The Whittaker name is all over mountaineering history; Jim Whittaker was the first American to summit Everest, and his twin Lou founded the guide industry on Mount Rainier 50 years ago. Lou’s son Peter took over his dad’s company, Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (and has summited himself 253 times), and the family oversees a complex outside the park that includes an eatery, a sports store, a hotel, and a coffee shop. He’s worked with brands like Marmot, Jansport, and Mountain Hardwear, and even developed the First Ascent line with Eddie Bauer in 2009. In 2016, Peter figured since he had a guide staff of 60 to test and design ideal mountain clothing, he might as well make his own stuff.
“We wanted to build the alpine kit from base layers to puffy jackets that would work on Denali or Everest,” Peter says. He even turned to his guides for the name; one came up with Bight Gear. The term refers to the bend in a climbing rope created by a knot—the part of a rope where climbers connect themselves to each other.
► Mountaineering Over the Hill: RMI celebrates the big 50 with a giant shindig on September 7 at the Ashford base. Peter estimates they’ve guided more than 100,000 people up Rainier since 1969, and they’ll celebrate with everything from presentations about famous climbs to a funk band. rmiguides.com
Black base layers? Not on Rainier, where it can climb to 80 degrees, even on the snow (it’s reflective!). Bight’s next-to-skin layer comes in colors that don’t absorb sunlight, and with oversize hoods and sleeves to the knuckles to protect hands. $69
Quick consensus with his guide testers is basically impossible, notes Whittaker, since getting 60 driven alphas to agree “is like herding cats.” But Bight brags that each piece reflects 100,000 vertical feet of testing, and one aspect of their synthetic jacket is almost universally beloved—it’s long enough in the torso to cover any bare skin around the waist that peeks out when you bend over. $329
Caldera Down Parka
The oversize puffy layer is for the frigid hours of climbing right before sunrise. Overall, Whittaker says, design was about simplifying each piece and eliminating what’s unnecessary; neither guides nor weekend warriors want to fiddle with extra cords, zippers, or doohickeys. One feature testers insisted on: interior stash pockets that hold “snacks for days.” $499