Essential Safety Gear for Mountain Sledders!
Here’s our list of key essential safety gear that every sledder should consider packing along for a ride in the mountains. We’ve broken the list down into three levels of priority, from highest-to-lowest: mandatory, invaluable and beneficial gear. Depending on the specifics of your planned adventure, some items might move up or down the list in priority, and extreme adventures might call for even more specific equipment, e.g. rope rescue gear for glacier travel.
Use your own best judgement and when in doubt, bring it!
1. Transceiver, Shovel and Probe
Together with an avalanche shovel and probe, the transceiver is the most vital piece of safety equipment for riding in avalanche terrain. Without all three of these tools—along with the knowledge of how to use them—riders completely buried in an avalanche will have little-to-no chance of survival. Don’t go without them.
2. Avalanche Airbag
Okay, this doesn’t go in your pack, it IS your pack. No one plans to be involved in an avalanche, but it happens. This is one tool that can actively help prevent you from becoming buried in an avalanche.
3. First Aid Kit
At least one member of each party should carry a well-stocked first aid kit. A better idea is to disperse two or more first aid kits amongst a group.
4. Satellite Communications Device
There may come a time when even the most well-prepared and self-reliant group of sledders might require outside help—as in the case of a life-and-death emergency. Most mountain riding zones don’t have mobile phone service, which often makes satellite communications the only option for contacting emergency services.
5. FRS/VHF Radio
It’s easy to quickly become separated from your group while sledding in the mountains. The ability to communicate within the group is crucial for convenience and safety. FRS radios are a popular option, while VHF radios can do double-duty for communication with vehicle traffic while travelling on resource roads.
6. Compact Saw
A good quality saw is a necessity for tricky tree extractions or firewood gathering in a survival situation.
Ever try fixing your sled by moonlight? Fat chance. LED lights are lightweight, long-lasting and powerful.
8. Survival Kit/Bivy Sack
These are more important for travel in remote areas than, say, a riding area with a shelter. But if you have to overnight it anywhere, you’re going to want a decent survival kit that provides a way to make fire. A small roll of toilet paper tucked in your kit can save your ass in a bowel emergency.
9. Repair Kit
The ability to make small repairs in the field can be the difference between limping your sled out and going back for it another day.
It’s easy to get lost in a whiteout, even in a familiar area. Helicopters can’t fly in these conditions either. A GPS will help you find your way home.
11. Tow Strap
If you can’t fix it on the spot, it’s often easy enough to tow out a busted sled with a good quality strap, rather than fly it out later at great expense.
You might never need extra food in the backcountry. But if you ever do, you’ll be glad you brought it, and it’ll forever be on your packing list thereafter.
13. Water Bottle
Sure, you can melt snow if you brought a stove (but few do!). Or find an open creek if you’re mobile. At the very least, bring a bottle that can be refilled and capped.
14. Spare Goggles
Really wet conditions can cause even the best goggles to fog up beyond recovery. It’s easy to restore your vision with a second, dry pair.
15. Spare Gloves
Gloves are usually the first things to get wet. A dry, backup pair can be a godsend when the temperature drops later in the day.
Unless you want to try to eat lunch with a full-face helmet on, it’s a good idea to pack a toque or hat for those downtimes. A buff or balaclava is a great option for keeping snow out of your neck while you’re riding.
Likewise when you’re sitting around throughout the day, a pair of sunglasses will help protect your eyes from bright sunlight reflecting off the snow.
18. Lightweight Down Jacket
A highly compressible, insulated layer can be a lifesaver in an overnight situation. It’ll get more use keeping you warm when you’re taking a break from riding though.
19. Extra Fuel
While not strictly necessary, extra fuel will allow you to stay and keep shredding just a little while longer!