Carry the Right Gear…
Having the proper gear is essential for safe, responsible backcountry travel. Used properly these tools can help you forecast stability in the snowpack, or rescue those who become victim of an avalanche. Remember, there is not time to get help, the only reliable rescue is for a touring party to rescue it’s own avalanche victims. Following is a list of recommended gear for the backcountry traveler:
Must Have Rescue Gear:
Avalanche rescue beacons (also called transceivers or locators) have proven to be the only reliable way to locate a completely buried victim in time to save their life. Each person wears a transmitting beacon, and if someone is buried, the surviving members turn their beacons to receive and they can quickly locate the buried victim. Several companies manufacture avalanche beacons and they all operate on the same frequency. The technologies they use vary from being completely analog to completely digital, with some operating in a digital/analog mix. Each brand, and the technology they use, have their strong and weak points. And most important, practice often with your beacon. The pros practice once per week. Always wear your beacon under your jacket, never in your pack. When you put it on, turn it on. When you take it off, turn it off.Check out some independent beacon reviews
An avalanche beacon will put you over a buried avalanche victim, but digging in dense avalanche debris is often very time consuming, so it’s essential to get an exact location. That’s where probes come in. Also, probes are the only way to find a victim who was either not wearing a beacon or wearing an inoperable beacon. Probes come in lengths of 182cm for recreational users up to 300cm for professionals, with 240cm being a popular recreational length. They are made of aluminum or carbon, and have a screw or quick clamp fitting to lock the sections in place. Assemble probes like tent poles, toss the sections out on the ground and shake the pole sections while gently pulling the tension cable at the top.
Everyone needs a shovel, not only to dig out a buried victim (avalanche debris is very dense and hard) but to dig snowpits to assess the snowpack stability and even to dig out your car or snowmobile when it gets stuck. Modern shovels are constructed out of strong lightweight materials such as aluminum or high strength plastic. Their flat blade is ideal not only ideal for moving volumes of snow, but making clean cuts for a snowpit as well.
A lightweight, comfortable pack is a key element to carry your backcountry gear. Many packs also have features that allow you to organize your gear for convenient access. Packs are available that will carry just the basics like your shovel and probes, or up to multi day packs that carry a large volume of gear. Many packs also have features like external shovel pockets and hydration systems as well. A quality pack will also have a waist and sternum strap to keep the load secure during athletic activities.
Specialty Avalanche Survival Gear
Snow Study Equipment
This page thanks to the Utah Avalanche Center