Having a dialed backcountry kit is invaluable. Aside from carrying the mandatory beacon, shovel, and probe, having a reliable set of safety gear with minor fluctuations for the day and weather conditions should be top of mind. They’ll get you out of a jam and are light enough to live in your pack all year long. And with snow just around the corner, now is the time to make sure you're ready when it starts to dump.

You're less likely to use the compass part of this tool, unless shit is really hitting the fan. But the inclinometer might save your butt when avalanche conditions are tricky. For several years I walked around and tried to train my eye while looking at slope angles and measuring them (human-triggered avalanches occur mostly on 35-45 degree slopes), it was a fun game while touring. It stays on my belt loop whenever I'm second-guessing how steep a slope is, and is particularly handy when I'm in new locations.


Perhaps one of the most indispensable cheap tools. The Voile strap can be used to hold your skis together, fix a boot buckle, secure a snow-matted skin, and I even saw it once holding a person's boot into a broken tech binding toe piece. They're cheap, come in multiple lengths, and you never really have enough. I keep a roll of them in my pack just in case something breaks and you have to MacGyver a solution.


Weighing in at a feathery-light 8 ounces, the Ghost Whisper belongs in your backcountry pack at all times. It's incredibly warm and is stuffed with 800 fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down—which is fluorocarbon free and stops the fabric from absorbing moisture while maintaining insulation. I've tossed it on windy cold ridges, during cold dark days in January, and while standing around the parking lot having a beer. It's so light that it eliminates the excuse of having an extra layer and can pack down into one of its hand pockets—pretty slick.



The small yet sturdy Petzl Actik Core headlamp puts out 350 lumens, impressive for such a lightweight lamp. Weighing less than 3 ounces, the lamp utilizes a 1250 mAh Core rechargeable battery, which charges via a USB outlet and can last two hours with the high beam glowing (it has two brightness levels). During Thread The Needle last spring, we embarked on a sunset backcountry tour called Nachtspektakel, enjoying après in the backcountry and skiing down in the dark. The Actik guided us down with ease as we skied the evening corn cycle back toward Solitude.


A couple years ago I was solo touring for late-season corn. I was early and had to wait it out, so I clipped out of my Dynafits near the flattish top to perch out for a snack. As I clipped out of my toe, the AFD plate on my brake went flying. Following some obscenities, I gathered the tiny screws, spring, and plate. Luckily, I had a SOG multi-tool with a ratchet and hex bit, following the advice from someone ages ago in case I ever had a binding failure. So, while there are loads of multi-tools on the market, the SOG Baton Q4's 12-piece hex bit kit is hard to beat. Just in case you need to make an "in the field" tech fix. The baton weighs 6 ounces, but the full hex bit kit does add some weight, so choose your bits wisely.

The Escape Lite Bivy is an emergency shelter should things go south and you're forced to spend the night outside. At 5.5 ounces, it's super light and packs down small. The fabric is breathable, reflects heat, and is windproof and water-resistant. I received it as a gift last winter, and luckily have never had to use it. But, if push comes to shove and you have to spend the night in the backcountry, the Escape Lite reflects 70 percent of your heat. It can also be used as a liner for a sleeping bag, but I keep it at the bottom of my pack as an extra piece of safety gear.