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SALT LAKE CITY — No one wants to spend an unexpected night in the backcountry, especially in winter, but if you don’t take the time to prepare before you go snowshoeing this might happen. Having the right gear to help you find your way back in a blizzard or to fix a broken snowshoe is essential.
The first thing to consider when determining what gear to pack is the pack itself. Due to the colder temperatures that are prevalent in Utah this time of year, you will need to take more items than you would usually take on a summer hike. Because of this, a good sized daypack is recommended.
Having enough room to carry extra clothing, food, water and emergency gear is essential for a safe snowshoeing adventure. A pack that is at least 25 liters will work great for most outings. Here is a list of 10 recommended items to take on a daylong snowshoe adventure.
- Navigation — map, compass, and GPS — Navigation should at least include a map and compass but can be more extensive depending on the length of your trip. A GPS can be useful when snowshoeing, especially if the forecast predicts heavy snow to snow or if fog sets in.
When picking out what type of GPS to bring, make sure it has the ability to mark a location, like a trailhead, and that it will record waypoints as you travel. These waypoints act as though you are leaving “bread crumbs” which you can follow back if visibility diminishes.
- Sun protection Sun protection is as easy as sunglasses and sunscreen. Most people remember to wear sunscreen in the summer, but it is just as important to wear it in the winter when harmful UV rays hit you from above and again from below from the snow's reflection.
- Insulation In the winter, the weather can change from sunny to cold and snowy suddenly. Pack extra clothing to keep you warm and comfortable if you get wet or the temperature drops.
- Illumination — headlamp or flashlight — With winter comes shorter days, and your chances of being caught out in the dark increase. Having a headlamp or flashlight can help you get back to the trailhead safely. Also make sure that you pack extra batteries. There are not many things more demoralizing than carrying a flashlight all day just to find your light’s batteries are dead when you need it.
- First-aid supplies You never know if you or someone in your group will be injured. When packing a first-aid kit, consider how long you are planning on being outside, how many are in your group and what possible injuries might happen.
- Ways to start a Fire Having the ability to start a fire can be the difference between life and death if you get caught in the backcountry. It is always a good idea to have a couple reliable fire starting methods. Waterproof/windproof matches and a lighter are perfect tools to take on a snowshoeing trip.
- Repair kit and tools Snowshoes and other equipment can break so pack tools that can repair broken items. A multi-tool is a single tool with many uses. It is good to always carry a few large zip ties just in case of an emergency. Duct tape is also a must-have item for quick repairs.
- Nutrition (extra food) Pack enough food for the day and a little extra that doesn’t require cooking. Trail mix, energy or protein bars and beef jerky are great sources of energy that are quick and easy.
- Hydration (extra water) A lot of people don’t notice how much water they use when snowshoeing. Having around 2 liters of water per person is a good idea. Fresh running water can be hard to find in the winter. There is always snow, but having the ability to melt it can be hard unless you plan on carrying stove.
- Emergency shelter
The last item on the list of essentials is to have equipment to build an emergency shelter. At the very least, you should take an emergency space blanket. But you could also take a bivy sack or tarp.
Other Items to remember that are useful while snowshoeing:
Carrying a cell phone can come in handy in case of an emergency but remember you might not have a signal. Don’t forget to pack a camera so you can take some pictures.
If you plan on going into the backcountry, always carry an avalanche beacon, probe and snow shovel in case you get caught in an avalanche.
Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy some of the “best snow on earth” here in Utah. Taking a little time to prepare before you go out on your trip can go a long way.
Jeremiah Breeze is an outdoor enthusiast, and father of three adventurous kids. Follow him on Twitter at @openairlife or visit http://openairlife.com.