Winter Presidential Traverse
Clothing & Equipment Guide
White Mountain weather is moody. And when it’s bad, it’s bad. It is vital that you are properly clothed and equipped for this experience. Keeping in mind varying conditions and individual preferences and styles, here is a list of items that will be useful to you:
Wicking Layer: Light weight polypro or wool underwear. People who do not sweat a lot will be fine with one pair. Those who tend to sweat a lot may choose to bring another pair for camp, while drying the remaining pair in their sleeping bags.
Warmth Layer: Fleece or wool work well here. Some people use synthetic fill “sweaters.” Three layers are typical for the upper body, although this of course varies according to the thickness of each layer. One to two layers is typical for the lower body.
Weather Layer: Waterproof breathable material is needed. Make sure you’ve sized it to fit over all the other layers you’ll be wearing on this trip. Your jacket must have a hood. Your bottoms must have full length zippers or zippers that go at least up to the waist band, so that they can be put on easily while wearing boots and crampons.
Down/Fill Parka: Down is the most compact, but synthetic fill works. It must be sized to fit over all the other layers you’ll be wearing. A water resistant coating is useful.
Head Gear: You’ll need either a synthetic/wool hat and a neck gaiter or a balaclava. If you sweat alot, consider a second hat for wearing in camp.
Hand Gear: Two-part gloves work best, with both a shell and a liner. You can remove the liner at night and dry it in your sleeping bag. Bring at least two pair of liners so that your hands are always dry. A pair of oversize mittens is a good idea for providing extra warmth when dexterity isn’t an issue. And bringing along several hand warmer packets can provide a nice boost when necessary.
Foot Gear: Thin wool or synthetic liners help to wick moisture and reduce chaffing. Bringing two pair allows you to dry one pair in your sleeping bag. A synthetic or wool sock goes over this liner. If you don’t sweat a lot, two pair will do; for those who sweat another pair may be useful. People whose feet sweat a lot may want to consider wearing a vapor barrier. And for those whose feet run cool, bringing several toe warmer packets is a nice idea.
Boots/Gaiters: We can provide you with a double plastic boot. Four season leather boots work, but not nearly as warmly. Please make sure your gaiters are sized big enough to fit over the double plastic boots we provide or the four season boots you choose to wear.
Crampons: Crampons for mountain travel are much different from ice-climbing crampons—they have fewer points, a simpler binding system, and are much lighter. Anti-balling plates on the bottoms of your crampons are very helpful in reducing the accumulation of wet snow. We can provide crampons that fit standard plastic mountain boots. If you wear over a size 12 boot let us know, as this necessitates an expansion plate. If you choose to bring your own crampons, make completely sure your crampons work for the boots you are wearing (style, size, etc.).
Snowshoes: Depending on conditions, you may need to rent snowshoes—(your guide will let you know if they are necessary based on the conditions forecasted during your climb. Snowshoes should be light and compact, as you may not be wearing them the whole time. Do not bring snowshoes with complex binding systems (e.g., laces, etc) as these are quite difficult to manipulate in cold conditions.
Ax/Trekking Poles: A mountaineering ax is necessary for the trickier areas of travel. Your ax should barely scrape the ground when you swing it in your arm. Leashes are optional. For much of the trip, we will be traveling along ridgelines where trekking poles will be very useful, especially for those with joint conditions. Collapsible poles work best for packing and compression lock poles work much better than the “twist lock” variety in cold conditions.
Backpack: An internal frame pack with 5000 cubic inch/60 liter capacity. Lighter and simpler is better.
Sleeping Bag: Down or synthetic sleeping bag rated to -20 or lower. Make sure you also bring a good compression sack, as this will be vital to making sure you can fit everything in your pack.
Sleeping Pad: Air mattresses (e.g. Therma-rest) or closed cell foam will work. The sleeping pad will go on the outside of your pack, so if you bring an air mattress, cover it in a nylon sack to prevent puncture.
Eating/Hydration Gear: Large insulated cup, plastic bowl and spoon. Two 1 Liter Nalgenes are necessary. Camelbaks freeze and become useless. If you opt to have your water bottle handy for frequent hydration you must cover it with a bottle warmer; other people opt to keep both bottles insulated in their packs until break time. It is a good idea to start your day with boiling hot water, whenever possible.
Vision Gear: Sunglasses and goggles are a must. An LED headlamp (e.g., Petzl Tikka) is lightweight and powerful. Lithium batteries perform best at low temperatures—but if you choose these, please commit to disposing of them safely, the materials within are hazardous.
Toiletries: Cut down on all your toiletry items—for example don’t bring a whole tube of toothpaste, a small squeeze into a Ziploc will do. Contact lens wearers are advised to bring back-up eye gear. People with cooler hands/feet enjoy warmers. Put a few lighters in the pockets of your outerwear, so that you always have one available.
Leave No Trace: There are no established toilets on the Traverse. So that our visit doesn’t impact other people’s visits in the future, please prepare an “LNT Kit.” This kit should include a few pocket packets of tissue, a few plastic bags, and a very small bottle of hand sanitizer. Pack out all your toilet paper in the plastic bags.
First Aid: Your guide will have general gear for emergencies. Bring all your necessary medications for this type of activity, as well as moleskin, band-aids, and other personal first-aid needs.
Avalanche Safety: It is possible to venture into avalanche terrain on the Traverse. We will provide you with an avalanche transceiver and the party will carry two or more shovels and probes.
Other: At this point there shouldn’t be much “other”! If you have other items you’re thinking to bring, please check with your guide, as s/he may well be bringing that item for the entire group to use.
If you've got any additional questions, please contact us—We're happy to help!