8 Safety Tools You’ll Need For Your Winter Backcountry Adventure

We are so excited for winter, which means we get to ski epic powder lines in the backcountry of our favorite areas. There is nothing better than cruising down the mountain with nothing but fresh snow in front of you and all your worries behind you.

Here is what a beautiful backcountry day can look like on Mt. Shasta:


The only worry you have to keep in the back of your mind when you’re backcountry skiing is safety. Many people lose their lives every year due to accidents and avalanches.

It is VERY important to be prepared for these situations. Now you just need the right gear to get you through any danger. So we’ve put together a list of the 8 safety tools you should have when you head into the backcountry on the mountain:

8. Avalanche Beacon

Serious talk here – this is the tool that’s going to save your life in the case of an avalanche. Without a beacon to let people know where you’re located, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone buried in the snow.

Avalanche transceivers are devices that emit a pulsed radio signal. If one gets buried in an avalanche, other transceivers carried by the party pick up the signal being emitted from under the snow. The receiving transceivers interpret the signal into a visual and audible display that assists the search.

Here is a really nice beacon (pictured above) for $277:

Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Beacon 2015 B-30000

Here is a beacon that is a little more affordable for $198.60:

Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Avalanche Beacon One Size

Make sure you know what you’re doing before you ascend up the mountains:

7. Climbing skins

Climbing skins are very important to help get you where you want to go on the mounatin, but they also serve as a tool when you’re stuck in a dangerous situation. If you’re stuck somewhere on the mountain, or need to get up into an area in case of an emergency, the skins will get you where you’re going.

You just attach these bad boys onto your skis or splitboard and you can go (almost) anywhere!

Here is a really nice pair of skins from Black Diamond for $169.95:

Black Diamond Ascension STS Ski Skin 2016 – Orange Print 140mm

Here is a more affordable option from G3 for $138.95:

G3 Expedition Climbing Skin Silver/Red, 110mm

Here is a little “how to” video on how to use your climbing skins:

6. Snow Saw

In the case of an emergency dig, a snow saw can significantly cut your time digging. As you cut into the snow, it can create blocks in which to remove the snow with a shovel. When you are racing against the clock in an avalanche situation, this can save a life.

Here is a very nice snow saw for $99.95 (pictured above):

Black Diamond Snow Saw Pro, Ultra Blue

Here is a more affordable option for $33.95:

Backcountry Access Snow Saw One Color, 35cm

5. Shovel

The shovel is the obvious tool that you’ll need for a lot of different situations, dangerous or not. While a shovel can be used in emergency situations like digging someone out of an avalanche, it can also help if someone gets stuck in the snow. 

Here is a great shovel that can break down to fit in your pack for $24.40:

AAA 4004 Red Aluminum Sport Utility Shovel

4. Avalanche Probe

If you’ve ever watched a video about digging someone out of an avalanche, you know how important it is to have a probe to find that person. A beacon can only lead so far and the probe will finish the search job to locate the exact location of the person in the snow. It’s important to know exactly where and how deep the person is in order to manage your precious time wisely.

Here is a great probe from Black Diamond (picture above) for $59.95:

Black Diamond QuickDraw Probe Tour, Fire Red

And here is a more affordable probe from Backcountry Access for $49.04:

Backcountry Access Stealth Probe – Aluminum 240cm

Of course, you should know exactly how to use the probe before you head up the mountain:

3. Walkie Talkies

Here’s an obvious tool for anyone going into the backcountry. Not only are walkie talkies great to coordinate drops and navigate terrain with your fellow adventurers, but they’re also imperative if you need to coordinate a rescue.

Here is an inexpensive 4-pack of walkie talkies for $59.90:

Ansoko Long Range Walkie Talkies Amateur Two Way Radios FRS/GMRS 16-Channel 2-Way Radio (Pack of 4)

And here is a cool bluetooth walkie talkie set that can fit into your helmet for $98.99:

Toprui E6 BT Bluetooth Intercom 1200m Range 6 Drivers Full-Duplex Call Waterproof Wireless Motorcycle Helmet Intercom Headset And Walkie-Talkie Sports Ski Climbing(2 Pack )

2. Air Bag System

An air bag system is one of the most underrated safety tools you can have when skiing in an avalanche prone area. It has been said that an air bag will save about 1/2 of the people who use them during an avalanche. If you get stuck in an avalanche, you can deploy your airbag and you will (in theory) float to the top of the snow.

While this is the most expensive tool you’ll find on this list, how much is your life worth?

Here is a really nice airbag from Black Diamond for $1,099.95:

Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack, Black, Small/Medium

Or for about half that price, you can get this airbag from Backcountry Access for $549.95:

Backcountry Access Float 32 Avalanche Airbag Backpack – Black/Red

Watch to see how an airbag works during an avalanche:

1. First Aid Kit

In the (hopefully) rare case of any mountain rescue, you are going to need the tools to revive or care for anyone that has been injured. You want your first aid kit to be lightweight and include all of the important safety tools. It’s good to have a winter specific first aid kit, but any wilderness first aid kit should work fine.

Here is a snow-specific first aid kit for $35.86:

Lifesystem Snow Sports First Aid Kit

Here is a regular wilderness first aid kit for $28.49:

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Day Tripper First Aid Kit

Please be safe on the mountain and enjoy your back country adventure! Make sure you know how to use all of your equipment before heading up the mountain.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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