Mountain Leader Assessment: Kit List
Since completing my ML training a few years ago a lot has changed. House, driving, career, child, but most importantly my cupboard full of kit! I’ve worked for an outdoor equipment company for two years now and in that time I have pretty much replaced every piece of kit I owned for much better, lighter versions. The kit list I’ve set out below is genuinely my own kit but I won’t lie, it comes at a pretty high price. One of the perks of working in this role is staff discounts and samples so I certainly wouldn’t have tried, tested and owned kit like this otherwise. There are still some little changes I would make to certain items and this list would definitely change depending on the time of year and weather forecast. However, since I’ve probably cut over 7kg off my training pack weight I thought I’d share this and you might be able to take some inspiration or tips from it.
My packed kit was weighed on the morning we set out on our expedition. It weighed in at 10.2kg which was the lightest out of the 8 candidates on assessment. I have summarised some of my favourite pieces of kit and some of the changes I would make if I was repacking it for that same trip.
- Nordisk Telemark UL2
- Telemark 2 Footprint
- 6 Nordisk V-Pegs
- 4 MSR Nail Pegs
- Osprey Levity 45
- Osprey Ultralight Pack Liner 30L
- Marmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag
- Thermarest Xtherm Sleeping Mat with pumpsack
- Mat repair Kit
- Rab Silk Mummy Sleeping Bag Liner
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
- Exped VentAir Compression Drybag Small
Clothing and footwear
- Inov8 Roclite 345 GTX Shoes
- Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket
- Outdoor Research Helium Pants
- Mammut Rime Flex IN Synthetic Jacket
- Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket
- Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket
- Mountain Equipment Ibex Pant
- Montane Primino 120 SS Tee
- Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Tee
- Montane Primino Boxers
- Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers
- Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks
- Inov8 Speed Socks
- Icebreaker Pocket Hat
- Outdoor Research Shiftup Sensor Gloves
- Buff Original
- Mountain Hardwear Trucker Cap
- Klean Kanteen Classic Single Wall Bottle 800ml
- Hydrapak Seeker 2L with Katadyn BeFree Water Filter
- Nuun Hydration Tablets x2 Tubes
- MSR Windburner Solo
- Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel
- Optimus Titanium Long Handle Spoon
- Deejo Wood 37g Knife
- Consumables: food included snacks for lunch, nuts, cheese, homemade scroggin, Haribo and freeze dried main meals (1xBlaBand Muesli, 3xSummit To Eat – Macaroni Cheese, Pasta Bolognaise, Scrambled Egg and Cheese)
- Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Poles
- Compass x2 – Silva Expedition & Silva Expedition 4
- Headtorch x2 – Petzl Myo & Petzl Bindi
- Maps – 1:25,000 OS Map & 1:40,000 Harvey UltraMap
- TheTentLab The Duece #2 UL Trowel
- Exped Fold Drybags – Medium & Large
- Personal First Aid Kit – Paracetomol, Ibuprofen, Rennies, Plasters, Zinc Oxide Tape, Sun Cream
- Personal Items –iPhone, Spare Battery, Headphones, Wallet, Keys, Sunglasses, Tootbrush &Toothpaste, Exped Vista Organiser Small, Loksak ALOKD Waterproof Bag
Shared Group Kit
- 30m Rope
- Group First Aid Kit
The Osprey Levity has been a game changer for me. It doesn’t look particularly durable or comfortable but I have learned that looks are definitely deceiving in this case. It is really comfortable and the 830g weight makes a huge difference overall. This 45L version has also helped me improve my packing and is now good for anything from an overnight trip to a three season multiday trip.
The Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag is quality. The weight (708g) to warmth (Comfort Limit: 0.9°C/ Lower Comfort Limit: -4.8°C) ratio is decent but when combined with the price it smashes most other bags. There are warmer and lighter bags out there but you will pay a hell of a lot more for them. This bag is great quality and a reasonable price for what it provides. As an individual item I, personally would question the lower comfort limit and would say it’s around the zero to minus one limit from experience but it is still an exceptional bag for the combination of weight: warmth: cost.
My biggest gamble was on footwear. I took both my option and wore both on the first two days of the assessment. For me it was clear the Roclite’s would be the best option for the expedition. At well under half the weight of my Mammut boots and providing a lot more flex and comfort in spring/summer conditions I’m glad I made this choice. The Gore lining provides waterproof protection but I also have an older non-Gore version which I still wear during warmer conditions for the added breathability. I don’t know if this kind of footwear would be advisable to everyone as my background in fell and mountain running and using Inov8 shoes for a few years now means I am confident they fit, comfortable for my feet and work as I need them to. I was the only one wearing anything like this on assessment though. After being quizzed on why I’d chosen them by the instructors at different points (and being able to justify it easily) it turned out a couple of them would have preferred my boots to their own in the conditions we were out in. They don’t provide the same level of cushioning, so your feet can feel more tired at the end of the day, and there isn’t as much support around the ankles as you might need but I’m used to this and the lightweight nature of them was ideal for long days in the mountains with the pack weight I had.
For me, it was worth the extra weight and space to have a spare tee, socks and boxers. The weather was so warm for the time of year I peeled of my layers at the end of the first day and was glad I could sleep in clean, dry clothes. It is a luxury and if the weather had been cooler I may not have needed, or loved, these items as much.
The one truly luxury item that I surprised myself with was the headphones. I never walk, run or ride with headphones but thought they might come in handy on the evenings. What a prediction this turned out to be! At the end of the first day of exped, we went out again for the night nav. I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities by then but also knew how important the night nav session was. At the end of it, I got back in the tent and could not sleep. I was laid there for over two hours with my mind was still running at top speed so I decided to put the headphones in and listen to some podcasts I’d already heard before to let it wash over me and it worked wonders.
Changes I would make on reflection
Due to the unseasonably good weather I would have changed the heavier weight Mountain Equipment Ibex pants for the lighter Comici pants I left in the car. I would also have left the Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket altogether as I could have made do with the Patagonia Nano-Air since both provide an slightly insulated, highly breathable jacket. Despite not taking my waterproofs out of the pack at any point I obviously wouldn’t leave them behind and since they are so light weight anyway it’s just one of those things.
Overall, I was really pleased with my kit choices. The aim of this piece was never to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t pack but merely to give an example of what worked for me and provide some tips and advice for others. I’m in a pretty lucky position of being able to get my outdoor clothes and equipment from some of the best brands in the world without paying full price for them so I know the cost of my kit listed above would probably be quite eye watering if I dared price it up. However, there are cheaper alternatives for everything. My best advice would be to find the lightest, most comfortable pack you can, get the lightest tent and sleeping bag you can afford, then cut down on any/all spares and extra items you might need ‘just in case’. The overall weight made a huge difference to my energy levels, state of mind and whole experience. Although it has taken years to get to this point it has such a huge impact, especially when I look back at the kit it packed for my ML Training, I can’t believe how much it weighed and how I ever managed to carry that much!