Our backcountry expert Andy Malton from thegemsstock is back with another article, this time running through the essentials and more when it comes to backcountry equipment. Today he's giving his recommendations for the backpacks, and a few of those extras that you might not have thought about.
You’re going to need something to put all your kit in. Backcountry snowboarding rucksacks vary enormously in size and function. For lift accessed off piste action a pack of around 20L will do just fine, for big day tours or longer multi day split board missions then a bigger pack will be needed.
Airbag packs are expensive and are not a replacement for good route finding and decision making but can be an effective last line of defence against burial should you find yourself in an avalanche. Many packs these days are compatible with the different airbag systems should you wish to purchase them separately.
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Burton 30L Splitboard Pack
Burton have designed the Splitboard Pack for, well, splitboarding. 30L is a good all round size that should be large enough for a big day’s splitboarding but not too large for a spot of freeriding or sledding. It’s built entirely from recycled materials too which is pretty cool.
Jones Snowboards Packs
Jones have 4 packs in their range – the Deeper 18L is designed for short forays into the backcountry, the Further 24L has a little more room and should be great for a day’s splitboarding whilst the Higher 30L has increased capacity for gear intensive missions. The Higher 30L also comes in a Snowpulse airbag compatible version. All sizes are well designed as you’d expect featuring things like dedicated board carry and extra large zips and buckles that are easy to use when wearing gloves.
Osprey Kode Packs
Osprey make brilliant packs for backcountry snowboarding. All the models in the Kode range are super well thought out and made from bomber materials that will stand up to a lot of abuse. The Kode 42 is the perfect splitboarding pack being suitable for both day tours and longer hut to hut missions, whilst the smaller models have the same comprehensive feature set just with less space. All models have back panel access which means can get onto the pack even with a board strapped to the front. The Kode 42 is compatible with the ABS airbag system sold separately.
Black Diamond JetForce Packs
The big new development in airbag technology this winter comes from Black Diamond. JetForce technology uses a battery powered fan to inflate the airbag. It’s properly clever stuff and should work really well as the whole system is re-useable and the lithium ion battery is re-chargeable. You shouldn’t have any of the usual problems associated with airbag packs when it comes to airline travel either. The packs don’t have dedicated snowboard carry though which is a little disappointing, though you can carry a splitboard in ski mode no problem.
Bits and Bats - Karakoram clips
Definitely recommended as a retro fit to any splitboard, Karakoram clips really snap the board together well giving a more stable and solid feel underfoot.
Bits and Bats - First aid kit
It’s a good idea to pack a basic first aid kit when going into the mountains. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just the basics like painkillers, a few bandages and plasters is better than nothing at all.
Bits and Bats - Duct tape
Always useful for fixing stuff in the mountains! Duct tape works on anything including things like ripped clothing and is cheap and easy to get hold of.
Bits and Bats - Reading
This book by Bruce Tremper is fast becoming a classic. It’s easy to read and goes into a good amount of real world specific detail but not so much science that it bogs you down. It’s an essential buy for anyone looking to spend an increasing amount of time on the backcountry.
Bits and Bats - Hire a guide/go on an avalanche course.
There’s no better way to learn about safe travel in the mountains in winter than through someone who has earned their stripes. To become a qualified mountain guide you have to spend more time in the mountains than most of us can possibly imagine. Plus they should be able to show you the goods and take you to the areas with the best snow. Increasing your knowledge of avalanches and the snowpack is also a good call and there are countless avalanche courses out there to choose from.