To get right to the point, I love gear, and I love clothes. I love clothes for how they look and make me feel. And I love how they function and help me perform. As a climber and skier, I spend a lot of time in mountain clothes so if a piece makes me feel fat or my butt look saggy, I’m having none of it.
I like to focus on clothing and gear as systems, rather than a bunch of random pieces I like. As summer is approaching, I’ve refined my clothing systems for go-to activities: rock climbing around home in Squamish, and then later in the season, fast moving days of alpine climbing.
Rock climbing system
What I wear when I go rock climbing comes down to important elements of function and to pure aesthetics.
- MEC Sanchali Pant
- MEC Y Not Bra
- MEC Sequence Tank
- MEC Campfire Hoodie
- Petzl Hirundos Harness
- Petzl chalk bag
- Scarpa Booster S Shoes
- Julbo Breeze Glasses
I’m generally a warm person (a polite way of saying I sweat a lot) so I almost always climb in a tank top. This season I discovered the Sequence Tank, which is made of performance polyester but includes spandex jersey that makes it feel soft like cotton.
For belaying in the trees, or warming up, I wear my Campfire Hoodie. My friend Sheri calls a “snuggie” and she’s kind of right. It’s like being swaddled in a million puppies. The colors are incredible, and it includes important elements of stretch, technical fabric, and versatility. But it’s also something I’d wear around town, which is important to me.
My absolutely favorite climbing pant right now is the Sanchali. They’re like a pair of jeans that look great on, but also perform well on the rock. The epitome of peak to street fashion, they remind me of some French climbing jeans I fell in love with when I was climbing in Chamonix (which were totally flattering, articulated for climbing and also way beyond my budget). So I was stoked when I caught wind that MEC designers were briefing a similar idea. I should add, an important component of climbing or bouldering pants is elasticized cuffs. There is nothing more annoying than getting pumped trying to heel hook, or find a small foothold because your pant cuffs are getting in the way.
Alpine climbing system
The commitment factor increases when you’re 10 pitches up an alpine route with 10 more to go. Having the ability to hunker down should weather come in or you find yourself getting benighted, is also paramount.
- MEC Constantia Pant
- MEC T1 Long-Sleeved Shirt
- MEC Obsession Jacket
- MEC Spicy Jacket
- MEC Intensity Bra
- Scarpa, Women’s Reflex Velcro
- Buff headband
- Petzl Hirundos Harness
- Petzl chalk bag
- Petzl Sirocco Helmet
- Julbo Breeze Sunglasses
- Atlas 370 Nitrile Gloves
- MEC AlpineLite 35L pack (see the latest AlpineLite pack line-up)
I pair the Intensity Bra with a T1 Long Sleeved Shirt. The T1 series is my perennial go-to for colder weather high-output activities like alpine climbing and skiing because no matter how much I sweat, once I stop moving the fabric dries out fast so I stay warmer. I always wear a simple long-sleeved crew because I hate having too much stuff around my neck when I add layers. So, if I wear a crew-style top, I can pair it with a mid-layer without choking myself from too much bulk around my neck.
My mid-layer actually does double duty as a mid and outer layer. The Obsession Hoodie is lightly insulated and made of stretchy weather-protecting fabric. It has mapped insulation along the upper arms and chest to help keep warmth in while sitting at belays, and has panels of stretch soft shell for easy movement.
For extra safety I carry a Spicy Jacket. It weighs next to nothing, and can easily be added on top of everything if I get cold at belays or (heaven forbid) have to overnight on a route. This might not work for everyone, but I have a Spicy Jacket in both a body hugging and loose fitting size. The body hugging size is great for adventures where I throw it on over a t-shirt, and the loose fitting size goes over a base and mid-layer at belays.
The Constantia is about as light as I’d go for alpine climbing, I can’t layer long johns under these, so I like to be sure of a warm forecast. Versatile for alpine, cragging, or even bouldering, this pant is another cutting edge, no-one-else-is-doing-it, piece from MEC. It’s a technical soft shell pant, but made in a skinny silhouette. It’s extra bombproof and has incredible stretch. Wearing them is kind of like wearing tear-resistant tights into the mountains.
Accessories: gloves, helmet, harness
Atlas 370 Nitrile Gloves: my good buddy Dan, who’s like a mad scientist of alpine gear, discovered these gloves that were originally made for fisherman types. They have extra grippy coating on the palms, making them great for climbing easy rock pitches when your hands are super-cold at the beginning of the day. They weigh next to nothing, and are cheap enough that you can trash a pair in one trip and not feel guilty about it.
Petzl Sirocco Helmet: for fast and light climbing, there’s no helmet better and more durable than this one. It’s incredibly light too. I’ve even seen the Petzl rep step directly on the top of it and watched it bounce back up. It’s the best climbing helmet I’ve ever owned. So, just get over the fact that it looks funny (and let’s be honest, it does look funny) and wear it.
I’m also a huge fan of the Petzl Hirundos harness. I use it for sport climbing, trad and alpine. It’s the perfect combination of comfort, weight and functionality, as it’s light but still has two gear loops on each side.
For alpine rock climbing I typically wear the Scarpa Reflex Velcro. The flat last makes them comfortable all day. When buying shoes for the mountains, keep in mind that you’ll be wearing them all day, stuffing your feet in all kind of cracks, and by the time you’re halfway through the day, your feet will have swollen to twice their size from all the beating up. The Reflex is super-light, simple and weighs 216 grams. Weight matters people, so pare it down where you can!
Huge thanks to MEC’s photo team for taking these artsy images of my clothing systems! I usually shoot my gear on my kitchen floor, and while that helps to keep things authentic, it really does a disservice to the clothing when it’s displayed next to my dirty stove.