A Freerider’s Kit List
Words by Angelica Sykes – Competitive Freeride Athlete.
It’s that time of the year again; retailers are having their pre-season sales, flights are still reasonably priced and now is the time you should be booking your tickets to the Ski and Snowboard Show, Freeze Festival and, of course, Snowbombing.
Now, either you’re a seasonaire, in which case you’ll be in the midst of packing your suitcase, desperately trying not to go over the 20kg limit whilst finding space for your Mum’s OXO cubes and handfuls of Cadburys chocolate bars. (Thanks Gran!) Or you’re an enthusiastic holiday maker, who sneakily watches last season’s powder edits at work while waiting for your boss to approve your 2 week peak-season holiday.
Either way, it’s easy to get snowed under with articles and advice on what an experienced powder hound or a first timer should be bringing. However there’s no need to worry, even myself who’s supposed to be a “pro” gets confused with all the jargon.
Here I will outline what I have in my backpack on an average day in the back country; but things should be added as you get more confident, as you learn how to read the mountain better. There are many different products on the market but these are my tried and tested go-to items. For more info on how to stay safe off piste, check out the Ski Club’s guide here.
The Absolute Off-Piste Basics…
1. Transceiver, ARVA, Beacon, Beeper.
Whatever you want to call it – buy one, learn how to use it and keep it close to your heart. Hell, even when you’re not skiing, because, if you know how to use it, this little gem will save your life! I’m still in love with my Ortovox 3+ Transceiver; with a digitalised display and super easy to use functions you can track and flag multiple victims. The intelligent antenna system automatically adjusts to the best setting and it also tells you the near-to-exact distance and direction with a simple line and sound system on the display. Lastly, this little piece of hardware also allows you to update the software as and when new technologies develop. The Ortovox 3+ is where it’s at!
I personally use the K2 Backside Rescue Shovel. First off, one of the most important features of a good shovel is its efficiency or, in other words, simply placing the shovel handle into the blade without a struggle. It’s what K2 are calling a speed shovel, which means with its intelligently placed holes, it allows you to move a large amount of snow quickly- which of course is the aim. Finally, it’s made of a carbon material which is as light as a feather.
I use the K2 Backside Rescue probe. Again, there’s no need for us to over-complicate what a probe does. This particular probe is simple and it ticks all the boxes for what a probe should be doing plus, it succeeds time after time. After many rescue training sessions putting this probe to the test, it always deploys rapidly. Made of steel and aluminium mix, this probe is strong, sturdy and fabricated using a very light weight material.
4. First Aid kit.
Sadly, what I’ve seen in a large number of kit list reviews has very little emphasis on how important it is to carry a full off-piste first aid kit. This is NOT your standard office first aid kit, it’s customised to include things you would actually need if the worst was to happen in the back country. I use the Ortovox First Aid Pro which includes all the basics, plus helpful additions such as the rather sizeable rescue blanket- which for obvious reasons could be a life saver. I would recommend padding this out a little more and buying yourself some duck tape too!
5. The Backpack.
My heart is torn here between two awesome items. On the one hand, I am drawn towards my Mammut Nirvana Ride Pack. This practical backpack is ideal for all-mountain and freeriding activities. With functional pockets, dividers and high carrying comfort, it’s perfect for one-day tours. This bad boy is highly waterproof and, although this is expected as a default, other backpacks have failed me. I tested this at home by filling the middle section with water to which I was amazed as not one drop managed to filter through into any other sections. Lastly, the orange coloured one is pretty cool.
Next up we have the Osprey Kode ABS 42. This pack shows how truly versatile osprey can be with its incredible craftsmanship. Kode ABS 42 combines Osprey design, fit and innovation with ABS Vario compatibility and safety. Gear can be separated in their easily accessed sections making it super practical to separate wet from dry and hardware and outwear. Both packs are Airbag ready and have comfortable and easy ski or board carrying facilities. In my opinion, either backpack will have you gliding down the mountain with your life on your shoulders but without a care in the world.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. It is a daunting topic but the main thing is to have the enthusiasm and the willingness to learn, after that, the rest will follow. In the meantime, the best piece of advice that I can give you is to be ready to listen and take in all the information from everyone you meet on your backcountry travels, whether that’s mountain guides, instructors or more experienced friends. Before you know it you will be camping out in the wilderness, surrounded by mountains, knowing that your knowledge and experience could not only ensure the best freeride experience ever but also save your life.
Part two of this article will be out soon, in which I shall go into more detail about what should be on your advanced off piste kit list and other things to be prepared for.