What equipment is needed for ice climbing?

The number of individuals who travel out particularly to participate in ice climbing grows along with the sport's popularity. Ice rock climbing, often viewed as a barrier to mountaineering trips, has quickly emerged as a separate activity, with enthusiasts traveling to almost every country to try it out.

The right equipment can make the difference between an enjoyable expedition and one that doesn't even get off the ground, just like any other outdoor activity. The below-provided list of equipment helps you to check if you have sufficient basic ice climbing gear to start on your technical routes.

Always confirm the items you need to pack with your trained mountain guide. While some tour operators may include specialized equipment in the trip cost, others might not. Here are a few justifications for using a mountain guide on your upcoming excursion.

Tech equipment

You will need specialized equipment to help you with your vertical ice climbing. It could include a variety of technical gear that you use and put on while performing various ice climbing tasks.

Belay device

It is a mechanical device that facilitates the tensioning of a climbing rope to prevent the fall of an additional climber.

Metal belay devices give leverage and lessen the effort needed to feed out the right amount of rope for ice climbers.

Belay devices are frequently included in the group climbing equipment that guides supply. If not, you may typically rent them.
Tech equipment


Carabiners are usually steel and come as a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate. It helps the climber attach or detach the rope instantly from the harness.

Due to their size and form, pear/HMS carabiners are most commonly utilized for belaying and rappelling because they allow for the necessary hitch with two strands of rope.

These are normally available at most outdoor sporting goods retailers and are useful for additional uses.

What equipment is needed for ice climbing?


Ice climbing crampons are made of steel alloy and sturdy enough to provide the necessary traction on the ice. These are attached to the bottom of the boots so that the spikes keep you well-balanced on glaciers.

Since crampons come with various binding systems, you can choose the one suitable for your requirement and convenience. The 14 points crampons and the step-in system-based semi-rigid ones are highly preferred as they offer a much-required surface area for easy maneuvering.

You may rent a pair of ice climbing crampons from outdoor sports shops, although some guides will give you theirs if you pay for your equipment.



Climbers are fastened to a cable or an anchor point using harnesses. They are loops made of nylon designed to support your weight when hanging from the rope. These nylon or Lenin-based loops wrap around your every leg and waist for proper balance and support.

Although homemade harnesses made of rope are possible, using commercially available ones that typically contain cushioning and attaching loops for holding other equipment is much more prevalent.

Most of the time, outdoor sporting goods businesses rent out harnesses. However, some guides will offer to supply them if their price covers the cost of personal equipment.

Ice axes

The most crucial gear used for ice climbing is the ice axe. They act as a means of anchoring oneself to the ice and pulling yourself up to the top at icefalls or on steep glaciers.

Ice climbing requires the use of technical ice axes rather than basic ones. As they come with a curved shaft, it makes it easier for them to support your weight. They can also be used to make an improvised ice anchor and to self-arrest if you slide or fall on an icy surface.

Ice axes are often available for rent at outdoor sporting goods stores, though some guides will offer them if their fee covers personal equipment.

Ice axes

Ice screws

Ice falls, and frozen waterfalls are examples of steep slopes where ice screws, threaded cylindrical screws, are utilized to create a running belay.

They are typically composed of Chromoly steel and range in length from 10 to 23 centimeters. To help prevent falls, climbers can be secured higher up on slippery areas using ice screws.

Choose ice screws with interchangeable tips when shopping to extend their useful life. Outdoor sporting goods retailers sell ice screws.


The lead climber uses quickdraws to facilitate the passing of rope. These quickdraws are attached to bolt anchors, which will serve as a safety measure when required.

These tools typically consist of two carabiners—a straight gate and a bent gate—joined together by a piece of leather or plastic. The bent gate end is clipped to the rope, whereas the straight gate is attached to the anchor.

Mountain guides usually carry these quickdraws when on a group excursion. If you booked any group package, you might be offered these for that fee. You can also rent them from outdoor sports rentals if you need them.



Here, the icy ropes are found in static and dynamic variations.

Dynamic rope is preferred for climbing as it offers better elasticity which is more forgiving when you fall or slip. Since the static rope is stiff, it is more fit for rappelling. Ice climbers should often pack 60 meters of rope with a diameter of eight to ten millimeters. You may choose to carry single ropes or twin ropes.

Ropes are available at outdoor sporting goods stores; however, most guides will supply rope for the adventure.

Clothing and kit

Ice climbing occurs at sub-zero temperatures, making it an extreme sport. Essential pieces of clothing that protect yourself from freezing in ice conditions are very important here. You must be fully geared up with the right layers of proper clothing to enjoy this fun adventure.

Gore-tex Gloves

Ice climbing trip involves making knots that demand proper movement of fingers. Also, you need this dexterity with your hand for several other actions, like placing ice screws and using the ice pick in cold conditions. Therefore, gloves keep hands warm and dry while allowing for fine finger mobility are required.

Gloves made of breathable, waterproof fabric that can withstand freezing temperatures, such as Gore-Tex, are the right choice. Gore-tex is somewhat expensive, but it is well worth the average cost, especially if you'll be in a circumstance where dexterity is essential.

Gore-tex Gloves


Any ice-climbing adventure requires a helmet as basic safety equipment. In the context of ice climbing, it helps shield your head from falls or items that fall from above, typically ice or rock.

Ice climbing requires using hardshell helmets, with a thin foam liner inside and an outer shell constructed of thick plastic. Despite their occasionally hefty nature, they will shield you from falling ice better than their shelled foam cousins. Most outdoor sports shops sell ice climbing helmets.

Insulated ice-climbing boots

For an adventure to climb ice, the sort of boot you buy is crucial. You generally want a firm, high-top boot made of leather, plastic, or synthetic material with a removable inner liner.

You may equally distribute your weight by wearing stiff boots made of these materials, which will help you avoid feeling as though the pressure is all on the toe of your foot when walking on ice. Your feet are kept warm and dry by the inside lining, which is simply removable for drying at the end of the day.

Most outdoor sports shops sell boots for ice climbing.

Sunglasses and sunblock

Since ice is so reflective, it is really simple to become burned or go blind from the glare—even in the dead of winter.

In the case of bright sunlight, sunglasses will let you see everything. Additionally, using sunblock will prevent you from developing a burn right soon. Nothing makes enjoying your outdoor experience more difficult than a sunburn.


When climbing in icy conditions, there are a few additional lightweight tools to bring along, in addition to gear and clothes.


A 30–40L backpack should be large enough to hold all your equipment. The appropriate pack to choose is light. Steer clear of bags with many frills, expensive attachments, or bulky frames. For example, the Patagonia Ascensionist and the Arcteryx Alpha FL packs are just one compartment with a cinch top and a thin foam back panel. Having outside ice tool attachment points and a way to fasten crampons. Shorter-sized packs designed for climbers won't ride up and obstruct your swing while not blocking access to essential gear loops on your harness.

Verify that your pack weighs no more than three pounds empty. You might also bring a compact summit pack if you rappel the route. Your headlamp, a thermos, a backup pair of gloves, and belay jacket must be carried in this. It should fold up extremely compactly, have a maximum capacity of 20L, and fit within your larger pack.

Water bottle

When going on an ice climbing excursion, you should pack a one-liter bottle of water with you. It's crucial to stay hydrated, especially when it's freezing outside. The best water bottles for the activity are just slightly insulated, so your water won't freeze while you're out climbing.


Depending on where you're climbing and how long you'll be out, there are different items you'll need to pack for an ice climbing expedition. Always confirm what you need to pack with your guide before leaving for your trip. Here are a couple more things that are always helpful.


  • a passport or identification card

  • insurance contract

  • The local currency in cash and a credit card

  • individual first aid kit

  • batteries and a camera


Most well-known locations for ice climbing will have outlets to rent equipment, and many guides will include technical equipment in the cost of their trip. If you are looking forward to going on several ice climbing adventures in the long run, then buying your own gear might be a good idea.

When choosing equipment to buy, keep the advice mentioned above in mind. Also, try everything out, especially the apparel, before making a final purchase.


Ice climbing is an extremely equipment-reliant activity. A difficult balancing act between accuracy and protection from the weather is required for technical, athletic motions in a tough, unforgiving environment. A fantastic day in the mountains can rapidly become epic if you use improper equipment for ice climbing. As mentioned earlier, the things on the packing list are the bare minimum needed for ice climbing equipment. Please be aware that this article is primarily about equipment and does not cover entire ice climbing clothing systems. Every endeavor was taken to include variations and the justification for them.

Kevin Macey
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