This final piece in the series will wrap up the essential gear list for backcountry skiing in Alaska. However, it must be stressed that no one gear list will work for everyone. Different people need different things. A balaclava, buff, and/or a camera might make many other people’s lists as would a bunch of other miscellaneous items. But the trick is to take a look at what’s been laid out here, understand why it’s been recommended and used in the past, then adapt it and mold it to your own personal needs. Also, since there’s a good amount of items in this final piece, links will be embedded often so you can check out items at your discretion.
Any will do, but some turn into a probe, and some are collapsible. That’s what I’ve used for a while now, Black Diamond collapsible poles, and I find these are the best option for backcountry skiing. When I’m boot-packing I can collapse my poles for better efficiency while hiking. Likewise depending on how deep and steep the skin track is I adjust the size while on the up, and change them back for a proper skiing length on the down. They also strap to my pack easily when collapsed if I’m using another tool to climb on an ascent such as an ice axe. Leki also makes a sweet backcountry specific pole, The Vario, which is what I used this season in Alaska. At first they struck me as “the poles” as their grip are far superior to any pole I’ve ever used. They also have a nice swing quality when touring and are easily managed on the down. However, the tips on both of my poles ended up breaking while shifting my Dynafit bindings in tour mode so be aware of that issue if you do go with these poles, and either go easy on them or have a spare tip or two in your repair kit.
Glacier Kit: Depending on your program and your objectives this list could be as simple as a harness, two prusiks, and three locking carabiners. It could also get way more involved so I’ll include it all and let you decide.
Harness: Black Diamond
Snow Picket or Fluke: MSR
Wands: Check out the link and make your own with brightly colored tape and Willow branches, or you can usually buy them at a hardware store or mountaineering shop.
Ice Screw(s): Black Diamond
Carabiners: Locking (1) and Non (6)-Black Diamond
Cordolette (20 ft.): At any good gear, mountaineering, or climbing shop will have some.
Runners (3-Long): Black Diamond
Prusiks: One hand, One foot-Metolius
Rope: 8mm, 30m, Beal. Review
Basic Ski Mountaineering Equipment
The following pieces of gear are commonly used to access ski terrain that has more complex features. Steep couloirs, firm skinning surfaces, and “no-fall zones” are when these items commonly get pulled out for use.
Proper Clothing System: The basics are pretty much what you want for inbounds skiing, but specifically married to backcountry skiing. You want to think about breathability and quick changeovers. Just remember lighter is better, and a lifetime warranty is worth the extra bucks up front.
Base Layer: Patagonia
Softshell Jacket: OR
Hat: Something like this will do
Sunglasses: Smith. Always the best.
Goggles: Smith. Same as the sunglasses.
Hydration: Bladder- Camelback, but it’s usually too cold for a bladder system, unless you have a Platypus tucked in your jacket, so my advice is get comfy with some form of canteen or water Bottle (make sure either choice is BPA free).
Snow Study Kit
This makes no sense to own unless you know how to use the tools. Brooks Range makes some of the better products on the market to either put a snow study kit together yourself, piece-by-piece, or you can buy one of their fully stocked packages. Life-Link also sells a solid snow study kit package complete with everything you need to analyse a snow pit properly.
Think about what you might need out in the field for yourself, but a basic list might look like: duct tape, extra binding parts, super glue, a Leatherman, zip ties, and wire.
There are 7 main parts to a basic survival kit, however first aid deserves its own listing, and a Leatherman/multi-tool was listed above in the repair kit section. The other parts that make up a basic survival kit include paracord, something to make a shelter out of (an emergency poncho or blanket, or a reflective emergency blanket), something to conduct signaling like a reflective mirror and/or whistle (non-visual), methods of food procurement, water procurement, and a way to create fire. Now it’s extremely unlikely that you’re going to carry a stove and fuel, a water pump, and slingshot to hit those last three items, but you can adapt this basic list to backcountry skiing in AK. For example, you could carry a lighter/waterproof matches, and extra energy food. Also try and get a durable, waterproof container to keep everything organized and protected in your pack.
Go as basic as Advil, Band-Aids, an ace bandage, gauze, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, and some sterile nonlatex gloves, or go big and get nuts with a plethora of first aid kits widely available from numerous distributors depending on where you look and what you want.