Mountain Proficiency / Mountain Skills Course Gear List

Weather conditions can change very rapidly in the mountains and conditions on the mountain tops will be very different to that in the valleys.

The following items are normally regarded as essential for high-level 3 season hill-walking in Ireland.

A 30–40 litre backpack is recommended and should have a waist and a chest strap. Backpacks are generally not waterproof and the rain covers that come with them are not that dependable (they blow off, are not that waterproof either and in strong winds act like a kite) so it is best to just use a dry bag inside your pack. Special purpose dry bags are available in various sizes but a cheaper and simpler option is a black refuse sack to line the inside of the entire rucksack and individual luncheon/zip lock bags for keeping car keys, wallet and phone giving extra protection to these vulnerable items.

Ordnance Survey (OS) – Discovery Series Map – Sheet 78 – Scale 1:50,000


A Waterproof Map Case 


Compass (Silva orientating compass recommended)
Compasses come in many shapes and sizes, some good, some bad and some very bad. It is important to know what to look for when you’re buying a compass.

The diagram below shows the essential elements that a compass should have. There are compasses which have more than this but if you buy a compass which has these as a minimum, then you are on the right track.

You get what you pay for when buying a Compass
However, there is a world of difference between a €5 compass and a €35 compass and you really do get what you pay for! Spend wisely and you’ll have a compass that will last for years, will be reliable and won’t let you down. Buy a cheap compass and you’re heading for trouble.

Silva has built up a deserved reputation for the quality and accuracy of their compasses. From their Field compass up to the splendid Expedition & Ranger series, you can be assured you have a compass made to high standards.

Please note that the cheaper makes and brands of compass such as “HighLander”, “Regatta” or “Gelert”are most definitely NOT suitable for our Mountain Navigation/Proficiency or Mountain Skills courses. Expect to pay in the region of €35 – €45 for a much more suitable “Silva” brand compass.

As a magnifying glass or expensive ruler, you might have use for a cheap compass. The main issue with these is the time it takes for the magnetic direction needle to settle on a bearing (if at all!!) and how finicky it is once it gets it, and promptly loses it again. You want to take a bearing as quickly as possible and have 100% confidence in it’s accuracy. Cheap compasses provide neither. They are without some essential features and are basically totally unsatisfactory for what is required.

Beginners guide to the compass>>

Waterproof / windproof jacket and over trousers (breathable fabric recommended but not essential)
Wet is the enemy of warmth, so decent waterproofs are essential to keep you dry. While it is highly recommended that both tops and trousers are of a breathable fabric such as GoreTex or EVent, don’t worry if they’re not as even some sort of  breathability such as chest or hip pockets will act as venting and allow your sweat vapour to escape, otherwise you’ll have the potential of being wet from the “inside out” as condensation builds up on the inside.

Warm inner base layer (not cotton!)
A sports type base layer of moisture wicking material works best such as a sports jersey, jogging or gym top. This will help evaporate off any sweat and stop you feeling the chill when you stop. Cotton is best avoided as it traps moisture and hence doesn’t allow this to happen and when damp, stays damp!

Mid Layer / Warmth layer(s) i.e. fleece/shirt/sweater.
It is better to wear several relatively thin layers than a single thick one so you can more easily adjust your temperature. The Mid Layer absorbs the moisture from your base layer and generally this layer can be wool or fleece which both stay warm when wet, fleece being lighter and quicker to dry. Like the base layer, various fleeces are available to suit different seasons or activities. Micro fleeces are very popular as are windproof fleeces which have the advantage of keeping a chill wind off the body. All are available in crew or zip top neck, this is a personal choice, and fleeces with zips allow more temperature control than crew neck types.

Suitable footwear  (see notes below)

Walking Socks

Head wear i.e. sun protection or a warm hat

Warm Gloves

Gaiters (recommended but not essential )

Adequate amount of drink (1 litre min. ) – flask of hot drink in cold weather

Lunch and snacks ( high energy widely available in shops )

Head Torch with spare batteries

Footwear – The choice of footwear depends on the seriousness of the route, but for a day of navigation, good quality, good fitting comfortable boots (not Doc Martin’s or Steel Toe ! ) are probably the most important part of your kit.  Trainers do not support and protect the feet and ankles adequately, modern light-weight mountain walking boots do, so please do not show up in trainers.

It is advisable to add:-

  • Spare hat and gloves
  • Trekking Pole/Poles
  • High energy emergency food – only intended for use in an emergency
  • Resealable plastic bags to keep equipment dry