Backcountry Skiing Packing List

by Margaret Hedderman

If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. Eleven out of ten times. That’s why I have a packing list for every activity - backpacking, climbing, and backcountry snowboarding. (And yes, my lists are alphabetized, color-coded Google Doc spreadsheets. Don’t judge me.) A good list can keep you from forgetting something important, as well as help you analyze each item and determine whether or not you even need it. Here’s my backcountry skiing (snowboarding) checklist for day touring. (Not color-coded, sorry.)

Ten Essentials

  • Map, compass, GPS
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a brimmed hat
  • Insulation - see below under clothing
  • Headlamp + extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • A lighter or matches - something to start a fire
  • Knife or multi-tool + other repair items like duct tape, extra screws for your bindings
  • Food - enough for your day tour, plus a little bit extra in case of emergency
  • Water
  • Emergency shelter like a bivy or tarp


  • Splitboard or skis
  • Helmet
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Goggles
  • Climbing skins
  • Backpack - ideally with an avalanche airbag
  • Avalanche beacon + extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Cell phone
  • SPOT or other emergency locator beacon - I keep this turned off so the signal doesn’t interfere with my avalanche beacon. In an emergency, I’ll press the SOS button if I can’t get a cell phone signal to call for rescue.
  • Slope meter - there’s a great iOS app called …. ?
  • Whistle
  • Skin wax
  • Off-Piste Ski Atlas Map or App


  • Moisture-wicking base layers - either merino wool or synthetic
  • Fleece jacket
  • Insulating layer - down or synthetic jacket
  • Waterproof or soft-shell jacket - I prefer a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket (like the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant) because it’s more compressible and fits into my backpack better than a soft-shell
  • Waterproof or soft-shell pants - I typically wear soft-shell trousers (I have Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol Pants) and carry a super lightweight pair of Gore-Tex pants (the Arc’Teryx SL Pants) in my backpack in case of emergency
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Moisture-wicking socks

Other necessities

  • Food - lunch, snacks, plus a little extra in case of emergency
  • Insulated bottle for a hot drink or soup - sometimes I’ll leave this in the car, so I have something warm to eat/drink when we’re done touring
  • Camera
  • Two-way radio
  • AIARE notebook w/ pencil
  • Snow study kit
  • Snow saw
  • eNZees Foot Soother - in case I start getting a blister

Photo | Ski touring in the San Juan Mountains, Forrest Kohere