Backcountry, Winter

9 Must-Haves for Your Backcountry Pack

Pack these items for your Backcountry Avalanche Pack

Recommended by Arapahoe Rescue Patrol

In addition to your standard day pack list for any outdoor activity the outline below will help prepare you to handle emergencies that can arise in backcountry avalanche scenarios. 

Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Rental Gear

As avid mountaineers and backcountry enthusiasts it is all of our responsibilities to head out prepared for what can happen to allow for the best outcomes possible in an emergency situation.


Before you head out on your first backcountry ski tour, snow mobile excursion, or snow shoeing experience of any type you are going to need to have a proper backpack to hold all of the gear your should have on hand.  A backcountry avalanche pack should be able to fit all the necessary gear and help prevent asphyxiation in an avalanche. 85% of avalanche victims perish from asphyxiation. Packs such as the Avalung can give the buried victim more oxygen and a longer window of time for rescue. 


YOUR BEACON SHOULD BE WORN ON YOUR BODY! YOUR BEACON DOES NOT GO IN YOUR PACK! Without a beacon the emergency scenario you find yourself in becomes more complex. Beacons help transform a rescue from searching for a needle in a haystack to a step-by-step operation to get you out alive. In an avalanche scenario this is the most important piece of gear to have and use correctly.  


With most avalanche victims being buried approximately 6 feet under the snow, you need to locate them after your beacon search.  We suggest selecting an avalanche probe that is a standalone piece of equipment.  Probes that are part of a pole or contained in a shovel handle are too short and often times are not strong enough to handle the terrain you may encounter. Length of probe is very important, ensuring it is at least 240cm in length is a good measure to adhere.

Backcountry Gear Rental


A good shovel is important since you are going to have to move about 1.5 tons of snow to pull someone out of an avalanche.  A shovel with an extendable shaft, large metal blade, and ergonomic handle is what you need in this scenario.  Having a compact option is ideal as well to ensure you still have pack space for the rest of this list.

Extra Layers:

Backcountry skiing, snow shoeing and like are very physical activities. You are going to perspire and need new layers or you will stay cold.  A good down jacket that will fit over your outermost layer is important and functional as you are changing out layers throughout your excursion.  Extra gloves, hat, socks buff and thermal layers are ideal to have on hand in your pack as well in the case of a rescue situation or if the ones you’re wearing get wet you have the ability to change out and maintain warmth.

Repair Kit:

A basic repair kit can save you in the backcountry.  Ski Straps, duct tape skin tip loop, wax scraper, extra screws, extra batteries (for your beacon) and a multi tool. You need to know your equipment and should pack a repair kit accordingly to ensure the items you pack coordinate with the equipment you carry.   

First Aid Kit:

While Arapahoe Rescue Patrol and many other SAR agencies will deploy at a moment’s notice to get you medical attention and out of the backcountry free of charge there is the precious time between getting the call and when we get on site to administer aid. The reality is in that window of time you are responsible for your own rescue in the backcountry. From WEARING YOUR BEACON, alerting for help immediately to start the clock for our arrival, to ensuring you have supplies to use to keep yourself safe until we reach you.  A well-stocked first aid kit is crucial to your outcome in an emergency situation; Tourniquet, SAM splint, gauze, 4×4 bandages, ACE bandages, quick clot, blister bandages, Band-Aids and tape should cover most emergencies.  


YOU MUST PACK ENOUGH FOOD AN WATER FOR YOUR PLANNED EXCURISON AND AN ADDITIONAL 24-48 HOUR FOR SURIVAL IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY. Carry food items that you can eat quickly and don’t take a lot of room in your pack.  We all as avid outdoor enthusiast have our favorite snacks and meals. Ensure they are light weight and easy to prep or ready to eat. A jetboil to cook is also lightweight and can melt snow along your journey for additional water supply.

Navigation Tools:

You should have at minimum a compass and/or a GPS unit in your pack. A cell phone is a great device when you have service, but reliability in the backcountry will be hit or miss. Do not assume it will work for the entirety of your day.

Additional items that are either typical to have in any pack or avy specific: Goggles/ sunglasses for eye and sun protection, Lighter and back up fire starter , head lamp, knife, personal locator ( not a replacement for a becon), rope or paracord, a snow saw, sunscreen and chapstick are all great to have and recommended to have some version of each item in your pack. 

Having the right gear is only one small part of how to keep yourself safe as you recreate in the backcountry.  Before you consider heading out of the resort boundaries you should take a Level 1 avalanche course. After you have taken your course, you need to practice with all your gear and keep practicing and staying current and refreshed annually. Always share your backcountry plans with others including your intended routes and the time of your expected return. 

Enjoy the snow and recreate safely. 

Arapahoe Rescue Patrol

The Arapahoe Rescue Patrol is a search and rescue team based in Arapahoe County, Colorado. Composed entirely of young adults currently in high school, the members of the Patrol have provided “free search, rescue, and emergency services for the citizens of Colorado’s front range and throughout all of Colorado since 1957.

Staffed soley by volunteer mentors and emergency SAR, Fire, Police and EMS experts; ARP is training the next generation of emergency response personnel while providing life saving services to our outdoor community in Colorado.

ARP is a 501c3 non-profit with zero paid positions on the patrol. We never charge for any search and rescue mission. 

To connect with ARP and get great tips and updates on backcountry training and SAR missions follow us on social media.


To support SAR services and training your community please considering donating to ARP. All donations are used directly for operations expense for gear, vehicles and missions.


Related Posts