Our first two posts on Backcountry snowboarding talked about vital gear you should have with you while backcountry snowboarding, as well as some safety recommendations. There are also items you should have that may not be as obvious as backpacks, quick-dry clothing, and water bottles.
Sunscreen: Even though it’s winter the sun can still burn you up and especially in snow covered mountains. The sunlight reflects up off the snow so you’re getting hit from above and below. Put some 30 SPF sunblock on face and hands before you go and reapply as needed. Lip balm is also recommended as the cold, dry winter air will make them chapped in no time.
Sunglasses: You can wear your goggles but you may find they will get soaked with sweat and fog as you hike up the mountain because they also hold in a lot body heat. Sun glasses are more comfortable on long hikes up the mountain and they can easily slide into small pockets for the ride(s) down.
Extra Pair of Socks: I find that wool, or wool blend socks are the best for snowboarding and hiking. Wool insulates even when it gets wet, which means that it helps prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Always bring an extra pair of socks in the event that you slip during a stream crossing or your boots get waterlogged some other way. Staying dry and warm is your main concern and you can’t do either if you’re wet. Remember, do not wear cotton in the backcountry. Cotton holds moisture and will draw heat out of your body when wet.
Liner Gloves: Also known as pipe gloves or park gloves are generally intended for warm weather riding or to be worn as an extra layer under you normal insulated gloves or mittens. Most pipe or park gloves are a little thick to go under gloves…liner gloves go under gloves. After you get hiking on your uphill slog your hands will start get warm and sweaty- that’s when you take off your heavy gloves and put on your liners. They will pull the sweat off your skin and keep your fingers dry. This will help prevent frostbite when you get into the colder temps higher up on the mountain. A lot brands now sell thermal liner gloves with the insulated gloves so you can double up if needed and have good fit.
Repair and Tool Kit: Your board, bindings and boots are basically mechanical pieces that can break or need to be tightened up in places. There are no shops in the backcountry, so if something does go wrong you will need to have the tools to fix them- or at least get them into some kind of working order so you can get off the mountain. Multi-tools are essential as they come with Phillips and flat head driver tips, so you can easily tighten your binding bolts and other hardware. They are compact and easy to store.
Duct tape is another good item to throw in your backpack. Aside from making a hell of bandage fastener and blister cover, you can also use it to patch torn clothing, reinforce a damaged snowboard binding or a broken trekking pole- and lots of other things. Also, bring a quality outdoor knife in case you need to cut strips of tape or bandages to specific widths, cut up food, or use it as a general tool.
Headlamp: You’re not always going to make it back to the parking lot at the end of the day in the daylight. You may get sidetracked or run into other difficulties that will require you to get off the mountain in the dark. Unless there’s a really bright full moon out you’re not going to be able to see much. That’s why you always bring a headlamp and make sure the batteries are fresh. Bringing extra batteries is always a good idea too.
Backcountry snowboarding is about being prepared for the adventure as much as it is getting after it. The two approaches go hand in hand. So do your research, find out what you need and don’t need. Start out on smaller mountains and get acclimated to the rigors of hiking or touring uphill in winter. And most of all learn about the areas where you plan to go by talking to the people that frequent there or the forest service patrollers that work there. Have fun and be safe!!!