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Essential Gear You Need For The Backcountry

Don’t leave the gates without avalanche education, a friend, and these critical must-haves.

This winter, everyone is predicting a pandemic-fueled surge in backcountry skiing. With people wanting to avoid crowds at ski resorts, there’s a good chance we’ll see more people strap skins to their skis and head uphill on their own power. Whether you’re new to the backcountry or you’ve been ski touring for decades, we all need to approach this winter responsibly. That means making sure new and returning backcountry users have all the information and tools they need to get out there safely.

Always good to be schooled in Avalanche Safety before heading into the backcountry.

Always good to be schooled in Avalanche Safety before heading into the backcountry.

Here at Flylow, we make outerwear designed specifically for backcountry skiing. Our gear is durable and waterproof enough for heavy use in the mountains but also light and breathable enough to climb those mountains on your own two feet. But a stormproof jacket and insulating layers aren’t the only things you need to climb and ski snow-covered peaks. We have a responsibility to make sure we’re not sending our loyal customers into the mountains unprepared. 

The American Avalanche Institute has a great equipment list that you can print out and stick on the wall every time you leave your house to go backcountry skiing. Do a visual scan of the list before you go. (Skins? Beacon? Gloves? Check. Check. Check. ) To add to that, we put together our own list of some of the must-haves we love in the backcountry. Visit your local retailer for personalized service and to stock up on supplies.

Get Educated For Backcountry Skiing.

Whether you’re new to backcountry skiing or it’s been a while since you’ve taken a class, you’ll want to sign up for an avalanche safety course—some are taking place virtually now. And get used to checking the forecast from your local avalanche center. The Avalanche Forecast app is a good one to download and check daily in the winter while sipping your morning coffee.

Earning your turns comes in many forms.

Safety Gear For Backcountry Skiing.

The three items you absolutely need in the backcountry: beacon, shovel, probe (and the knowledge of how to use them.) No getting around those. You’ll need a backpack that can carry everything and is designed for ski touring. Avalanche airbag packs are popular these days as well, so that’s worth considering, too. Other emergency items like a personal locator device and a well-stocked first-aid kit are good to have along as well.

Skis, Boots, Bindings, Skins For Backcountry Skiing.

Finding the right ski touring setup is a personal thing. So, your best bet is to head into your local ski shop and ask for guidance. You can certainly do your research ahead of time—check out magazine reviews or scan roundups of the best AT bindings or tested coverage of touring boots. Don’t forget skins.

Backcountry Skiing is a rewarding way to make great turns in beautiful places.

Backcountry Skiing is a rewarding way to make great turns in beautiful places.

Dressing Appropriately For Backcountry Skiing. Our Favorite Layers.

You’ll definitely want a waterproof jacket and hardy ski pants, as well as a warming midlayer—we have you covered there (shop our men’s gear or our women’s gear). One other thing you shouldn’t leave home without? A packable down jacket, stuffed into your pack. “Every time I head into the backcountry, I grab my Flylow Betty Down Jacket,” says Washington-based pro skier and Flylow ambassador Sophia Rouches. “It’s light, packable, and easy to throw on in the transition times when you want extra warmth. Plus, it’s an important component of my safety kit. If an injury were to happen while deep in the mountains, you have to stay warm and dry while waiting for an evac.”

Other Stuff You Need

A lightweight helmet and a pair (or two!) of gloves are also critical. This winter, you’ll be wanting a face covering or neck tube in your pack. Other important things to remember: sunscreen, plenty of water (we like the compressible soft reservoirs from Hydrapak), sunglasses, a hat, and a couple of Voile straps for those random skintrack fixes. A thermos full of tea for the summit is also nice.

And, Of Course, Snacks

“I always bring along something sweet,” adds Rouches. “Lifesavers, sour candy, or muffins leftover from breakfast are some of my favorite sugar boosts that give me the energy needed to take another lap.”

Our Favorite Pieces of Gear For Backcountry Skiing - Men

Kane Jacket

A lightweight touring shell with ample stretch and air permeability.
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Smythe Bib

Our lightest weight bib pant, the Smythe is built for bagging peaks without overheating.
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Our Favorite Pieces of Gear For Backcountry Skiing - Women

Domino Jacket

A durable, air-permeable women’s ski jacket made for high-output backcountry pursuits.
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Siren Bib

A lightweight women’s bib pant made with Flylow’s proprietary Intuitive™ Perm fabric for utmost air permeability on alpine ascents and descents.
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