Gear: 8 Perfect Ice Climbing Pieces
Colorado’s Ouray Ice Festival, the biggest ice climbing festival in North America, wrapped up this past weekend—and ice season is officially in full swing. Whether you’re a neophyte or pro, ice climbing gear requires a dialed combo of comfort and performance. Flying ice, splashing waterfalls, and sharp tools make any less-than-stellar gear annoying at best—and dangerous, at worst. Here, writer Hilary Oliver hand-picks the best, tested female-focused gear to keep you warm, dry, safe, and stoked on the ice this season.
Patagonia Knifeblade Pants ($299.00)
They had me at the drop seat, but I loved the material and fit, too. The Polartec Power Shield Pro was lightweight and moved easily, but still held up to alpine bushwhacking and rugged mixed routes. The bib pattern reduces under-harness bulk, and the drop-seat allows for easy bathroom breaks—which is extra awesome when the temps get frigid.
Arcteryx Alpha SV Jacket ($650.00)
The Alpha SV’s Gore-Tex three-layer construction stood up to rotten conditions, and its cut and design kept it right where I needed it. The hood stayed over my helmet perfectly, special inserts within the jacket’s hem kept it in place beneath the harness, and gusseted underarms kept it from riding up when I was hanging from tools. A generous but feminine cut allowed for layering, while ventilation zips kept me from overheating.
Arcteryx R-280 Climbing Harness ($149.00)
This harness folds down to next to nothing, and is designed with women’s curves in mind. Its sleek, low profile worked well with cold-weather layering, but still had plenty of room for my tools and screws on its four gear loops. It also features drop-seat buckles for easier pit stops.
Trango Raptor Ice Tools ($174.95 each)
The Raptors’ noticeably smaller grip size made a big difference in placement precision for me, even without having particularly small hands. Removable pick weights added power to swings, while the pick shape and angle made for easier removal from placements than other tools I tried. Without an adze or hammer on the end of the handle, these are better for cragging than alpine ascents. But if you’re mainly stoked on ice park climbing, these are easier on the budget than most tools.
Asolo Women’s Alta Via Boots ($425.00)
These boots have a narrower heel cup for a better female fit. Light but warm, with two pivot points at the instep and ankle, they were comfortable on the approach but also performed efficiently on steep ice and technical mixed climbs.
Mammut Rock Rider Helmet ($79.95)
Super light and comfortable, the Rock Rider provides serious protection, with its EPS core extending throughout the helmet’s shell. Intuitive strap adjustments and four headlamp clips make this all-around helmet a no-brainer for rock, mixed, alpine, ice, or even ski ascents.
Outdoor Research Lodestar Gloves ($89.00)
Warm, but still dexterous where others left me fumbling and frustrated, these gloves strike the perfect balance between comfort and performance.
Black Diamond Cyborg Crampons ($199.95)
Easy to take on and off, the low-profile stainless steel Cyborgs can be adjusted for mono- or dual-front points, and resist rust, even after months of freezes and thaws. The heel adjustments were easy to fine tune and the point placement was spot-on for both stiff, steep ice, and blocky mixed climbing.
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