Besides your basic equipment, it’s important to stay safe and comfortable in the backcountry. Here are the 10 items I never leave home without to make sure I have a great day!
Avalanche Pack- If you’re going to be in snow on a slope, then some basic avalanche gear is required. An avalanche pack should be equipped with an airbag system than can increase your chances of survival should the worst happen. My personal favorite is the Pieps/Black Diamond Jetforce pack. Sure, it’s expensive, but if you plan on traveling by air to ski in the backcountry, this pack will save you time, energy and money in the long run. Powered by an electric fan, this airbag requires only a full battery charge to deploy up to four times (although you should probably head home if you have to deploy it even once). Not only is it technically excellent, but the pack itself is comfortable and convenient, with a back-zip that makes the entire pack accessible, and a specialized front pocket for your probe and shovel that opens quickly. I’m a big fan of the swing arm system which displaces uneven loads across both shoulders. The packs’ tall, narrow design keeps it close to your body so it doesn’t affect your balance while kick-turning up icy slopes. Of course, always practice on low consequence routes when you get a new pack. Once you’ve used it for a season, it will become a part of you!
Beacon- Seriously, never leave home without this! And the knowledge to use it. There are a ton of great beacons out there with a lot of features. If you are new to avalanche territory, I suggest getting a simpler beacon and getting really good at using it. Make sure that you PRACTICE with it multiple times per season. My favorite easy-to-use beacon is the Tracker2 from BCA. Excellent for single burials, but requires a bit more skill for multiples. This season there is a new Barryvox from Mammut. With a ton of features, and the option to use an analog setting, this beacon delivers every tool available to help you in a search. Don’t forget: Practice makes perfect!!
Layers- Multiple layers is always the key to keeping comfy in any outdoor situation. My favorite mid-layer is my Melanzana hoodie. Lightweight and warm, this thing stands the test of time and is thin enough to layer up perfectly! I also carry a Primaloft puffy for ultimate warmth, plus I can pack it down into a small corner of my pack. If this thing gets wet, no worries! The synthetic fill will still insulate me.
Beanie- I’m a little biased, but I never go anywhere in the winter without my LahLah Boombox Beanie. Its important to stay aware in the backcountry, so I don’t always use the speakers. But when I’m hiking a well-protected, established skin-track or going for a flatland cruise, I love having some background music to keep me moving and stoked! Since the speakers aren’t jammed in my ears like headphones, I can still hear whats going on around me. It’s like adding a soundtrack to a ski movie- starring myself!!
Water-Hydration, hydration, hydration! I know you’ve heard it a million times, but the ability of water to improve and maintain your performance cannot be overstated. Tired on the skin track?Drink water. Altitude got your head pounding? Drink water. Broken arm? Seek medical help and drink water. I prefer to store my H2O in a Platypus bottle, since its easy to squeeze into a pack. Always be aware of keeping your water from freezing, this may mean wrapping it in your extra layers to insulate it or placing it next to a thermos of coffee or tea.
Snacks- This is mostly a matter of preference, but at the very least, make sure you carry a little protein, some fast carbs and sugar. My go-to is Clif bars, Honey Stinger gels and your basic trail mix. Im also a big fan of a small thermos of sugary tea, like honey ginger. If your going to pack gummies and bars, make sure they don’t freeze, so you don’t end up spending more time chewing than skiing. Always pack more than you think you need, in case you end up burning extra calories during a rescue.
Buff-The versatility of a buff makes it an important piece of equipment, and way too cheap to just carry one! From face mask to sweatband to handkerchief, there is nothing it can’t accomplish. My favorite combination is to pull it headband-style over a ball cap on a sunny hike. This way, your ears stay warm, your hats stays in place, and your hair stays off your neck, ventilating you as you climb. We have some pretty nice ones available in our online shop, why not grab a couple to keep in your pack?
Skin Wax- On a warm and squishy day, these little purple blocks are as valuable as gold! Glop Stopper from Black Diamond is an easy rub-on wax that you can treat your skins with at the trailhead and ensure smooth gliding all day. Even still, it’s good to take with you to rack up owed beers from your buddies cursing about the sticky snowballs affixed to their skins. Sign of a pro.
Extras-Because anything can happen out there, you should bring some extras of certain items. I already mentioned snacks and buffs, but add in gloves, goggles, layers for upper and lower body, socks and water. If you aren’t bringing extra layers, make sure that you’re wearing wool or synthetic that will continue to insulate even when wet. A bad day can be easily avoided by the ability to stay dry and warm.
Reward Beer- At the end of a day in the backcountry, it’s important to reward yourself for a safe adventure with a tasty beverage waiting at the bottom!!
What are your favorite backcountry accessories? Leave a comment below!