Backback Essentials for Freeriders
A special ritual that is called packing a backpack on the evening before you go skiing. Step by step. What’s the weather forecast saying? Cold and sunny with some clouds or cloudy and damp with occasional snowfall. Depending on the weather there are small deviations in the equipment.
The ideal size of a backpack varies from person to person; normally it’s something between 18 l an 32 l. Though the 18 liter can sometimes be too small, especially if you have an airbag backpack. With the later, space really becomes a valuable asset. Both balloon and mechanism take up quite a lot of space. Most of skiers prefer to have a backpack with straps for carrying skis.
The "bluebird" day
- Avalanche equipment: Shovel, light, small, packs small, telescopic handle if possible. Made from aluminum, plastic is not ok. Avalanche transceiver, one that you know how to use. Probe, light, easy and fast to assemble, with centimeter marking for snow profile work and in case of an accident.
- Goggles and if you plan a longer walk sun glasses too. It quickly gets hot in goggles, and they get blurry.
- Map of the terrain where you will be skiing, for navigation.
- Extra pair of gloves, one pair of gloves is for the downhill and one light for uphill. Or in case one pair gets wet.
- Climbing skins, one that fits on your skis, obviously. And preferably with smooth glide for flats.
- First aid kit – with materials to manage minor trauma or minor medical issues.
- Astro foil blanket or space blanket. We know it under several names. In case of an accident to keep the injured person warm.
- Ski straps, preferably rubberized. Used to strap skis on backpack, attach a splint and improvising.
- Headlamp – a small lightweight LED for pre-dawn starts or late exits. With extra batteries.
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Toe warmers – can be a life saver when doing a fill snow profiles in cold.
- Hat and tabu – hat keeps you warm while tabu protects your neck against snow.
- Altimeter watch – used for navigation in the field (along with the map, compass and GPS)
- Repair kit – multi-tool with pliers and scissors, extra batteries, lighter, zip ties, cord duct tape.
- Phone – to make a call in case of an accident and with useful apps such as maps, weather forecast.
- Action camera, if you want to capture your adventures.
The bad weather
As mentioned in the beginning, there are small deviations in case of a bad weather. We would probably skip sun glasses and put on light lenses for low visibility conditions. Moreover, extra clothes, especially if it is very humid. Dry clothes are essential to keep you warm.
All the above isn’t mandatory equipment with few exceptions like avalanche equipment, first aid kit, etc. Over time, you will figure out what is best for you, what equipment you need and so on. The more you are up in the mountains, the more experiences you will get. And with experiences it gets a little bit easier. You check the forecast and you know what to take on a day of skiing.
Don’t forget the food and drinks. You can have sandwiches oat bars, energy bars, gels. Figure out what is best for you. Learn from mistakes. Same goes for drinks, some prefer hot or warm tea and some, me in this case, cooled or cold tea/water.
I learned from experiences that is best to pack your backpack in the evening before the day of skiing. You have enough time to go through all the equipment, double check, and you can sleep longer in the morning. If you have to do this in the morning, it usually means a bad start of the day. My opinion.
Writen by: Jan Palovsnik, freeride skier
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