The key to dressing in the mountains is to use the removable layer principle; a base layer of wicking material, a mid layer with fleece or duvet and outer waterproof shell. There is, however, no one way to dress when you are in the mountains, you should bring the kit you usually wear when hill-walking at home and bear in mind that the weather can vary from extremely cold, especially on Mt Elbrus, storms, rain and wind to very hot burning sun. You should not need to use all the foul weather protection listed below. However it is of course imperative that you bring it all.
We have divided our equipment list into two categories, essential and optional. If you are coming with a companion, some of the list below can be shared between you. If you have considerable experience of mountain walking or backpacking you will probably have your own list and will make additions or deletions to this one. The list is of what you will need to bring for walking. It does not include the smarter clothes you will need when not in the mountains.
Being suitably equipped is perhaps the most important ingredient contributing towards your safety, comfort and enjoyment of the trek. Reflect carefully as to what you will need. Taking too much gear just in case is not recommended, but neither is taking too little. If you have any hesitation, questions, or need advice, please ask.
Essential equipment check-list
- Sleeping bag (3 season) and sleeping mat
- Good waterproofs, (cagoule&trousers) not heavyweight
- Strong mountain boots
- Thin shirt (long sleeved)
- Thick shirt (long sleeved)
- Trousers/track suit bottoms + Long Johns
- Fleece or Duvet Jacket
- 1 thick sweater
- Heavy socks
- Cotton socks
- Sun hat
- A lightweight harness + one screw-gate karabiner are essential items to take in case of bad weather/emergencies
- Ice-Axe and walking crampons to fit your boots
- Eating and drinking utensils
- Water Bottles (2L)
- Thermos flask
- Swiss army knife
- Sun cream and lipsalve
- Toilet paper/tissues
- Personal first aid/sewing kit
Optional equipment check-list
- Sheet liner
- Pair of shorts
- Something to wear in bed – accommodation is shared
- Camera and film
- Spare batteries/bulb
- Towel and toilet articles
- Writing material/notebook
- Binoculars (lightweight)
This is the most important item of your equipment on a trekking holiday. Discovering that a pair of boots is not suitable can ruin a holiday. Your boots should be made for winter mountaineering, should fit comfortably and be well broken in. It is important that there is enough room for your toes otherwise painful bruising can occur on descents.
Double boots are good for the ascent of Mt Elbrus but are not generally suitable for the other parts of the trip. Bringing 2 pairs of boots would be ideal: trekking boots for the trekking part and warm climbing boots for climbing. Good solid mountaineering boots of a type, similar to Scarpa Manta or Zimberlan Mountain Lite or Sportiva are the minimum required, provided they are used with Yeti gaiters as a protection against the cold. You have to be able put on at least 2 warm pear of socks. It is imperative that boots used on Elbrus be stiff enough to work well with crampons and that the crampons fit snugly to the boots. No technical climbing is involved, although you will encounter some steep sections, walking crampons suffice. Thick wool socks provide cushioning and reduce the risk of blisters through dampness. Two pairs of socks, the inner pair of loop-stitch knit, can be very effective.
A selection of the most suitable socks will not only add immeasurably to your overall well-being on trek, but more essentially protect your feet with proper cushioning and padding. You will need two or three pairs of outer socks; this will ensure that you will always have a fresh pair to wear.
You should bring a rucksack of about 60-70 litres capacity in which to carry your personal belongings including sleeping bag and mat. Try not to carry too much to reduce your enjoyment of the trip but you will need to carry overnight gear and a set of spare clothes. This could be used as a day sack on the climb up Elbrus when you only need to carry your day's requirements. Otherwise you may wish to have a smaller one on Elbrus. It should still be strong and with a waist belt for good distribution of weight during the hardest day of the trip.
There are facilities for you to leave unnecessary items at the hotel while on the camping sections and Elbrus.
It is worthwhile bringing head cover for both sun and cold. On Elbrus it will be very cold.
Full waterproofs are essential: jacket and trousers Mountain weather is variable. In the valleys it is possible for daytime temperatures to rise to 25 0C. At night, especially at the highest campsites, you may experience slight frosts. On Elbrus the conditions can be Arctic. Rain and snow could be encountered at any time although this is generally the drier side of the Caucasus. Goretex, or similar, is good for the reason that it keeps you drier by allowing a passage of air through the fabric, preventing condensation on the inside that would otherwise make you wet. A waterproof doubles up usefully as a windproof especially on Elbrus where the winds can be bitter.
It is essential to have warm layers at campsites when you stop walking and for the ascent of Elbrus. Conditions on Elbrus can be Arctic especially with the wind-chill factor taken into account.
A 3 season should be adequate for the trip. An insulation mat is essential.
Camera and film - carry this as hand luggage and avoid having it X-rayed. Bring all film with you from home. Umbrella - this can double as a sunshade. Binoculars. Plastic Bags (self-seal) in various sizes to protect photographic equipment. Safety pins. Matches/lighter. Boot cleaning kit. Hand cream. Fine nylon cord for washing line. Small metal mirror. Playing cards/games. Money belt. Neck wallet. Antiseptic wipes. It is virtually impossible to buy sweets and snacks when you are on trek in Russia, it is a good idea to bring a small supply to boost your energy levels when necessary.
Our treks carry a First Aid box. Even so we do recommend you bring a small supply of first aid items for personal use. If a blister develops or you have a headache, it could be a little while before the First Aid box is located and you reach it, or it reaches you. A modest and sensible first aid kit based on the list below plus any special medications you may need, will suffice.
- Band-Aids Micropore
- Aspirin for mild pain relief
- Dioralyte Safety pins
- Throat lozenges
- Sunburn/glacier cream
- Lipsalve - Lomotil/Imodium for diarrhea
- Dextrose/glucose-based sweets
- Antiseptic cream
- 1x4" crepe bandage
- Water purification for your water canteen
- Small unbreakable leakproof bottle of disinfectant
- Flavoring to enhance taste of sterilized water
All medicines should be in plastic containers with screw-on-lids.