Backcountry Day Trip – What to Pack?

Backcountry Day Trip – What to Pack?
Last year was my first season Splitboarding. I got out for a few trips and loved it. I am looking to get out much more this season. Other than getting out on my board I love to see what gear is out there and what people pack on various trips. Packing your bag is a personal process and what works for me may not work for everyone. After you get out on your first few tours you will be able to start tweaking what you bring so you can get the most out of your days in the backcountry. Let start by looking at the staples, these are the things that you will need regardless of your preference, trip duration, and location.
  • Touring Skis or Splitboard
  • Skins (Cut to fit your Skis or Splitboard)
  • Poles
  • Avalanche Beacon (fully charged)
  • Extra batteries
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • First-aid Kit (contents up to you)
  • Repair Kit (contents up to you)
Even with these staples, there is no one size fits all approach here. Starting with your skis or splitboard, there are many different shapes, widths, and binding combinations you can choose from. One consideration to think of - are you about the way up or the way down? For most beginners striking a balance is the best approach to have the best day. Find something that will not be crazy difficult on the uphill and something that you will enjoy on the way down. You will hear this a lot but know your gear and how it works. Practice transitions and get familiar with how everything works. The most important thing for skins is something that fits your skis or split. You must make sure it is cut properly or it may be a bit tougher out there than you were hoping for. In touring poles, typically, you will want a longer grip for side hilling on the skin track and an adjustable pole will make the way up easier and more efficient. If you are splitboarding a collapsible pole that you can store on your pack is a must. Moving on to avy rescue gear; the shovel needs to be metal with a telescopic handle. These features are a must so you can cut through the snow and ice while also being able to pack your shovel conveniently. For the probe, it will be location-dependant. if you are staying a little bit more local to the Edmonton and Calgary area, a 300cm probe will be fine for the typical Alberta snowpack. If you have room in your pack the longer the probe the better. Your shovel and probe must fit in your pack with the zippers closed! There are quite a few avalanche beacons out there, the key thing here is that your beacon has three antennas. Three antennas make the beacon more accurate no matter the orientation. Some of the beacons will have some extra features, for example, a motion-sensing return to transmit mode, audible changes when close to a victim, etc. The key with all the safety gear is to know how to use it. I cannot recommend an avalanche safety training course enough. At the beginning of every season check, your gear to make sure it is working properly and meet up with your crew if you can to run through some rescue drills and refresh your search techniques. Again, practice makes perfect. If the worst happens you don’t want to have to think. You can even practice in a playground before the snow falls. Throw a beacon in a Ziplock bury it in the sand and practice searching for it! Now that we have covered the absolute essentials we can run through the more personal kit. This bit of kit is to make your day as enjoyable as possible, get you out of some jams, and keep you warm if you happened to get stuck overnight. I always carry extra gloves, an extra toque, and a down insulated puffy that is easy to throw on when transitioning - it helps if it is super packable. Next, I am taking 2 liters of water and a hot tea with some sugar. I recommend collapsible water bottles to help save space as you drink. Electrolytes are super important! Powdered sports drinks are a good idea, but experiment and find something you like. For food throughout the day, I suggest calorie-dense foods that are easy to eat on the move and remember to take your garbage with you if you have any! That covers the fuel and extra clothes. The final few items you should take are a map of the area you plan to be in for the day and a compass. Fatmap, Google Earth and Gaia are good resources for 3D maps. Most map software requires a wireless network so you will need to download or screenshot the map before you enter the backcountry. Keep in mind that if your phone dies you will need a backup navigation tool like a physical map and compass. Next, a repair kit is a must. During my first trip out my partner's binding broke an if we didn’t have a repair kit, the trip back to the car would have been a brutally long walk. The repair kit goes hand and hand with knowing your gear. You should carry tools that are required to tighten anything that could come loose on your skis or split. I carry a multitool that contains various knives, screwdriver bits, and pliers. If you splitboard, carrying spare screws and straps is a good idea. A small scraper is handy to remove ice from your base, so the skins stick all day. Ski straps are your best friend in the backcountry, use them for added grip, to keep a frozen skin on your ski, fix a broken binding, or to secure a splint. Finally, let’s look at your emergency kit. You should carry some sort of satellite communication device that allows you to contact search and rescue teams if the worst happens. Some devices allow you to send preprogrammed text messages in case you are running late - this can save your friends and family some worry. Communication with your group is also essential. Two-way radios can make it much easier to connect with your party and support in sticky situations. A first aid kit that is big enough for the length of your trip and your crew size is important. It should be able to cover anything from blisters and scrapes to broken bones. A triangular bandage is also a must for larger cuts or to use as a sling! In the backcountry you can often find branches or use some of your gear to create splints and or toboggans to help get someone to safety. Looking into taking at least a basic first aid course or even a wilderness first aid course is a really good idea so you know what you are doing and just like with avalanche training, you can kick in gear during an emergency. A way to start fires is another great tool in case you get stuck overnight or need to keep warm during the day. It is important to know what is in your kit, where it is in your pack, and how to use it. What you carry in your pack will depend on where you are going, the goals of your trip, and how big your group is. Some items you will be able to share the load between members of your group to save weight. Keep in mind certain items may work well for some and not others. Start with the staples and experiment with what you put in your pack to stay efficient and safe. Talk to your friends, local shop staff, and do your research online to see what others have in their pack and why. Remember getting into the backcountry is a constant learning process, get as much education as you can, there is always more to learn. Above all, stay safe, have fun, and chase that POW!