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The Big 5: Essential Kit For Hitting The Backcountry

by Nick Baines January 11, 2019

Heading out into the backcountry requires planning and preparation. Here we take a look at the five most essential pieces of kit you'll need for exploring those powder fields safely.


1. The Transceiver


As you head into steeper, wilder terrain, an avalanche transceiver will be essential. This small device emits a radio signal that you can track under vast amounts of snow. You'll wear most transceivers on a strap that fit diagonally across your torso and beneath your outerwear.

They're worn this way so that in the event of an avalanche, it won't get separated from you. Transceivers won't stop you getting caught in an avalanche, but they will buy you valuable time when buried. You’ll need to make sure that your riding buddies all have transceivers too and more importantly, know how to use them.

Hiding a transceiver in a snow-covered field is a great way to start practicing how to use your transceiver, but nothing beats enrolment on an avalanche awareness course.


2. The Probe


Another vital piece of equipment for avalanche safety is the probe. These fold out to give you a long measuring stick so you can check the depth of the snowpack. In snowdrifts and avalanche situations, you'll be inserting your probe deep into the snow in hope of making contact with your buried equipment, or fellow mountain rider.


3. The Shovel


A serious tool for mountain safety when venturing off-piste, the shovel is a mainstay in every freerider’s backpack. You'll build epic backcountry kickers with it, and cut away sections of the snowpack to check for safety. In extreme circumstances, you might have to dig in for the night, or create a shelter to wait out freak blizzards.



4. The Two-Way Radio


Communication is everything, especially in an environment when you're frequently separated from your friends. As many of you will know, mobile reception is often tricky in the mountains, getting less reliable the further off the beaten path you go.

Using a radio is the most reliable method of communication for mountain professionals, giving great range and coverage. So whether you're signalling a drop-in to your filmer on the opposite ridge, or calling ahead to let your crew know you’re digging out from a fall, two-way radios are invaluable for the backcountry explorer.


5. The High Performance Base Layer


It’s not just the transceiver that buys you time in dangerous mountain situations. The high performance base layer works to maintain your core body temperature for longer.

When waiting out a snow storm, or an evacuation pickup, this can be the difference between getting out smoothly, and developing hypothermia.

If you're serious about performance and safety in the mountains, then keeping your muscles warm is paramount. High quality base layers allow for better movement, less injury, less muscle fatigue and an all-round comfier ride.

Nick Baines
Nick Baines


With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.


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