Essential Equipment for Ski Touring
An often overlooked, but critical piece of backcountry safety equipment, is your repair kit. After blowing up a ski binding, try post-holing chest deep several miles back to your car in the dark and you will know what I mean. The following is a very basic repair kit that you can work off of to tailor to your specific needs.
Top Row – Left to Right:
- Pole splint – essentially two pieces of curved aluminum, you can buy these commercially or make them yourself with a hacksaw and an old section of ski pole. The splint is secured with two hose clamps one above and one below the break. Skiing without a pole usually isn’t life or death but it makes life a lot better – especially if you are skiing difficult terrain/snow with a heavy pack
- Pole basket – self explanatory and same reason as above – make sure the basket actually fits onto the pole you are using
- Skin tip – it is pretty unusual for these to break, but if you have weak glue on your skins, they sometimes which may make them less (or more?) likely to break but harder to repair. It is always possible to repair the skin tip attachment with your ski strap (see below)
- Skin tail attachment – these fall off frequently, I usually carry a couple of these
- Small tool with pliers – most of the time this tool is sufficient for minor repairs – it includes a knife, a file and a small slotted screw driver. The pliers are probably the most important. This tiny tool only weighs an ounce or so
Middle Row – Left to Right
- Zip ties/cable tie – these can be useful for a lot of things including refastening a buckle on a boot, coat or pack. They can be used to re-attach a broken rear skin strap (the rubber ones can break in half). I like the big beefy zip ties (the ones in the picture are kind of wimpy)
- Binding buddy – carry a couple of common heads including Phillips and star drives, of course be sure that you have the driver for your particular binding screws. It is also not a bad idea to have a couple of the exact screws for different parts of your binding along with a little steel wool (not shown), the wool can be stuffed into a stripped screw hole prior to placing a new screw and serve as a temporary means of filling the gap allowing the screw to be tightened in stripped threads.
- Small roll of duck tape – I don’t carry a lot of this because duck tape can’t really fix any serious problems, and secondly it goes bad after a little while. No doubt it can be handy but you need to stay updated on your replacement cycle with it, or it will just be rotten and unusable when you need it most.
- Ski strap – the longer the better. Probably the single most important item in your kit. Consider carrying two. These can be used to do major repairs and lashing boots and binding systems. They are also good temporary fixes to skin glue problems. Don’t be afraid to pull them REALLY tight. If you carry some sort of sled system (for emergency evacuation) it is likely that you will have several ski straps that can be used for both systems – i.e. your evac and your repair kit
- Bailing wire – this along with a ski strap or two can solve almost any binding/boot emergency. Remember, you are not trying to return your ski system to pristine powder skiing condition – you are just trying to make it workable so that you can get out of the backcountry to your car and real repairs
Bottom Row – Left to Right
- Paracord – On longer trips I often carry this to supplement the ski straps and bailing wire and it can be used for the same uses although primarily as backup. If you carry a tarp in your day ski kit, the paracord can serve double duty as rigging wire.
- Large leatherman/pliers tool – sometimes there just is no substitute for size and power, and on longer trips I make sure we have one of these in our groups so some real cranking can be done if needed.
- Small zip pouch – the whole kit fits nicely in this slim pouch and weighs under a pound. There is really no need to carry more than one of these repair kits per group.
Of course if you are going on trips longer than a day you may want to add a couple of items. Perhaps a full front or rear binding piece? Skin glue? Tent and sleeping pad patches? Dynamite? But the truth is, I rarely need to use my repair kit because I am pretty careful about maintaining my equipment pre-trip. It is just so much easier to get your equipment dialed in the comfort of your garage or living room than it is trying to McGyver some half way solution at 12k in a snowstorm. If my gear is worn out or on the edge I replace it – or make a full-bore serious permanent repair. Skiing is a blast, and when it is at its best, gear is the last thing on your mind.
AMGA Certified Ski Guide