By Steve House
The spring ski-touring season is close at hand. And as we’ve seen a surge of interest from our athletes, both coached and those following plans, in prepping for long ski tours across the globe many have asked me for my gear list. This list is one I developed over the past decade when I guide hut-to-hut ski trips such as the incredible HochTirol (High-Tyrol) Traverse through Austria’s wildest mountains, or the much more famous (and much more crowded) Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route.
This Gear List, like any such list, will have to be modified by you. Your final packing list will be fine-tuned to the exact objective, weather, and conditions.
Of course, before you go, make sure you’ve taken care of your fitness!
- Alpine touring skis, telemark skis, or snowboard (split-board or with short approach skis). Skis should be a minimum of 85mm underfoot and a maximum of 105mm. Wider skis get very heavy and impact your ability to tour uphill. Narrower skis are more appropriate for late season tours and traverses. I use the Kaestle TX82. My wife, being from Austria, imposes a strict rule that our family is only allowed to ski on skis made in Austria. Not a hardship, believe me!
- Alpine Touring (ski) or snowboard boots. Typical downhill ski boots do not work for touring. People spend days discussing ski boots, but the single most important component of a boot for a week-long tour is fit. They have to fit you well and be comfortable to wear every single day.
- Adjustable ski poles. I prefer 2-piece carbon poles with a flick-lock style adjustment system.
- Climbing skins. These must fit your skis perfectly. A good-fitting skin covers all of the p-tex base, but leaves all of the metal edge exposed. Nothing tests your skins like daily use with often-inadequate overnight drying. Make sure they’re relatively new with excellent glue.
- Ski brakes. Recommended. Retention leashes may be preferred for tours which cross glaciers.
- Ski crampons. Mandatory for spring tours.
- 2 Ski straps. The typical rubber-based ski strap has many purposes.
- Skin Wax. One bar per group.
SNOW SAFETY EQUIPMENT
- Avalanche transceiver with new batteries.
- Avalanche probe.
- Rescue Shovel. Flat-backed metal blade is recommended.
- Pack. 25-40 liters depending on tour type.
- Small, personal first aid kit including blister care.
- Avalung, avalung pack, or ABS pack should be considered situationally.
- Emergency locator device, 1-2 per party.
GLACIER EQUIPMENT (only for glaciated or technical tours)
- Ski Touring Rope. I use a lightweight 30-meter 8mm rope for most glacier-tours.
- Ice axe. A lightweight 50-60cm straight-shafted ice axe is preferred for most situations. A technical ice tool will also work.
- Boot crampons. Aluminum crampons with an attachment system designed for ski boots are preferred.
- 1 ice screw. 19-22 cm length.
- 2 lightweight locking carabiners.
- 2 lightweight non-locking carabiners.
- 1 60 cm nylon or dyneema sling.
- Belay/rappel device. A lightweight device is preferable. Make sure it works with your rope.
- Climbing or ski helmet. Situationally appropriate.
- Small ascender like Rope Man or Ti-bloc (optional)
- All necessary under, mid, and outer layers appropriate to the area and season. The following is a good example for normal winter conditions:
- Good, storm-proof jacket with a hood. Example: Patagonia M-10 Jacket
- Lightweight wind/weather shell. Example: Patagonia Houdini.
- Soft-shell (or vent-able hard-shell) pants that fit over boot cuff and have integrated gaiter that works with your boots.
- Mid-weight fleece shirt or jacket. Example: Patagonia Nano-Air Light Pull-over
- Long underwear top with zip-tee/neck coverage; either synthetic or wool.
- Long underwear bottom; either synthetic or wool.
- Good, packable insulated parka appropriate to temperatures and forecast. If a lot of snow or bad weather is forecast, consider opting for a synthetic parka instead of down. (aka “Puffy Jacket”)
- Winter gloves, two pair: One light and one medium-weight
- Mittens. Lightweight mittens are an important asset, especially in an emergency situation. Very warm gloves may work as well.
- Warm hat.
- Sun hat.
- Balaclava or neck gaiter.
- Ski socks. Typically two pairs for up to one week.
- Women’s knee-high nylon stockings. Yes, you read that right. GREAT for blister prevention.
- Headlamp. Lithium batteries are more expensive, but lighter than alkaline batteries and they perform better in the cold.
- Goggles (I prefer yellow-colored lenses that work well in cloudy conditions.)
- Sun screen. SPF 30 or greater
- Lip balm. SPF 30 or greater
- Butane lighter. (optional)
- Ear plugs. (Crucial for overnight tours in huts)
- Personal hygiene articles.
- Small supply of toilet paper?or facial tissues.
- One-liter vacuum thermos bottle. Note that hydration tubes usually freeze while ski touring. (My personal preference over a water bottle.)
SKI CAMPING/ BIVY EQUIPMENT
(For overnight tours spent camping NOT in huts):
- Sleeping bag.
- Sleeping pad.
- Varies widely based on tour type and length.