What (and How) to Pack for the Backcountry

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Photo provided by Randall Stacy

This winter, to support and promote safe backcountry skiing, riding, and snowmobiling, Backcountry Access has launched the #Direct2Dirtbag campaign. Eight backcountry skiers, riders, and snowmobilers were chosen to help spread the word about being safe and prepared in avalanche terrain. The team emphasizes what real people, whether they’re photographers, writers, students, or enthusiasts, can do to make good choices in the backcountry and enjoy the ride winter after winter. Each Backcountry Dirtbag was given the latest Tracker3 avalanche beacon and a BCA Float avalanche airbag to use and abuse.

After their first few weeks with their new BCA Float avalanche airbag packs, we asked the Direct2Dirtbag team what other gear they absolutely won’t leave home without. Here are just two of their packing lists

Splitboarder Randall Stacy is no stranger to Backcountry Access. In 2008, Randall was caught in an avalanche at Cerro Cathedral, Argentina. The slide was caught on video, and fortunately he made it out alive thanks to the experienced response team and their BCA Tracker beacons. While the accident hasn’t kept Randall from the mountains, it taught him the importance of education and preparedness. His new 27 Tech is one of the smaller packs in BCA’s Float line, but is also one of the most technical. Randall’s efficient packing makes the most of the volume and technical features.

Randall’s List:

  • Headlamp
  • Leatherman multi-tool
  • BCA shovel
  • BCA 300 cm probe
  • BCA Snow Study Kit
  • Snow Saw
  • 10-20m of 7-8mm rope
  • Harness w/ non-lockers, lockers,prussiks, PAS, and ATC
  • Repair kit
  • BCA Tracker3 (not pictured)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Skins (not pictured)
  • Space Blanket/bivy sack
  • Goggles
  • Extra Gloves
  • Extra Layer
  • Poles
  • Food
  • Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

BjornBauer camera gear

Photo provided by Björn Bauer

For photographer Björn Bauer, getting ready for a day in the mountains means more than packing the usual backcountry gear. He also has to make space for bulky camera equipment. Packing for even the most casual tours was a challenge until he received a Float 42. The main compartment has ample room for stowing heavy gear and extra layers, while the smaller front pocket and zippered tool compartments keeps his avi gear easily accessible. See the full mountain of gear (including go-to camera equipment) that Bjorn carries on his blog.

Björn’s List:

  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • BCA Tracker3
  • Cell phone
  • Spot emergency beacon
  • BC Link radio
  • Helmet
  • Mittens
  • Bright light goggles
  • Flat light goggles
  • Sunglasses
  • Beanie
  • Baseball cap
  • Mid-layer hoodie
  • Down puffy
  • Water
  • Justin’s Nut Butters
  • Sunscreen
  • SPF chapstick
  • Headlamp
  • Spare AAA batteries
  • Multi-tool
  • Climbing tape
  • Pen
  • Prayer flag from Daxue Mountains
  • Lucky egg
  • Camera body
  • 1 to 4 camera lenses
  • Polarizing filters
  • Extra SD cards
  • Spare battery
  • Cleaning tools
  • Olloclip iPhone lens
  • Waterproof speaker
  • Goal Zero power pack
  • Charging cables
  • Flask

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BCA 42 by Bjorn Bauer Photography

Photo provided by Björn Bauer

Once you pack your Float avalanche airbag pack, your next challenge may be traveling with it. The TSA has strict rules that govern whether or not your airbag pack will make it with you on the plane, but by following these simple steps, your pack will be fit to fly.

Step 1: In North America, air cylinders must be completely empty before getting to the airport. (This is a great excuse to practice deploying your Float system.)

Step 2: Once the cylinder is empty, remove the cylinder head from the cylinder.

Step 3: Store both the cylinder and cylinder head together in the same clear plastic bag. We recommend stuffing them in a boot or other padded area so that they don’t get damaged in transit.

Because it’s very likely that the TSA officers at your local airport haven’t seen an airbag pack before, be prepared to explain how it works. Be proactive and take the plastic bag with cylinder and cylinder head out to show the officer while you’re in line at security.

When it comes to traveling with this precious cargo, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful. Give your airline a call a few weeks ahead of your travel date to ask about any special procedures or safeguards you can take to make sure your airbag pack and cylinder makes it to the pow with you.

Once you arrive at your destination, just visit one of BCA’s 200+ refill centers.


When it comes to exploring the backcountry, the Float series from BCA literally has your back. These avalanche airbag packs are equipped to carry all of your essential backcountry gear and are fitted with BCA’s Float Systems technology. While the best way to survive an avalanche is always learning to recognize and avoid the danger, deploying an airbag pack during a slide greatly increases survival rates.

Get to know the #Direct2Dirtbag team and all of their winter adventures on social media. Just search the hashtag #Direct2Dirtbag on Twitter and Instagram.