Packing for a ski trip is always a bit daunting. How much is enough? What is too much? Even more difficult is knowing what to bring on a multi-day backcountry hut trip, since you are often either hauling it in yourself or using a machine (heli, snowcat, or snowmobile) with limited gear space to access the lodge.
Having spent time touring to backcountry yurts and several of British Columbia's touring lodges, I've whittled down the gear to a few essential items to include in my travel bag, allowing room for a few creature comforts and beer. Last week, I spent some time visiting Sol Mountain Lodge in the Monashees, and here are a few key items that I brought along.
The below list isn't completely exhaustive, but it's a great place to start to maximize fun and minimize waffling around instead of looking for powder stashes.
The most important item for a hut trip is a good pair of hut booties. After ski touring all day your feet will be stoked to get out of ski boots and into these down booties. They're warm, pack down easily into your bag and can handle quick runs to the outhouse and sauna. Here’s are a few more of our favorite hut booties.
The Link 2.0 is Backcountry Access's new iteration of their popular radio system. The new model has increased power transmission (2 watts) for better communication–BCA recommends line of sight for best results. The radio system is super slick, allowing for easy communication while in the backcountry. The push-to-talk microphone is placed along your backpack strap and the actual unit stays inside your backpack. The rechargeable battery is also stated to last 400 hours, but I still like to charge them each night before heading out.
If you're headed into a new location and are self-guided, then you're going to need to do a bit of snowpack assessment and documentation before you slay the goods. An avalanche field book will help document your findings in an organized way, and allows you to make better decisions—rather than just trying to remember what you found the day prior. It will also come in handy when you're back home to keep track of the snowpack.
The best beacon is the one you know how to use quickly and efficiently. A three-antenna beacon is the new baseline, and I've been using the DSP Pro for several years now. The processor is super fast which helps you to move cleanly during the fine grid search and easily when flagging one beacon if dealing with a multiple burial situation. Its range is up to 60 meters, and also has unique scan functions and an inclinometer. Check out our reviews of four other beacons here.
The Kodiak shovel has a hoe feature, allowing you to easily pull snow out of study pits—the blade isn't too small and helps to move snow quickly when you have to rescue someone.
This Ortovox probe is 320 centimeters long and assembles quickly without clumsiness. In general, it is important that probes measure 300 centimeters long and I recommend caution with carbon ones that may splinter over time. I carry the extra bit of weigh of an aluminum one–it's sturdy, works when you need it, and doesn't break.
A solid base layer constructed of wool is ideal for any hut trip. It allows you to pack less and not stink (too much at least). The Heist Merino Hoodie is perfect for cold days (the final two days at Sol Mountain Lodge were in the low single digits). The hoodie is warm, has a small pocket and wicks well for quick jaunts. The Aspect midweight bottoms are equally breathable and a new favorite of mine for leg base layers—they are warm and soft, but not too thick. If you like to tour fast but not get too clammy when standing, these are for you. Read these backcountry guide tips on how to layer for ski touring.
These gloves aren't cheap, but they're essentially three gloves in one. The outer is 100 percent waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex with a Dynex ripstop fabric outer and a goat leather palm, coupled with a bit of Primaloft Gold insulation. The inner is a softshell material that is also smart phone compatible. I typically use the inner for the skin up and for buckling boots, and either the shell or both for the down depending on the temps. I've been impressed with their durability and ability to handle wet and cold conditions on long days. They also never bunch up in my fingers when using the inner and outer as one glove. We like these gloves, too.
If you're traveling into a yurt or barebones hut, you'll need a sleeping bag. The Sonic 0 from Nemo is perfect for temps 0-40 degrees. It's light, comfortable, and has gills that help thermo-regulate the internal temperature of the bag—so you don't sweat it out when the wood stove is raging.
It may seem silly to bring board shorts on a backcountry hut trip, but you'll need something other than your skivvies for the sauna. The Stretch Wavefarers from Patagonia are perfect if you want to wear something simple in the sauna and the stretch room. They're comfortable—constructed of recycled nylon and Spandex, and dry quickly.
Offering 300 lumens and several mixed beam options for light, the Petzl Actik is a simple and sturdy headlamp. It also uses AAA batteries, so no need to worry about plugs and how you're going to power-up a rechargeable battery when out in the woods.