Guide to Ice Climbing Gear: What You Need to Know Before You Go

By Grace Dietz
|Jan 09, 2024|
  • Ice Climbing
A climber near Banff


Ice climbing offers adventurers an exhilarating challenge as they scale frozen waterfalls and glaciers. Equipping yourself with the right gear ensures a thrilling and safe experience on the ice. Coaster plays a pivotal role in facilitating such escapades by curating exceptional ice climbing adventures with expert local guides.

Essential Clothing for Ice Climbing

When preparing for an ice climbing adventure, it is crucial to choose the right clothing to keep you warm, dry, and safe. This section will cover the essential clothing items you'll need, including base layers, insulating layers, waterproof outerwear, gloves, socks, sunglasses, hats, and neck gaiters.

Base Layers

Base layers are the foundation of your ice climbing wardrobe. These garments, typically made from moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics, help regulate your body temperature by moving sweat away from your skin. Choose lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying base layers for optimum comfort and warmth.

Insulating Layers

Insulating layers provide the necessary warmth for ice climbing. Mid-layer garments, such as fleece jackets or down vests, retain body heat and create an insulating barrier between your base layers and outerwear. Opt for versatile insulating layers that can be easily added or removed as temperature and activity levels change.

Waterproof Pants and Shells

Investing in high-quality waterproof pants and shells is crucial for ice climbing. These outer layers protect you from the elements, keeping you dry and comfortable in wet and icy conditions. Look for waterproof, breathable fabrics with features like taped seams and ventilation zippers for optimal performance.

Gloves and Socks

Protecting your extremities is essential in ice climbing. Choose gloves that offer excellent dexterity, insulation, and waterproofing to keep your hands warm and dry. Similarly, opt for moisture-wicking and insulating socks that provide warmth and cushioning for your feet, without adding bulk in your boots.

Sunglasses, Hats, and Neck Gaiters

Protecting your face and eyes from the cold and glare of the ice is vital. Sunglasses with polarized lenses help reduce glare and ensure clear vision, while hats and neck gaiters provide additional warmth and protection from the elements. Choose lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking materials for maximum comfort during your ice climbing adventure.

Overall, selecting the right clothing for ice climbing is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. By investing in high-quality base layers, insulating layers, waterproof outerwear, gloves, socks, sunglasses, hats, and neck gaiters, you'll be well-prepared for your next ice climbing adventure. Near Lincoln, New Hampshire? Check out this ice climbing skills clinic!

Ice Climbing Gear

Ice climber on Grotto Falls

Equipping yourself with the right ice climbing gear is vital for both safety and success on the ice. In this section, we will cover the essential equipment needed for ice climbing, including helmets, harnesses, ice tools and axes, boots and crampons, climbing ropes and ice screws, and backpacks and storage solutions.


A helmet is an indispensable piece of safety equipment for ice climbing. It protects your head from falling ice, debris, and potential impacts during a fall. Choose a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet that fits securely and comfortably on your head.


A harness is designed to securely attach you to the climbing rope, ensuring your safety throughout the climb. Look for a harness that is specifically designed for ice climbing, featuring adjustable leg loops and waist belt, as well as ice clipper slots for carrying ice screws and other essential gear.

Ice Tools and Axes

Ice tools and axes are crucial for ice climbing, providing the necessary grip and stability to ascend the ice. Select ice tools with an ergonomic design, curved shaft, and a reliable pick and grip for efficient and comfortable climbing. A pair of ice tools is typically recommended, allowing for more efficient movement and increased security on the ice.

Boots and Crampons

Specialized ice climbing boots and crampons are essential for secure footing on the ice. Insulated mountaineering boots provide warmth, support, and compatibility with crampons. Crampons, equipped with sharp points, attach to your boots and allow for better traction on the ice. Choose a pair of crampons designed specifically for ice climbing, featuring front points for precise foot placements.

Climbing Ropes and Ice Screws

Dynamic climbing ropes, specifically designed for ice climbing, are essential for safety and protection during your climb. These ropes are designed to absorb the energy of a fall, reducing the impact force on both the climber and the protection points. Ice screws, also crucial for safety, are used to create anchor points in the ice for attaching the rope. Choose ice screws with sharp teeth and a durable design for reliable and efficient placements.

Backpacks and Storage Solutions

Organizing and carrying your ice climbing gear requires a durable and well-designed backpack. Look for a backpack with a dedicated ice tool attachment system, gear loops, and compression straps for secure storage. Opt for a pack with a comfortable fit and sufficient capacity to hold all your essential gear, clothing, and food for your ice climbing adventure.

In conclusion, investing in the proper ice climbing gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience on the ice. By choosing the right helmets, harnesses, ice tools and axes, boots and crampons, climbing ropes and ice screws, and backpacks and storage solutions, you'll be well-prepared to conquer the frozen vertical world of ice climbing. Ready to start, the ice waterfalls in Briançonnais, France seem like the perfect place to begin your adventure!

Shared Gear vs. Personal Gear

When embarking on an ice climbing adventure, it's essential to consider which gear should be shared among climbing partners and which items are best suited for personal use. Sharing equipment can offer several benefits, including reduced weight and costs. However, some gear items are more suitable for individual use to ensure safety and comfort. Renting equipment can also be a viable option for those who don't want to invest in purchasing gear upfront.

Sharing equipment among climbing partners can not only lighten the load that each individual carries but also reduce the overall cost of gear acquisition. Items such as ropes, ice screws, and some carabiners can be easily shared among climbers, as they are not tailored to individual preferences or body types.

On the other hand, some gear items are best suited for personal use, such as harnesses, helmets, boots, and crampons. These items are often designed to fit a specific individual's body shape and size, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit, which is crucial for safety during ice climbing.

For those who are new to ice climbing or simply want to try it out before committing to purchasing gear, renting equipment can be an attractive alternative. Many climbing gyms and outdoor outfitters offer rental options for ice climbing gear, allowing climbers to experience the sport without the upfront cost of buying equipment. Renting also provides an opportunity to test different brands and models before making a purchase, ensuring you invest in the gear that best suits your needs and preferences.

In conclusion, considering the division of shared and personal gear is essential for a successful ice climbing adventure. Sharing equipment can provide numerous benefits, such as reduced weight and costs, while personal gear ensures safety and comfort. Renting equipment can be a practical solution for those who want to explore ice climbing without making a significant investment in gear.

Basic Techniques and Skills for Ice Climbing

Developing a strong foundation in basic techniques and skills is essential for a safe and enjoyable ice climbing experience. This section will cover the crucial skills you need to master, including tying figure 8 knots and belaying, proper use of ice tools and crampons, lowering from a climb, avalanche awareness and ice fall safety, and understanding ice conditions and regional variations.

Mastering the art of tying figure 8 knots and belaying is crucial for securing yourself and your climbing partners on the ice. Practicing these skills not only enhances your safety but also enables effective communication and teamwork with your fellow climbers.

Learning the proper use of ice tools and crampons is vital for efficient movement and secure placements on the ice. Familiarize yourself with the techniques for swinging your ice tools, placing your crampons correctly, and maintaining a stable body position throughout the climb. These skills will help you conserve energy and reduce the risk of slips and falls.

Knowing how to safely lower yourself and your climbing partners from a climb is another essential skill. This involves understanding the proper techniques for setting up anchors, managing the rope, and communicating effectively with your team during the descent.

Awareness of avalanche risks and ice fall hazards is crucial for your safety on the ice. Educate yourself on the factors that contribute to these dangers, such as weather conditions, terrain, and ice formations. Develop a keen sense of observation and decision-making to minimize these risks during your ice climbing adventure.

Finally, understanding ice conditions and regional variations is key to adapting your techniques and gear choices to the specific environment in which you're climbing. Familiarize yourself with the unique characteristics of different ice formations and regions, and be prepared to adjust your approach accordingly.

In summary, mastering basic ice climbing techniques and skills is vital for a safe and rewarding experience on the ice. By developing proficiency in knot tying, belaying, tool and crampon use, lowering, avalanche awareness, and understanding ice conditions, you'll be well-equipped to tackle the exhilarating world of ice climbing. Use Coaster to find your guide today!

Ice Climbing Grades and Jargon

Understanding the grading system for ice climbing difficulty and familiarizing yourself with common terms and phrases used in the sport is crucial for effective communication and safety during your ice climbing adventure.

The grading system for ice climbing difficulty helps climbers gauge the challenge of a specific route and is based on factors such as steepness, ice quality, and complexity of the route. Ranging from WI1 (least difficult) to WI7 (most difficult), the Water Ice (WI) grades provide a comprehensive framework for assessing the challenge of ice climbing routes. It's essential for climbers to be aware of these grades and choose routes that match their skill level and experience.

In addition to understanding the grading system, learning the common terms and phrases used in ice climbing will enhance your overall experience and enable you to communicate effectively with your climbing partners. Some key terms to be aware of include:

  • Belay: A system used to secure a climber on the rope, providing protection in case of a fall.
  • Crampons: Metal devices with sharp points that attach to boots, providing traction on ice.
  • Ice screw: A tubular screw-like device used to create anchor points in the ice for attaching the rope.
  • Ice tools: Specialized axes designed for ice climbing, used to grip the ice and provide stability during ascent.
  • Top-rope: A climbing setup in which the rope runs through an anchor at the top of the climb, providing protection for the climber.

In summary, understanding the ice climbing grading system and becoming familiar with common jargon is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience on the ice. This knowledge will enable you to communicate effectively with your climbing partners, choose appropriate routes, and fully immerse yourself in the exhilarating world of ice climbing.

Preparing for an Ice Climbing Adventure with Coaster

Embarking on an ice climbing adventure with Coaster provides numerous benefits to ensure a memorable and hassle-free experience. By offering customized itineraries, expert recommendations, and a seamless booking process, Coaster simplifies your ice climbing adventure planning and allows you to focus on the thrill of the climb.

Coaster's tailored itineraries and expert recommendations cater to your unique interests and skill level, ensuring that your ice climbing adventure aligns with your preferences and goals. These personalized plans are crafted by experienced local guides, providing you with insider knowledge and access to off-the-beaten-path ice climbing experiences that you might not discover on your own.

In addition to providing custom itineraries and expert guidance, Coaster offers a seamless booking process that makes planning your ice climbing adventure as stress-free as possible. By streamlining the booking experience, Coaster allows you to concentrate on preparing for your exhilarating climb rather than getting bogged down by logistics.

Overall, Coaster's commitment to adventure, excitement, and responsible travel practices ensures an unforgettable ice climbing experience. As you venture into the frozen world of ice climbing, let Coaster's curated itineraries, expert recommendations, and seamless booking process guide you on your journey. Visit to start planning your next ice climbing adventure today.

Embrace the Frozen Adventure

Proper ice climbing gear and skills are paramount for a thrilling and safe experience. Coaster's curated itineraries, personalized recommendations, and seamless booking process make it easy for you to explore this exhilarating sport. Embark on your next ice climbing adventure with Coaster by visiting today.

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