The Gear Highs and Lows

backcountry gear

Okay so everyone writes a gear guide, what they recommend, what sucks, who sponsers them. So why am I writing a not so original gear guide? Because it is the number one questions I get asked, what gear should I buy. So here it is…. And for the record I am far from a sponsorship so this is all my personal opinion.

I wreck pretty much everything, it’s true ask my friends or the friendly warranty people at every single company you can think of. Pretty sure my name has a big old red flag on it. Why do I wreck everything? Because I am hard on shit, I ride 5-6 days a week and between splitboarding and sledding its bound to fall apart. Below is what I have learned after years of purchasing the wrong gear, gear that would not stand up to the elements or just plain old shitty gear.

Goggles:

For the love of god, all I want is to be able to see when I am riding. Is that to much to ask? Apparently it is.

I have ridden with the Anon WM1 goggles for the past two years and loved them. The lens are nothing to write home about in low light conditions but the MFI magna traction technology make lens changes easier than ever imaginable. One consideration is it’s magnets, obviously. Which can lead to interference with your transceiver, remember to keep them 25 cm apart and 50 cm apart when in search mode.

This summer I fell in love with Chromapop lenses from Smith. With Chromapop sunglasses and bike goggles I decided to bring Chromapop into my winter world. Besides my goggle breaking the first time I placed them onto my helmet, I am excited to see how this lens technology will stand up on those inside a ping pong ball days.

Backpacks:

The list of trials and tribulations I have had with backpacks is a long one. The amount of times I have packed, unpacked, repacked, wondered why I had a crescent wrench in my backpack and have walked around like a idiot with items hanging off of my backpack are countless.

I have finally found backpack happiness with the Burton Tour 31 L pack. The compartments for all your avy gear are in a easy to access front pocket. The main part of the bag is also accessible from the back allowing you to find that item at the bottom of your bag.

I also just purchased a Dakine Poacher R.A.S vest that is compatible with a Mammut Removable Airbag System. It is surprisingly light weight and fits nice and snug. It has all the compartments necessary for avy gear, radios, snacks and ciders. I am excited to try it out on Sled Ski days in the backcountry.

One last comment do not purchase a short and girthy backpack. They are the worst. Like how are you suppose to keep your balance when all the girth is pulling you back? The answer is you can not.

Jackets & Pants:

No matter what I always get sucked back into the Burton AK world. I try to deny it and branch out but the fact is it’s really good shit.

Get Gore-Tex. 3L or 2L ? Depending where you are located and how wet your winters tend to be… Live on the coast? Get 3L. Live in the Rockies? 2L will be sufficient.

Does it have a good radio pocket? How annyoing is it when your standing on top of a line, you put your radio into your bag and bam they want to have a chat from the bottom. So you take your backpack off pull out the radio all to simply answer that yes you do believe the snow was that good…. Just get a jacket with an easy access radio pocket or a vest.

To bib or not to bib? Touring? Bibs are hot. Do you like snow down your pants? No, nobody does.

Boots:

Good luck.

Just kidding, well kinda. Okay I have truthfully never found a snowboard boot that I loved. They pack out, fall apart, are to sloppy, the list goes on. Some things I do know, BOA is terrible for many reasons. Why do you think they supply free unlimited parts? When your BOA breaks in the backcountry you better set up camp because it takes two days to replace it. If you ever plan on sledding be prepared for the dial to regularly catch on your sled or snowboard and loosen your boots and eventually break the dial. My favorite lace up system is the speed zone system or (after just bashing boa) the traditional lace system with the BOA at your heel (in Vans Hanna Beaman boots). The dial on these boots is on the side so it does not get caught on your sled and it reduces heel lift in your boot. This year I am riding the Burton Supreme for the first time and so far so good.

Board & Bindings:

I can not say enough good things about my Never Summer Aura. It is the solidest board I have ever ridden. If you want to up your riding and you want something you can always rely on under you feet buy this board. Remember when buying a board “a board does not know how tall you are but it does know how much you weigh” – Robyn Nutt Darkside. No more measuring to your chin! Go to your local shop and talk to the experts, most boards have a rider weight chart on the back now that shows you what size of board you should be on, warning to all you old school riders this may surprise you!

Camber? Rocker? Hybrid?

This depends on your riding style, riding level and what performance you want from your board. Best to roll into a local shop and chat with the gurus there.

Splitboard bindings:
Sparks and Burton Hitchhikers are my favourites. What ever binding you choose make sure to have ample spare parts with you when you are out for a tour.

On my hill board I have Flux bindings and I love them. The toes caps on Flux fit around your boot nice and snug. Burton bindings are good, their toe caps can fit a bit funny. If buying Burton remember that EST bindings only fit on Burton boards with the channel.

Avy Gear:

Transceivers:
I personally am a huge fan of Mammut, they are easy to use and reliable. The marking function on Mammut is by far the best out of all the transceivers I have tried. There is a brand called Arva that is a also made by Mammut and has a bit of a better price point. I have only used these ones a couple of times but they seem to be good. When buying a transceiver research online and ask your friends what they use and if you can try it. 3 antenna transceivers are the standard so check what you have and upgrade those old obsolete transceivers. Do not cheap out on a transceiver and remember its totally useless if you don’t know how to use it.

Probes:
How deep is your snowpack? How long is your probe? Make sure your probe is the appropriate length for the amount of snow your region gets and think how deep the debris from a avalanche can be. The stiffness and material a probe is made out of is also important. Remember avalanche debris quickly turns into a cement like substance so you want durable rescue gear! One again do not cheap out on a probe, the last thing you need is your probe to snap during a rescue.

Shovels:
The tiny little avalanche shovels are cute and all but how long is it going to take you to dig a person out with it? Like mentioned above the material it is made out of and how well built a shovel is are very important points when purchasing a shovel. No plastic! A extendable shaft makes digging easier and once again practice, practice, practice. Get your shoveling technique dialed.

 

Obviously this does not cover everything. The list goes on of essential items you need when in the backcountry such as radio, inReach, SPOT, First Aid kit, emergency bivy, fire starter ect. This guide is just meant to get you started, so good luck out there and happy shredding!