We know that for serious trekkers and climbers the devil is in the detail, so we have set out what we consider to be the Ultimate Aconcagua Gear List.
This list can be used as a reliable and complete resource for anyone looking to climb Aconcagua.
The weather on Aconcagua can be split into two dominant seasons. The winter season runs from April through to September, and the summer season from October through to March.
The peak season is of course during the warmer months as the altitude on Aconcagua makes upper reaches extremely cold, even in summer. The summer is also the wet season, however, rain is not so common in the region and you shouldn’t expect more than 5 or 6 days of rain a month in the wettest period. The mountain itself is particularly dry and dust can often be a problem. This is also the busiest time of the year.
Although temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year at base camp, ranging from around 15 in winter to 30 degrees Celsius in summer, temperatures near the summit fluctuate considerably.
Storms often hit the mountain and the summit temperature in summer can easily get down to -20 C.
The Aconcagua gear list below provides a perfect fit for climbers and trekkers planning to visit Aconcagua in the summer months.
We start our packing list with the clothing you will need. And what better place to begin than with underwear!
Just as the title says, basic sports underwear that breathes very well (i.e. not cotton).
You can either go for a specialist brand such as Icebreaker, or just get a cheaper non-brand alternative. Sport underwear from Adidas or Puma are also good.
You will need 6-8 pairs for a 18 day trek.
Because it will be warm and you’ll be trekking in the sun you’ll need lightweight breathable shirts. You’ll probably want a minimum of four shirts, however, a few more wouldn’t hurt as you’ll also be trekking out. You may want to make 1 or 2 of your t-shirts long sleeve.
In terms of your trekking t-shirt, the shirt needs to be made of a high wicking fabric such as merino wool or polyester. In the summer months you will most likely sweat a fair amount on the trek in, you therefore want a shirt that allows the moisture to pass through. Please avoid just taking a standard cotton shirt as this will inhibit the moisture transfer. Fabrics like cotton don’t breathe anywhere near as well as the above mentioned fabrics and you’ll find you smell a lot more!
Like your shirts, your trousers should have the same high wicking qualities. Your legs are likely to sweat just as much which means that the right material will make a big difference.
We recommend purchasing trousers that can also be converted into shorts. These trousers offer you much more versatility and you’ll find they come in super handy in the hot parts of the day.
Craghoppers make fantastic convertible trousers that come in both male and female variations.
When it gets cold you’ll want to start wearing a thermal base layer underneath your outer layers. The base layer hugs your skin and keeps your body heat within the layer. However, make sure it’s not too tight as this can restrict circulation. Make sure it is not too lose though as this will allow heat to escape. Like all your layers, the base layer needs to be made from a high wicking material that is both lightweight and and breathable – Merino wool is the best for this.
Smartwool Lightweight Base Layers and Icebreaker Oasis Base Layers are both excellent makes. They provide both top and bottom base layers made from 100% merino wool. Their products are very comfortable, great quality and are incredibly high wicking.
For people who are allergic to wool then the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Base Layers are excellent synthetic alternatives.
Having a fleece or hoody on the mountain and on the trek in is key. Although the trek in will be hot during the day, the nights can get very cold, especially when sat around camp.
We recommend a hoody made from synthetic mid-weight Polartec fleece materials. These are perfect for warmth and comfort, but also provide excellent breathability. Polartec fleece jackets come in three main weights: 100s, 200s and 300s. The 100s are very light but not warm enough, whereas the 300s provide exceptional warmth but are a little on the heavy side. We therefore suggest going for a 200 Polartec fleece jacket.
In addition to your fleece or hoody, you should also carry a water-resistant and wind-proof hard shell jacket.
The jacket should be very light, easily packable and durable. This is the jacket that needs to withstand any wind and rain you may encounter on your trek in.
For anyone who lives in a cold climate, the concept of layering should not be a new one. To keep warm in low temperatures, the idea is to build up layers of protective clothing that insulates the heat from your body. These layers need to be high wicking in order for moisture to pass from one layer to the next. This is an important point as each layer will not work as it should if the moisture cannot pass through. Therefore, any clothes you purchase for your journey need to be made of a high wicking fabric.
Warm trekking trousers are a must when climbing Aconcagua. It gets seriously cold in the snow and you’ll want to be wearing these over your lower base layer.
Make sure these pants are wind resistant, water resistant, sun protective and have a fleece inner material with a quick-drying polyester outer layer for extra warmth. The best option in terms of warmth and weather proofing is the Arc’teryx Kappa Pants.
The core shell layer is probably you most important piece of clothing. This jacket will keep you warm, waterproof and windproof in the cold conditions.
Choosing the right jacket can be very complicated as the material can vary significantly. However, most jackets can generally be split into two categories – down or synthetic. Whilst down jackets are usually more warm, they’re generally more heavy, expensive and not great in moist conditions. That being said, because of the freezing temperatures on Aconcagua, we would always recommend going for a down jacket!
Here are some key factors to consider when choosing your jacket:
Here are some of our recommendations:
Great Down Jacket: Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket
This is a brilliant all round down jacket. It provides great warmth for it’s weight, probably the best waterproofing we’ve seen and great versatility.
Material: Down | Weight: 600 grams
An added bonus is this jacket is not on the expensive end of down jackets. Retails for around $350 / £250
Great Synthetic Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Quasar Jacket
Worn by the late Ueli Steck, this jacket is both lightweight and warm. Although the design is minimalistic with few hand pockets, the jacket is still a great addition to any trek.
Material: Synthetic | Weight: 530 grams
Retails for a great price of around $200 / £120.
This is optional but many climbers on Aconcagua swear by it. The suit is a thick one piece thermal base layer suit. If you struggle with the cold then this suit is a must! It will keep your body temperature up to 6 degrees C warmer than otherwise.
We highly recommend the NRS Men’s H2Core Expedition Weight Union Suit.
Once again, these are optional, however, Alan Arnette believes these saved him from getting frost bite on Aconcagua. Gor-tex bibs go straight on over your trousers and are incredibly waterproof and windproof, making them ideal for keeping your legs warm.
The sun will be beating down upon your head on the trek in. You should therefore bring a lightweight, easy-to-pack sun hat to protect your head and face from getting sun burnt. This will also lessen the chance of getting sun stroke.
Try and get a sun hat with neck protection like the one shown adjacent.
Avoid bringing large bulky hats.
In addition to a good sun hat we highly recommend bringing a few neck warmers like these from TYTN. These are great for protecting your face and neck from the elements and keeping dust and particulates out of your lungs.
You can bring a lightweight version and a semi-fleeced version for higher up on the mountain.
A warm fleeced beanie is an absolute must. The North Face, Berghaus and Arc’teryx make good fleeced beanies.
Alternatively a good wooly beanie will do the job, just make sure it is comfortable and keeps your head toasty!
UV intensity increases with altitude, therefore, you want a very good pair of trekking sunglasses to protect your eyes. Sunglasses are also very important on Aconcagua because of the snow. The light intensity created by the white snow can literally be blinding and normal sunglasses just wont cut it.
The undisputed market leader in high altitude sunglasses is Julbo Sunglasses.
All Julbo lenses offer 100% protection from UVA, B and C rays. Their category 4 lenses block up to 90% of visible light, making them ideal for Aconcagua. Whilst category 3 or lower is good for general use, you’ll need category 4 for Aconcagua.
The most versatile lens Julbo offer is the ‘Camel’. The Camel lens is essentially a transition lens and gets darker and lighter depending on the light intensity. For Aconcagua we also recommend the Julbo Explorer range. These provide a secure fit that will see you through any climbing and snow activities.
Although you’ll have your standard trekking sunglasses, you’ll also want some snow/ski goggles for the higher reaches, particularly if the weather sets in. When you’re near the summit and wearing your balaclava, these goggles will stop any wind hitting your eyes and stop the bright light from damaging your eyes.
The lens should have a visible light transmission (VLT) of no more than 30%. If you have sensitive eyes you may wish to go for darker. Photochromatic models are very good for use in changing light conditions. We recommend the Zeal Forecast goggles.
You will definitely need a headlamp. There is no electricity on the mountain and if you wish to leave your tent at night you’ll need a headlamp. You may also have some very early starts in which your guide will require you to wear a headlamp. Headlamps are always preferable to torches as they allow you to keep your hands free.
When choosing a headlamp, look for good brightness, long battery life and one that is not too heavy! A good beam should reach 70 meters in length.
The market leader in head torches is Petzl. We recommend getting the affordable, but still very good Petzl Tikka. At the top end is the Black Diamond Icon which gets 100 meter beam and 80 hours battery life!
Keeping your hands warm is super important. Frost bite is not uncommon on the mountain and you’ll want the best glove setup possible. In terms of inner gloves, you want a pair made from a high wicking fabric (synthetics, wool or even silk) are ideal. Do not go for cotton as your hands will become very sweaty. Make sure the gloves have a good thermal lining and are lightweight for travel.
The ideal outer gloves provides great warm whilst also being manoeuvrable, windproof and waterproof. Remember, dexterity is hugely important as you’ll be using your hands more than you think.
Whilst your inner and outer layer gloves will protect you on most of the climb, you’ll want some heavy duty mittens for the summit. These will stop any heat escaping and keep your hands from getting too cold.
Hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of kit in your Aconcagua gear list. Your feet need to be well supported and comfortable. It is critical that you bring a solid pair of hiking boots that are not new – make sure they are worn in first (i.e. the inner sole should have begun to mold to your foot shape). Brand new boots will only bring pain and blisters!
The two key factors to look for in a boot are fit and quality.
A good way to test the fit is to wear a pair of trekking socks, push your foot as far as it will go forward and place an index finger down the back between your heel and boot. If the finger fits snugly this is a good sign. If it’s too tight or loose then you probably need to try another size.
For quality, the characteristics you need to look for are:
Depending on what route you take. you’ll most likely need to ford a few rivers on your trek in! No one wants to trek in wet boots, therefore, bringing along some lightweight water shoes or sandals is the best idea. These are very inexpensive and can fold down almost flat. Speedo water shoes do a good pair.
On the summit push you may encounter snow and ice, therefore you’ll need proper winter mountain boots. The Normal Route is less technical than the Polish Glacier routes, so there is less chance of encountering snow and ice on the former, but better safe than sorry.
Make sure the boots are designed for high altitude conditions and can take crampons. The liners should be super warm and comfortable. Mountaineering boots are not cheap and you should expect to pay in the region of US$400 – $800 for a decent pair.
You should bring at least 6 pairs of trekking socks. Once again, these should be high wicking and light to medium weight. The best trekking socks are made from merino wool as they allow excellent breathability. Avoid cotton socks as these will absorb and retain the moisture which will enhance the likelihood of blistering. If allergic to wool, go for a synthetic or acrylic blend sock.
Getting a good backpack is one of the most important considerations on your Aconcagua gear list. You’ll be carrying this yourself, so you’ll want to make sure you choose correctly.
Whilst porters are provided by many trekking companies on the mountain, most are used to help shift equipment. There is usually an option to pay for an extra porter to help carry your personal gear, this is not common though and most trekkers carry their own bags.
The four key considerations when choosing a backpack are comfort, support, space and fit.
If your pack is not comfortable you’re going to have a pretty rough trek. I like to always try carrying other trekkers bags at camp to get a feel of what bags suit me. Whilst this can be done in store, most bags are not crammed with gear which makes feeling for comfort difficult. Look for a bag that is well-padded, including the pelvis strap. Good bags will have a large lower padded section that comes in contact with your back for lower comfort and support.
Support is also key, particularly for people like myself who have back problems. You’ll want a good strong waist belt, thick shoulder pads and an even distribution. The best bags are super flexible, allowing them to contour to your back shape as you trek. Make sure your straps have multi-size adjustments for versatility.
Space is a big consideration. We generally advise at least 85 Liters for your journey, however, 105 liters is often the better option – although heavier. If you want to stay properly warm on the mountain you’re going to need a fair amount of gear space. Look for a bag that has a section for frequently needed items. This is often on the front of the bag or on the top. Also makes sure your bag has several spare lash points for extra items.
Getting the right fit is super important as you’ll develop back issues if you don’t. To get the right fit you need to know your torso length. This can be measured easily by taking a tape measure from your 7th vertebrae down (this is the knobbly one that stick out when you bend your neck downwards) and measuring down to the point on your back that is inline with your your hip bone. The measurement is your torso length. Make sure the lower straps of your bag wrap around your hips and not your lower waist or stomach! When fitted correctly most of the weight will be around your pelvis which frees up your upper body for movement.
The most comfortable large bag we have tried is without doubt the Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 OutDry Pack. This pack is incredibly light for its size and comes with all the benefits mentioned above. It’s constructed to last and has a durable outer shell membrane to protect your gar from the rain. Storage capacity, comfort and support is exceptionally high.
Another smaller option is the Osprey Aether 85L for men and the Osprey Aether 85L for women. These are brilliant rucksacks that offer super support. Like the Hardwear, all the features mentioned above are included in this light and versatile pack. We’ve seen people on Everest expeditions using these!
A 80-90L duffel bag is ideal for taking added extras on your journey that you won’t actually take on the mountain. These can be left with your operator at the beginning of your climb. A duffel bag can also be your carry-on-luggage for all your flights.
Most mountaineering ice axes will do. Make sure you purchase one with an attachable leash. If you’re unsure of size, make sure you go with shorter rather than longer.
The size chart according to height is – under 5’2” use a 50cm axe: 5’3” to 5’7” use a 55cm axe: 5’8” to 5’11” use a 60cm axe: 6’0” to 6’2” use a 65cm axe: above 6’3” use a 70cm axe.
The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a great option.
Very important near the summit. The ice and snow is thick near the summit and without crampons attached to your climbing boots you will slip. Crampons also make walking much easier and faster as your not constantly concerned about grip.
We always recommend modern steel 12-point crampons that come with anti-balling plates. Try to avoid 10-point, aluminium, or single-piece rigid crampons.
We recommend the Black Diamond Sabertooth
This is optional but we recommend it. Many people slip on Aconcagua, not just on the ice but also on the loose scree slopes. You’ll want a climbing specific helmet with enough space to attach a headlamp. Make sure there is enough space on the helmet to fit over a beanie/balaclava.
The Black Diamond Vector helmet is our favourite.
A warm sleeping bag is critical on Aconcagua as temperatures at night get well below freezing regardless of the season. Without the right sleeping bag, you’re going to be cold, uncomfortable and give up more easily. To help you decide we have laid out the key characteristics of a great sleeping bag below.
It is certainly possible to rent sleeping bags in Mendoza, however, we generally recommend to trekkers to bring your own. Rental sleeping bags are often not very hygienic and owning your own one will give you a little more piece of mind.
Down vs. Synthetic
Whether to get down or synthetic is a common question. Whilst down sleeping bags are generally warmer and more comfortable, they’re also more expensive. Therefore, you need to weigh up warmth against cost.
The cost consideration is very much dependent on your own personal budget. We always recommend to people who are planning on trekking or climbing regularly to purchase a down sleeping bag. If the climb is a one off then maybe buying synthetic is the right option.
If you’re planning on climbing Aconcagua you presumably like to trek and climb a fair bit. We therefore suggest going for a down, especially as it gets super cold on the higher reaches.
Temperatures higher up the mountain reach in excess of -20 degrees Celsius, therefore, you need a sleeping bag that can keep you warm in these temperatures. We recommend your sleeping bag has a minimum rating of -30 degrees Celsius.
Remember, warmer is always better than colder!
Shape and Design
Mummy shaped sleeping bags are the best on the market. By fitting to the contours of your body they keep your body temperature higher.
Whilst there is a standard size for most adults, if you are particularly tall or short, be sure to check with the manufacturer before buying. You’ll want your sleeping bag to fit snugly, otherwise warmth will escape.
Also look out for a two way zipping system which improves insulation and also a hood of some sort – possibly draw string or similar.
RAB make a great winter sleeping bag. The Expedition 1000 is one of their best sleeping bags and we highly recommend it for Aconcagua. The bag is down and has a rating up to -30 degrees Celsius. It’s a very snug bag and often you’ll be too warm!
Whilst RAB do do warmer ones such as the Expedition 1200 and 1400, these are considerably heavier and not needed unless you plan to scale the worlds tallest mountains.
Highly recommended as the landscape on Aconcagua is very rocky. We recommend either a standard sleeping matt or better still, a fully inflatable sleeping pad. Good ones are super light and fold down extremely small. We recommend the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad. This particular pad gives you 6cm of padding and folds down to the size of a standard waterbottle!
You may also want to bring an inflatable pillow and sleeping bag liner, however, these are optional. Remember, the more things you bring – the more things you carry!
You’ll be trekking for at least 5 hours each day on Aconcagua over rocky and undulating ground, therefore, a good pair of trekking poles is very important. Although they may not look it, trekking poles massively reduce the strain on your leg joints. In fact, trekking poles have been proven to reduce up to 25% of the impact your legs take.
Black Diamond is the market leader in trekking poles. There are two models from their range we recommend. At the higher end is the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles. These are incredibly good (read our full review of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork). A cheaper alternative is the Black Diamond Ultra Distance which are also very good (read our review of the Ultra Distance trekking poles).
Carrying 3 liters of water can be difficult, it is therefore recommended you try to drink at least 500ml before leaving camp each morning. If you take a water bottle and not a hydration bladder, you’ll probably want to take two and fill up the second during the day. When you reach camp it is also recommended that you drink another 500 ml of water.
Another option is the collapsible Platypus Water Bottle which is perfect for storage and carrying and has a volume capacity of 1L.
Make sure to also bring a water bottle parka to stop your water freezing near the summit.
Alternatively, hydration bladders are another option. Hydration bladders sit inside your climbing pack with a tube that runs over your shoulder and sits next to your mouth. These have become extremely popular as you have a constant feed of water. Hydration bladders are also bigger and can come in 2L AND 3L sizes. They can also be squashed down for ease of carrying.
We recommend the Geigerrig Hydration Engine(3L). This bladder is the only fully pressurised system available and makes it easier to drink from than other bladders.
Water on and near the mountain will not be purified. You’ll wan to bring tablets or water purifier drops. We recommend AquaMira.
You’ll want to catch every great moment along your climb. Make sure your camera is small and compact, has a good battery life and takes HD pictures/videos. We always recommend the Go Pro – fantastic quality in a small size. Remember to bring spare batteries!
You’ll need all your basic toiletries including toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Bring a small bag dry bag to store these in.
It often gets very hot on the trek in and you’ll want some 30+ factor sunscreen. Buy a small tube. On the upper reaches you’ll also need some lipscreen as your lips will dry and blister in the cold snow conditions otherwise.
Although your guide will no doubt have one, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you are climbing alone then you will definitely need one of these.
Bring Pepto Bismol, Imodium, Diamox and a variety of standard over-the-counter painkillers. If you have any personal prescriptions then bring these as well. You may also want to bring some blister plasters and tape.
Perfect for cleaning yourself after a sweaty day climbing or trekking. Your guides will probably provide you with a water bowl and towel, however, baby wipes are actually easier to use.
It’s seriously cold near the top. If you feel the cold then definitely bring 3 sets of each. Toe Warmers are different to hand warmers in that they are formulated to work in lower levels of oxygen, such as the inside of a boot. Toe warmers will also not last as long.
You’ll be climbing a long way each day for a considerable amount of time. Keeping up your energy and strength is vital. We always recommend taking a few snacks and energy bars each day to keep you going.
Optional depending on your trekking company. One two cup capacity packable bowl will be needed for food, soup and snacks (bring one spoon). Collapsible versions are ideal as they occupy less space in the pack. Lids are not needed. Most trekkers will bring 1 collapsible mug also for hot drinks.
Because it is so cold near the summit, you won’t wan to leave your tent at night to go to the toilet. Men will therefore need a 1 pee bottle (1L) and woman will need 1 pee funnel. We recommend woman practise before leaving!
You’ll be sharing a tent with another person and if you are a light sleeper or struggle to sleep with unfamiliar noises, then bringing some ear plugs is a good idea. On top of this, porters will be up earlier than you as a general rule and may wake you if you are a light sleeper.
Your pack will be exposed to the elements during your climb on Aconcagua. Exposure to dust is very common. To protect your valuables such as your wallet and camera, we recommend taking a couple of zip lock bags.
Last but not least is a book or Kindle! Entertainment on the mountain is fairly light and you may want a book to get you through those long evenings. We recommend the Kindle Paperwhite.
If you have any further questions or queries regarding any of the items mentioned in this Aconcagua gear list, please just drop us a note below and we’ll respond as soon as possible.
Thank you and happy climbing!
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