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Essential items to carry when snowshoeing:

These items are not all required to have before you snowshoe with our group but work toward being fully prepared by carrying these items as well as knowing how to use them, since you never know when they may be needed to help you or someone in need.  Since I spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter skiing, Zipfy Riding and snowshoeing, I keep most of these items in a bright yellow tote bag so I'm always ready to go at a moment's notice.  Keep your items clean and check your batteries often

  1. Water - Essential
  2. Poles - see article below for details on why poles are needed
  3. 2 Way Radio/Walkie Talkie
  4. Extra Food
  5. Layer up w/ extra Clothing/Insulation
  6. Rain/Wind Protection
  7. Sun Protection (Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, lip balm)
  8. Compass
  9. Map
  10. Flashlight w/ spare batteries
  11. First Aid Kit
  12. Emergency Kit (Whistle, matches or small lighter, candle or fire starter tabs, lightweight reflective emergency bag or space blanket, pocket knife)
  13. Cell phone - However, I don't depend on cell phone coverage in the canyons since reception is not guaranteed.

Learn more about valuable snowshoeing items to bring

For Backcountry Snowshoeing:

The following info was from: http://www.backpacking.net/winter.html#iceaxe

Our group does not venture out into avalanche country, so we don't carry all of these items for our snowshoe outings.  

hiking in winter


Critical pieces of gear to ensure safe, successful snowshoeing. The poles help you stay balanced while traveling forward as well as when doing tricky maneuvers. The poles also help propel you forward (kinda like 4-wheel drive).

Get poles that are telescoping 2 or 3-sections (preferably 3-section) for the following reasons: (1) 3-section telescoping poles (like the Leki Super Extreme) pack down to about 30 inches in length so that they fit nicely in or on your backpack. (2) They also adjust nicely to your stature--your arms should be at a 90 degree angle when holding properly-adjusted snow poles. (3) In addition, it is very important to be able to adjust your poles when you are traversing a hillside--the short pole on the uphill and the long pole on the downhill, to help you stay balanced. Another combination for traversing--which I frequently use if I will be traversing a long distance or a particularly risky section or switchbacking up a steep slope--is to hold my ice axe on the uphill side and the long snow pole on the downhill side. That way, if I slip, I can self arrest and avoid damaging the goods, so to speak.

When purchasing snow poles, it is important to get cross-country, oversized snow baskets (about 5 inches in diameter). Those dinky things you use for skiing get stuck in the snow too easily. If your poles don't come with the oversized baskets (my Leki Super Extreme did) then you can buy them separately at most, good outdoor shops and install them yourself.

Critical piece of gear, when in the mountains. It can save your bacon. In alpine country, carry an ice axe and know how to self arrest and self belay. These are critical mountaineering skills that are not hard to learn, but you do need to practice them, so that they become second nature to you.

If you take time to shop carefully, you will find several very nice lightweight ice axes on the market. Both Black Diamond and Camp have several - LISTED HERE.


In avalanche country, especially, make sure everyone has a small, lightweight snow shovel. If only one person has a shovel and that person gets buried, what are you going to dig them out with ? If you ever go alpine snowshoeing with me, please bring your snow shovel !

I have a very nice ultralight, Voile, mini shovel with telescoping handle. Very light and practical, but strong and functional. Another very practical option would be the BC Access Companion System Shovel which integrates the popular and proven BC Access Companion Shovel with an avalanche probe.

Carry one of these. It measures altitude and used together with your map and compass can help pinpoint your location. I use mine, also, extensively, to check barometric pressure (to detect changes in the weather). You see, the altimeter altitude reading has an inverse relationship to the movement of barometric pressure. If you notice a sudden, dramatic, unrealistic altitude increase on your altimeter (over a two hour period, for example) it may indicate an equally dramatic lowering of barometric pressure (which could mean an impending storm). Anyway, its a good tool to have and know how to use to stay "unlost" and to have "sort of a clue" about impending weather conditions.

I carry an Avocet Vertech Altimeter. I don't do wrist-type devices so I carry it around my neck, using the optional Avocet lanyard configuration.

Thin bamboo poles with a colored flag on one end. They are trail markers. When you're out in snowy conditions, especially overnight, these little poles, placed strategically along your route, can help you find your way back out.

The ones that I use are about 3/8 of an inch in diameter and 4 feet long, with a small red flag on one end.

Beacons are getting less intimidating (a.k.a. user friendly) since the invent of the Digital Beacon which, basically, pinpoints the buried victim and allows the searcher to proceed straight ahead to the spot without conducting time-consuming and harder to learn grid searches. Be that as it may, beacons are a must for Winter backcountry travel into potential avalanche country - as are probes. Beacons will allow you to find the area where the victim is probably located and the probes help to pinpoint the spot to dig. The BC Access Tracker DTS digital beacon has become the top-selling avalanche beacon in the world.

Word to the wise: although this may seem rather silly, don't be surprised to see it happen. If you are well prepared in the backcountry and taking good safety precautions, for your best interest, make sure everyone else in your group has a beacon/probe/shovel and knows how to use them. It's nice that you carry those things and know how to use them, but that won't help you if you're the one that gets buried. Whether partners are carrying analog or digital beacons, make sure they know how to use them. Do a little practice before setting out into avalanche country.


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