On a walking course we recommend a 3 season leather or waterproof synthetic walking boot that is already broken in and comfortable to wear all day.
On a scrambling course it is best to use a stiff soled walking boot – the extra stiffness makes standing on smaller holds more secure and easier. However most 2/3 Season ‘bendy’ walking boots will cope with easier scrambles, whilst also having the advantage of being comfortable for the walking sections. Their main limitation is their lateral stiffness or ‘bendiness’ that makes standing on small edges harder. On easier scrambles - most grade ones - this won't matter since the holds are so big, however on grade 2 or grade 3 scrambles it could be more of a problem.
Rigid 4-season and alpine mountaineering boots with a fully rigid sole will allow you to edge and ‘front point’ with ease, however they tend to be heavier, less delicate and can give disconcertingly little feel for the rock until you are used to using them. Modern, lightweight alpine boots like Sportiva’s Trangos or the Scarpa's Freney XT are a great choice.
Climbers often use approach shoes with sticky rubber soles on scrambles; they are great for the scrambling, but have minimal ankle support and can get soaked on the walking sections. This is a choice that is best made with experience.
On a rock climbing course a comfortable walking boot or Goretex lined approach shoe will work well for the walk-ins, whilst for the climbing itself it is best to use rock shoes. These are specific, relatively tight fitting shoes with a smooth, sticky rubber sole that make a huge difference to what you can climb. We have a range of rock shoes that can be hired for £3.00 per day.
A decent pair of long (calf length) gaiters is useful for walking courses.
Don’t forget to bring enough decent socks (Smartwool socks are hard to beat) and it is worth including some Compeed in your first aid kit for blisters and general repairs.
On a walking course you will need a 25-35 litre rucksack to hold spare clothing, food drinks and personal equipment.
On a scrambling or climbing day you will need a larger 40-50 litre rucksack, ideally the sack should have a slim profile that won’t restrict progress in narrow confines...on some mountaineering courses we may climb with the sacks on. Always make sure everything you need can fit in your sack with nothing stored on the outside of the rucksack.
Don’t forget a waterproof liner to protect your kit and, especially, your spare clothing. Bring a couple of spare plastic bags for wet stuff/ keeping valuables dry.
It is always great if there is some spare room in your sack to to take some of the course equipment - racks, ropes etc.
We hold our courses in ‘summer’ conditions, however the weather does not always realise this and our courses can involve sun, rain and wind in prodigious quantities. The weather in the mountains changes really quickly and it is not uncommon to be baking one minute and the getting cold 30 minutes later as the sun disappears and the wind picks up. Thus we recommend bringing a wide range of clothing and accessories that will cope with the conditions on hand.
The key to a good clothing system is to choose a versatile system that you can alter quickly so that you stay comfortable – neither hot nor cold.
a. Thermal base layer
A thin synthetic or merino wool base layer on your upper body is the ideal starting point for a standard clothing system; zipped neck versions allow more ventilation. Base layers come in various weights and a standard or lightweight version is normally best for summer conditions -Patagonia’s Capilene works well. Avoid wearing cotton because it's loose fit normally doesn't allow it to insulate well, it won’t wick away perspiration from your body and it stays damp for a longer time than synthetic fibres and thus makes you feel relatively cold.
If you feel the cold then it may be worth using a base layer for your legs.
b. Mid (Warm Clothing) layer
On top of your upper body base layer a thin fleece works well for general use. It's always colder than you expect high on the hill, so always have another thick/windproof fleece top in a waterproof liner in your rucksack. If you get cold easily perhaps add a fleece gilet or waistcoat to your layering.
Pertex windproof tops are amazing bits of kit that are worth their weight in gold. They weigh nothing, pack away to the size of a tennis ball and yet protect against the wind and even light showers.
If it is forecast to be warm then you could use a thin pair of synthetic trousers. Don't wear cotton trousers or denim jeans - they restrict movement, don't keep you warm and take forever to dry.
Shorts can seem like a great idea if the forecast is good, but can be a liability if it turns cold or wet. Or if the midges come out. If you do wear shorts then make sure you have long trousers with you as well.
In mixed conditions and for most Spring to Autumn use then synthetic "soft shell" pants are fantastic - not cheap, but really versatile. ME Mountain Stretch Pants or Liskamm Pants together with Mammut's Base Jump Pants are all good reference points. Look for models that are windproof, stretchy and water resistant - those made from Schoeller fabrics are off to a good start.
On cold days trousers made from a stretchy fabric like PowerStretch are good, even better is a thin pair of base layer pants with a stretchy soft shell pant. Some fleece pants, like Mountain Equipment's Ultrafleece pants and salopettes have a stretch panel at the knee which works well.
3. Windproof / Waterproof layer
Ideally these should be breathable, waterproof and hardwearing. Having trousers with ¾ or full length zips is an excellent idea because you can take them on and off without taking your boots off.
Event fabric is probably the best waterproof fabric around at the moment, whilst Goretex is very over hyped and - whilst good - is no better than a lot of branded breathable fabrics.
Don’t forget your hat and gloves as they are great tools for staying warm and comfortable on the hill. It is very important to look after your hands and a thin pair of wool or synthetic gloves can be essential, even in summer. Also have a spare pair of thicker fleece gloves in your bag for when it gets cold and/or wet.
If you are on a scrambling course then a leather palmed glove is a good idea.
A fleece hat is essential - if you are on a scrambling or climbing course then make sure your hat fits under your helmet.
Sunglasses, sun cream and sun hat – we live in hope, but when the sun does come out it can be unforgiving, especially up high.
Midge repellent - if you are out on the hills in Snowdonia between May and September then you will meet the odd midge. DEET still works best as a deterrent - if you don't like using DEET then various lemon / citrus alternatives are available (but they don't work as well).
Water bottle or flask - It is important to stay hydrated when out on the hill. A hot flask of drink (Cinnamon tea with plenty of sugar is a personal favourite) is a real morale booster on a cold day.
Food - Lots of easily digestible snacks to keep you going throughout the day.
Compass and maps - It is important to have a map for your day on the hill and this should be either laminated or in a good waterproof map case (Ortlieb). The main maps used are OS Landranger (1:50,000) Sheets 115 & 124 and OS Explorer (1:25,000) Sheet OL17
Head torch with spare batteries - A halogen / super bright LED combo torch is best. Petzl's Myo and Tikka ranges are currently good benchmarks.
Trekking poles - Although non-essential these help look after your knees during long days on the hills - if you are on a climbing or scrambling course make sure they can be taken apart and fit inside your rucksack easily.
Personal First Aid Kit – Plasters, compeed, wipes and personal medication. This can also include your sun cream, sunglasses and midge repellent. Always throw a bit of Gaffa tape and a few long zip ties into your first aid case - great for improvising emergency repairs.
Cash –Essential for Pete's Eats, Eric's Cafe or a passing ice cream van
Camera – Pictures of your heroic endeavours for posterity.....Bring a waterproof case/plastic bag as well to keep it dry.
Plastic Bags - A couple of bags for keeping valuables dry and separating out wet kit.