Solo Denali Gear Equipment List
This is my complete gear list for a solo Denali climbing expedition. You can use this list for almost any climbing expedition in the world, solo or with a team.
This style is set up for complete reliance on myself for normal circumstances. I have several layers of backup in case of failure.
When you’re with a team, the experience is different because you can share gear. When no one is available to share with, you have to be completely self-reliant.Read what it’s like to be solo on Denali
There are links to both men’s and women’s items where applicable. Over 100 women attempt Denali every year.
All links are affiliate links – I earn a tiny amount of sales commission that costs you nothing but helps me bring this info to you. Thank you!
All Things Clothing
Windproof watch cap beanie. Key headwear at all times until it’s too hot. That’s when the regular buff head covering takes over.
Windproof headband. Versatile to keep wind off ears and keep them warm. Also used to protect nose and under eyes from sunburn.
Santa Hat from TheMouseworks.com for sleeping. Useful on cold mountains, Antarctica, and the Arctic.
Climbing helmet. Many if not most climbers have now opted for the lighter-weight egg helmets instead of hardshell plastic helmets.
Gloves and Handwear
Outdoor Research PL Base Liner gloves. Bring multiple pairs since the new “sensor” technology fabric only lasts 7 days with normal use. Old design without the sensor pad lasted months on end.
Outdoor Research Stormtracker gloves. These are my go-to gloves combined with the PL Base Liner gloves. They’re warm, versatile, and can take a beating. They can handle moderately cold conditions.
Outdoor Research Revolution Gloves. Updated with new, longer gauntlets which adds a lot of warmth compared to the previous model. Great for pretty cold weather. Outdoor Research Revolution Gloves Women’s.
Outdoor Research Alti Gloves. They are one of the warmest gloves available that still provide some amount of dexterity before moving up to the Alti Mittens.
Outdoor Research Alti Mitts. These are the world standard for high-altitude mountaineering and polar conditions when nothing else works. They kept my fingers warm at the South Pole and on Denali. Outdoor Research Alti Mitts Women’s.
Button-down shirt. I use the Exofficio Reef Runner shirt as my base layer. Although unorthodox, it keeps me cool, allows for weather adaptation, reflects the sun, has pockets, and feels great.
Icebreaker 200-weight shirt. Excellent base layer for cool conditions. Useful for sleeping when it’s hot. Women’s Icebreaker 200-weight shirt.
Icebreaker 260-weight shirt. Perfect for sleeping and a first or 2nd layer when it’s very cold. Used in Antarctica, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, etc. Women’s Icebreaker 260-weight shirt.
You want your jackets to work together. Ideally, you should be able to put on all of your jackets and they should nest on each other. Versatility for layering is important. When the storm comes, you want the maximum warmth with your parka and everything stacked under.
Eddie Bauer fleece vest. This is a great first defense layer. It also keeps my camera and phone warm in a zippered pocket so the batteries stay alive. Get the version with zippered hand pockets. Women’s Eddie Bauer Quest 300 Fleece Vest.
Premium fleece jacket. I diverge from other climbers with this next layer. Most just go to the puffy coat. Get a fleece that does not pill. Mine is a premium non-pilling fleece from Tokyo, Japan. I used 2 of these as my main warmth layers on my Antarctic expedition featured in Antarctic Tears.
Down jacket. Eddie Bauer Downlight Jacket. I put this over my vest and fleece mid-layers. I’ll use this as an outer layer until I’m chilled, then I add the down parka. Eddie Bauer Women’s Downlight 2.0 Jacket
Hard shell jacket. Choose your favorite hardshell jacket with many zippered pockets. I prefer eVent jackets over Gortex to stay cooler. Hard shell jackets women’s.
Down Parka. Eddie Bauer Peak XV Jacket. This is a must-have for Denali. This mountain is far colder than most, so a large down parka is required. Don’t skimp on this one, as temperatures at 14k and 17k (high camp) can easily be -20ºF (-29ºC).
Legs and Pants
You want your leg layers to work together. Having too many redundant layers just adds extra weight. The tough part about this layer is the difficulty in making a mid-day change if the weather deteriorates.
Wool underwear. Icebreaker merino wool can be worn for weeks on end with minimal odor or skin problems. Denali is not the time to go commando. Icebreaker underwear women’s.
Icebreaker 260-weight long underwear (Icebreaker Merino Men’s 260 Tech Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings). Great to sleep in. Wear them on summit day. Icebreaker Merino Women’s 260 Tech Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings.
Fleece climbing pants (Montbell). Get some fleece-lined pants that are easy to unzip and unbuckle with gloves on. Avoid buttons: failure is bad and they’re hard to unbutton w/gloves.
Climbing shell pants (Montbell shell pants). You’ll need hard shell pants with FULL ZIP sides. Unzipping the sides when it’s hot is valuable.
Insulated outer pants (Mountain Hardware Compressor). Needed for long days at 14k camp, high camp, and for summit day past 18.5k.
You want your leg layers to work together. Having too many redundant layers just adds extra weight. The tough part about this layer is the difficulty in making a mid-day change if the weather deteriorates.
Liner socks (Wrightsock crew sock). Use double/triple sock combos to prevent blisters and keep your feet warm.
Heavy hiking sock (Smartwool Extra Cushion Crew). Have the main wool sock for most of your mountaineering experience. Switch to the Mountaineer sock for the summit push. Women’s Full Cushion Crew sock.
Extra-long main socks (Smartwool Hunt Socks). Go with extra-long heavy cusion wool socks if your boots are tall or your socks fall into your boots (happens to me).
Heavy summit sock (Smartwool Mountaineering Extra Heavy Cushioned). Use for summit day in conjunction with Wrightsock liner sock.
The footwear you choose will determine many things about your mountaineering experience. Are you skiing? Snowshoeing? Bringing both boots? Are you prepared with an overboot for your ski boots?
Down booties (Western Mountaineering). Pack these into your sleeping bag when putting it into your stuff sack. Keep them always with your sleeping bag.
Camp booties (40 below Camp Booties). Camp booties are well worth the weight. I’ve even worn them building my snow wall in a blizzard. Great times!
Ski boots. Virtually all independent climbing teams now ski and skin up and down the mountain. Only die-hard sloggers & guided groups use snowshoes. WARNING: Regular ski boots are NOT warm enough for Denali. They require upgraded liners and 40 Below overboots.
Double or triple mountaineering boot. Denali is COLD. Double boots and ski boots require an overboot for summit day.
All Things Gear
Backpacks, Bags, and Accessories
You’ll need several bags, backpacks, and containers for all that you are going to haul up and down the mountain.
At the preflight weigh-in, my sled is 82 pounds (37 kg) and my backpack is 42 pounds (19 kg). That’s everything minus fuel which I pick up at camp to climb the mountain for 24 days.
Backpack. Get a 100L+ backpack to save yourself the trouble. A 75L backpack will be a real challenge to load enough into to reach High Camp.
Sled bag. Sled duffel. Small sled bags force you to tie your gear down. When your sled takes a tumble (it will), your gear better be tied down. Mine is from snowsled.com but their website is now gone. Others use the North Face Basecamp Duffel.
Travel duffel bags. You’ll need a few to protect your gear. Put your backpack in one large duffel to protect it from airline damage.
Gear bags. Sea-to-Summit Ultra-SIL bags. You’ll need several bags to store clothes, gear, food, etc.
Trash compactor bags. You’ll want these to contain your caches safely. They’re super tough and great to protect caches and trash for weeks.
CMC Clean Mountain Can. Provided by National Park service. This is required at all camps including Camp 17k (High Camp). Bring straps or rope to connect to your backpack’s attachment points.
Straps. 1″ nylon straps (not climbing webbing). You will need straps to attach your CMC to your backpack’s attachment points. Your pack does have spare strap attachment points for the REQUIRED CMC, right?
Travel luggage scale. This will save you heartache before and after your expedition. Load your duffels and bags to the max to prevent awkward airport checkin adjustments.
Custom luggage tags. Get some custom luggage tags and luggage tag cables. Label the heck out of your bags. Even get some Apple Air Tags or similar.
Ideally you’ll need a heavy-duty tent for Denali. A tent like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 or similar is a great go-to for Denali mountaineering. Be prepared to build snow walls to protect camp.
Some push their luck with lightweight tents. This requires building extra-large and thick snow walls with blocks. Many have lost light-weight tents at high camp with inadequate snow walls.
Bring a strong tent (Hilleberg Nammatj 2 shown here) capable of handling severe mountain weather. A 3-season tent is a poor choice on Denali.
Snow stakes. The snow on Denali can vary from powdery fluff to rock-hard ice. Be prepared with extra stakes when you damage yours. This can happen while installing or removing the stakes.
Snow saw (Back Country Access Snowsaw). A lightweight snow saw is necessity for building a protective block wall at 14k and high camp. Sometimes aluminum shovels (grain scoops) are unable to cut ice, so a snow saw is the tool for the job.
Steel spade shovel. Useful at high camp for chipping through ice. Saves damage to aluminum shovel when extracting tent stakes and caches from ice.
Large aluminum shovel or grain scoop (Voile Telepro shovel). Used to shovel the feet (30+cm) of snow that regularly falls on Denali overnight. Also great for building cutting and building snow wall. Cheap knockoff big-box store shovels will break. Always cut and lift, never pry with a shovel.
Avalanche probe. Avalanches do happen on Denali. Bring one to probe for hidden crevasses at camp. Sleep better and safer after diligently probing on a Denali expedition.
Be prepared for cold nights. You’ll want many pieces to your sleep system. Here’s what I use.
Sleeping bag (Western Mountaineering Puma). You will need at least a -20ºF (-29ºC) sleeping bag. A -40ºF (-40ºC) sleeping bag will be even better during storms and at high camp.
Air mattress (Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm). An air mattress combine with a foam pad will make sleeping much more comfortable on a Denali climbing expedition.
Foam pad (Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol). Combine a foam pad with an air mattress for a good night’s sleep on a solo Denali expedition.
Vapor barrier liner (Western Mountaineering VBL Hotsac). Bring a vapor barrier liner as an emergency shelter and extend the range of your sleeping bag if needed.
Compression sack for sleeping bag (Sea to Summit XL eVent sack). A compression sack is needed to squash a -20º/-29ºC to -40ºF/C sleeping bag to fit in a Denali climbing backpack. Get the XL size.
Cord for air mat and foam mat attachment (MSR Camping Cord). Tie your air mat to your foam mat with a cord. Prevent them from separating at night. Use the Trucker’s Hitch to tension the cord. Learn about the trucker’s hitch in my The Most Crucial Knots to Know book.
Pee bottle. Different color, size than regular drinking bottles. Expect to relieve your bladder 3-5X per night. Men – learn to relieve your bladder without exiting your sleeping bag. Denali expeditions are great fun!
Many climbers like me only melt snow and boil water for dinner and drinks for the next day. Others, often teams, cook up some delicious food. Cooked food is more enjoyable but requires substantially more effort.
White gas expedition stove (MSR XGK). White gas is the primary fuel for Denali. A few use canister stoves but they’re problematic above 10k ft (3.3k m).
Fire starter (ferro rods, lighters, matches). Have something that works at high altitude. Not all lighters are reliable. Matches fail. Flint/steel/ferro rods always spark at any altitude or temperature but require fuel to have some vapor.
Stove pan (aluminum). Makes the stove more stable and more efficient. If the stove/fuel bottle/pump catches fire, you can lift the pan up and throw it out of the tent. It has happened.
White gas fuel bottle (MSR fuel bottle). The 20oz bottle is a nice balance between refilling and too much weight. I also bring my small bottle as a backup. Get the non-child-safety fuel bottle caps.
Titanium 2L pot (MSR new pot set). These are difficult to find but the 2L is much better than a 1.5L for melting snow for water. Titanium 2L is worth every penny.
Titanium spork. Get a metal spork, avoid plastic and Lexan sporks. They will break. Plus the metal spork is a useful improvised tool.
White gas fuel funnel. How will you transfer fuel from 1L bottles or the 1-gallon steel can into your fuel bottle without spilling or frostbiting your fingers?
1 L soda bottle for white gas (bring 4). Buy at a local big-box store & empty of soda. Get quality bottles with quality lids. Transfer fuel from heavy steel containers to these bottles at base camp. No more handling steel at -20ºF (-29ºC), safer & recyclable.
Pot lifter (MSR LiteLifter). You will need a pot lifter if your snow melting pots do you not have handles.
Heat exchanger (MSR). Makes snow melting more efficient. Make the exchanger hang a little below the base of the pot to act like a Jetboil system.
Expedition MSR fuel bottle lids. Ditch the child-resistant lids. Don’t fight with a broken child-proof clicking lid you can’t open at 17k feet (5181m). Buy them before they’re banned. Children aren’t climbing Denali.
Spare white gas fuel pump (MSR standard pump). Bring a spare. Trust me. I helped my Australian buddy when he broke his fuel pump at 14k camp. If you break the pump w/o a spare, you’ll have to melt snow with body heat. Not fun.
One liter Nalgene bottle. The gold-standard expedition water bottle. Bring 3. Most lists say only 2 bottles. It’s not nearly enough water for me. Tilt the bottle to test for leaks EVERY TIME you close the lid. Dry the threads EVERY TIME. I have had Nalgene lids develop permanent thread leaks on long expeditions.
Outdoor Research SG Water Bottle Parka. These prevent Nalgene bottles from freezing. Buy them. Put your name on them. Guard them. Neoprene sleeves do not prevent freezing on a Denali expedition.
Half liter Nalgene (0.5L Nalgene). Use in conjunction with a 0.5L water bottle insulator for drinking water at night. Don’t dehydrate while sleeping.
0.5L / 16oz Nalgene bottle insulator. Use this to keep your 0.5L Nalgene warm at night for water. Avoid dehydrating at night with this kit.
Stove & fuel bottle base (MSR Trillium). Use to keep stove/fuel bottle off the snow. I used to use this but it’s heavy/holds ice. I now use a recycleable aluminum pan to keep the bottle off the snow to prevent chilled fuel.
White gas stove repair kit (MSR Expedition stove repair kit). Be prepared to service your white gas stove in the field.
Thermos (20-32 oz / 1L) (Yeti Thermos). Hot water in the morning. Fill with hot water right before the summit attempt.
A Denali expedition is moderate on the needed climbing gear for a mountaineering expedition. You can get away with very little. Having a few more items when needed won’t hurt, though.
Climbing harness (Black Diamond Couloir, Petzl Altitude). You’ll want an alpine harness so you can unclip the leg loops. Great for putting on harness w/crampons mounted or taking care of toilet duty.
Bent shaft ice axe (Black Diamond Venom). Shorter, bent-shaft ice axes have become popular for climbing the ice on the headwall above 14k camp.
Ultra-light ice axe (Camp Corsa Nanotech). European climbers bring ultra-light ice axes now, holstered in their harness gear loops.
8mm-10mm climbing rope, 30-50m (Beal Rando 8mm). Even solo, I bring a climbing rope. You may connect with other climbers for Windy Corner or become involved in a rescue, maybe yours.
Climbing ascender (Petzl Ascender). Choose right- or left-handed ascender. Needed to ascend fixed rope on the headwall above 14k camp.
Trekking poles (Black Diamond Trail). Telescoping trekking poles with flick locks for gloved usage. Twist locks are very uncommon now. I prefer the foam to the cork grips. Women’s Trail Trekking Poles.
Crampons. 12-point, steel, Antibot plates (Grivel G12). Crampons that fit your boots properly. Steel, 12-point, Antibot plates or better. Sharpen before arrival. No aluminum, 10-point crampons!
Ice ace point protectors (Black Diamond). Protect you and your gear from damage with ice axe point protectors. Black Diamond Spike Protector.
Ice axe leash (Black Diamond Slinger). Waist attached crampon leash. Wrist leashes are a problem with heavy gloves, especially on fixed lines.
Ice screws (Petzl Laser Speed Light). For solo mountaineering expeditions, how will you climb out of a crevasse? Use a few ice screws plus a Texas prusik system.
Carabiners (Camp Nano). Wire gate small carabiners to save weight and prevent gates from freezing open or shut.
Locking carabiners (Peztl SM’D, Black Diamond). You’ll want at least 2 locking carabiners. They may freeze shut – keep ice-free. Avoid cheap, off-brand versions.
Rappel and belay device (Black Diamond ATC, Figure 8). Bring some type of belay and rappel device should you need it.
6mm accessory cord (10m). Bring accessory cord to make draglines on a sled, attach items to your pack, make fixed-line rigs, etc.
Self-rescue setup (part of Texas Prusik rig). Be prepared with a self-rescue setup pre-rigged. Also, have a few ice screws to pull yourself out of a crevasse. Learn how in The Most Crucial Knots to Know.
Fixed-line ascender kit. Pre-rig a fixed-line ascender set up before arriving. Learn the knots in The Most Crucial Knots to Know.
Mountaineering snowshoes (MSR Lightning Ascent). Some solo climbers and most guided groups use snowshoes. Nearly all independent teams now use skis.
Skis. Nearly all self-supported teams use skis. Nearly all guided teams use snowshoes. Only a few die-hards still use snowshoes. Skis with full skins are a far better experience.
All the other gear and necessities that you’ll need and want for a solo Denali expedition.
Glacier glasses (I’m partial to Julbo). You will need grade/category 4 glacier glasses. Regular sunglasses aren’t dark enough and you will develop snow blindness.
Backup old-school glacier glasses. You can tough out many things but going blind on a Denali expedition is not one of them.
Glacier goggles. Proper grade 4 dark goggles are difficult to come by. Regular ski goggles are often not dark enough. One climber buddy went snowblind on the summit due to not-dark-enough ski goggles.
Sharpie industrial grade. Works on most surfaces and lasts far longer than regular Sharpies. Write on ration bags, tents, cache markers, and blacken stuff out. Very handy.
Camera (Sony ZV-1). Some use their phones, others bring cameras. Each has their advantage and issues. Capture that summit photo.
Camera batteries. Lots of them. Cold kills these little batteries. Keep the camera and spare battery in an interior pocket in your jacket.
Charging cables. You’ll need something to recharge your phone, camera, and whatever electronic gadgets you bring along.
Portable solar panel. Popular to keep your electronic gadgets charged up. Goal Zero is popular. I use military Featherlite panels.
Battery bank. Keep your electronic gadgets powered without solar. Test before leaving on your Denali mountaineering expedition.
Journal (Rite in Rain Journal). Write down your experiences so you can reminisce and share years later. Get the Fischer Space pen – it’s waterproof, writes upside down, and at -40ºF/C.
Headlamp. Even though it’s never truly “dark” on Denali after mid-May, it’s really dark inside a sleeping bag at night.
Silicone earplugs. Storms are really loud in a tent on Denali. Noisy neighbors or tentmates will interrupt your beauty sleep. I prefer the smaller sizes.
Nose sun protector. Get one that doesn’t push your glacier glasses away from your face too far. What’s dorkier looking, a nose guard, or a 2nd-degree sunburn on your nose?
First aid kit. Use Baindaid Tough Strip Bandages (not the waterproof ones!). Undisturbed, they hold on for weeks, preventing heel blisters. Tweezers. Cuticle cutters. Needles.
Spare backpack buckle. When you crush your backpack belt buckle with a crampon, what’s the backup plan?
Stiff bristle brush (Park Tool GSC-1 Gear Brush). Safely clean ice off zipper teeth. Remove frost off sleeping bags. Remove ice/snow from boots. Brush snow & crumbs out of tent.
Multitool (Gerber). Don’t go crazy. A basic full-size one will do. Things break. Crampons need adjusting. Snubnose is stronger than a needle nose.
FRS Radio (Motorola). Get a reliable brand and test the radio out. Bring spare batteries. Guides use much higher-end radios.
Pocket knife (Victorinox Swiss Army). A locking blade is a good safety, too. Scissors are super valuable. Don’t go crazy. This isn’t Hollywood and you probably aren’t Stalone. I’m not, either.
Super glue (10 gram Loctite). Seal cracked fingers. Fix stuff. Always open away from face and yourself! I speak from experience.
Mini tripod or selfie stick. Get the basic style. Avoid electronic versions. Gas station selfie sticks are more reliable. How will you take your summit image without one?
Signal mirror and whistle. Signal mirrors can be seen for miles/kilometers. Whistles can be heard far away. Your yelling will be swallowed by the mountain.
1″ (2.5cm) Gorilla tape. Useful for creating extended bamboo cache wands. Create a low-profile nose protector. Many uses.
2″ Gorilla Tape (duct tape). Countless uses and repairs. Gorilla Tape works much better at low temps than regular duct tape.
Compass. They require no batteries, work in all weather, require no satellites, and are part of the 10 essentials.
Waistpack / Fanny pack. Useful for carrying a 0.5L water bottle and snacks so you can refuel without dropping your pack.
Sleeping eye mask. The sky never becomes fully dark on Denali after early May. You’ll need these if you want to sleep soundly.
Take care of your body and it will take care of you. You’re not showering for weeks on end. Be prepared for unexpected issues.
Toilet paper. Bring more than you think you need for 3 weeks. You’ll use the toilet paper for dishes, drying threads, and a multitude of other things.
Wet wipes. Bring enough for at least 2 per day. You’ll be surprised how quickly you go through them.
Toothpaste. Works at -40ºF/C with a little warming. Fully load the tube before leaving. You do know how to transfer toothpaste from one tube to another, right?
Sunscreen in stick form. SPF 30+. Lotion sunscreen will coat your gloves with grease and make them cold. Dehydration, second-degree sunburns, nausea, and cancer are no fun.
Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin). Maintain the small injuries, cuts, etc. with an antibiotic ointment combined with Bandaid Tough Strips (cloth, not waterproof).
Fungal treatment (like Tinactin, Lotrimine, generics) for athelete’s foot and other fungal infections. You’ll be out there a long time without a shower. Things happen.
GPS and satellite link (Garmin Explorer+). A GPS plus a satellite text message device with SOS is a “must” with solo travel. Helps you retrace a route in a whiteout.
Medications. Whatever you require and what your doctor might offer for specific high-altitude and long expedition medications. Repackage and label with name, dosage, and quantity.
Nothing on this page is to be construed as medical advice, prescription, or otherwise dispensing medical knowledge. This is for informational / educational purposes only. Consult a licensed medical professional for your needs.
Denali expedition checklist. Use this checklist as a starting point for what you will need on your independent Denali expedition. Click to download Excel spreadsheet gear list.