Equipment checklist for winter backcountry travel

Mountain safety

Being well prepared and properly equipped for backcountry travel is essential. The equipment and clothing that you bring with you on your mountain trip has a direct effect on your safety and comfort. Its important to think carefully about each item you'd like to bring, and prioritize what's essential - and what's not.

Spend some time with your equipment before leaving on the trip - learn how it works, make sure it fits, and run through the checklist one more time before leaving home. Mountain weather can be fickle, ranging from baking heat one minute, to cold and windy the next. Layering your clothing is the most efficient strategy to deal with this, and allows you adjust your temperature with the weather conditions. Try to think of your clothing as a system, with one piece complimenting the other.

This list can be used as a guide when preparing for your trip. Not every item listed here will be necessary on every trip - but go through the list and decide what is necessary for your trip.

Clothing suggestions

  • Fleece jacket or warm sweater
  • Warm pants with a cuff to keep out the snow
  • Shelled jacket and/or pants (water repellent/breathable)
  • Long underwear top and bottom q Insulated jacket (down, synthetic, etc)
  • Warm socks with liner socks (reduce blisters)
  • Warm hat or sun hat
  • Warm, shelled gloves or mitts

Personal equipment

  • Pack (well fitting, 30-40 litres for day trips)
  • Avalanche transceiver (with strong batteries)
  • Collapsible avalanche probe
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection
  • Water bottle and/or thermos, and food
  • Lighter or waterproof matches
  • Pocketknife
  • Camera
  • Headlamp (good during the darkest months)

Equipment for travel on snow

  • Skis, snowboard, or snowshoes
  • Poles with good baskets
  • Comfortable ski or snowboard boots
  • Skins (fit well with lots of glue - check at home!)

Group equipment

  • First-aid kit
  • Cell or Sat phone (record emergency numbers)
  • Bivouac sac or small tarp (emergency shelter)
  • Map and compass (bring route info)
  • Repair kit

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