Winter Fun: Pack Well to Prevent Calamity

Xcountry skiers

Winter is coming -- do you have what you need?

 The World Series starts next week and the hockey season is already here.  You know what that means for our favorite mountains?  Snow and ice! 

Taking the Ten Essentials is a start, but in general, winter calls for some other necessities too.  In addition to layers, such as a long base layer, fleece and shells, be sure you’re ready to traverse the terrain ahead and that you have key spare items. 

Below is a list of the key items and items to consider packing for a day-long journey, broken down through a winter hike, say in the valley, or some light mountaineering (non-vertical alpine) up a winter trail in the Adirondacks or some parts of the Cascades, for example. 

Winter Hike:

  • Sturdy boots (a full-grain leather boot should be worn with extra socks at a minimum, but insulated winter boots are preferred, and rigid-soled boots, such as mountaineering boots, may also be practical)
  • Gaiters
  • Long Underwear
  • Extra pair of gloves/mittens (it’s a terrible situation when one or both of your original pair are lost)
  • Extra hat with ear coverings
  • Extra flashlight (and keep the batteries insulated and warm)
  • Thermos
  • Pocket/toe warmers
  • Snowshoes or skis

Alpine Ascent:

In addition to the items on the Winter Hike list, take…

  • Insulated jacket
  • Insulated pants
  • Crampons (a pair of 10-point tie-in/strap-on crampons should suffice for bald summits and sloped ice; clip-in crampons for rigid mountaineering boots are better for encountering vertical ice.) 
  • General Mountaineering Ice Axe (choose an axe by the traditional method where by holding the head at your side, the spike should reach your ankle, though some today disagree with me.  See my article on this here.)
  • Ski goggles
  • Sleeping bag (this is for an emergency and may be worth packing!)
  • Altimeter

And as a refresher, these are the Ten Essentials that the Mountaineers organization out of Seattle recommend everyone bring, at a minimum, when they venture into the backcountry:

  1. Compass
  2. Extra Food (take more than the trip calls for)
  3. Fire Starter (such as a candle or magnesium block)
  4. First Aid Kit (with any necessary medication)
  5. Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  6. Jacket (keep out wind and precipitation)
  7. Knife (pocket knife usually does well enough)
  8. Map
  9. Matches (store in water tight container)
  10. Whistle 

And lastly, tell someone where you are going and when you intend to be back and stick to it by setting a turnaround time for yourself.  Also be sure that your friend or family member knows who to call if you are late.  We want you to come back in one piece and frostbite free! 

Well, thanks again for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or on Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).

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