This 14er Hiking Gear List contains references to products on my Amazon Store site. I may receive a commission when you purchase these products from my store, though at no additional cost to you. I hand-pick and recommend only the products that I am either familiar with or comfortable recommending.
There are a lot of incredible and challenging hikes in North America, but few compare to the exhilarating experience of climbing to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the United States. In American mountaineering circles, the name for mountain peaks with an elevation of over 14,000 feet (or 4,267 meters) is a “fourteener”. For many hiking and climbing enthusiasts, getting to the top of these incredible peaks has a magnetic-like allure. Not only is it a personal challenge to conquer these difficult alpine trails, but the views and the experiences along the way are things you will never forget. However, as beautiful and amazing as it is to tackle a fourteener, these trails are not for the faint of heart. Each year, hikers pay the ultimate price in their conquest to tackle one of these mountains. Many times, it is because they were unprepared for the challenges they would face on the trail. To put you in the best possible position to succeed in your quest to conquer one of America’s 96 fourteeners, I have created this fourteener hiking gear list to help you make sure you are prepared.
In this 14er Hiking Gear List, I am going to give you some general principles that you can use to guide your gear planning. I outline how heavy your backpack should weigh and how much water you should plan to bring with you. I also provide you with my recommendations on what hiking clothing and gear to bring with you. Not only do I cover the general hiking gear that I recommend, but I also cover the climbing and safety gear that I think is important as well. Armed with this information, you will be able to successfully plan your big adventure to conquer one of America’s many fourteeners. More importantly, you will be prepared to do it safely.
General Tips for 14er Hiking Gear
Before I get into my 14er hiking gear list, there are several general gear guidelines that I think are important to review. If you do not understand and follow these guidelines, the gear that you pack will have far less significance because you will likely struggle on the trail to the top of the mountain. You should always have these guidelines in the back of your mind as you start to prepare and pack for your hike.
Bring Layers of Clothing
One of the more important gear preparation guidelines that I can pass on to you as you prepare for your first hike on one of America’s fourteeners is to make sure you pack layers of clothing for your hike. Because these mountains are so tall, you will be gaining quite a bit of elevation during your hike. This means that you will likely see a big difference in temperature between the trailhead and the summit of the mountain. If you dress too heavy, you will be hot and sweat quite a bit at the beginning of your hike. Not only will this put you in jeopardy of dehydration, but it can also leave you susceptible to getting dangerously cold when the temperature drops as you climb. You also don’t want to dress too light as the temperature is sure to be much colder as you reach a higher elevation. Optimally, you want to have a moisture-wicking base layer with several other layers of clothes that you can put on or take off as you hike.
Make Sure Your Pack is Light
If there is one general packing principle that you take away from my 14er Hiking Gear List, it is that you should always be cognizant of the weight of your pack. While you want to make sure you bring what you need with you, that has to be balanced by the need to keep your backpack light enough for you to carry on the grueling trail that leads to the top of each 14er. As you start to shop for your gear, I would suggest keeping the weight of gear in mind. As a general rule of thumb for climbing 14ers, your backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your total body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, your bag should weigh no more than 20 pounds or it is too heavy.
Carry Enough Food and Water
The one item that many beginning hikers tend to underestimate when determining how much they will need to bring is water. There are some items you may want to bring that are a luxury, others that are a convenience, and some that are a necessity. If you forget to bring the candy bar that you were planning on eating to celebrate a hiking milestone, it’s no big deal. That is a luxury that you can live without. Forgetting to bring your hiking gaiters may result in you getting sand in your boots, but it isn’t going to put in your danger. However, forgetting to bring enough water when you try and hike a difficult trail like climbing any 14er can have disastrous consequences.
A general rule of thumb is that you should have 1 liter of water for every two hours of hiking that you plan to do. That is for each person who will be hiking. So, if your group of two people plans on hiking for ten hours, you will need ten liters of water for your hike. Keep in mind, 1-liter of water weighs around 2.21 pounds, so you will want to plan accordingly when packing your bag. You may be able to get by with less water if you thoroughly hydrate before hiking, but I would stick as close to this guideline as possible. Running out of water is one thing that can kill you quickly.
Don’t Neglect Safety
The final gear preparation guideline that I would like to share with you before you start finalizing your 14er hiking gear list is to make sure that you always account for safety gear when you are preparing to hike one of America’s fourteeners. Let’s face it, even if you are only planning on hiking a Class 1 trail to summit a 14er, the trail is going to be tough and the trail is likely going to be remote. If something should happen to you on the hike, you will want to be prepared.
Every year, I read a sad story about a hiker that succumbed to either injuries or the elements while hiking in the backcountry. Oftentimes, the outcome of the situation would have been much different had the hiker properly prepared themselves for emergencies. Things like an emergency bivy, waterproof matches, and a GPS alert device can all save your life if you should get injured or lost on your hike. For more information on the safety equipment that I would recommend carrying with you on your hike, please see the section on 14er Safety Gear I included in my 14er hiking gear list below.
Essential 14er Hiking Gear
When most hikers start to prepare for climbing their first 14er, much of the emphasis is typically placed on conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to make sure you are in good enough physical shape before you tackle a challenge as tough as climbing a 14er. However, making sure you have the right gear to bring with you is just as important in my opinion. Each year on backcountry trails I encounter hikers that are woefully unprepared for the challenges that you face on these tough hikes. I have seen hikers wearing flipflops on steep ascents, have no cold weather gear at elevation, and no navigation or safety gear to ensure that they return from their hike safely. Before you read my 14er Hiking Gear List, here are some general rules that I like to follow when preparing my gear bag for climbing a 14er.
Make sure you plan your food and water correctly. You do not want to run out of water on a difficult hike, and you should have a little bit of food with you to refuel on the trail. This can make the difference between an enjoyable, but challenging, hike and a tragedy.
Be sure to have the proper footwear on your hike. While flip-flops and tennis shoes are never recommended for hiking, there are some trails where you can get away with not having hiking shoes or boots. The trails to the top of each 14er are difficult and you will absolutely need the proper footwear.
The proper clothing for a difficult hike at elevation. This means having the proper footwear, layers of clothing to keep you warm, and protection from the rain if the weather turns bad.
Hiking gear necessary to keep you safe. I would strongly recommend bringing hiking poles to help you maintain balance on uneven terrain and micro spikes or crampons if you expect to encounter steep, icy slopes on your trail. You will also want to consider bringing a headlamp if you expect to be on the trail before sunrise or after sunset.
If you plan on tackling a Class 3 or Class 4 trail, then I would strongly recommend bringing additional climbing gear such as rope, a climbing harness, and a climbing helmet if there are exposed sections on the trail or frequent rockfalls.
In order to keep you safe if something goes wrong on the trail, I also recommend having safety gear such as waterproof matches, an emergency blanket, a life bivy, and a GPS device with you to contact emergency services..
Clothing for Hiking a 14er
One of the first categories of gear that you will need to consider when putting together your 14er hiking gear list is the clothing that you will wear on your hike. As I mentioned in my gear preparation guidelines above, you will want to make sure that you pack layers of clothing for your hike as you may encounter different temperatures and weather conditions along your hike. You don’t want to dress too heavily as you will get hot and overheated but dressing too light can be dangerous as well. For some tips on what type of clothing I would recommend packing for your hike, please see the recommendations I have included in my 14er hiking gear list below.
Good hiking socks are an absolutely critical piece of hiking equipment. Not only can wearing the wrong socks leave you uncomfortable, but wearing the wrong socks can be dangerous if your feet get wet when it is cold. If possible, I would strongly avoid wearing cotton socks when you hike in the backcountry. Cotton does a poor job of insulating when wet, so your feet are sure to get cold if your boots\shoes get wet on the trail. I love to wear light weight wool socks when I hike, even during the summer months. For some recommendations on good hiking socks to purchase for your next hiking adventure, please see the link in my 14er Hiking Gear List below.
You will be doing a lot of hiking when you climb a 14er, so you will want to have a pair of pants or shorts that are comfortable. I would strongly recommend that you NOT wear jeans while you go hiking in the backcountry, as jeans can be quite uncomfortable to walk in when they are wet. In addition, they do a very poor job of keeping your warm when they get wet as well. I always bring a pair of convertible pants with me when I climb a 14er because they give me the flexibility of wearing either pants or shorts depending on the weather.
When hiking in the backcountry, you will want to make sure that you bring layers of clothing with you. This is important because you really don’t know what kind of weather to expect and you need to be flexible with your clothing. The last thing you want is to be ill prepared. I recommend wearing a breathable T-Shirt as your bottom layer because they wick moisture away from your body when you sweat. This will ensure that you don’t get cold after hiking all day and then stopping.
Having a warm, yet light, jacket to wear when hiking in the backcountry is important because you never know when temperatures are going to turn cooler. This is especially true early in the morning or when you wind down your hike in the evening. In addition to being warm, you will also want to make sure that the jacket you bring is light. The last thing you will want to do when hiking long distances with a heavy pack on your back is to have to carry a heavy jacket around with you.
Hiking when you are wet can be an absolutely miserable experience. If you have the room in your backpack, it is always a good idea to have rain jacket with you when you climb a 14er. The water resistant shell can also be used as a wind breaker and as a top layer when trying to make a winter ascent. If you are looking for some good recommendations for gear to purchase, I have included a link to my recommendations below.
If you are planning on climbing a 14er early or late in the hiking season, then you will definitely want to have a warm base layer with you. Good base layers will wick the moisture from your sweat away from your body, keeping you warm even when your clothes are wet. When I do difficult back-country hikes like climbing a 14er, I take a light weight base layer with me, even during the summer. For some good base layer recommendations, check out the link in my 14er Hiking Gear List below.
Just like it is important to protect your head when it is hot, it is also important to keep it protected when hiking in very cold temperatures. If you plan on climbing a 14er during the winter, early spring, or late autumn, then it is a smart idea to carry a winter hat with you. You may not wear it during your whole hike, but you will be glad you have it at higher elevations. For winter expeditions, you will also want to have a good pair of winter gloves and even a face covering with you. If you are looking for a good winter hat and gloves to purchase, I have included a link below with some great recommendations.
When you are on a hike as challenging as climbing a 14er, an injury that leaves you unable to walk can be a major inconvenience or even dangerous. You will want to make sure that you have the proper footwear with you before setting off on any hike, let alone up one of North America’s tallest mountains. When looking for the right hiking shoes or boots, please keep the following factors in mind:
The boots should be light-to-mid weight. The last thing you will want to have are heavy boots when you are doing a long backcountry hike. It is said that each pound of weight on your feet equates to roughly five pounds on your back, so your boot weight really matters. Look for boots that weigh between 2.2lbs (1kg) to 3.3lbs (1.5kg). Anything more than that is too heavy.
Look for boots that have a rubber sole with deep lugs. This will give you the best traction and ensure that you don’t slip on uneven rocks.
Look for a mid-to-high height boot to give you good ankle support. You are going to be walking on some uneven surfaces and you don’t want to twist an ankle while on a trail. For added support, look for boots that have speed hooks or D Strings.
When you try on your hiking shoes or boots, make sure you have a pair of hiking socks on. The boots will need to fit you when you are wearing the socks that you hike with.
After putting the shoes or boots on, plant your foot down and make sure that your toes don’t touch the front of the inside. This will ensure that you have a comfortable fit and won’t be jamming your toes when doing rock scrambles or descending hills.
Make sure the boots you purchase are waterproof. If you get caught in the rain while hiking or have to traverse wet areas, you will want to have foot protection. Not only is walking in wet boots or shoes miserable, but it can lead to blisters and foot injuries that can be dangerous.
Making sure you always have the proper footing is paramount to hiking safely, which is why you should always wear proper hiking shoes or boots when you are in the backcountry. This is especially true when you are hiking trails with high elevation gains and uneven terrain. If you are planning to climb a 14er and would like to ensure that you have the proper footwear to bring with you, I have included a number of my recommendations for hiking boots below.
No matter which fourteener you plan to climb, you are going to face a fairly difficult hike. Even the shortest and least technical trails on America’s fourteen-thousand-foot peaks deserve respect and require you to have proper hiking gear with you. On some trails, you may encounter snowpack on the trails even in the middle of the summer. Because of this, you will want to be prepared for slick conditions on steep inclines and declines. No matter which mountain you plan to climb, or which trail you are hiking, I would strongly recommend providing yourself with some additional traction by carrying micro spikes in your backpack and using hiking poles during your hike. On some of the more difficult trails that have more difficult conditions, you may want to even consider packing crampons, alpine snowshoes, and an ice axe on your hike.
Depending on the fourteener you plan to climb and the technical difficulty of the trail, you may need to consider including some climbing gear on your 14er hiking gear list as well. Some of the gear that I would recommend considering may make sense to bring no matter what type of trail you plan to tackle. For instance, a good climbing helmet will protect you from rockfall, falls, and other mishaps that may happen on your hike. Even if you are only planning to hike on a Class 1 or Class 2 trail, having a good climbing helmet with you may make sense if you want to be safe.
Other gear, such as a climbing harness and climbing rope, is probably a little overkill unless you are planning on hiking on Class 3 or Class 4 trails. For some of the trails, you will find on America’s many fourteeners, climbing gear is an absolute necessity. For instance, there is no way that I would consider hiking the Northeast Ridge of Capitol Peak in Colorado without climbing rope and a harness. For my tips on what type of climbing gear to consider for your hike, and when to consider packing it, please check out the recommendations in my 14er hiking gear list below.
Hiking Poles (Recommended)
For hikers who know that they will be encountering some uneven terrain during their hike, including a set of hiking poles on your trip may be a smart decision. A good set of hiking poles can really help you maintain your balance as you are moving over uneven or steep ground. Like the rest of your gear, you will want to keep the weight of the poles in mind. For some of my top recommendations on hiking poles, please refer to the link I provided below.
If you plan on hiking in a sandy, muddy, or snowy environment, then bringing a pair of lightweight gaiters with you may be a good idea. They will keep sand and water out of your hiking shoes or boots, which will make your hike much more comfortable. I like to bring a set of gaiters with me whenever I do long hikes because I never know what to expect on the trail. For some good hiking gaiter recommendations, check out the link I provided below for my recommendations.
Depending on the 14ers that you plan to climb, you may be in for a very long day of hiking. This means that you may be on the trail very early in the morning or in the evening, when the light is bad. It is always a good idea to have a portable and dependable light source with you. That is why I always carry a head lamp with backup batteries in my bag. If you don’t have a head lamp, a small, light weight flashlight will do the trick as well.
Having a good hiking backpack with you when you climb a 14er can be the difference between a fun and successful hike and a hike that is absolutely miserable. You are going to need your hands for using hiking poles and making at least three points of contact with the ground during the difficult parts of your hike, so you don’t want to have to carry your gear with you in your hands when you hike a 14er. You are also not going to want to have a ton of weight on your back when you tackle a challenging hike like climbing a 14er, so you want to make sure that your bag and your gear is relatively lightweight. If you are looking for some recommendations on great lightweight hiking backpacks, I have linked to some of my recommendations for you to review below.
In addition to having a good pair of hiking shoes or boots on your 14er Hiking Gear List, you will also want to have something with you that will allow you to get some extra traction should the trail turn icy. On most trails, a good pair of micro spikes is sufficient to give you the extra traction that you need. Even if you don’t expect to encounter icy conditions on the trail, I would strongly recommend having a pair of these spikes in your bag just in case. If you are planning to climb a more difficult mountain that routinely has deep snow pack on steep slopes, then you will want to consider bringing a pair of crampons instead. However, these aren’t needed for most of the easier Class 1 mountains where a good pair of micro spikes will suffice. For tips on which micro spikes to invest in, please see the link I provided below to review my recommendations.
One of the most critical of the supplies that you will bring with you when you climb a 14er is your supply of water. Let’s face it, even the easiest of the 14ers in the United States still involves a lot of elevation gain and a good amount of miles that need to be trekked. If you would like to make it to the top and back down safely, then you are going to want to be sure that you have enough water for your hike. I would strongly recommend packing a water bladder with you so that you can ensure that you have enough water. I have tried quite a few different water bladders over the years and I have linked to some great recommendations for you to review below if you are interested.
Climbing Helmet (Recommended if Rockfall is Likely)
On most Class 1 rated trails for America’s 14ers, you won’t need to worry about things like rockfall because the trails are very well defined and the amount of rock scrambling you will need to do to summit these mountains is minimal. However, when you start getting into the more difficult Class 2 trails, and definitely the Class 3 and Class 4 trails, it is a very different story. The dangers of rock fall and falls from exposed parts of the trail become a real danger when you attempt to climb some of the more difficult 14ers. For that reason, I would strongly recommend you bring a climbing helmet with you if you think these dangers will be an issue. This is yet another reason why I would recommend researching the mountains you plan to climb before finalizing your packing list. For some suggestions on good climbing helmets to invest in, please see the link I provided below.
Crampons (Recommended if Snow Pack is Expected on Trail)
If you are planning on climbing a more difficult Class 3 or Class 4 mountain, or if you expect to encounter heavy snowpack on steep slopes on the trail, then you are going to want to have more than just micro spikes on your 14er Hiking Gear List. In these situations, I would strongly recommend having a good pair of crampons with you. Crampons will give you much more traction than micro spikes will and will keep you safe on steep, slippery slopes. However, before you go out an purchase a pair, you need to understand how to choose the proper crampons for your needs. With some crampons that use step-in bindings, you need to have certain mountaineering boots in order to wear them. While with others that use strap bindings are much more versitle in which types of footwear they work with. If you are interested in seeing which crampons I recommend, please see the link I provided below.
Ice Axe (Recommended if Snow Pack is Expected on Trail)
Another piece of equipment that you may or may not need to add to your 14er Hiking Gear List is an ice axe. While this piece of equipment isn’t a necessary tool for the Class 1 routes and many of the Class 2 routes, it is a very important piece of equipment for the tougher trails that may involve hiking over heavy snow pack on steep ascents and descents. Not only is an ice axe a critical piece of equipment for doing a self-arrest on a steep fall, but it can also be used to prevent a fall when hiking on steep, slick slopes. It isn’t enough to just have one with you, you are also going to need to learn how to use an ice axe. If you would like some recommendations on good ice axes to use for alpine ascents, I have linked to my recommendations for you to review below.
Climbing Rope (Recommended for Some Class 3/4 Trails)
If you are planning on climbing a Class 1, Class 2, or an easy Class 3 14er, then you probably won’t need to worry about packing climbing rope for your hike. While these climbs are definitely not easy, they aren’t typically technical enough to warrant needing a rope and harness. However, if you are planning on tackling a difficult Class 3 or a Class 4 mountain, then climbing rope becomes much more necessary. I would definitely recommend doing your research on the mountain you plan on climbing before you finalize your packing list and include climbing gear such as rope if it is necessary. For some good recommendations on climing rope to invest in, please see the link below.
Climbing Harness (Recommended for Some Class 3/4 Trails)
Just like with climbing rope, a climbing harness is typically only necessary if you plan on hiking some of the more exposed routes on the diffiult Class 3 or Class 4 mountain trails. A good climbing harness is an invaluable piece of safety equipment not only for climbing mountains, but for canyoneering as well. Again, I would strongly recommend doing your research on the 14er you plan to climb before finalizing your packing list and I would definitely recommend packing a good climbing harness if there are very exposed sections of the trail. For some good recommendations on a climing harness to invest in, please see the link below.
Alpine Snow Shoes (Recommended for Trails with Steep Snowpack)
The last piece of gear that I would consider adding to your 14er Hiking Gear List if you are expecting to encounter a deep snowpack on the trail is a good pair of light alpine snowshoes. They need to be light because you don’t want to add a lot of extra weight to your back on these steep, difficult hikes, but they can save you a considerable amount of energy traversing deep snow. Depending on how much snowpack you expect to encounter, the extra weight may be worth it. You will also want to make sure you have a pair of snowshoes that are designed for alpine use as the have extra crampons, sidebars, and other features designed to help you on steep, snowy ascents and descents. I would strongly suggest researching which snowshoes are right for you before purchasing as there are many different options available. Personally, I love the snowshoes that MSR builds as I think they are great quality and reasonably priced. For more recommendations on snowshoes and snowshoe gear, please see the link I provided below.
Because of the difficulty of the trails, I would not recommend trying to carry camping gear with you when you hike on the trails to the top of many of America’s fourteeners. However, there may be times when bringing camping gear along so that you can camp out near the base of the mountain to get an early start makes sense. In these cases, having some basic camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat on your 14er hiking gear list can be advantageous. After hiking to your base camp and setting up camp, you can leave your tent and camping gear at the base of the mountain as you make your summit and come back down.
Many of the 14ers in America have campgrounds near the trailheads for just this reason. It allows hikers to bite off some of the trail to allow for a much easier summit day. A good example of this is the Longs Peak Keyhole Route in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Many hikers will camp out in order to get an early start on this trail to avoid being caught in afternoon thunderstorms at high altitude. For my tips on what camping gear to consider, please refer to the recommendations in my 14er hiking gear list below. If you plan on climbing a fourteener as part of a longer backpacking trip, I would also suggest checking out my Complete Backpackers Packing Guide as well.
If you are planning on spending a night or more in the backcountry while climbing a 14er, then you will want to bring a tent with you. However, you won’t want to bring just any tent. There are specific tents that are designed for use while backpacking. Unlike most tents you use while camping, these backpacking tents are much lighter weight as to minimize your load while carrying your gear. If you are in the market for a backpacking tent to use on your next adventure, I have included a link with some of my suggested tents for you to review below. I have also included some information in my backpackers packing guide below on how to choose the right backpacking tent for you.
In addition to your tent, the sleeping bag that you choose for your adventure on a 14er will go a long way to determining how comfortable you are. There is no such thing as a temperature controlled environment in the backcountry, so your sleeping bag is the most effective tool that you have to keep you warm on cold nights. If you choose the wrong sleeping bag to bring with you, a cold night can be unbearably uncomfortable or even dangerous. If you would like to view some of my recommended backpacking sleeping bags, please refer to the link below.
In addition to a light, but warm sleeping bag, you are going to want to make sure that you have a decent sleeping pad with you. This is especially important if you are going to be camping for multiple days or hiking thru rocky ground. A good sleeping pad can make a big difference in keeping your spirits up on extended hikes. You will want to be sure the pad you pick is both comfortable and light because you will need to carry it with you when you hike. For my top recommendations on sleeping pads, please see the link below.
Just like taking care of your sleeping bag is important, so is taking care of your tent. Like anything, tents can get worn out with extended use. This is especially true if you are camping on hard, uneven surfaces. That is why I like to carry a light-weight tent footprint with me when I go backpacking. The tent footprint sits on the ground below the tent, which not only protects the tent from wear-and-tear, but it also provides a moisture shield. For my top recommendations on tent footprints, please see the link I included below.
I bet I am not the only one who wishes I could take the pillow off my bed at home, compress it, and pack it in my backpacking bag to take with me on overnight hikes. Sadly, the size and weight of standard pillows makes them an impractical addition to your backpacking gear. However, they do make some very light weight and compact backpacking pillows that are almost as comfortable. Some are blow up, while other backpacking pillows are made of compressible material. For a look at my top backpacking pillow recommendations, please see the link I included below.
When it comes time to start packing for climbing a 14er, some of the most routinely overlooked pieces of equipment are related to navigation and safety. These are pieces of equipment that you hope you won’t need but can be absolutely lost without. Should you get lost or injured on your climb, having these tools to help you navigate and stay safe until you can get yourself out or are found can be the difference between life and death. That’s why I strongly recommend that the safety equipment I list below be part of any 14er Hiking Gear List.
If you use my 14er Hiking Gear List wisely, then you should seldom find yourself stuck in a situation where you aren’t prepared for the trail. However, there are certain circumstances that even the most experienced backcountry backpackers can’t anticipate. That is why it is so important to always have emergency gear with you in your bag. If the weather turns for the worst and you find yourself without adequate cold weather gear, a survival blanket could literally be the difference between life or death. These compact, easy to carry Mylar foil blankets reflect up to 90% of your body heat back at you. That is often enough to stave off hypothermia and give you time to get yourself out of a bad situation.
In the unfortunate event that someone gets hurt on your hike, it is always good to be prepared. Even if there aren’t any big injuries, being able to properly treat blisters, sun burn, scratches, abrasions, and other small injuries is important. Having to hike with a bad blister or cut can be very uncomfortable, especially if they get infected. Being able to treat these small wounds can help you avoid having to hike some uncomfortable miles with nagging injuries.
Many of the summit trails for America’s 14ers have defined trails for you to follow, but many do not. The last thing you want to worry about when tackling a difficult challenge like reaching the summit of a 14er is getting lost. One of the best ways to avoid this is to carry a GPS device with you. If you don’t want to invest in a device, you can sign up for the pro version of the Alltrails App. I like the Garmin InTouch devices because they have GPS, allow me to send messages, and have an emergency SOS feature in case I get in trouble. If you would like to review these devices, please see the link I included below.
While GPS devices are great for navigation, you don’t want to be completely dependent upon them in case of an emergency. If all you have to navigate is a GPS device and its battery dies, then you are in trouble. That’s why I like to always carry a small compass in my bag as well. Should all else fail, I am able to use a compass, along with the maps that I bring with me, to navigate myself out of trouble. If you would like to review some of my recommendations for small, light weight compasses, please see the link I included in my 14er Hiking Gear List below.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation during your hike where your GPS device is out of batteries or unusable, a compass will only help you if you know where you are going. That it why it is always important to carry a topographical map with you as well. Not only will the map help you navigate, but they are also great for helping you with route finding. Without a sense of what is ahead, you might find yourself navigating yourself towards impassable canyons, steep cliffs, etc.. If you would like to purchase a topographical map for a hiking destination in the United States, I have included a link to the USGS website below.
When I am on a difficult hike such as climbing a 14er, I like to bring some paracord with me in case I need it. There are a bunch of reasons why paracord could come in handy, but one of the reasons I use it the most is for a backpack drop line. If I encounter a steep climb or descent on my hike where I feel more comfortable tackling it with my backpack off, I can use the paracord to either pull my backpack up after I have finished the climb or to lower my backpack down ahead of me before I make a descent. I cannot tell you how valuable this is and how much safer I feel doing difficult hikes knowing I don’t need to wear my backpack on the technical sections.
Even if you pack rain gear for your hike, having an emergency backup that you can quickly throw on if the weather turns suddenly wet while on the trail can be a huge advantage. A portable rain poncho can also be a great lightweight substitute if you are trying to cut down the weight of your gear and don’t want to pack heavier rain gear. I always keep a portable ponch in a quick access pouch on the belt of my backpack when I am hiking so that I can quickly throw it on if need be.
Chances are, there will be situations on your hike where a small knife will come in handy. In fact, a small utility knife is one of the most valuable tools that you can have with you when hiking, camping, or backpacking. Having a small, compact knife with you is always a good idea. I like to keep a Swiss Army Knife in the belt pouch of my backpack in case I need to cut rope, trim fabric, or use my knife for a myriad of other reasons while on the trail.
If you get stuck on your ascent or descent, you are definitely going to want to make sure you can keep yourself warm if you need to overnight on the mountain. For that reason, I would strongly recommend carrying a pack of waterproof matches with you when you climb a 14er. Chances are that you won’t need them, but they are certainly an item you will be happy to have with you if you do.
No one likes to think about needing one, but if you do get stranded on a mountain you will certainly be glad that you have an emergency bivy sack in your bag. Even the most skilled and prepared hikers that I know bring some sort of emergency shelter with them when they are in the backcountry or on a difficult climb. I am very serious when I say that it could mean the difference between life and death should you run into trouble and need to overnight. If you are looking for some good options for an emergency bivy sack, I have included a link to the one I regularly use and depend on for you to review below.
Great list and advice, Josh. I just climbed Quandary Peak (14,271) last week and there was still some snow up there that we had to traverse, though our microspikes weren’t necessary. I’m 100% with you on hiking poles. Going up, going down – it doesn’t matter. They are a lifesaver.
Awesome!!! That is fantastic!!!! I love that mountain! Brilliant minds think alike re: the hiking poles 😄