July 30th, 2008

Safety Gear

first thing we need to talk about in this article about safety gear has little
to do with the gear itself.  Education is the first and foremost thing you
should be focusing on this time of year.  Do a little research and find a
CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) certified course that is right for you.
 In the past few years, courses have become tailored for sledders!
 No more sitting around digging ‘pits’ in the cold.  Terrain
negotiation and avoiding dangerous zones become much more prevalent.  A
course is something you’ll never regret.  I realize many of us think
because we’ve played in the backcountry many times, we ‘know’ what we are
dealing with.  But when truth comes to truth, and someone else in your
group gets buried… do you really know what to do?  Remember it isn’t
always our negligence that causes accidents; sometimes simply being in the
wrong place at the wrong time is fate.  This is why we all need to learn
and/or brush up on our skills!


The first piece of
equipment we ALWAYS wear is our beacon.  I’ve heard it all, beepers,
peepers, blinkers, finders, etc.  The beacon is what makes a burial a
realistic chance for recovery.  Without one, there is simply slim to no
chance you will survive a burial. I have personally used a Barryvox, Pulse,
S.O.S., an F1, a D3, Freeride, and a Pieps DSP.  I currently use a DSP
with a ton of confidence in its technology.  All of these beacons offer
something slightly different as far as functions go; however they all operate
on the same frequency (457kHz) and are all compatible with each other.
 The prices ranch from $210 cdn to $530 cdn.  In this range you’ll
find the digital beacons showing distance and direction to be the most
expensive, and the analog sound and LED light units to be the cheapest.  I
strongly believe it doesn’t matter what beacon you have as long as you are
comfortable, and confident with it.  GET EDUCATED!

There are again
many different probes on the market and basically they all accomplish the same
thing.  Once you have narrowed down your search with your beacon it’s time
to probe the snow to get a confirmation ‘strike’.  Leave the probe in and
dig down to the contact (friend).  Many people are scared of using probes
because they think the may hurt the person.  I can only explain this one
way… if you were under massive snow load completely compressed with no oxygen
to breath, do you think you would mind getting hit by a probe?  I have
used many different probes over the years and have not really found a huge
benefit with one versus another.  All I can say is practice makes perfect.

Now the shovel!
 This is something as sledders we use all the time whether it be for
building booters, digging pits, getting your buddies sled unstuck (because you
never get stuck) or worst case scenario, a burial.  In my opinion you are looking for a product that is a “do it
all” type piece in your arsenal.  Voile is a company that truly pushes both innovation and structural
integrity.  They make a product
that has the highest shovel blade strength on the market.  It also has the option of getting a
“Saws-all” blade housed in the shovel handle.  I can’t even count the amount of times I have had to use
mine.  Building fires, releasing a
hung up sled, digging a pit for snow study, or doing the odd bit of trail
maintenance, this thing is so handy and practical. 

Next we have the
radio.  Up until I started guiding
I simply used hand held Motorola units.  They were amazing for staying in contact with my buddies.  Finding out what bowl they were in, or
when we were going to meet for lunch, or to see what was over the ridge I was
standing on.  More information is
great information, and these things were the ticket!  Since I have been exploring more and more these days I’ve
stepped up my radio to something a little more industrial and thought I would
include it in this article.  Icom
is a company that makes handheld units for commercial use.  These things are powerful and require
some training and knowledge on how to use them properly.  Once trained you can contact local
emergency frequencies if necessary.  They are substantially stronger then our typical $150 handhelds.  Icom’s go for around $450 per radio
with a charger, and usually they come accompanied with a surcharge for
programming.  If you plan on doing
some exploring beyond that last set of tracks, this is an investment you should
think about!

A first aid kit is
a must in every group you enter the backcountry with.  I don’t know if it is necessary for everyone to carry one,
but at least one of you should.  Protocol
for search and rescue to come out and administer first aid has many steps and
are very weather dependent.  Being
about to stop a bleed, or help relive some of the pain associated with a broken
bone, abrasion, or dislocation (among others) is extremely important.  Your kit doesn’t have to be huge, but
here are a few things you might want to include.  (2 triangle bandages, roller gauze, a few variations of
Band-Aids, starry strips, a few different dressings, a Sam Splint (amazing
invention), and 2 tensor wraps.  A
set of scissors, a pencil and paper, matches, along with a flashlight/headlamp
never hurts either.  This is a great
start to anyone’s kit, takes up very little space, and weights next to nothing.  It seems like overkill, but trust me,
when the time comes, you’ll be very appreciated!

That’s all I have
for now folks, I hope this helps you get ready for winter, and make