Safety Gear for Backcountry Winters

While winter tends to keep most people indoors, there are those of us who love to tie on a pair of warm boots, layer up, and head out into the snow for a hike, a camping trip, or one of any other number of reasons. Winter in the backcountry regions of the country can present some potential emergency situations, though, which means preparation is crucial. If you count yourself as a winter outdoorsman, then keep reading to learn about what kind of gear you should stock up on for those backcountry winters.

A snow shovel is a tool that anyone planning to spend some time in the snow should have with them. They don’t take up too much space and can be used for a number of things, such as avalanche rescue, leveling a tent site, digging a snow shelter, or collecting fresh snow to melt for drinking water.

Another great item to carry with you is a personal locator beacon. If you find yourself in an emergency in the backcountry, you’ll be glad to have a PLB. Once activated, it sends out a signal to satellites that relays your position and alerts search-and-rescue teams.

In areas where avalanches often occur, it’s smart to carry an airbag pack. These packs use compressed air to help prevent burial in an avalanche, which I think everyone would agree is a great asset.

Speaking of avalanche-prone regions, there are some items that are actually required by each member to have when spending time in such regions. A probe, for example, is one such item and is a collapsible pole with depth markings. They’re used to check snow depth but can also be used to search through the snow for avalanche victims. An avalanche receiver is another item required to be carried by each group member. Avalanche transceivers are devices worn on the body that emit a signal. If one is 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 guides the searcher towards the transmitting beacon. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the device, though, before heading out, just so you’re not struggling with in should an actual emergency arise.

I get it; some of us need to get away sometimes and hit the peaceful, quiet winter backcountry for some solitude now and then. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, failing to recognize and prepare for the potentially serious emergencies that can occur while doing so is a mistake that you can’t afford to make. Winter can be unforgiving, especially in the more remote areas of the world. Arm yourself with the items listed above, notify people of where you’ll be, and be smart.