When we venture into the snowy hills, there is gear that’s imperative: your skis, boots and poles; avalanche beacon, shovel and probe; jacket, gloves and pants. We’ll call these items absolutes. If you’re missing one, chances are your day is done before you leave the house.
Those other pieces of equipment that aren’t absolute, but nonetheless important to the day’s activities, let’s call essentials. Essentials are important articles that can make or break your experience, turn an activity into an event, or possibly save your life.
In the mountains, having something and not needing it, is always better than needing something and not having it. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the cold mountains, and found countless items that bring civility to the visceral nature of winter.
Among these are so-called comfort items, like a Buff neck warmer, hand and boot warmers, and a vacuum-sealed thermos with two cups for sharing. Don’t be deceived by the word “comfort,” though: in the backcountry, there’s a thin line between discomfort and hypothermia.
There are also items to help you handle the whole range of what the mountains can throw at you without a moment’s notice: first aid and emergency supplies, eyewear for varied light conditions, a headlamp, high-calorie food items and more.
Click through to see eleven of my favorites.