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The Ultimate Checklist for Backcountry Skiers Before Heading Out

Having the right safety and ski gear can make the difference between a bad day out and the best day of your winter

It’s almost backcountry season in Canada, so this is the perfect time to go through your gear, replace things, and get prepared for the winter. Whether you’re just going for one-day hits or planning a hut trip tour, use this list to bring what you need without getting too weighed down.

Things to note: daylight hours in the winter are way shorter than summer, so good lighting and spare batteries are essential. Bring lots of calories to help keep yourself warm.

Avalanche training skills: The most critical thing to have in your winter backcountry quiver is knowledge about the conditions and the skills to assess the terrain around you. Learn avalanche training skills from Avalanche Canada or Avalanche Quebec before you hit the backcountry. Consider printing this handy list out and stick it to your fridge. No matter how good you are at packing for a day, we’re all human and we’ve all forgotten something.

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Gear to Consider Bringing

Snow gear
Skis or splitboard
Transceiver (sometimes called an avalanche beacon)
Snow shovel
Snow study kit
Snow saw
Skin wax
Ski crampons
Daypack or avalanche pack
Ski straps to keep them together
Depending on conditions, in glaciated and crevassed terrain, you may also want to bring a lightweight harness, rope, an ice axe and a crevasse rescue setup.

Safety essentials

First aid kit plus blister protection
Knife or multi-tool
Repair kit
Route guide and map
GPS / compass
Headlamp + batteries
Sunscreen and lip protection
Bivy, tarp or survival bag or blanket
Winter clothing
Insulated jacket
Soft shell or waterproof-breathable jacket and pants
Base layer top and bottom
Mid layer top and bottom
Warm hat
Sun-protective hat and sunglasses
Liner gloves and waterproof, insulated gloves or mitts
Liner socks and thermal socks
Hut booties or slippers
If you’re not sure what to bring, learn about how to create a clothing layer system to move moisture, insulate and offer protection from the elements.

Personal items

Toothbrush and toiletries
Toilet paper
Biodegradable soap
Travel towel
Phone or communication device
Hand warmers
Food and energy bars, plus extra
Water and water bottle
Vacuum bottle and hot drinks
Insulated pad for sitting
For winter camping, check out the equipment found in our winter camping checklist, and remember additional cold-weather gear like:

Sleeping bag liner or overbag

Winter-rated sleeping pad or an extra pad
Big pot for melting snow
Extra fuel