If you’re planning to take on Mount Washington, having the right gear is absolutely essential. Home of the “World’s Worst Weather,” it’s not unusual for the temperature at the summit to be thirty to forty degrees colder than the temperature at the trailhead. The winds above treeline can be fierce and precipitation is always a possibility. As the official outfitter of the Mount Washington Observatory, Eastern Mountain Sports has a special reverence for this mountain. Hiking Mount Washington in the summer time is a different experience every time but here is all the gear you need whether the conditions at the trailhead are 80 degrees and sunny or 60 degrees and raining.
Leave the backpack at home, everything below should be able to fit just fine into the pack you use for your “done in a day” adventures. Just be sure to load it up a week in advance to make sure all your stuff fits so you have time to pick up an alternative. If you run into problems, our North Conway store is right on the way!
Fill up before you go or at the Joe Dodge Lodge when you arrive at the trailhead and you should be perfectly well hydrated for your Mount Washington ascent. Once you arrive at the summit, you will have the surreal experience of going from rugged backcountry to the Sherman Adams Summit Building complete with cafeteria, gift shop, museum and even a post office. After your bathroom break, you can refill your bottles at the water fountain.
Yes, we’ve seen people hike Mount Washington in sneakers and sandals but you’re asking for trouble once you get above treeline and you discover why Mount Washington is called “the rock pile.” The packed trail turns to a rambling cluster of lichen-covered boulders so choose shoes with good traction as well as ankle support.
Pictured: Rock Pile
Cotton is always rotten for outdoor adventure and this is especially true on on Mount Washington. You want your feet to breathe and the sweat to travel away from your skin and no fabric does that better than merino wool. Bring an extra pair so you can change at the summit and another extra pair just in case.
Think your too young or too strong for trekking poles? Think again. Trekking poles are for everyone who likes to stay on their feet while negotiating steep, uneven terrain. You’ll especially appreciate trekking poles on the way down when you face the extra challenges of gravity and fatigue.
Sunglasses are good to bring along for their intended purpose as well as shielding your eyes from the wind. While we’re on the topic of sun protection, be sure to bring sunscreen as well.
Every hiker should own at least one pair of zip off/convertible pants but they are especially useful in the ever-changing conditions on Mount Washington. Depending on the day, you may start with the legs attached and shed them halfway or retrieve them from your pack as the wind picks up. Either way, you’ll be glad for the versatility these pants are famous for. Whatever you do, don’t wear jeans–they’re heavy to begin with and soak up water like sponges.
No matter how hot it is when you start, plan on sweating like crazy and then being cold within two hours. The extra coverage of a long sleeve shirt will give you a little extra protection from the sun below treeline before serving you well after you layer up.
The average daily temperature at the summit of Mount Washington during the dog days of August is 48 degrees so that fleece jacket you pack will surely be used. A soft shell jacket may do the job on its own but if you go that route, be sure to bring a light weight fleece along for extra warmth in case the temperature drops.
These should be in your pack on every hike but especially on Mount Washington. The summit is famous for its foggy conditions that can soak you to the skin every bit as effectively as a sudden downpour, which is also always a possibility.
Winter may be a few months away, but it’s never far from Mount Washington. You may not need a fleece hat while you’re hiking but it’s a lovely thing to throw on when you reach the summit, the wind picks up and your heart slows. You should also bring a baseball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes below tree line.
You’re going to burn your share of calories on this hike so be sure to bring along some energy bars, bananas, GORP and any other protein rich, quick-energy combination to keep you going from start to finish. An emergency candy bar is always a good thing to have as well.
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