Winter Gear Prep- Part 1 The Essentials

(Originally posted October 2016, now updated October 2017)

Every year around this time I start getting excited about the arrival of my favorite season, Winter! To help fuel the stoke I go through my gear closet and take stock. What’s worn out and what needs replacing? What’s good to go for another icy season? I thought it might be helpful to provide a gear checklist with recommendations on what I use in all categories. In this first segment I’ll cover “The Essentials” a personally modified list of the classic “Ten Essentials“.

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The Essentials

Maps– I use the free online mapping software CalTopo for all my mapping and trip planning needs. This powerful software has so much potential every outdoor adventurer should familiarize themselves with this tool! If you’d like to take a course that covers survival navigation and these advanced navigation skills go here!

Compass– I love my Suunto MC-2 compass which I reviewed in full detail here.

Buy on Backcountry   Buy from EMS   Buy on Amazon

If you’re looking for a smaller more affordable compass I also highly endorse the Suunto A-10 Compass.

Buy on Backcountry   Buy at REI   Buy from EMS   Buy on Amazon


Headlamp– I recently upgraded my headlamps and currently carry the Petzl Zipka 2 and the Petzl Actik. You really can’t go wrong with a Petzl headlamp.

Buy the Petzl Zipka 2 on Backcountry, Amazon, REI

Buy the Petzl Actik on Backcountry, Amazon, EMS, REI


Batteries– I put fresh lithium batteries in my headlamps every Fall. Days are shorter and I am much more likely to need a headlamp. Lithium easily out performs alkaline in cold weather so the Energizer AA’s and AAA’s are always on hand. The best deal I can find on these batteries is on Amazon which is linked here.


First Aid Kit– I start with the Adventure Medical Kit .7 then modify it a little. I add more gloves (acquired from visits to the hospital) and a bottle of iodine tablets (for emergency water treatment and wound irrigation), and a small refillable bottle of Advil.


Knife– Colonial makes dozens of great models like this one.


Bivy Sack– I carry a AMK Heatsheets Emergency Bivy on every single outing. It only weighs a few ounces and is worthwhile the extra insurance!


Handwarmers– I always carry 6-8 hand warmers in my winter pack. Pro-tip: If you need to use them… place them under your glove on your wrist, right where that artery is. Much more effective than placing it in the palm of your hand which reduces grip on ice axes/ski poles. Usually the glove can hold it in place though sometimes I’ll use a little athletic tape.


A “Buff– A very versatile clothing accessory! I have a few so I can wash them occasionally and always have one ready to go.


Glove Liners– I usually need to purchase a couple pairs of these because I do wear them out within a year or two. Totally worth the cheap price though!


Dermatone Sunblock– I always have a tin of this stuff with me in the winter.


Neoprene Face Mask– I like this simple style. It works well in combination with the Buff and my hat/hood. Bigger “fancier” ones make it difficult not to over heat. Pro-tip, if you have fogging issues when used with your goggles take a pair of scissors and enlarge the mouth holes.


GogglesRevo Capsule with the Green Water Lens. The one “essential” category I don’t skimp on. I need quality breathable goggles for the mountain work I do and this pair has not disappointed. As a Revo ambassador I’m able to extend a 20% discount on these to any of my readers! All you need to do is order them directly from www.revo.com and enter promo code “ALPINESTARTF&F” and you’ll get 20% off the purchase!


Well that’s it for my “Essentials” list. Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!

Part 2 will focus on my various clothing systems specific for ice climbing, mountaineering, and back-country skiing.

Part 3 will focus on ice climbing gear and maintenance.

Part 4 will cover ski gear and maintenance.

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See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer- Every product mentioned above except the goggles was purchased with my own money. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

6 thoughts on “Winter Gear Prep- Part 1 The Essentials

  1. I think there is an error with the link of the headlamps. Nice list, although I’m missing the security items…. (yes, I know that in the north-eastern are not really needed, but should be part of it anyways; I always wear them, even for very small tours).
    What about an appendix on those?

    • Hi Xavi! Thanks for catching that! I fixed the link. By security items I assume you mean avalanche safety gear? Beacon, probe, shovel? I agree with you if entering avalanche terrain in the winter those should certainly be included! Most of our terrain is outside of avalanche terrain, but I will add these items in Part 3 and Part 4 since I do take them with me when ice climbing & back-country skiing in avalanche terrain.

      • Yes, and thanks. As said, although there are lots of zones outside avalanche, i still always wear them…. i got this habit from the very first day….

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