“What Rescue Gear Do You Take Into the Backcountry?”

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
ski strap and duct tape
Ski strap and duct tape, two great pieces of backcountry rescue gear.

Many of us spend a lot of time in the backcountry without thinking of self rescue.  If something does go wrong it can go exponentially wrong and your partner’s life can end up resting square in your hands.  If your partner gets hurt, you’re certainly going to ask yourself these 3 important questions below.

I asked these three questions to my ski partners today and below are their answers.  There is some great insight into what rescue gear we should all be carrying when we venture into the backcountry.

6 millimeter rope
10-20 meters of 6 millimeter rope can be enormously helpful in the backcountry.

Q1.  What rescue gear do you have with you in the backcountry?

Q2.  Can you self rescue an injured ski partner?

Q3.  What gear do you wish you had in your pack that you don’t?

headlamp
Nighttime isn’t nearly as scary or challenging with a solid headlamp.

Lee:

Q1 = “Lots of Gorilla tape, p-cord, voile straps, leatherman, headlamp, compass, thermal reflective bivy bag, extra clothing.  Going through my head all the things in my pack, there are a lot of things that can be used in a rescue.”

Q2 = “As long as a rescue isn’t on real technical terrain and someone doesn’t have to spend the night, I think I can successfully rescue someone.”

Q3 = “It’d be nice to have a sleeping bad and pad and more ropes.  If they weren’t so big, I’d like to carry more stuff like that.”

Charlie:

Q1 = “Emergency bivy, basic first aid kit, compass, headlamp, voile straps, leatherman.

Q2 = “No, that’s not the intention.  The intention is to stabilize the patient and go get help to the patient as soon as possible.”

Q3 = “Heavy duty pain killers.  Vicadin or morphine, just in case.  Matches, lighter, firestarter.  A repair kit to fix broken gear.”

We actually aren't so sure how useful a compass is in a general rescue situation, but they're light and could help especially combined with a map.
We actually aren’t so sure how useful a compass is in a general rescue situation, but they’re light and could help especially combined with a map.

Zach:

Q1 = “Medical tape, gauze, basic painkillers, duct tape, matches, lighter, toilet paper/fire starter, gorilla tape, voile straps, leatherman, headlamp, extra clothes, emergency bivy sack, tarp with  gussets and cord, knee wrap.”

Q2 = “Yeah, I think so.  I think it would take a long time and I’d like to have more practice.  That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound more of a cure.  Minimizing risk in the backcountry is very key to me.”

Q3 = “Better gear repair kit.  Spare headlamp batteries.

Emergency beacons save lives and are great for sending OK signals to girlfriends, wives, and moms.
Emergency beacons save lives and are great for sending OK signals to girlfriends, wives, and moms.

Mortiz:

Q1 = “First aid kit, pain killers, bivy bag, swiss army knife, duct tape, compass.”

Q2 = “It depends on the injury.  With a very heavy injury, I’m not sure if I could self rescue.  With a broken leg or a similar injury, I’m pretty sure I could rescue an injured partner.”

Q3 = “Headlamp would be really helpful.  Bailing wire to repair broken gear.”

Matthias:

Q1 = “First aid kit, bivy bag, an 8-meter 6-millimeter rope, headlamp, cell phone.”

Q2 = “Depends on what kind of injury my partner has and what kind of terrain we are involved in.  If the terrain is simple enough, I think I could self rescue my partner.  If he broke a leg, I think I could get him out.”

Q3 = “I feel pretty well equipped with the gear I have for the terrain we are skiing this winter.”

first aid kit
First aid kit is always a great piece of gear out there

I myself don’t bring enough rescue gear into the backcountry when touring with friends.  When guiding, I bring everything but the kitchen sink, when with friends, it’s a relief to throw out my huge first aid kit, my rescue gear, and my repair kit.  Writing this article has made me realize that I need to revisit what I bring into the backcountry with friends.  I certainly haven’t been bringing but will start brining my headlamp, a bivy sack, lighters, a tarp (for making a rescue sled), a working cell phone, a emergency beacon to contact rescuers, some 6 millimeter diameter rope.

menno boerman
Menno Boermans, mountain rescue medical technician’s survival/first aid kit.  Bivy sack not shown.

Tonight, we went to a Mountain Rescue seminar given by Menno Boermans, a mountain rescue medical technician from Switzerland.  He recommends for a mellow day backcountry ski trip to bring in your pack as rescue gear:

1.  Plastic emergency blanket

2.  Headlamp

3.  Hand warmers

4.  Bivy sack

5.  Pocket mask (for CPR)

6.  Lighter

7.  First aid kit (medical tape, ibprofen, gauze, latex gloves, steri strips, second skin, more)


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6 thoughts on ““What Rescue Gear Do You Take Into the Backcountry?”

  1. Good article, thanks, but “Emergency beacons save lives and are great for sending OK signals to girlfriends, wives, and moms.” O..K..

  2. All of these suggestions are practical in terms of their real value/weight. My definition of “self rescue” in the back country, however, also means enabling myself or others to hike out on their own and not have to wait for a rescue. That means the ability to assemble a make-shift “crutch” or other aid to restore one’s mobility so one can get to a better place under your own power. It seems that a compact cutting tool (to save on weight) would extremely helpful for this purpose (in addition to enhancing one’s ability to make a quick fire under stressful conditions).

    1. Unless I overlooked it, no one mentioned a multi-tool. As you should have bandage scissors in your first aid kit, get a multi-tool with pliers instead of scissors. Also you’ll want a saw blade in the tool for turning your space blanked into a stretcher, making a splint, or creating a crutch. That will probably require Gorilla or Duct tape which many of you mentioned. Problem is finding sticks above tree line. One of you mentioned a SAM splint. Takes up zero room and weight.
      Headlamp and spare batteries are a no brainer, day trips can easily become unplanned overnight stays.

  3. Awesome article. It bugs me when I overhear people talk about skiing the backcountry and say lines like “I have a beacon, shovel, probe so I have everything I need.”

    That being said, it took me tearing up both knees in the backcountry and needing to be self rescued to realize there is a lot more stuff you should carry.

    For me: 6m rope, bivy w/ gussets and can work as a sled, TP, first aid kid (sam splint, tape, gauze, hydrocodone, steri strips), headlamp, clothes and others.

  4. Emergency beacons are good for sending ok messages to moms
    And girlfriends. Roger. Now what device can be used to send an ok message to boyfriends and fathers? 😉

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