There are some good reasons for renting ski-touring gear, most typically when we travel far way from home and we do not wish to carry all the gear with us.
Here are some tips on how to arrange for a successful renting experience of your skis (or snowboard), poles, skins, and possibly: helmet, crampons and ice axe, avalanche beacon, probe, shovel, airbag rucksack, camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, stove), down jacket.
SKI BOOTS: we do not recommend to rent ski touring boots. Please be patient and take your boots with you. Ski boots are too much a personal item, just perfectly fitting your feet and probably most suitable to your skiing style. If you rent ski boots, it is very unlikely that you will get a perfectly comfortable and efficient boot. Boots for rent are used by many skiers, the inner shoe is probably deformed, and the sole worn out; moreover few shops perform a complete procedure of sanitation.
You may occasionally rent boots for skiing on piste, but hopefully not for ski touring.
RUCKSACK: why renting a rucksack ? Take your own, it may also serve as a convenient storage bag store while travelling. Shops are generally not well organized for renting rucksacks and they will likely give you a lousy one. An airbag rucksack is a totally different story, see further on.
CLOTHING: please do not rent clothing, instead take your own. Like ski boots, clothing is a strictly personal stuff. If for some reasons you actually leave without items such as ski socks, goggles, jacket, purchase them locally brand new. We may suggest as exceptions the helmet (see further on) and a down jacket (should you occasionally foresee bivouacs in a very cold region).
Let’s follow with the most commonly items that may be indeed considered for renting.
Be sure to have provided the correct data for a consistent choice of skis or snowboard (body parameters, skill level, skiing style, details of skiing activity, boot size).
Once collected at the shop, check the skis or snowboard: they must present no visible damage and be perfectly tuned (edges and ski base, waxed).
As for bindings, ask for the pin- low tech type for classic ski touring (not the super light racing type nor the heavy freeride type).
Bring your boots and have the correct adjustment of the bindings made and fully checked by the shop assistant. Check both the climbing (skinning up) movement and the locking for downhill skiing.
Ask for ski crampons as well and check that their fit perfectly to the skis and bindings.
Make sure to choose good quality poles and of the correct length.
Make sure that the hair is in good conditions and that the glue has sufficient adhesion property. Prefer the traditional adhesive glue rather than the vacuum (glue-less) type. Mount the skins on the skis or snowboard to check that their fit perfectly.
Steel crampons are more robust but much heavier than the aluminum type. We suggest the latter for classic and easy ski touring on glacier. In any case, prefer the type with lanyards fixed both on the rear (heel) and front (toe). Check that all points (10 to 14) are sharp enough for a good grip on ice.
Finally, carefully check that they fit to you boots tightly and perfectly.
If you foresee classic ski touring itineraries and glacier walks, go for a medium size ice axe (60 cm), straight or lightly curved, with a robust blade. You can choose an aluminum axe to save weight, but make sure that the blade is in steel. Check for good conditions of the blade without rust.
Shops have generally a wide choice of helmets, because they are often demanded by the skiers on piste, too. Choose a model not older than 4 years (see the production date in the inner label), that you feel comfortable with and that offers a good protection to the temple region. Check that the lanyards and locking device function properly.
Make sure that the shop performs a suitable sanitation procedure of the helmets for rent.
If you know and are used to one specific model, ask for it. Otherwise, is imperative to choose a recent digital 3-antennas model. Ask the shop assistant to show you how to switch on/off the device and the basic functions for normal use. Check that you have at least 60% battery.
Once you join your group, make a function test with them and take the time to perform a full search simulation exercise with an expert or pro, before leaving for the first run.
Ask for a 240 cm aluminum probe. Check that the probe is straight (no bent sections) and that the tightening cable and locking device are in good conditions and work properly. The probe should be delivered with a protection bag.
Get a modern light aluminum shovel, with telescopic handle, and of suitable size. Avoid the super-light plastic and small size shovel used by the racers.
This is a rather technical and expensive item. Even a large shop may have just few for rent, therefore book it well in advance. There are plenty of models, basically with two types of technology: inflation of air (or nitrogen or CO2) by means of a compressed gas bottle, or by an electric fan. The second type is preferable because allows you to make several tests of inflation before the first run, whereas the first type requires a new bottle or a gas refilling after every test.
If you are given a gas bottle type, check that the bottle is fully charged of gas. If you are given the electric fan type, check that the battery is fully charged.
Finally, choose a model with sufficient capacity of the rucksack (at least 25 lt for one day ski tours).
If you are totally new with airbags, it may be not a good idea just to rent one and go, unless your group is coordinated by a truly expert ski mountaineer or mountain guide who knows well how airbag work, and can teach you accordingly.
Tents are a quite common item given out for rent, but often they are delivered badly worn out. Check that the roof texture is in good conditions and that all zippers open and close perfectly. Check also the good conditions of the poles and pegs. As for pegs, they shall be in the correct quantity (better have 1-2 extra spare) and suitable to the terrain (hard ground, snow, etc.).
As for which tent type to choose, the double-roof type are more robust against wind and snow loads, but much heavier. For a few days use, choose a single roof model but of good quality and of a major brand such as North Face or Mountain Hardware. The so-called pagoda (geodetic) shaped tents suffer the wind loads much less than the traditional V-type ridge tent or U-type tunnel tents.
Make a test mounting before going for your first adventure !
SLEEPING BAG + PAD
We suggest not to rent a sleeping bag. Since it is a very personal item, take your own. Nowadays there are very efficient compression bag that can reduce the volume of even heavy winter type sleeping bags.
If you still decide to rent one, make sure that the shop performs a suitable sanitation procedure and always use it with your personal light liner inside.
As for the choice of a model, select the volume/weight suitable to the temperature range that you are going to face. Ask the shop for advice, but indicatively, a man (with only underware) may sleep well at -5°C with a 600 cu-in bag of 1,5 kg weight. A woman may go for 1,8 kg for added warmth.
The natural goose down is by many aspects superior than the cheaper artificial down, but the latter is the one you will likely get for rental, and would be ok in most situations.
Just make sure that is of recent production and still having a good volume. Remember that even a top quality – top brand down sleeping bag, if too old or over-used, may be much less efficient than a lower quality but new bag.
Also, choose a bag of a length suitable to your height or a little longer.
Finally, get a good quality sleeping pad. An excellent sleeping bag with a poor quality pad will not work, since thermal insulation on ground is key. A closed cells type provides a good insulation, better than the cheaper foam type pads. Both types are so bulky that are generally carried out of the rucksack. If you wish a less bulky and lighter pad, choose the inflatable type, but be aware that in case of puncture it becomes useless.
As for the sleeping bag, we consider it a rather personal item to be carried along and not rented. However, should you decide to rent one, choose the filling and the weight according to the expected temperature range. As for the down type (natural goose or artificial feathers) the same consideration as for the sleeping bag apply.
Check that the size fits well on top of your third layer and make sure that all zippers open and close perfectly. Try it with the hood closed and be sure that you get a full protection even in windy conditions.
When in use outdoor, remember that a down jacket may be damaged and made unusable by rain (especially the natural goose type).
Many adventurers wish to rent gas stoves for bivouac purposes. However, stoves given out for renting are often in poor conditions and not fully reliable. For such a critical item, we suggest to take your own, well known and well tested stove.
If you still decide to rent one, make sure of the availability on site, since is not such a common item for rental. In Europe you will certainly get a gas stove, this is anyway much easier to use than the white gas (liquid) or benzin type. Ask for a standard Coleman-type thread and make sure to get also a new gas bottle fully compatible with the stove. New bottles are delivered with a safety plastic plug that must be torn apart for the first use.