not 100% relying on a shell to keep your fleece from attracting snow like velcro and then freezing or melting on you)

The materials that fit these requirements are :

  1. Synthetic, continuous active insulation for vests and sweaters (such as Coreloft, Octa Loft, and not FullRange)

  2. Synthetic for baselayers, wool for glove liners and socks. Synthetic is lighter and wicks better, which I value vastly more than warmth when wet, which I never find in want of for base layers. Being too wet is much more of a problem than being too cold, as I can just put on another layer. This warm when wet property is very useful in glove liners and socks where one is most prone to getting wet from both sweat and snow! The antibacterial properties are also very appreciated, especially in socks, as are its texture, which grips better in boots and gloves offering less slippage and therefore better climbing performance.

  3. Down for jackets, as it's warmer and more durable than synthetics, and you can return to camp after a day and dry it out.

  4. Full zip sweater and jackets

  5. Durable face fabrics

  6. DWR face fabrics on all layers except the baselayer.

Multi pitch ice and rock tend to have longer approaches, and less of a warmth contrast between activity and rest (yes hanging belays when exposed can get cold, but can be solved with an adequate puffy) as one is generally moving or doing something the entire day or multi day effort. Elevation gained is much greater. Access to a warm fire or car is not always an option.

  1. Weight

  2. Drying time

  3. Hiking ability

  4. Ability to wear any layer as the outer layer (ie not 100% relying on a shell to keep your fleece from attracting snow like velcro and then freezing or melting on you)

There might be 6 use cases with Alpine for rock and ice added, but that's more a hardware than softgoods prescription.

I aimed for simplicity through overlap with clothing uses. For example both rock and ice single pitch uses the same shirt, the same sweater, and jacket.

Single Pitch Rock

Through projecting in Josh, Squamish, the Valley, Gibraltar, Tahquitz etc this and last season, climbing belaying sleeping traveling driving running hiking swimming cooking rafting, Ive concluded on the following kit :

Shirt : Echo Hoody, S, Black Sweater : Gamma MX Hoody, S, Black

Hat : White Nike Visor Underwear : Arcteryx Pants : Altvita Light Pants, 31, Black Socks : Injinji Wool Midweight Liner

Approach Shoes : Konseal FL, 8, Black

Climbing Shoe : TCs, 40 Warm Pants : Proton Pants, S, Black Jacket : Proton Heavy, L, Black

Shirt : Echo Hoody, S, Black

  • On the entire trip

  • Excellent sun and wind and rock protection. I'm comfortable down to 40º with just the Echo if climbing, and between burns or while belaying can zip up. In Josh the rock gets cold and the air windy

  • Wicks sweat pretty well. Im not adverse to climbing without a shirt when it's hot and sunny. The black is nice in the cold, dries in the sun better and looks better. If it's too hot I'll just go shirtless.

  • Tried a tank top baselayer. Useful for being less bro-y but not that wicking or protective.

  • Tried those rayon collared short and long sleeve shirts you can get from thrift stores. Pretty fun to wear, stylish, but too clammy and my armpits began to hate me.

Sweater : Gamma MX, S, Black

  • For everything: approaching, scrambling, climbing, belaying, cooking, campfiring The only extra layer taken when setting out from camp.

  • Good abrasion resistance fabric (Fortus 20), don't worry about getting is dirty cooking or embered around campfires.

  • Warm enough for chilly mornings

  • Durable fabric good for Josh scrambles.

  • Breathes well but offers some wind and precipitation protection.

  • Tried various fleeces (a bit cold for the wind, good abrasion resistance, an excellent and cheep option when bought second hand)

  • Used to wear a buff, but this hood is a nicer and is a less constricting option on my head. I am though partial to the nonhooded look, its cleaner. Hoodys look lazy to me, and I used to dislike running them, preferring no hoods on sweaters. Practicality wise, they're just so cozy.

  • Durable insulation! Fleece is much more durable than non-continous Full Range by Patagonia. For single pitch casual cragging, this is my priority. For multi pitch, Ill run nicer lighter stuff.

  • Pocket has a tab that I sewed a loop to clip a radio to, to use inside the pocket!

  • Can also be cheep second hand wool sweaters!

  • Can also be a durable face with durable active insulation, like the Proton Lightweight, or just a light wool sweater from eBay

Hat : White Nike Visor

  • Kept in my Gamma pocket

  • Like this more than glasses, don't use glasses unless its snowy

  • Climb with this often on easier stuff, no helmet (Though I do project hard trad with a helmet)

Underwear : Arcteryx Boxers

  • Flip it inside out at the end of every day, let it air and switch to another one in the morning. I don't sleep in them, too squished. Rinse and repeat. Can do multi week long trips with 2 pairs.

  • SOO cozy.

  • So much wicking

  • Can swim and lounge with them if black, they look like yoga shorts.

  • Dry super fast.

  • 2x if staying overnight

Pants : Altvita Light Pants, 31, Black

  • Super stretchy, wicking, durable

  • Can sleep in without undies at night (so comfortable)

  • Cut the cuffs off mine, a weight

  • Could have gotten a 30 or 29, def like the slim cut when climbing

  • Tried oversized dickies as do it all pants for many trips, as a stylish and semi functional way of panting while climbing, erranding, sleeping etc. Not as breathable or mobile. Way less comfortable - especially when trying to sleep in. Especially on planes. But cheep and durable. I now use separate town clothes from climbing clothes. Used to go with Dickies for both, but have since bit the bullet. The Altvitas are nice enough for errands, but for longer trips, like this month long trip, in Ouray, I took my dickies for around town.

Socks : Injinji Wool Midweight Liner

  • No sweat between toes! on approaches.

  • Super cozy

  • Take 2 pairs and alternate, letting one dry against you in the sleeping bag and in the sun throughout the day.

  • No smell !

  • Heavier weight is more durable than liner weight

  • Cheep wool socks will do, this is a high wear item. Toe socks are just a I indulge in.

Approach Shoes : Konseal FL, 8, Black

  • Half sized down form my normal 8.5 because Arcteryx is still wonky like that

  • Use without insoles when packrafting, as a water shoe. Dries super fast

Climbing Shoe : TCs, 40

  • I love crack

  • Comfortable enough for all day cragging, but I do take them off when not, when belaying from the top or rapping. Barefoot is nice

Jacket : Proton Heavy, L, Black

  • Camp and sleep use

  • Lots of pockets!

  • Super warm, wicking, durable

  • Oversized to cover hands and butt, less constriction

Warm Pants : Proton Pants, S, Black

  • Camp and sleep use

  • Can go over or under Altvitas, depending on my current laziness / how willing I am to strip in the cold tent after a long day climbing.

  • Durable face fabric AND insulation (Octa loft claims to be), good for cooking and campfires.

Multi Pitch Rock (includes dry alpine rock)

Shirt : Echo

Undies : Arcteryx, M

Shorts : Pro Strider 5", S

Add ons - down to 30 f / 0 c

Houdini Jacket, L

  • Oversized to fit a helmet and cover hands

Norvan Pants, S, Black

  • Lightest pants that aren't my Houdini Pants, stretchy, breathable, some light DWR protection.

Single Pitch Ice

Typically ice and snow activity occurs below 0c / 30f

The systems are separated into warmth ratings of :

Warm : 15 - 30f / -7 - 0c

Cold : 0 - 15f / -15 - -7c

Frigid : < 0f / < -15c

These 3 systems are fluid and can be changed to any individuals subjective experience with temperature. For example, one can have a Warm ice and snow system that falls between 25 - 40 f etc. The varying of perspiration and blood flow to ones extremities are factors that effect this.

Warmer and more durable layers than multi pitch ice,

shares a lot of pieces from single pitch rock - to keep things simple.

Shirt : Echo, S, Black

Buff : Rho Buff, Cut

  • Cut to 10cm, to cover chin cheeks and part of neck, and not overheat by bunching in the neck.

  • Prefer this to the Capeline Air Balaclava as 1) Snow sticks to the texture like there's no tomorrow! It then melts and you get cold! To the neck area too if your hood is down, very not super good enough. 2) With the buff you can move it and cover more of your face, the balaclava leaves cheeks exposed. 3) The balaclava is a bit long in the neck and gets hot, the buff stops where I want it and is nicer venting wise.

  • Doesn't get itchy, a problem I have with wool

  • Starting to get a bit warm on hard efforts like dry tooling. Not sure if I should leave the vest on hard efforts in warm weather or use a thinner buff

Visor : Old Nike Visor

  • sized to comfortably fit over the echo hood and buff, and not squeeze my head. Bill is flat and fits under helmet nicely

  • Have a couple Arc'teryx visors and the bill is too curved and the non adjustable band too tight. Maybe I'll alter the legnth and flatten the bill if I loose my nike one

  • Nice for sunny days and the restaurant after climbing keeping heart in check

  • Feel official

  • Was against visors for climbing and skiing, now they are kinda

Vest : Nano Air Vest, XS, Black

  • Used in warm weather as sole insulation without overheating

  • Used to carry and dry gloves, camera, and radio, so they are on my person at all times. Less opportunity to drop or get lost if you done move them around.

  • Left pocket has left gloves. Right pocket right gloves. They dry here as there is only 1 layer from my base layer.

  • Chest pocket has my camera, and I sewed a loop at the top of the pocket so a radio can be clipped to the upper part of the pocket, allowing me to use it at anytime, right through the fabric! All brands should sew a tab for this, can also serve as a leash anchor so valuable can be clipped onto it, reducing chances of dropping or loosing them from opening pockets! WIN WIN WIN.

  • Camera can be replaced by phone in the vest pocket but I dislike bringing my phone climbing. If I bring all three - radio camera , phone, the phone sits in one of the hand warmer pockets or in my pack.

  • A nicer, more durable option is the Proton Vest, or a cheep secondhand wool vest, or not so cheep wool Ibex Shah Vest.

  • Is a bit warm in the upper back, the thinner Nano Air Light vest looks interesting as well

Sweater : Gamma MX Hoody, S, Black

  • Used a top the vest in Cold.

  • Face fabric has enough protection to climb in without a shell

  • breathable

  • DURABLE face fabric! Much more durable than the Nano Air face fabric

  • Durable insulation! Fleece is much more durable than non-continous Full Range by Patagonia. For single pitch casual cragging, this is my priority. For multi pitch, Ill run nicer lighter stuff.

  • Pocket has a tab that I sewed a loop to clip a radio to, to use inside the pocket!

Jacket : Proton Heavy, L, Black

  • Breathable belay puffy for drying gloves, but the face fabric is not loud and gumby like!

  • DURABLE face fabric

  • Oversized to cover butt and hands.

  • Wear under the Houdini Jacket if very cold

Shell : Houdini Jacket, L, Black

  • climb in when snowy / wet

  • cover everything including the jacket in size large when cold

  • Longer arms and butt for reaching overhead and sitting

  • Can tuck jacket under gloves! If very wet

Underwear : Arcteryx Boxers

  • Don't normally or need boxers if youre wearing leggings, so for multi pitch I forgo the redundancy and expedite peeing, venting, and movement due to ~ 50g less weight. But for single pitch I sit around a lot, and sit in snow a lot. So the undies help to prevent itchy butt from being wet and pressed on a grid fabric all day.

Leggings : Proton Pants for Cold or Frigid , Cap 4 Leggings for Warm

  • warm

  • durable face and insulation

  • no need for puffy pants, and still won't overheat

Pants : Galvanized Pants, Women's S

  • like slim cut for climbing than my normal size. Sized down 1

  • The best alpine pants Patagonia has ever made, in this category. The other would be the Houdini pants

  • cut the cuffs and tuck in boots, less catching

  • Got them off eBay second hand, and for like 60$. Win win win

Belay Gloves : Maxi Dry Zero

  • Cheep, warm, thin so good handeling . only 10-15$

  • For rigging and rapping too

  • Tried more involved liner and shell system for rigging rapping belaying. But good shell gloves, like Hestra Ergo or Helis are expensive. So for single pitch, I'm prioritizing durability and cost. These guys cost $10-15. Much simpler just change when they get wet, no more faffing with liners

  • Another contender for $15 more are the showas, which very well might be the choice for Cold and Frigid

Climbing Gloves : Warm : Camp Gecko Gloves, 7 / Frigid : Punisher, 7

  • All with a liner except the Geckos, which are my hard leading gloves

  • Liner is rotated throughout the day to keep warm and dry, essential for my sweaty hands.

  • Thinking of trying AntiHydral though to reduce sweat and go lighter for alpine stuff ...

Socks : Injinji Wool Midweight

  • Wool for less stink, better traction and climbing performance

  • Midweight fills in boot more, resulting in a snugger fit and better climbing performance at the expense of all day comfort.

  • Toe socks wick better and there is less moisture

  • Thinking of trying AntiHydral on the feet to reduce sweat for alpine stuff ...

G Tech, 41

  • Half down, because better climbing performance and socks are thin

  • Using SuperFeet hike insoles, blue ones. Better than the running insoles as they are thinner and therefore lower to the ground, improving hiking and climbing performance. Might investigate even thinner insoles in the future

  • Use a rubber band to keep pants from sliding out

Multi Pitch Ice & Mountaineering

Glove system is based on recycling liners and using a shell or 2, as opposed to single pitch where you burn through gloves as you humidify them form the inside. This allows for long or multi day efforts. The vest and sweater and jacket are lighter and more breathable, as you are moving most of the day and need the breathability, and weight is critical when moving in the mountains due to snow, oxygen, limited food capacity, etc.

Shirt : Echo

Buff : Rho

  • Wool, warm when wet, anti bacterial for spit and snot and food.

  • Thick enough to not need another buff for face, but breathable enough for when it gets wet.

Vest : Custom Capeline 4 Vest with Chest Pocket

  • Keep camera in pocket, and gloves underneath the vest, against the baselayer. Vest is always tucked into the leggings, pants, and harness to facilitate this storage.

  • Tiny bit of warmth without restricting movement, breathes super good so never have to take it off

  • Added an orange tab to make zipping with gloves easier.

  • Funny that Colin Hailey had the same idea, that I learned of after making mine.

Sweater : Nano Air Light Hoody (2016), S, Black

  • Enough face fabric protection to climb in snow ALL DAY, (12 hours digging and crawling in chest deep powder) without a shell!

  • breathable enough to have hood up under helmet

  • Use when Cold

  • Lighter than the Proton Light or current 2023 Nano Air Hybrid Hoody (which is also worse as the r1 air attracts snow like velcro)!

  • Hood cut goes over eyebrows, which gets very annoying.

Jacket : Nuceli FL, L, Black

  • Use while moving when Frigid, or when belaying

  • If very Frigid bring 2, idea curtsy of Colin Hailey! Thinking about carrying 2 Nano Airs though as another more breathable option for the same weight

Houdini Jacket, L, Black

  • Can go over everything for warmth

  • Can climb with without getting sweaty

  • If putting on a puffy over top, open the zipper

Leggings : Capeline 4 Leggings / Proton Pants

  • Capeline 4 for Warm

  • Proton for Cold or frigd

  • The new Rho 3/4 would be a lighter alternative to the Protons, saving ~ 100g !

Houdini pants

  • old h2no version. Although the new version is nice and lighter by 20g, just need to tape the buttons.

  • cut cuffs off to fit better in boot supergaiters.

Light Liner Gloves : Hestra Wool Liner Gloves, 6, 2x

  • Stored under my sweater, drying against my baselayer when not using. Left side as the chest pockets are on the left and they fit better than bigger gloves which are kept on the right side.

  • Tried against the skin and it doesn't seem to dry as well

Belay Liner Gloves : Smartwool Cozy, S, Black

  • Use with shell gloves when climbing and its Cold

  • Use both liner and belay liners when belaying

  • Wool is warm when wet!

Belay Shell Gloves : Hestra Heli Shell, 7 (Just the shell)

  • Use with liners and rotate them all day to stay warm and dry

  • Prefer the 1 shell + 2-4 liner method as you can dry all day, where with dedicated climbing you are stuck with cold hands after half a day of use and they won't dry in your shirt.

  • When doing snow stuff, like couliors or skiing, only bring this shell glove, as it has a gauntlet and can take 2 liners which is more warm than the 1 the Ergos can take

Climbing Shell Glove : Hestra Ergo, 8

  • I cut out the fleece lining and am just left with the shell. Fits liners better and there's more dexterity and the gloves don't brick and become useless when they wet out, as you can switch out the liners now

  • This is more form fitting and therefore catches less when matching tools

Socks : Injinji Wool Liner

  • Light, low to the ground improving hiking performance

  • Low volume has space to move around, less heel blisters and more warmth

  • Toe socks wick better and there is less moisture

  • Thinking of trying AntiHydral on the feet to reduce sweat for alpine stuff ...

G Tech, 41

  • Half down, because better climbing performance and socks are thin

  • Using SuperFeet hike insoles, blue ones. Better than the running insoles as they are thinner and therefore lower to the ground, improving hiking and climbing performance. Might investigate even thinner insoles in the future

  • Use a rubber band to keep pants from sliding out

To Test

Maxiflex Gloves soaked in NikiWax Glove proof as an alternative to fragile hestra liners

  • seems good for cheep single pitch so far, but do get cold and wet easily

  • Can maybe use for all single pitch ice stuff??

  • TOO COLD, try Maxi Dry

Showa gloves

  • cold weather gloves

  • I've used them last season, but disliked the time to dry. I think for single pitch ice they might be nice tho

MaxiDry® Zero™ 56-451

  • cold weather cheep gloves good dexterity?

  • Single pitch ice

MaxiFlex® Elite™ 34-275

  • super super thin glove, warm weather

  • Single pitch ice / rock guiding


Second Nano Air Hoody, when Frigid?

  • Replaces second Nuceli FL

  • Weight is about the same, is more breathable and therefore less wet, can be wind proofed by Nuceli and or Houdini

AntiHydral on your hands and feet to sweat less, possibly even needing only one pair of gloves ???

Nano Vest for Warm. Might be too warm.

  • Works great for single pitch, can have a radio and a camera or phone in the more structured chest pocket. 2 chest pockets would be sick, and maybe drop in pockets. Not too warm.

  • Could have a more durable insulation and face fabric. Proton Vest would be better!


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