Itching to see what it’s like in the backcountry?
The powder is unreal. It’s noticeably quiet. And most importantly—the run is life-changing. A great backcountry experience is what keeps boarders coming back for more. There’s something about having a mountain all to yourself and your friends that you can’t forget.
Your backcountry adventure will be rad as long as you bring the essentials. Don’t take off into the woods without them, or else you’ll be trekking back to your cabin before you wanted to. The more prepared you are for your adventure, the longer you can stay out there enjoying the views.
Before you hit up the backcountry, make sure you’re comfortable riding in deep powder. The backcountry is deep powder, so if you’re not ready—take some time on the ski mountains to get used to those deep powder runs. You want to go into your first backcountry run confident AF. It’s worth it to get that practice in.
Here’s everything you need in your backcountry snowboard bag so you can stay out there for hours.
The 10 Essentials of Any Backcountry Pack
Backcountry snowboarding is completely different than the runs on the ski mountain. In the backcountry, you have to take full ownership of your safety and the safety of everyone around you. We’re not trying to go full mom-mode on you here, but backcountry snowboarding preparation is absolutely essential.
There are 10 essentials that need to be in your backcountry snowboard bag at all times:
- Beacon (obviously you want this on your body in an easily accessible area, not under layers
- Extra dry layers
- Nutrient-dense foods
- Iodine tabs for clean water
- First-Aid Kit (bandages, gauze, medical tape, antiseptic wipes, pain medication, antihistamines, super glue, and sam splint)
- Emergency Kit (firestarter, space blanket, whistle, flares, and a radio)
- Duct tape
- Knife/Screwdriver multi-tool (Hail is made for snowboarders)
Each of these essentials serves a purpose that will get you out of a really bad situation. From just avoiding getting hangry to a serious injury, you cannot go into the backcountry without these. The backcountry is unpredictable and you’re in nature’s playground when you frolick your way over there. Take it seriously so you can enjoy yourself while you’re out there.
Now that you have your essentials, here some gear that will be useful for you. You don’t need everything on this next list, just whatever makes sense for you.
Extra Gear to Include in Your Backcountry Pack
Unlike the essentials list above, you don’t need to add every single one of these items to your backcountry pack. This is when you can pick and choose based on where you’ll be and how long you’ll be out there.
Here are Never Summer’s suggestions for your backcountry bag:
- Beanie or hat
- Balaclava (also called a ski mask)
- Sunglasses and Goggles (use your sunglasses on the ascent and your goggles on the descent)
- Spare gloves or mittens (we suggest a spring glove for going uphill when your body is heated up)
- Lip balm
- Water/Hydration system
- Collapsible Ski Poles (collapsible poles are ideal so they’re out of the way when you descend)
- Spare binding parts and screws
- Snowboard binding tool or tool that came with your bindings
- Crampons or Ski Crampons (these give you the extra traction and security on the uphill skinning ascent)
You never want just to wing a backcountry trip. Being prepared isn’t just for safety but also for fun. If you forget food or enough water, you’ll be cutting your trip short. The more prepared you are, the longer you can hang out.
Avalanche Rescue Gear
Time to get real. Being in the backcountry means you’ve signed up to be in an avalanche zone. This is when backcountry snowboarding gets real and you have to take it really seriously. Always brush up on your proper training protocols based on the state you’re in. For example, CAIC is Colorado’s training protocol for backcountry snowboarding.
Before you start trekking up the mountain, take your Avalanche AIRE 1 certification. This gives you the fundamental skills you’ll need to make the right decisions in the backcountry, so you can avoid the avalanche. We also recommend a Companion Rescue Course, which will teach you how to use these 5 essential avalanche items.
An avalanche beacon attaches to you and transmits a radio signal so you can be found in case you’re in an avalanche. It attaches to the later underneath your jacket, so it can’t fall off when you’re tumbled by the snow, but it’s also easily accessible. This beacon is crucial to backcountry. Not knowing how to use your beacon properly is the most irresponsible and careless mistake you can make in the backcountry. Read that again.
An avalanche shovel is a compact shovel that’s strong enough to save you or your friends. You can buy an avalanche shovel with your beacon as a set, or most companies that have beacons will also sell shovels. You can’t just use any shovel here. You need to make sure that it’s strong and reliable to get you out of a bad situation.
An avalanche probe is used to find someone trapped under the snow. With the probe, you can measure the snow depth and how many layers are in the snowpack. This is an actual lifesaver. Always bring it with you.
A thermal bivy bag is an emergency sleeping bag. It’s designed for the absolute worst conditions (and avalanches are pretty high on that list). This bag can help keep you warm if you get stuck in the backcountry and have to hunker down for the night.
Airbags are inflatable sacks that rapidly inflate with gas or an electric fan to help you float about the slide and not get pulled under it. They’re not necessary, but they’re a pretty cool technology that can save your life. We find them worthy enough to mention them on this list.
Here are our tips for planning a backcountry trip with the highest chances of everything going right.
Buddy System + Trip Planning + Route Selection + Weather
The rule of the backcountry game is never to go alone. Ever. Backcountry comes with an obligatory buddy system. You have to go with someone else. You and your buddy will plan your trip, select your route and check the weather to make sure you know what’s coming.
Having a plan is a requirement in the backcountry because you don’t have ski lifts and signs telling you which way to go. You want to make sure you’re getting yourself to the best part of the mountain to board down. Your plan makes sure you have the best experience possible.
Remember the 5 P’s:
The more you prep, the more fun you’ll have out there. Ask us how we know…
Riding in the backcountry requires a splitboard. Splitboards split in half so that you can use them as skis to ascend the mountain. Then, you can stick your skis back together and board down. It’s the best possible backcountry experience and we’ve figured out exactly how to make awesome splitboards.
We have a few splitboards you can choose from if you’re a backcountry fanatic:
Choosing the right snowboard can feel overwhelming, especially if you plan on having it for years. Here’s how you can make sure to choose the right snowboard based on what you want to do on the mountain.
The backcountry is special. It’s not like the ski mountain filled with other riders. It’s the exclusive nature party that you and your buddies get to experience. That’s why we’re so big on preparation. The more you prepare for this party, the better experience you have.
Make sure to bring your water, snacks, and extra layers—and all of your essentials to make sure you can get out of a bad situation if it ever happens.