How to

26 July 2017

Climbing Ben Nevis This Summer? - A Guide to Essential Gear & Clothing

Standing at 1,345 metres (4,411 ft) above sea level, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, and as such is a popular destination for hikers and mountain climbers eager to test themselves against the most arduous conditions the UK landscape has to offer. Thousands upon thousands of climbers attempt the ascent each year, with the vast majority sensibly opting to do so during the summer months so as to avoid the worst of the weather. However even during this time the mountain and its climate can pose a significant challenge or even danger to the inexperienced or unprepared, particularly at the summit, so we thought we would compile a quick rundown of all the essentials you will require, lest you get caught out in the cold with nought but a flimsy jumper.


In the summer, layering takes on a pronounced importance due to the likely severe difference in conditions on the lower slopes as compared to the summit, meaning you will want to be able to adapt your outfit as you go by adding or removing layers. A moisture-wicking thermal base layer is the best place to start, as this will not only provide a measure of additional warmth but will also help to draw any moisture away from your body. Moisture from sweat, rain or any other source sitting on your skin will cause a lot of heat to be lost as a result, making this moisture-wicking base layer a highly important part of your kit.

Don atop this base a well-insulated and lightweight fleece jacket or long sleeved top, which will serve as the primary insulating layer and potentially the outermost layer depending upon weather conditions and your position upon the mountain. I myself would recommend going for a jacket rather than a jumper, as the zipped front allows for that little extra versatility as you progress through highly variable conditions.

You will want to make sure this layer, and in fact your kit in general, is not too heavy, as any additional weight will only create extra difficulties. Overly-thick clothing with also reduce mobility, which is something of an issue when climbing.

Make sure you also pack a waterproof outer layer; while this may not be needed throughout the entire climb, it will likely be required at higher elevations and in the occurrence of rain or snow, which is likely.

Thermal socks and gloves are also recommended, as is a warm, preferably waterproof hat.

Finally, don’t forget to invest in a decent pair of boots. Attempting the climb in sandals will likely result in a broken ankle, and while trainers are a little better they’re still far from ideal. Purpose-made hiking or climbing boots will provide extra grip to help prevent slips and falls, additional warmth via thicker insulation, and support for your ankles to help prevent injury.

Other Equipment

Even though the slopes of Ben Nevis tend to be fairly busy, you cannot rely upon individuals outside of your party for navigation. At higher elevations the fog and clouds can severely reduce visibility and as such you will require a map and compass, as well as knowledge of how to use them properly.

Also make sure to take along an adequate supply of water, as well as foods rich in starch and sugars. As with all activities of this kind, a first-aid kit is also vital in case of injury.

Another consideration that must be taken into account is the sun; even when you feel cold the sun can still burn your skin, and as such sunscreen is recommended. Snow blindness caused by the sun reflecting off the snow and ice is also a very real concern and a very distressing issue to experience, so taking sunglasses is also a good idea.

The only other item you should need for a summer trek up Ben Nevis is a sufficiently strong backpack, ideally with a capacity of 30-50 litres. Crampons, ice axes and walking poles may also make your time easier, but should not be a vital requirement in the summer.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.