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The Ten Essentials for Climbing Safety


Brian Shelton and Rob Masters cook breakfast at the San Rafael Swell, Utah.

Bring extra food climbing — you don't always have Brian and Rob making breakfast on the back of the pick-up at the San Rafael Swell.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

The eighth survival system on the Mountaineers Ten Essentials list is Nutrition.

When you’re out hiking to cliffs and climbing, you need nutrition. You need to eat. If things go wrong on your climb and you have to spend the night stranded on a cliff or get lost in the dark getting back to your car, you’re going to get hungry. You need to carry extra food so that you can keep your energy up.

If you’re spending a full day or two climbing in mountains, it’s a good idea to bring an extra day’s worth of food. It’s best to bring no-cook items that have long storage times and are easily digested carbohydrates, including energy bars, GORP, nuts, dried fruit, and beef jerky. Also look on the packaging for glycogen or sugar, which provides quick fuel for your muscles.

Energy bars are great for climbing and as extra food. They’re compact, easy to carry, and provide fast energy. I usually carry four to six bars in my pack for a day of climbing. More if I’m spending a couple days out. That way I always have some extra bars because your climbing partner might not bring enough. Their only drawback is price. Bars can be on the pricey side. Look for them on sale at your local grocer. I buy mine in bulk at a discount bargain warehouse and get them for a quarter of the grocery store price. The expiration date might be just around the corner but they are good well past it.

Easy snack foods are good to bring also. GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts), also called trail mix, is a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, M&Ms, and anything else you want to add. It provides a quick pick-up, is easy to carry, and doesn’t go bad. There’s nothing quite as good as sitting in your shelter while it’s raining and munching from a bag of GORP.

A climber can’t subsist on bars alone. For a long day at the cliffs, pack along some real food. If you get benighted, it can help you save yourself the next day instead of staggering around hungry. Beef jerky, pepperoni or salami, cheese, a small tin of tuna, carrots and celery sticks, and crackers are tasty, easy to pack, and easy to carry. I find jerky, which I call “Indian Power Bars,” an ideal foodstuff to complement energy bars. Use a small plastic container with a lid to keep food from getting squashed under your rack and rope.

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