As I teach and guide I often get asked, “What do you always have in your pack?” My pack needs to be as light as possible while stile offering good survival options. I have to carry it up routes, not just hike with it. Below is my “minimalist” mandatory gear; yes, fire starters and many other things are nice, but this is what I think I need to survive and/or start a rescue in almost any mountain range around the world. Also note that the pack itself has to be light; if your pack is over two pounds “naked” then it needs to go on a diet; all of the below weighs less than three pounds total, so when I grab my pack for the day off the wall it should weigh less than 5 pounds before food, water, etc.
Headlamps (one good small one, one tiny one like the BD Ion in case partner forgets his or the good one has dead batteries etc).
Lighter, very small pack of waterproof matches sealed up tight.
Small first aid kit (athletic tape, pain killers, steri strips, something absorbent, then add as little as is reasonable).
Additional Food (outside of what I carry for the day). Enough to walk for a day, so about 1,000 calories minimum.
Siltarp 2. Emergency bivy shelter, rain cover, slides on snow for rescue, etc.
Spot or De Lorme Inreach with PN 60 GPS (increasingly just the Inreach, I’ll do a review on that soon, sat messaging cool!).
iPhone/Android with compass, Topo maps on it, Peakfinder, etc. Even in areas without cell service I end up taking my phone, tons of useful apps now.
Sunglasses, spare contacts/glasses if you wear them.
Whatever else seems useful depending on environment, but the above pretty much always goes regardless of season or objective.
Seasonal/objective specific but almost always:
Compass (can use your iPhone too, but good to have non-electronic backup for alpine climbing etc.. Know the declination or it’s not very useful). 1:50,000 map of area.
Light hat/gloves, Alpha SL jacket.
Yaesu radio for rescue.
After this point the list widens out too much to be useful. The quantity of water, Red Bull (grin, yes, I carry it), food, gear, clothing, etc. varies pretty radically.
Sterling Hollow Blocks
If you carry a prussic or two on your harness while multi-pitching or alpine climbing (and it’s difficult to escape the belay or do a basic raise/other rescue without a prussic or two–yes, slings etc can do the job sort of, but in many applications a dedicated bit of cord works better) then you might want to look at these. They work way better as auto-blocks for rappelling, prussik/pulley combos, etc. Plus they’re really light, don’t cost much and don’t get all twisted up like accessory cord does.