1. Sports
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.


The Ten Essentials for Climbing Safety


Dennis Jump gleefully wiggles through a narrow passage in a Peak District cave in central England.

To be safe, make like a caver and bring a good headlamp or get ready to play in the dark.

Photograph courtesy Dennis Jump

The fourth survival system on the Mountaineers Ten Essentials list is Illumination. If it’s a dark and moonless night and you’re not sure where you going, you gotta have a light. You need illumination. You need a headlamp.

Nighttime Catches Up to You

If you get out climbing regularly, one of these days you’re going to get benighted on some cliff or summit. Your best-laid plans to cruise up The Cruise in the Black Canyon might not happen. It’s too hot and you run out of water and daylight. Your partner injures her foot and is climbing really slow. The wall is a lot bigger when you’re actually climbing on it than it looked yesterday afternoon from the canyon rim. Lots of things happen when you’re out climbing or hiking to and from a cliff and if they do and you get caught out after dark, then be prepared by having a light source.

Headlamp is Best

A lightweight headlamp is your best bet these days. Gone are the days of carrying clunky flashlights with C batteries and lightbulbs. Now you can pack a three-ounce headlamp with bright light-emitting diodes (LED) along with an extra battery and headband and you’re ready to rock the night away. LEDs are a marvel. Besides being lightweight and compact, they use little power, free your hands to do other tasks, can be handled roughly since they don’t have filaments that break, and provide bright light.

What You Need in a Headlamp

Some of the things to look for in your headlamp (that’s headtorch in England) include having high and low beams, high and low settings to conserve power, a strobe setting for emergencies, and a built-in low-battery indicator so you know how much juice you have left. If you’re climbing, you don’t need a beam that reaches more than 60 feet. If you’re hiking or descending a mountain, have a beam that reaches 300 feet. Also make sure you carry an extra battery. They don’t weigh much and take up no room in your pack.

Candle and Matches

Like a caver, I sometimes carry multiple light sources. On a climb with a long approach, I carry two small Black Diamond Ion headlamps as well as a candle stub and matches. With the extra light, I’m prepared if my partner’s headlamp goes out or we get benighted and need an extra light source. Plus that warm flickering candlelight on the wall of your forced bivouac does wonders to rejuvenate your sagging spirits.

Buy a guide-recommended climbing headlamp:
Black Diamond Ion Headlamp Excellent, lightweight, plenty of light. One of my favorites.
Petzl Tikka Headlamps Superb light in a system arrangement. You won't go wrong with this one.
Petzl E+Lite Headlamp Tiny, compact, bright…what more do you need?
Mammut Lucido Headlamp A European standard—bright and long lasting.

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. Climbing
  4. Stay Safe Climbing
  5. The 10 Essentals
  6. Illumination — The Ten Essentials for Climbing Safety

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.