12 gear essentials for Denali

Brody Leven attacked the biggest mountain in North America. This is what he brought along.

The Gear you need for Denali© brodyleven.com

Our team had 770kg of equipment. Here's some of the gear we needed for a safe expedition to the top of North America with warm toes and well-cooked pasta.

1. Black Diamond Mission 75 backpack

Capable of hauling enormous loads between camps yet strippable to the bare minimum when going light and fast, this is the most popular backpack on Denali. Lightweight features like a removable lid shed weight for our 6,000ft (1,829m) summit pushes.

2. Terramar TXO 2.0 Ascent Zip Hoodie

When a puffy was too warm, a shell was too waterproof, and a base layer was too thin, this hoodie was perfect. Its balaclava-like hood, thumb loops, and athletic fit leave nothing to be desired yet provide nothing superfluous. The perfect layer. Barely took it off for three weeks.

3. Surface Walk Free skis & Dynafit Speed Radical bindings

A beefed-up mountaineering ski that powers through summit sastrugi, couloir corn, and camp slush. Speed Rads offer the ideal blend of care-free durability and uphill efficiency.

4. Dynafit Mercury ski boots

These lightweight boots show that there is no dividing line between performance and weight. Warm feet were able to comfortably crampon up endless néve in the Orient Express, confidently ski over blue ice in the Rescue Gully, and sideslip down the majority of the bulletproof West Buttress.

5. O’Neill outerwear

Everest-quality down parkas and pants go to Denali on holiday, spending most of their time in backpacks. But when they’re needed, they keep you alive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pack my girlfriend in a duffel bag.

6. MSR XGK EK stove

Despite being surrounded by it, retrieving water was the trip’s chief chore. Every drop of water we drank or used to cook and clean had to be melted from glacial snow. There is no wood, grass, or plants to burn. There is only snow, rocks, and your stove. We carefully calculated expected fuel usage before starting our hike.

7. Black Diamond Sabretooth crampons

I was there to ski – but I spent most of my time climbing up snow, ice, and rock. That’s ski mountaineering. Crampons that are light on your back when skiing, durable, and reliably sharp are fundamental. These are the most versatile crampons made and the most popular pair on Denali.

8. Black Diamond Venom ice axes.

Because my goals included more difficult routes, I needed a pair of versatile hybrid axes that were lightweight for the easy routes and aggressive for the harder routes.


9. Goal Zero solar power and GoPro Hero 3

With 14 people and their satellite phones, e-readers, laptops, cameras, phones, and speakers, electronics were an important part of safety, documentation, and entertainment. A variety of solar panels and power packs kept us charged in the 24-hour sunlight. The Switch 8, a small power pack, was perfect for recharging my GoPro while filming a long day.

10. Suunto Ambit2

Your watch tells time? Oh, well, mine tells the future. Literally. The “storm alarm” predicted adverse weather as clouds swirled in and out. But my favorite feature about my watch, aside from its incredibly accurate altitude measurements, is its ability to automatically draw our routes on a Google Earth map when I get home.

11. Forty Below Fresh Tracks overboots

Frostbite sucks. The coldest days at high altitude require extra protection from the biting winds and frigid Arctic temperatures. Whether or not they used them, skiers and snowboarders carry a pair of insulating neoprene covers that zip over their boots. The last reason anyone wants to turn around during a summit push is because overboots were overlooked. When they’re needed, there is no substitute.

12. CleveLand I Love tanktop

Learning to ski outside the skiing backwater of Cleveland, Ohio, USA somehow prepared me for the ice I found all over Denali. Started at the bottom. Made it to the top — it's a nice reminder of how far I've come.

Written by Brody Leven