Gear Talk: What’s In My Pack

Today I’m unpacking my pack onto the floor so I can show you what’s in there. People always seem to be curious about what gear I’m using and why, and I know I’ve gotten a lot out of reading other peoples’ gear lists. Plus it’s a great way to plug Ski Uphill, who in addition to being my friends and ski partners, have supported me since they opened. I’ll link to products I use that are available there. I’m not completely impartial, but I’m also in no way obligated to use products they carry.

Before we start, know that this is going to be a breakdown of my average kit for a technical, spring, day trip objective. There’s a whole spectrum of gear choices for different types of days, but this is what I get the most questions about. So with that, let’s dig in.

First up, the pack itself. It’s a Cilao Papang 5D, which is a very light, very simple, very well thought out 37L alpine climbing pack from France. I started using their stuff when SkiUphill asked me to test the 32L Tapcal 2D a few years ago. At less than 800g, I fully expected to destroy it immediately but it’s still happily ticking along to this day. Impressed, I got the Papang, which solves the two issues I had with the Tapcal – namely that it’s a bit too small for a full compliment of technical gear and that it could do with a second access point.

I’ll break down what’s in there area by area.

Outside the pack:

  • Ice tools: one or two from my quiver of two Petzl Nomics, one Grivel North Machine, two older generation Petzl Sum’tecs and one CAMP Corsa Nanotech. For most objectives requiring actual climbing the North Machine and either a Nomic or Sum’tec seem to be my most popular combos. There are lighter tools on the market than the Sum’tecs now which climb at least as well, and were I replacing them I’d probably go for a Blue Ice Akila.
  • Camera/case: I keep a Panasonic G85 with an Olympus 9-18mm lens in a LowePro Dashpoint 30 on my shoulder strap.

That’s basically it. I might keep a water bottle in one of the stretch pockets for the approach, or strap a large rope to the top but I’m generally against leaving a junkshow dangling from my pack.

Top pocket:

  • Snacks: usually bars, energy chews, spicy rice crackers, gummy candy and maybe a sandwich or burrito. Oh, and chocolate. Dogtooth Chocolate makes some great stuff locally.
  • Sunscreen: stick type, plus a tube of Zinka Nosecoat and some SPF lip balm.
  • Ski straps x2
  • Sunglasses (if not on my head): Ryders Tsuga with removable side shields. I don’t think they make these any more, which is too bad.
  • A Buff or two: light coloured so I can use it for sun protection without cooking too badly.
  • Headlamp (again, if not on my head): Fenix HL60R for serious night work, Black Diamond Spot otherwise.
  • Scraper & skin wax: Any old scraper and soft wax will do. I don’t always remember or have time to hot wax my skins, so this can be a real lifesaver. By keeping it handy I avoid lazily letting glopping problems build up and really ruin my day.

Hydration Pouch:

Note: I’ve found this to be a fantastic, quick access spot for emergency gear in packs without an avy tool pocket. When packed properly, the shovel blade bolsters the back panel of the pack a bit, and keeps poorly loaded sharp things from the interior from stabbing me in the back.

  • Shovel: G3 AviTech D-Handle
  • “Oh Shit Kit”: Many have asked about the Oh Shit Kit, but it’s nothing special. It’s just a bag of stuff for situations that suck. Critical first aid gear lives there, as well as repair items like a ratcheting bit driver, bailing wire and three more rubber ski straps. There’s also an InReach, a knife, toilet paper, lighter, emergency bivy, chemical hand warmers and a spare headlamp (with AAA batteries that will also power my beacon), plus some other miscellaneous bits and bobs. I could go into a lot of detail about the full contents of this bag, but I’ll leave it here for now.
  • Billy Goat Ascent Plates: These things have saved me countless hours of wallowing. They now come along on every day out with a slight risk of booting in deep snow. When set up properly (or improperly according to the manufacturer) the front points of my crampons protrude far enough to climb ice and rock without the plates interfering. Hugely beneficial in the facet holes that often surround technical pitches.

Main Pack Body:

Listed from top to bottom, sort of. More accurately from most to least accessible.

  • Helmet: Petzl Sirocco. I like it in white, because the alpine can be a hot place.
  • Water bottle: I just use one of my old reliable 1.5L Nalgenes. I don’t like to risk punctures with soft sided bottles or flasks, even if they’re theoretically better.
  • Midlayer Down Jacket: Rab Microlight Hoodie. Or whatever. I just like these and know they fit.
  • Fishing Hoodie: Columbia Terminal Tackle. A new piece of gear for me this season, it’s a lightweight uphill layer to help keep from roasting. I’ll bring this along on hot days and swap with my Dynafit Tour Wool hoodie as the sun starts to beat down.
  • Downhill/climbing gloves: MEC Overlord gloves or Hestra 3 Finger Lobster Mitts, depending on anticipated temps and technicality. I’ve had both of these for ages and there’s nothing special about them, though I do appreciate the race style padding on the knuckles of the Hestras when cross blocking branches on ski outs.
  • Goggles: Smith I/O with a low to medium light lens. These happen to fit me well and I like the clip in the strap. Otherwise, goggles are goggles. I don’t bother with dark lenses, as if it’s sunny and bright I usually stick to my sunglasses on the descent. Stored in a Buff, which is just as good as a goggle bag and you can wear it on your head.
  • Crampons: Either steel Grivel Air Techs or aluminum CAMP XLC 390s. I’m sure there are better options on the market now, but I have these ones. The CAMPs are duller than spoons from repeated use on scree, but they puncture crust and hold my plates on just fine. The Grivels are kept sharp and do the heady lifting on technical objectives. Both pairs are fully automatic.
  • Harness: Blue Ice Choucas Light, stored in a skin bag and pre rigged with the following (obviously this will depend on the objective):
    • 22cm Petzl Laser Speed ice screw w/ Grivel Candella V-Thread Hooker
    • Small pin rack. Mostly #2 Knifeblades, which are all I ever seem to place.
    • 1 alpine draw. Once my harness is on this gets rigged to my belay loops as a quick-access tether.
    • 5mm tech cord prussiks on a DMM revolver biner
    • Petzl Microtraxion
    • Petzl Reverso on a lightweight HMS locker
    • Some cordage on an extra screwlock biner
    • A couple of light wiregate biners (you can always tape the gate closed). I like CAMP Nano 22s.
  • Rope: I’m partial to cheap, trusty Beal 8mm Rando ropes and own two, which get the lion’s share of steep skiing work. Depending on the objective I’ll be liable to use anything from a 20m rap cord up to 60m double ropes.
  • Windshell: Some cheap, lightweight MEC running jacket.
  • Shell Jacket: OR Helium II. I go a lot of days without putting the shell on at all, particularly in the ever dry Rockies, so lighter and smaller is better.
  • Ski Crampons: Plum, sized to fit my skis. I use these roughly once every two years, so they go in the bottom of my pack at the start of spring and stay there. I stuff a fleece necktube with a drawstring in the dead space between the crampons as emergency warm headwear.

So, there you have it. That should kind of be the majority of what I’m carrying on an average spring objective. I’ve probably forgotten a few things, but hopefully no essentials. Questions? Opinions? Suggestions? Drop them in the comments section below.

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