What’s In My Pack: Backcountry Touring Edition

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Whenever I introduce a friend to backcountry touring their first question usually is, what do I bring? Packing a bag for a half or full day tour can be easy once you know what to anticipate.

I always suggest checking the forecast in the morning. Will it get warmer throughout the day? Is a storm expected? This will give you some insight to what layers to wear, what layers to pack, and what layers to leave at home.

If the weather is supposed to be 40 and above in the Wasatch I leave my puffy at home. Generally, it’s good advice to always have a puffy with you, but the majority of tours I take in the Wasatch are low angle and close to emergency services. I know the chances of being out overnight are slim. But please, always do what feels comfortable for you and your situation. You know your environment better than I do.

In terms of food, I prefer to snack throughout the day (unless I have some leftover pizza!) I pack dried fruit, cliff bars, nuts, and lots of water. I always fill up my 3L CamelBak regardless of tour length.

Always, always, always take your beacon, shovel, and probe. Even if you aren’t traveling through avalanche terrain, there are groups in the backcountry who are, and it may be up to you to rescue them. Always be prepared for anything that can happen.

In my pack:

  • Headlamp
  • Batteries (for headlamp and beacon)
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Extra gloves (lighter or heavier depending on the weather)
  • Extra hat
  • Wilderness First Aid Field Book
  • First Aid Kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Ski Strap
  • Bag for my Skins
  • Beacon
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • Emergency blanket
  • Extra Layers
  • Wasatch Backcountry Map
  • Cell Phone
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Compass
  • Fire Starter
  • Tape

If you’re just starting out it’s safer to overpack. With more tours you’ll get a better feel for what’s important to bring into the backcountry, and with the exception of beacon, shovel, and probe, it’s different for everyone. A good general rule is to pack for the worst and hope for the best. The last thing you want in the backcountry is to be wishing you’d brought something you’d opted out on because of the extra weight.

Anything I missed? Let me know what’s in your pack in the comments!


5 thoughts on “What’s In My Pack: Backcountry Touring Edition”

  1. I had to chuckle near the bottom when you included cell phone. When I did backpacking and touring we didn’t think about cell phones. Of course, they didn’t look like they do today, nor were they has hardy. Most were sensitive to the cold climes and that was as little as ten years ago, then better reception is possible in far more areas than they were back then as well. I was visiting my daughter last year and decided to take a day hike (in the Wasatch) mountains alone, so for sure I had my phone. My feeling is to always be prepared. When I lived in Colorado traveled with my work, I always had all that in my car as well, including skiis and poles. I got a flat tire once, in the canyons, at dusk and I was so glad to have them.


    1. It’s funny how much things have changed in the past decade or two. I can’t imagine going out without my cell phone in case of emergency! Plus with the different maps you can download onto your phone that work as a GPS even without cell service. I hate to be so attached to technology, but it’s becoming an asset and less an annoyance. I agree, always be prepared!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very comprehensive list! Perhaps I would add a compact saw for digging snow pits and goggles (I personally cannot ski with sunglasses). I also bring some glucose gels in case of emergency. In Interior BC, cell phones are usually useless but we carry a spot device for emergency calls. Thanks for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I can’t believe I forgot goggles, they are a necessity! I like the idea of adding glucose gels in case of emergency. A saw would definitely be helpful on days when you’re digging a pit. I’ve been using a string and a tape measure until I can purchase one. BC skiing looks amazing! I hope you’re enjoying the winter!

      Liked by 1 person

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