Gear Guide: Ski touring
During my adventures, I often write a list of the things I bring with me. I’ve always liked to do that. Afterwards, I supplement with notes about how it works or what I would like to do differently.
Questions concerning the “right” wilderness equipment are increasing. Appropriate gear is very much depending on the person and your interests. Some items are absolutely indispensable, but they come in many different shapes! The duration of the trip matters, but you need to bring the essential gear regardless of whether you are out for one night or ten nights. What changes is generally the amount of food, fuel and batteries. Here I have written an equipment list with my thoughts and choices. Beyond this list there may naturally be further items, depending on the nature of the trip.
I have chosen a pair of skis that are 208cm long, with a steel edge. Today I use Rottefella BC Magnum binding but until 2019 I used the old classic 75mm 3-pin bindings. Both work well in my opinion. The change took place when I did not find a new pair of shoes fitting the binding I had. Bindings come in many different types and styles, but they can be classified into two groups: cable bindings and toe bindings. I chose the toe binding because it allows me to move more freely, but at the same time its harder on the sole of your boot. Since I often travel above the tree line and usually ski more or less straight forward I prefer a longer ski; it is both course stable and does not sink into the snow as much as shorter ones would. If you have older skis, it may be worth checking that they are in good condition before going out. If you will carry a heavy backpack I recommend you to try the setup before going out, or at least take longer skis as you will add a lot of weight. Check that the bindings are properly attached, the screws are in place and that the binding looks intact overall and works as supposed to. Wax-free skis are preferred by most people and unbeatable in shifting snow conditions.
My choice: Åsnes Amundsen BC Fram
A pair of sturdy poles with a large basket is preferable. When I go downhill with a sledge, I usually let the poles hang with the help of the wrist strap while I hold the sledge shackles for a smoother and safer ride. It is easy to fall when you take the first turn of the year, and especially when you ski over an edge and the sledge tips over the edge shortly after. There are poles with smaller baskets made for summer hiking or snowshoeing, usually I compress these telescopic poles during the day and I often have to lengthen them. The thickness of the goods and the “locks” are usually different too. Some can be adjusted using a multitool if they are pushed together too easily.
My choice: Black Diamond Traverse Ski Poles
There are many variations when it comes to pulk. I have chosen a pulk from a Norwegian manufacturer that is 144cm long and that is more than enough for me when I am out. If you are going to share a pulk with someone, however, a pulk with a larger volume is preferable. Shackles that are foldable make transport to and from the mountains easier. Most pulks can be fitted on the shelf above the seats on the X2000 (train in Sweden) if you do not pack them too high, or in some cases even under the bottom bed. If you’re two people, we most often take the whole cabin and let the pulks have its own bed. I prefer a pulk where you can open the rear short side quickly with a zipper during the day while skiing to easily reach your equipment. On top I often store one extra ski pole and shovel. If the pulk feels heavy and you don’t get up the hills, the solution could temporarily be to load heavier things in the backpack as the weight ends up differently and it can make a big difference.
My choice: Fjellpulken X-Country 144 Touring
Backpack / harness
I have never really used a harness. Instead I pull with the help of D-rings that are attached to the hip belt of my backpack. In the backpack I have everything I need for the day so I don’t have to open the sledge more than necessary. Down jacket, thermos, wind sack, freeze-dried food for lunch, snacks and other things depending on the day. In my opinion, however, the backpack should still be light! Mine is a 60 litre backpack. Some backpacks have short loops while others use D-rings. Some works well while others tend to pull and twitch as they go back and forth in the loop.
My choice: Klättermusen Tor 60L (not the best D-rings unfortunately)
A small block, no bigger than a matchbox. Can do wonders when needed (even on grazing-free skis and sledges).
You can often tackle the uphills in different ways, but sometimes skins are still needed, especially if the sledge is heavy and pulling you backwards. I have a pair of skins that are slightly shorter than the skis and rounded at the back edge. Check that the glue is in good condition before going out and put them in your jacket for a while before putting them on, this makes them stick better. When I take them off I fold them in half and attach it to itself, edge to edge. Do this properly so that the glue works throughout the trip. Some people prefer shorter or thinner skins as its slides better during the downhills, better on flat ground etc. My skins are attached with the help of a loop on the tip of the ski. The loop is attached with two rivets. If you have run over these rivets repeatedly during a couple of trips it may be time to check if these need to be replaced or if they are still okay.
My choice: Montana Skins (45mm wide)
I have chosen a Swedish brand with an inner shoe made out of felt that can be taken out during the nights. I have plenty of space in front of my toes (13-14mm). I normally use a setup of one thinner and one thicker sock and sometimes also a freezer bag or similar as a moisture barrier to keep everything outside the bag dry. Try and find out to see what works best for you. The inner shoe is easy to take into the sleeping bag during the night to dry it and also works well in my bivy shoes as well. Good touring footwear should be reasonably firm without being stiff or too hard, yet give enough support for the downhill sections of your trip.
My choice: Lundhags Guide BC (felt shoes inside)
Base layer trousers
I usually ski in a pair of thinner flat-knitted long johns made out of wool. They are warm enough for me and since they are flat (more contact surface) it wicks moisture away quickly. This can be compared with circular knitted long johns that have less contact area, traps more air, and therefore are much warmer in comparison.
My choice: Woolpower Lite
Shell pants with bib
Above my long johns I have a pair of shell pants with bib. They effectively stop the wind and keep me warm throughout the day. I always have my knee pads in these pants. It keeps my knees warm in bad challenging weather and later in the day when I sit with my knees in the snow digging down the snow sticks for the tent. The bib in combination with an anorak means in my case that the anorak must come off when the need for No. 2 arises.
My choice: Fjällräven Eco Tour Trousers with knee pads.
Base layer t-shirt
Also flat knitted and in wool. Sometimes I have a long-sleeved woolnet at the bottom as this is very comfy, also if I work hard producing a lot of sweat.
My choice: Aclima Woolnet long sleeve
Mid layer sweater
Half zip in 200g and in wool. Works great when it is a bit windy and the temperature drops (otherwise usually too warm for me while skiing).
My choice: Woolpower Half zip 200g
I have a thicker anorak with zippers on the sides so I can get rid of excess heat easily. The kangaroo pocket is great to have a few things in that you need every now and then. However, in the end of the day it is easy to put everything in there. Watch out! The one I have is not an anorak with a membrane, it is made in a cotton/polyester blend and works perfectly during the winter.
My choice: Fjällräven Anorak No 8
When it’s only a few degrees below zero and the weather is good, I usually only have my base layer and a windbreaker, preferably with a hood. Easy to move around in and takes no place when stowed away.
My choice: Fjällräven High Coast
I usually wear a liner hat or a cap with ear flaps. Cap with large screen is nice when it is sunny and ear flaps when the wind is howling.
My choice: Klättermusen Mysse 3.0 or an Oslo hat that my wife knitted for me.
I usually use three different layers of gloves. As a base layer I have a thin 5 finger glove in wool. Sometimes I replace this with a garden glove or assembly glove as they are more durable. Nice to have when I’m working on the kitchen, camera and other things in camp. As a mid layer I use lovikka mittens that my wife has knitted for me. Finally I have a shell mitten that can withstand wind and water. Mittens warm more as they do not divide the fingers and they can warm each other while five finger gloves are preferred when doing things but your fingers can’t help each other keeping warm. If you repeatedly take your gloves off to do things, you have to rethink about your setup or learn to just take layers off when needed.
My choice: Hestra shell gloves + Woolpower Lite/200 thumb gloves, possibly assembly gloves and self-knitted.
Sunglasses and goggles
I usually wear my polished sunglasses and have opted out of goggles. I usually wear glasses. Googles protect better against wind and stray light.
My choice: Old Nike glasses
Cleaning cloth for sunglasses and goggles
The gloves and clothes do not work very well. A simple cleaning cloth does not weigh many grams and works wonders. If nothing else, you can enjoy the surroundings more when you actually see it properly.
Have a break every now and then. I usually have a slightly longer break before lunch, at lunch and another break one or two hours before we put up the camp. The length of the breaks varies depending on the weather. Snacks that are easy to eat is great, this can be nuts, beer sausage, chocolate, almond paste etc. Take a lot and don’t forget to have a good variety of stuff that you know you like while outdoors.
Something to drink
Drinking small amounts often is important during a winter trip. As we melt snow into water it can be good with vitamin C tablets, Resorb or similar. For me, it’s usually loads of rosehip soup, blueberry soup and bouillon cubes in hot water. I like bouillon cubes as there is less sugar, the liquid does not risk clumping together and it does not stick to the stopper in the same way as for example rosehip/blueberry soup. It’s my experience anyway.
First Aid Kit
I always have a first aid kit with me. It’s important to stay warm, dry and well fed as a basic need to think clearly and make good decisions and to alarm if it is bad. Don’t store your first aid kit in the bottom of the sledge! It should be easy to reach at all times!
The nose, cheekbones, ears and the rest of the face are easily burned in good sunny days. March is a winter month compared to April but the sun still burns you. Protect yourself! Preferably 50+.
A camera is always fun if you ask me. I have a holder that I attach to one of the shoulder straps. Using this it is easier to take pictures while skiing without a longer holdup. The battery gets cold, so store it in a pocket during the day. Since I have a system camera, I can take the camera and get a hum about the final picture through the viewfinder, insert the battery, make my settings, check that the focus is right, take the picture and then take another picture with the gray card visible. Always RAW format. I haven’t had any problem with the battery even if it is constantly in the camera on my shoulder strap with the setup I have today.
My choice: Canon 5D Mark II with 24-70mm 2.8 L USM
Usually I have the kit in a small waterproof bag that I attach to the backpack or sledge. Alcogel, toilet paper and a fire steel so I can burn most of the toilet paper afterwards. Alcogel makes the skin cold when it evaporates and you can instead use a hard soap or similar.
I have a mirror compass. You can navigate with it, but you can also signal for help and use the mirror if you are going to insert/remove your contact lenses. I prefer a compass which is a little bigger (easier to grip when you have thick gloves) and has a ruler on the side.
50,000 is easier to navigate with – 1cm is 500m versus a 100,000 map where 1cm is 1000m. For me jumping in between the scales takes some adjustment time. I usually keep the map in a waterproof map cover also on winter trips to protect it.
Communication with my family at home and a map function where you can check that you are navigating correctly. I use this when the terrain gets messy, when I move in the dark or during prolonged white out.
Do you follow your travel plan? What are the goals today? Obstacles on the way? Estimated time? Nice to keep in mind during the morning and evening routine.
Thick down jacket
By thick I mean a fluffy expedition down jacket of at least 0.8-1.4kg (mine weighs in at 1.4kg). Something to put on during challenging weather and to wear while having lunch. A proper nice hood and large pockets for gear and frozen hands.
To be able to hide in when needed and to get away from the wind in. A windbag allows you too have longer breaks. You can for example insulate a chilled person by crawling in together, take off boots and socks to warm his or her feet in your armpits, eat some energy and sip hot rosehip soup or tea.
I like shovels which are a little heavier. Preferably made of metal as they do not flex in the same way as plastic. D handle is preferred to T handle. Some shovels can be extended so that they are more comfortable to dig with for a longer time. Not everyone in a group needs a shovel, but many small shovels do wonders when needed. These are also used on a everyday basic to dig down and up snow anchors, dig out your vestibule and when visiting the toilet.
Usually use two with 0,75-1 liter capacity each. One with hot water for freeze dried food during lunch and one with rosehip soup, blueberry soup, tea or similar.
A slightly longer spoon. Easier to eat freeze-dried food with if you can’t tear off the bag in two places. Short spoon and lovikka gloves becomes hairy and sticky. I eat breakfast, supper and lunch with my long spoon. I also have one extra in reserve.
I prefer tunnel tent with a bigger vestibule. A 3 or 4 season tent works well. However, 4-season is preferable to a 3-season if you can choose. I sometimes attach 10 cm flat straps with a small carbine in the tent zippers to be able to easily open and close the doors with thick mittens. Good ventilation cones on both sides of the tent and a larger vestibule. In the larger vestibule, you can dig out a hole so that you can stand up or sit on the edge while cooking and eating. Nice to be able to fix your equipment and pack up and down while standing in the pit as well. To be honest, when the need for nr 2 presents is self and it’s really bad whether there are days when we did it in the vestibule before taking down the tent.
In this case snow pegs. A larger peg that is c-shaped and has a longer rope attached in the middle. I use 14 in total on my tunnel tent. They are dug down at an angle of around 45 degrees and I always make sure the rope go in a straight line from the tent to the peg. Otherwise the peg can travel upwards when the rope and tent is pulled.
4-season tents more often have thicker gods that withstand more pressure and do not flex as much in harsh weather. 3-season tent poles can flex a little more in strong winds. Some use double poles in all channels but I have never tried this. If you have used the tent for a long time or borrowed it, I would check that the repair sleeve and an extra tent pole section are included in the kit. I always check the canvas and all the ends of each pole section so that there are no dents or similar that could weaken the construction and potentially break when pressure is applied. It is important that the poles are properly assembled and that you do not force the sections apart when they are frozen together. You then have to hold the poles on both sides of the joints and slowly blow hot air on it with your mouth until you can split it easily.
Storage of the tent
My sled has a red cover that is folded in two layers under the bungees. Between these layers I place the tent. Some brands sell tent condoms, which means that you protect the tent a little more when you do like this. If you want to pitch the tent even quicker you can instead of removing the poles place the tent cloth so it only cover half of the pole section and then split the pole in half or as needed and then fold it over the other half of the pole section then roll the pole sections into the tent cloth. Then the poles hopefully don’t pinch the tent cloth.
Prepare the place
When I have decided to stay in an area I ski around for a minute or two searching for nice and even ground to pitch my tent at, then I take off my backpack and sledge. I flatten the area by going back and forth and sideways with my skis still on so that the snow gets packed. I then unpack the shovel, the snow pegs and the down jacket.
Set up/ pitch the tent
I check which direction the wind is coming from and put the small vestibule (if I have two) against the wind. I attach the guyline first then the other down by the ground cloth. If it’s really windy, it’s more important to do this. Then I raise the tent arch section 1.. 2.. 3.. 4 and finally the pegs on the other side. If we are two in this situation and everything is under control, we usually divide the work in between us so that one person digs out the vestibule while the other attach the remaining guylines, tighten these and lays snow around the entire tent along the cloth.
Dig out the vestibule
If you are unsure of the snow depth, you can measure the depth of the snow with a snow probe or the back of the ski. However, I try to avoid the back of the ski as I have seen a ski that split when this was done and perhaps there may be a small chance of falling and injuring yourself or the ski.
Tighten the guylines
I do this when I’m out brushing my teeth just before going to bed. This is most often the time when you enjoy the northern lights for a while wondering why you didn’t dress better.
Pick up and secure equipment
During the evening I also have a “management round”, I then check so we have control of all the equipment outside the tent. We don’t want it to blow away or fall on the tent fabric. We also don’t want it to disappear beneath the snow during snowfall. I usually turn the sledge upside down and put my skis and ski poles under it.
Camplife & food
To remove snow from the equipment and to brush the floor of the inner tent before taking it down in the morning.
My choice: An old brush that I found somewhere. Originally for brushing horses I think.
Set one candle per night in the vestibule for a cosy evening. Warm yellow glow that is relaxing to look at. A bit like a small campfire. I most often notice myself gazing at this for a long time.
A godsend! Light down shoes with covers to wear inside and outside the tent. Together with the inner shoes for the boots, they are wonderful to wear and to keep your feet warm. I usually put these on as soon as I take off my skis to walk around the camp or when cooking.
My choice: Exped (a little low)
Notebook & pencil
To record thoughts and experiences. Pencil because it works when it is cold and upside down.
A multifuel kitchen that you can easily repair in field when needed. Some have a head or so-called burner head while others have several. Check that what you use works with chemically pure petrol. Spare pump and repair kit is wise to bring. If there are several people in a group, it may be worth if everyone uses the same type of kitchen as the service kit and spare pump works for everyone. On a winter trip, I attach my kitchen to a thin wooden board covered in aluminum. The aluminum does not absorb water or fuel and makes it easier to keep clean. I also usually attach the fuel bottle with a flat strap. You must be able to remove the bottle easily as it needs to be refilled! For the kitchen, there should be a good windshield that keeps the heat inside. Kitchen can be tricky when you are out… The flame spreader can become uneven, the hole in the “head” can litter again or get a notch in it so the flame goes awry. Gaskets may need to be lubricated and the pump may not hold the pressure. Learn how to take care of and repair the kitchen!
My choice: Primus Omnifuel (the older version)
There are many pots. I prefer 2-2.3L pots with heat exchangers. It saves fuel and reduces cooking time. Some kitchens are sold with an insulating bag. This works great! A good lid is needed! Try to seal the kitchen as well as possible with windbreaks and lids to keep the heat. Ventilate properly if you use the kitchen in the tent!
My choice: Primetech Pot Set 2.3L
Fire steel is great and always works! Matches to light the candle. Otherwise you have to light the kitchen to turn on the light, which becomes a bit cumbersome. Having two solutions and storing it in two DIFFERENT places is also good if one should disappear, even if only for the moment.
To store all rubbish in. Keep in mind from the start what can be considered as rubbish and what you can reduce already at home before going out. I try to sort my rubbish already out in the field so that it is easy to throw away when you arrive at a mountain station. Then you do not have to stand and sort a week’s rubbish afterwards.
Depending on the food choice, a few different kitchen accessories are needed. I make all my dishes with my spoon and spatula. Sometimes I bring a small grater to be able to grate parmesan or other goodies on the food.
There are many different ones. Usually I use a metal plate, but in the winter I replace it with a round plastic food bowl. It looks like something the dog would drink from and works perfectly. Even when my thick mittens are on.
My choice: Primus red
A spoon with a long handle like the one I have at lunch is what I always use on winter trips. Sometimes it might have been nice with a cutlery set, but only one spoon works, I think. You have a knife in the multitool tool the few times you need it. Choose tools depending on food choice.
Chemically pure petrol. 2.5-3dl for one person and day. I usually round up as it is usually sold in bottles of 1 liter. If it is cold, it goes more and vice versa. Pots with heat exchangers, wind protection, which food, water/ice or snow and other things also play a role. This is my number… Which one is yours?
My choice: Primus Power fuel
After a few days of light winds, cold winds that with an abrasive effect pull past the tent or fly past and between the legs during the day, it can be nice to plug in the headphones for some power ballads.
Usually used in and around camp. Sometimes I need it when I ski across Ritsem towards Akkha when I come by bus. I have one that is a little bigger and powered by 4 AA batteries. The battery pack is located in the neck and can be switched and kept in the inner pocket in severe cold so as not to lose power. I think it’s nice to have a few sets of batteries, to be able to shine with full power when needed and to dim when I only need LED lights. If you have a headlamp that has a built-in battery, you need to be able to charge with a power bank if necessary. In that case, take the right cord! If you use several electronic things that are powered by a battery, might it be worth it when buying that everything should go on the same battery size?
My choice: Black Diamond ICON 700 (for now)
I have a pair of pants with a full-length zipper. They are made of synthetic and I use them most in the camp on the outside of my underwear. There are several to choose from. Down or synthetic as well as shorts, pirate pants or full length. Find the one that suits you. I can also use these during the daily lunch if needed or have them under my shell trousers when the weather is really naughty and cold.
My choice: Haglöfs Barrier pants III
Reasonable amount! Needle, thread, tape, multitool with tongs. Some items the group can bring one off, other things maybe everyone needs at the individual level.
A funnel can be good when you pour boiling water into your bottles and thermoses. Your fingers do not get wet and burnt. I usually wear the gloves when I do this. The bottle of Powerfuel fuel fits perfectly in the Primus bottles and I feel absolutely no need for a funnel but some like to use it.
The “right” choice of food is often the most significant factor for the weight of your pack. It is not unusual that the weight of food varies between 0.5 and 2 kg/day. Plan ahead!
Personally, I like oatmeal with cinnamon, salt, dried apples, dried dates, raisins and a little powdered milk to pour on. If you want oatmeal but not the other, the Hot Cup Raspberry/Blueberry porridge brings flavour to life. Sometimes I bring orange concentrate with me which I mix with lukewarm water. Luxury breakfast in my opinion.
1 freeze-dried meal per day. You often sit outside without any major protection. A freeze-dried that you pour hot water from a thermos is in my opinion both simple and awesome. You stir and keep it inside the down jacket until it is ready to eat. To go with that you have 1 liter of blueberry or rosehip soup (per day). Broth also works well to drink. Easy to prepare and delicious!
Easy to prepare in a more luxurious manner when you are in the sleeping bag and have the tent as protection. Everything from stews to soft taco breads that you fry with cheese in between. You live in a freezer so you can bring almost anything. 1kg beef stew, dried egg powder, pasta, dried minced meat sauce etc. My advice is to consult your friends who have been on winter trips previously and go to an outdoor store and check what they have for offer regarding books on the subject of outdoor food.
I advocate a solid sleeping bag. Personally, I have an older -30C sleeping bag. Do not attempt to cut corners when comes the choice of sleeping bag. This is where we rest and recover after a full day out in the cold. We have been skiing and adventuring all day. The senses are full and we need rest! Sometimes it is possible to combine two sleeping bags. Down inside and a synthetic outside. The outside always gets a little wetter. Check if it works for you and if you find it comfortable, it could be an alternative if you do not have a winter bag. I do use a liner as I tend to spin into this and thereby wake up repeatedly. Instead, I dress in long wool underwear that I only use while sleeping. That way, the thighs do not stick together. I sleep better and if I go out in the middle of the night I have a “base protection”.
The further from the snow you get the better. I use a regular 14mm sleeping pad. Preferably with a smooth surface and closed cells so that the snow does not get stuck. I combine this with an inflatable sleeping pad that has a high R-value and can cool down to -30C. I sleep well on this. It is conceivable, however, that the inflatable may delaminate, the valve/gasket may break and that this may be punctured. It then becomes flat as a plastic bag and insulates nothing at all. Repair kits are a must! To be completely sure, I would have preferred double cellular plastic sleeping pads that are closed and 14mm each. The most easy way to fill the inflatable sleeping pad is by using an external pump bag. When you lie on the sleeping pad, you should not sink through, but if you sit on it, it will usually have an impact. Then it is also nice to have a regular sleeping pad underneath. The inflatable sleeping pad may also feel cold at first. This is since you fill it with cold air.
Boil water in the evening so that you have more than you need. 2 liters extra approximately. Pour the water into Nalgene bottles with a wide opening, close the bottle tight enough and thread the socks you had during the day on them. You can put the bottles at the foot end, the abdomen, the armpits or at the groin. Hug it! After an hour or so, this makes a big difference and you have water for breakfast. Bring rubber bands and you can also attach the insoles and inner shoes from the boots and they will dry up during the night.
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to avoid leaving your sleeping bag and tent. With a bottle, you do not have to wake up to as much and can “easily” do your needs. Do not miss! Personally, I have no problem going out if needed during the night. I fall asleep easily and I do not have to be afraid of missing the bottle.
Leave it in the sleeping bag. When you fluff the sleeping bag in the evening, the power bank is usually cold, but when you crawl into the bag with your hot water bottles, it gets hot and you can charge Inreach, Ipad or whatever you need.