Gear Review: What to Carry in Your Ski Pack This Winter

By BCA Ambassador Matt Wade

Can’t wait to ski this season? Us too! In order to hit the backcountry when the first flakes fall, now is the time to get your gear ready. Following is a list of items our guides carry in their packs on an average day of ski touring.

1. BCA Float Avalanche Airbag Backpack – carries great, has FLOAT protection, and holds all of the items in this photo (plus water, food, and clothing).

2. Repair Kit – includes glide wax, skin wax, multi-tool with pliers and scissors, extra batteries, lighter, ski pole basket, skin tail clip & tip loop, zip ties, binding screws, binding screwdriver, 30’ of 7mm nylon cord to assemble a rescue sled, and 25’ of 3mm nylon cord for isolating large columns and cutting cornices.

3. BCA B-1 EXT Shovel – light, strong and packs small.

4. Goggles – with light lenses for low visibility conditions.

5. Field Notebook & Map – the field notebook contains a written trip plan for the day and the map is used for navigation in the field.

6. Extra Gloves – One pair of warm gloves for the downhill and one light, dextrous pair for skinning and climbing.

7. BCA Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon – easy to use, three antennas for accurate pinpointing, and a super fast processor for quick searches.

8. BCA Stealth Carbon Avalanche Probe – incredibly light, very rigid, has centimeter marking for snow profile work, and the Stealth assembly is easy and fast.

9. Snow Saw – used for isolating columns in snowpack tests.

10. Climbing Skins – good grip for climbing and smooth glide for flats.

11. iPhone/Android Phone – with the following very useful apps: TopoMaps or Gaia GPS (overlays your GPS position on a USGS topo map), BCA app w/slope angle tool, CAIC app (for avalanche bulletins), and MyRadar Pro.

12. Alpine Threadworks Rescue Sled/Emergency Tarp – can be used to haul an injured person to the road and also doubles as an emergency shelter.

13. InReach Satellite Device – used to send text messages via satellite. Reliable communication from anywhere in the world.

14. Rubberized Ski Straps – used to strap skis on a pack, attach a splint, improvise a broken ski boot buckle, etc.

15. Headlamp – a small, lightweight LED version for pre-dawn starts or late exits.

16. First Aid Kit – with materials to manage minor trauma or minor medical issues.

17. Sunscreen & Lip Balm – sunscreen is carried in a small 1 ounce bottle to save space and weight.

18. Chemical Toe Warmers – can be a lifesaver when doing full snow profiles in cold, stormy weather.

19. Warm Hat & Buff Neck/Headband – covers all the bases for a warm head and neck.

20. Altimeter Watch – used for navigation in the field (along with the map, compass, and GPS).

21. Sunglasses – dark lenses for bright conditions.

22. Crystal Card & Magnifying Loupe – used to identify snow grains.

23. Baseball Cap – for head and face protection on sunny days or when breaking trail on snowy days.

24. Compass – handheld compass for field navigation.

For trips that venture further from the road, we often carry a BC Link handheld radios, an insulated pad, a more robust repair kit, a lightweight battery backup for the phone, and in some cases a very lightweight stove. Have fun out there and happy packing!


BCA Ambassador Matt Wade is an AMGA Certified Ski Guide with Peak Mountain Guides.