Top 3 Gear Tips Below Your Waist

by: Dan Renyi

Category: ,

All you need to know about pants, gaiters, and socks

All these dress codes: smart, casual, business. Do you also get confused when to wear what?

What’s “mountain smart” for example?

The thing is, if you get this one wrong, it’s not that your boss will nag you. The consequences are much more serious. You may not climb the peak of your dreams you’ve been working so hard for. Or worse, you may even freeze to death.

So, you see, it is smart to take mountain gear seriously. Here are some guidelines for you.

We have covered the upper body here; so now let’s so what you need for your legs.


1. Pants

Like with your upper body, you’ll need several layers for your legs.

The base layer functions to keep you warm and dry. Since it has direct contact with your skin, make sure comfort is a top priority when picking.

thermal pants

  • base layer
  • comfortable, stretchy
  • keeps your warm and dry
  • covers your body

You’ll need (at least) a second layer, either a pair of softshell pants, or hardshell. Depending on the type of your trip, you’ll have to make a choice. Softshell is better if comfort is first; provided you have gaiters, which will give some protection from moisture.

If, however, you’re going ice-climbing or expect heavy rain and snow, you need to stick with your hardshell pants. They will protect you from moisture and wind. If you opt for hardshell pants, make sure your base layer is warm and thick enough, because hardshell tends to be thin like paper.

shell pants

  • external layer
  • wind-proof
  • water-repellent (or water-proof)
  • provides some warmth


2. Gaiters

You need gaiters to give some extra protection to your feet. It is one thing that you are wearing water-proof shell pants and boots, but it comes in handy to have one more layer. You will be walking in snow and mud for hours, if not days.

Gaiters are also excellent to prevent little rocks and pebbles from getting into your boots, which would make your life like hell.

Also, if they get dirty — which they will — it is a lot easier to wash them than to clean your boots or your pants.

Gaiters might come with your pants or your boots; in that case, no need to buy them separately. It is, however, more likely that in the beginning you won’t invest in super-expensive “supergaiter boots”, so you’ll just have to spend some bucks on gaiters.

Tip of the day: you can get very resourceful in using gaiters. For example, imagine it’s a damn chilly day, and it just occurs to you to put your bottle in one of your gaiters, next to your shin. Well, and what happens is that, thanks to warmth of your leg, your liquid won’t freeze.

When choosing, watch out for durability.

separate gaiters

  • durable
  • long
  • no plastic buckles (as they can break)

integrated gaiters

  • boots with gaiters or “supergaiter boots”
  • hardshell and softshell pants with gaiters

Some brands we trust: Outdoor Research, REI, The North Face, La Sportiva, Scarpa


3. Socks

You know boots are the single most important items of your climbing gear. You’ll be walking (even more: climbing) in them for 6-8 hours a day, for several days in a row. If they don’t suit you, or the occasion, chances are you won’t make it to the top.

Get clear on how to choose your ideal boots here.

At the same time, you need to realize, the right boots are worth little with the wrong socks.

So you need to take it seriously to choose the appropriate socks for your climb. Which are the main features?

  • comfortable
  • fit like a second skin
  • wick moisture away
  • keep you warm and dry

Note that you will need to take several pairs with you, some thicker, some thinner, depending on the phase of the climb. In the valley you will not want to boil, so you’ll wear your climbing shoes with thinner socks. Once in snow, you’ll put your thick socks on, with the boots.

Band-aid is also highly recommended.

Some brands we trust: SmartWool, Darn Tough, The North Face


Did you find the list useful? There is more for you!

These are the layers for your lower body. But you need stuff for your upper body as well! Have you read it yet? Get the know-how here.

You know what? There’s even more.

You don’t need to remember all this by heart. Here’s a clear and simple Equipment Checklist for your alpine adventure. You just take the checklist with you to the store, or use when packing, and I promise you’ll have everything and just what you need.

Easy, clear and free. Get it here. Get it now.

Mont Blanc Climb Equipment Checklist