Packing For Spring Tours
Our Tips For Longer Days In The Backcountry
As winter turns to spring, we like to take advantage of longer, warmer days in the backcountry. Spring touring means we’re waking up with the sun, not before it, and even if Ulr hasn’t blessed us with fresh snow, we can often count on sun-warmed afternoon turns instead. Need help packing? We’ll give you some tips.
Avalanche Safety First
Whether you’re heading out on an all-day ridgeline tour or just grabbing a few hours of spring corn, there are three items you should always bring into the backcountry: A beacon, probe, and shovel. And be sure to pack them so that they’re easily accessible in case of an emergency.
Most touring packs are built with an avy safety compartment included, making this step simple and mishap-proof. We’re big fans of the OrtovoxHaute Route 32L Backpack because it has external attachments for either skis or a splitboard as well as ropes and ice axes—and at 32L, there’s room for extra snacks and beverages for our summit celebration.
If you really want to play it safe, get a pack with a built-in airbag, like the Mammut Pro Protection Airbag 3.0 Backpack. However, if you’re making do with your summer hiking pack, make sure to put your shovel and probe at the top of the pack or in the front compartment.
Beacons are the most high-tech piece of your safety trifecta, but choosing one doesn’t have to be tricky. You can read our guide on how to pick the best one for you, or see a few of our favorites: The Backcountry Access Tracker3 Avalanche Beacon remains popular thanks to its simple and easy-to-use interface, but if you’re looking to get more intel during your searches, the Mammut Barryvox S Beacon comes with a smart search display to act as your guide.
Most beacons come with a harness and you should strap it on and make sure you’re beeping before you start skinning. Never leave your beacon in your pack or put it in a non-dedicated beacon pocket on your pants or jacket—it won’t always stay on if you get caught in an avalanche.
Shovels & Probes
Nothing fancy here, just make sure you know how to use them before you go. If your pack included an avy compartment, there are usually pockets inside it for these two. Check out our guide for more details on how to choose shovels & probes. Black Diamond’s Transfer 3 Shovel is a sturdy option with an extendable handle that ensures it fits into your pack. Together with BD’s Quickdraw Pro Probe 280, you’ll have a set.
Other Touring Tools
When skinning from warmer, lower elevations (where the snow might be wet) into colder, higher elevations (where you’re more likely to find powder), snow tends to stick to our skins and slow us down. We like to pack along a snow scraper like the Swix Plexi Scraper to remove it. (You can also toss some wax into your pack and use it on the skins to prevent this from happening further.)
Ski straps—like this Black Diamond one—are also handy if we’re going to do any bootpacking and decide to sling our skis or splitboard onto our pack, so we always bring at least one.
And just like any adventure, it’s never a bad idea to bring a first aid kit, like the My MedicSolo Advanced.
Touring Apparel & Accessories
Spring touring can mean an even warmer climb than usual, so we’ll turn the heat down with packable lightweight insulation like Patagonia’s DAS Light Hooded Jacket or Nano Puff Insulated Jacket. We also like to wear a lightweight pair of gloves on the skintrack. The North Face Etip Recycled Tech Glove and Outdoor Research Gripper Sensor Glove are great options because grippy palms come in handy for ripping skins and buckling boots, and screen-friendly fingers mean we can leave them on to snap photos with our phone. Then we stick warmer gloves for the descent in our bags (something midweight like the Hestra Leather Fall Line Glove).
Long days = more sunshine. Strap your helmet to your pack (many touring packs come with this feature as well) and don a cap and buff, like Skida’s Space Garden Brim Hat and Tour Neckwarmer, both bursting with spring vibes. Make sure you bring sunscreen and shades—we recommend sunnies with side shields like the Sunski Treeline Polarized Sunglasses or extra front coverage like the Oakley Sutro S Prizm Sunglasses
Make a sandwich, bring a burrito, slip some bacon into the chest pocket of your bibs—go nuts, just don’t go hungry. We like to add some Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews or GU Energy Gel for extra juice on the uphill. Heading out with a group of friends or making a ski date? Go full-on charcuteski. (That’s charcuterie, served on skis. Check it out here, you won’t be disappointed.)
It’s important to stay hydrated, of course, but sometimes those bladder tubes can freeze. The Nathan Insulated Bite Top 18oz Soft Flask is a nice alternative that won’t turn solid on you. And you can also bring Clifbar Clif Shot Bloks to replenish some of your lost electrolytes.
And that’s it! You’re all set for your next spring tour. Catch you on the skintrack.
Glynis Jehle is a writer at Backcountry. When she’s not enjoying spring turns you can find her working up the courage to jump into Lake Champlain in below-freezing weather.