Standard Winter Kit

The equipment we choose to utilize in the winter can make all the difference in the success of our day.  The standard winter kit below will serve as the starting point for all of our winter trips.  Certain courses may require additional equipment (see other gear lists).  Also, customization for the day’s weather and individual preferences may be needed.  Please contact us if you have any specific questions about your needs.

The items below are REQUIRED unless otherwise specified.  If you have questions about what to bring, please call the Climbing School at 845-668-2030.


(1) Fleece Hat
You’ve probably heard that most of your body heat escapes from your head.  When you’re feeling cold, the first piece to add to your clothing system is a hat.  This should cover your ears and can be made of fleece or merino wool.  Remember to fit the hat so you can wear it under a helmet.

(2) Balaclava
When the temperatures drop and the wind picks up, the skin on your face becomes very vulnerable to frost-nip, and even worse, frostbite.  Wearing a balaclava adds protection and warmth to your clothing system.  NOTE:  BALACLAVA DOES NOT REPLACE A NEOPRENE FACE MASK.

(3) Glove Liners
Glove liners are very useful for the more aerobic approach to your climb.

(4) Gloves
We recommend having at least 2 pairs of gloves or mittens.  Insulated gloves, like ski gloves, with a windproof/waterproof shell are a must for higher elevations and more technical climbing.  Mittens with a windproof/waterproof shell are essential for those colder temperatures at higher elevations.  NOTE:  Even when using waterproof gloves/mittens, with enough time and pressure your hands will eventually get wet!!!  You will want extras to keep those hands dry and toasty.

(5) Socks
How many times have your feet been way too cold?  Merino wool or wool blends are great natural insulators, even when wet.  Too heavy of a layering on your feet is your worst enemy; it constricts your blood flow and causes your feet to be cold.

(6) Gaiters
Keeping your feet dry and pants free of holes is important.  Wearing gaiters adds a great level of protection to achieve this.  They keep dirt and debris, and most importantly snow, out of your boots.  Crampons are sharp and can easily poke holes in your pants letting in the elements – gaiters are made with a very durable material to protect against such rips.

(7) Insulated Water Bottle
Staying hydrated is very important.  Having a bottle that keeps your water from freezing is equally as important.  A double-wall insulated bottle does the job great.  Wide-mouth water bottles are recommended for winter.  2+ liters of water is a minimum to keep you hydrated during the day.  Please do not use hydration systems, single-wall metal water bottles, or thin plastic.  All of these systems freeze easily, making the water unavailable to you.  Before coming to the school, please consume ¾ to a liter of water.  This will ensure you are starting your day well hydrated.

(8) Water Bottle Insulator
If you aren’t willing to spend the money for a double-wall vacuum sealed water bottle, this is the cheaper option to keep your water hot or from freezing.  Water bottle parkas will slide over your Nalgene bottle and keep your water insulated.  A thick sock works just as well to keep those liquids in liquid form.

(9) Food
Fuel your body.  In the mountains, lunch starts when breakfast ends and ends when dinner starts.  In other words, we eat all day.  A typical climber or skier will consume about 3,500 calories during the course of a day.  Pack foods that don’t freeze hard, cover all the food groups, and are easy to eat.  Pre-make peanut butter sandwiches or bring last night’s pizza and those oh-so delicious candy bars.  Carry your bars inside your jacket to keep them warm and gooey.

(10) Personal First Aid Kit                               

Our guides carry first aid kits with them, but you can make/bring your own tailored to your needs and let us know if you use inhalers, EpiPens, etc.

(11) Backpack
2,000-3,000 cubic inches or about 30-50 liters is recommended with a max 20lb load.  A properly fitted pack will make your day 100 times better!!!  It is essential to have a backpack which has a comfortable hip belt to help support the bulk of the weight.  Use a backpack large enough to stow all of your gear on the inside without having to strap any of your personal gear on the outside where it is exposed to the elements.  Also, make sure your backpack has ice axe loops you can use to carry your mountaineering axe when you are not using it and side compression straps to cinch the load close to you.  Tip:  Pack your backpack with your gear before you arrive and make sure you still have enough room to stow your puffy jacket, hardshell jacket, and extra warm layers for the initial hike in.  This will save an enormous amount of time in the morning.


Base Layer (top & bottom)
There’s no way around it — you sweat.  Wear fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin.  Unlike 100% cotton that gets wet and stays wet, wicking fabrics help you regulate your core temperature and avoid overheating or chilling.  Great examples of winter base layers include merino wool layers and EMS® Techwick® Lightweight and Midweight polyester (which wicks, packs, wears, and washes like nothing else).  Both top and bottom are needed.  Light to midweight merino wool or synthetics, with a snug fit and close to skin.

Insulation Layer (top only)
Mid-layers add insulation to help retain heat that your body creates and are worn between the base layer and outer jacket.  Examples of insulating mid-layers include a fleece jacket or a synthetic jacket made of PrimaLoft® or Thermore®.  Jacket only.  200-300 weight fleece, heavyweight soft shell, or lightweight synthetic jacket.

Uninsulated Waterproof/Windproof Shell (jacket & pants)*
Forget about bulky coats.  Wear an outer shell (over your base and insulation layers) to shed water and snow.  Layering will give you more versatility, depending on the weather and your activity.  Outerwear that is waterproof with increased breathability will be more adaptable and can help transfer moisture away from your body to keep you dry and protected from the elements.  Both jacket and pants are needed.  EMS System Three®, Gortex®, or similar waterproof/breathable material.  Jacket MUST have an integrated hood.  Flimsy “stow-away” nylon hoods are not adequate.  Full side-zip on pants are very helpful.

*Soft shell pants and jacket can be very appropriate on days when we are not expecting heavy snow or wet weather.  They provide wind and water protection while still allowing you to breath.

“Over-it-All” Hooded Down or PrimaLoft® Jacket
This crucial layer is often added when you stop for a break.  It helps to maintain your body temperature while you are resting and is essential for keeping you warm on those cold descents and during inconvenient breaks above tree line in high winds.  This layer is generally worn over your outermost layers — yes, even over your Gore-Tex® or System Three® jacket.


EMS will provide all climbers with appropriate plastic winter mountaineering boots.  Boot sizes range from women’s 5-men’s 16.  If you have a larger or smaller foot, please let us know before you arrive.

Optional Items

Hand/foot warmers
Trekking poles

EMS Climbing School Provides

Plastic mountaineering boots, crampons, mountaineering axe, ice tools, harness, helmet, climbing hardware, and ropes.

Helpful Tips

1) When packing clothing for your outing, do not pack any more clothing than you can wear at once.  If we empty your pack and you can’t wear all your clothes because you packed too many layers, you will need to eliminate some clothes.

2) If you are doing a multi-day program, remember all this gear needs to be worn for multiple days.  If it will not dry over night, please bring extra for the following day(s).  Although we have tricks for drying your synthetic long underwear in the tent, it’s nice to have a spare set of “next to skin” layers and socks to wear while your other clothes are drying.

3) If you need help determining which layers to wear, bring more rather than less, and ask us to help you pack.  Drop us an e-mail or call with questions.  Remember we are out there every day.

Eastern Mountain Sports Schools