When prepping for a backcountry camping trip, there are so many boxes that need to be checked. Some are big, and some are rather small, but all of them are vital to making the best out of your time spent in sub-zero temperatures immersed in the snowy wilderness.
Of course, things like touring skis/splitboards, -40-degree sleeping bags, the most rugged tents on the planet and the best outerwear one can buy, are all critical parts of a backcountry touring/camping trip. However, we found that many of the other hardgoods we packed proved to be just as critical.
Things that might often get overlooked like a proper chair, or a tough-as-nails headlamp, or even a camera, might sometimes be left at home.
So, in order for you to make the best decisions possible when packing your backcountry touring bag, we comprised a list of some key pieces of gear that really elevated our experience in Togwotee Pass, WY.
Safety safety safety. The first rule of backcountry touring is to stay safe. With tricky conditions and relentless snowfall, we knew that avalanche danger was high for this trip, so we opted to take no chances with our avalanche safety kit. This included the SCOTT Patrol E1 30 Backpack Kit.
Boasting SCOTT’s new Alpride E1 Airbag system, this bad boy had our backs (literally) during every step through the backcountry. It’s fully electric, not to mention, one of the lightest airbags out there (which is crucial when lugging around all of the other avy gear you need). While we, thankfully, never had to use the airbag, we didn’t go anywhere without it. This is a necessary piece of equipment for a trip like this, and the Patrol E1 30 is as good as it gets – believe us, this is one area where you don’t want to skimp on gear.
Helinox Chair One ($100)
We wanted a sturdy chair that could truly handle all of the elements. In our case, given that we were sledding a few miles out into the wilderness, portability was also at the top of our list. Thankfully, the Helinox Chair One made it so we didn’t have to compromise on either.
Made with DAC Aluminum poles, this mighty little chair can hold up to 320 lbs., and its award-winning design is oh-so comfy around the fire after a long day of touring. (Not to mention – it folds up into a handheld little package about the size of large burrito.) We can’t find any reason why this awesome little chair won’t be joining us on all of our camping excursions in the future.
Sleeping elevated off the ground is a no brainer, and sticking with the theme of portability, lightweight gear is a must in the backcountry. When it comes to sturdy, portable, comfortable sleeping quarters, Helinox hit the nail on the head once again with their Lite Cot.
Easily set up and broken down in seconds, the Lite Cot provided us with the much-needed sleep we craved after a long day of touring, and then packed up into a tiny little 2.1-pound package when it was time sled out. And given that the weather was sub-zero the whole time, we found that the elevated bed was exactly what we needed to keep ourselves warm at night.
When you’re heading into an adventure like this, it’s very (very very) important to capture every moment on camera – so that all your buddies might actually believe you when you brag about all the epic face shots you got. And, again, given the mantra of portability on this trip, nothing fit our needs better than the latest and greatest offering from GoPro: The HERO7 Black.
For a majority of the trip, we didn’t even realize we had the thing fastened to our helmet, or fixed to our chest. We’d simply turn on the voice activation and tell our nifty little camera when it was time to record … and it would. With its updated capabilities (e.g. posting directly to Facebook Live) and its new HyperSmooth stabilization function, the footage is silky smooth and capable of being shared to all your social channels seamlessly.
One thing you’ll realize very quickly if you’re new to touring, is that you get pretty hot and sweaty while trekking. A versatile set of outerwear is key, as well as eyewear. You don’t want to wear your insulated goggles the whole time, but you still need to protect your eyes from the glare. This is where the Sunski “Treeline” came in clutch.
Coming in a classic aviator look (a respectful nod to yester-year) the Treeline comes equipped with Magni-Snap Sidekicks to keep glare from seeping in the sides – while still maintaining your peripheral vision – as well as rubber nose pads to keep things comfy and secure. And weighing in at less than an ounce, we barely knew we had them on.
While we mentioned above that sunglasses were key when it came to touring, top-of-the-line goggles are equally important when it was to time to get some turns in. SCOTT’s LCG Goggles were exactly what we needed, keeping our eyes protected and our vision crystal clear – even when laughing through face shot after face shot. Their innovative new interchangeable lens system, the Lens Change Slider system, was exactly what we needed with the shifty weather conditions of this trip. Swapping out low light lenses at the drop of a dime was a very pleasant thing to do when our bare fingers were exposed.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: safety, safety, safety. A helmet is no brainer. A good helmet should also be a no brainer. And the team at SCOTT has developed what we think just might be the the perfect backcountry helmet, the Symbol 2 Plus D. Equipped with D3O inserts and MIPS integration, this helmet has re-set the bar for every degree of impact (from low-, mid-, and high-velocity crashes). And their 360-degree Pure Sound ear pads make it so you can hear everything that’s going on around you, while still keeping your ears super warm in sub-zero weather.
When you’re deep in the backcountry, having reliable power isn’t likely something you’d think is even a possibility. While trying to pack light, we still thought that having a solid source of power would be a helpful thing to have. We opted for the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 with two a Boulder 200 Solar Power Briefcases. This set up was able to handle everything we needed.
With glimpses of sun for the solar power panels every so often, we were good to go for all of our electronics the entire trip. And when it was time pack up, the solar panels folded right up into a briefcase-type package and fit right onto the back of the sleds. It really doesn’t get much easier than these.
We’ll say it one last time: Safety is priority number one. We knew that an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe would be must-bring items for this trip, so we decided to go with a kit from ORTOVOX. The S1+ Avalanche Transceiver was so easy to operate, and always held a solid charge throughout the entire trip (the brand states that it lasts up to 250 hours while in transmission mode).
Its reliability kept us feeling safe the whole time and its intuitive operation kept us confident that should anything happen, we’d be prepared to handle it. The moment you open the transceiver, it switches into search mode – It doesn’t get more simple than this. And using ORTOVOX’s SMART-ANTENNA-TECHNOLOGY while displaying the avalanche victim’s relative location, this device is what you want in your hand when it really matters.
And in serious situations like this, a reliable shovel and probe are going to be exactly what you need next. The ALU 240 Probe was simple and easy to put together in just seconds, ready to pin-point the person’s exact location. And the “The Beast” Shovel is strong and sturdy, with awesome rubber grips to avoid any slippage in critical moments. They both pack down to very portable sizes, perfect for packing into your avy pack. This is the last time we’ll say it: Gear like this is not where you want to cut any corners.
Something that might get overlooked on a trip like this is an insulated camping cup. We wanted something that would keep out hot drinks hot – and with a plethora of options out there that all claim to do so – we decided to bring along the MiiR 12oz Camp Cup. It’s small, light, tough-as-nails, and it kept our hot beverages nice and hot with its double-wall vacuum insulation. It was the perfect addition to our morning routines, as well as our campfire talks at the end of the day.
It goes without saying that a solid headlamp should be at the top of the “must-bring” list. And the crew at Coast is well-known for producing some of the best pieces of illumination gear we’ve seen. We wanted something small, light, bright, and something that would stay charged in the frigid temps. The Coast FL75R Headlamp checked all of those boxes.
Using Coast’s Flex Charge Dual Power system, the headlamp can be charged via micro USB, or using standard alkaline batteries, giving you the flexibility to use whatever it is that you have on-hand. With a standard spot beam (with adjustable bezel), as well as a red LED light for night vision, this little headlamp really packed a punch, and certainly didn’t let us down.
In order to get ourselves, as well as all of our gear, out into the backcountry, we needed to bring some sleds that could handle the job without any hiccups. And the Polaris PRO-RMK 155 fit the bill. Touted as “The most powerful snowmobile engine ever built by Polaris” the PRO-RMK 155 is also the lightest deep-snow sled available anywhere.
We found that its power was more than sufficient to haul everything we needed a few miles into the backcountry during a heavy snow storm, as well as handle whatever terrain we were trying to access for some deep-powder turns. The reliability of its 850 Patriot engine, and its maneuverability made it the perfect vehicle for navigating precarious territory.
When bunking up in the wilderness, you’re obviously going to need to consider the best ways to keep yourself warm. And when it comes outdoor outfitting like this, there aren’t many brands that can hold a torch to Camp Chef. For this trip, we brought along the Alpine Heavy Duty Cylinder Stove ($260), Pro 90X 3-Burner Stove ($330), the Cooler 70 ($350), Professional Outdoor Oven ($330), and a Redwood Fire Pit ($168). All of this gear combined made for such a comfortable time when the temps dipped below zero.
The stove came in crucial when it was time to melt snow for drinking water, the fire pit was the ultimate gathering place for stories at the end of the day, and the cylinder stove kept our main tent warm and toasty all evening long.
Honorable Mentions: High Brew Coffee and Sufferfest Beer
Last, but certainly not least, for any camping trip, two very important things to consider are your beverages. One to get you up in the morning, and the other to enjoy in the evening by the fire. High Brew Coffee’s cold brew was such a delight to sip on in our warm tents first thing in the morning. Made from 100-percent Direct Trade Arabica beans (that are cold-brewed), their many flavors are sure to satisfy all of the campers on your trip – we preferred the kick of the 20-calorie Dairy Free Black & Bold.
In the evenings, one of our favorite parts (aside form slipping off those boots) was cracking open a tasty craft beer. We brought along a cooler full of Sufferfest Beer. With a variety of brews for every taste – from blonde to pilsner to IPA – Sufferfest does not compromise on flavor. Nothing beats the feeling of being worlds away from everything, sipping on a delicious brew and laughing with friends about how epic your day in the backcountry was.
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