Winter Recreation in the BackCountry

British Columbia is the perfect spot for outdoor winter fun, but too many people are injured or killed each year while taking part in winter recreation in the backcountry activities, including B.C. residents and visitors.

Being well prepared and properly equipped for backcountry travel is essential. The equipment and clothing that you bring with you on your mountain trip has a direct effect on your safety and comfort. It’s important to think carefully about each item you’d like to bring, and prioritize what’s essential – and what’s not.

Plan, plan, plan

Plan your trip with a responsible person. Two heads are always better than one. The following are important tips to help you plan your winter recreation in the backcountry:

  • Take the weather, trail and avalanche conditions into account and plan appropriately.
  • Before you head outdoors be sure to leave a trip plan with a responsible individual and stick to that trip plan. For a printable copy of a trip plan and to learn more about being safe when going into the backcountry, visit
  • Learn about avalanche safety and risks, and get the most recent bulletin and weather forecast at Take the conditions into account and plan appropriately.
  • Run through all your check lists one more time before you leave.

The Essential Gear for Outdoor Safety

This list can be used as a guide when preparing for your trip. Not every item listed here will be necessary for every experience of winter recreation in the backcountry – but go through the list and decide what is necessary for your trip.

stay-warmSpend some time with your equipment before leaving on the trip – learn how it works, make sure it fits, and run through the checklist one more time before leaving home.

  • Sturdy, water-protected pack (30-40 litres)
  • Avalanche transceiver with strong batteries
  • Collapsible avalanche probe
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
  • Fire-making kit – waterproof matches/lighter, fire starter/candle
  • Signalling device – whistle or mirror to signal searchers if you become lost
  • Extra food and water – 1 litre/person
  • Navigational/Communication aids (maps, compass, GPS, charts, cellular phone, satellite phone, hand-held radio – fully charged battery) – know how to use them
  • First Aid kit – know how to use it
  • Emergency shelter – orange tarp or large orange garbage bag. These can also be used as signalling devices.
  • Pocket knife
  • Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, lip protection, hat)
  • Watch
  • Route info
  • Repair kit
  • Camera
  • Water bottle and food

Clothing Suggestions

children-winterMountain weather can be fickle, ranging from baking heat one minute, to cold and windy the next. Layering your clothing is the most efficient strategy to deal with this, and allows you adjust your temperature with the weather conditions. Try to think of your clothing as a system, with one piece complimenting the other:

  • Extra clothing (rain, wind, water protection and toque)
  • Fleece jacket or warm sweater
  • Warm pants with a cuff to keep out the snow
  • Shelled jacket and/or pants (water-repellent/breathable)
  • Long underwear top and bottom
  • Insulated jacket (down, synthetic, etc)
  • Warm socks with liner socks (reduce blisters)
  • Warm hat or sun hat
  • Warm, shelled gloves or mitts

Equipment for Travel on Snow

Winter recreation in the backcountry will be much safer if you are fully prepared for deep snow, blizzards, etc. The following could make the difference between a great trip and a disaster!

  • Skis, snowboard, or snowshoes
  • Poles with good baskets
  • Comfortable ski or snowboard boots
  • Skins (fit well with lots of glue – check at home!)


If you are travelling in a group here’s some extras to take with you:

  • First-aid kit
  • Cell or Sat phone (record emergency numbers)
  • Bivouac sac or small tarp (emergency shelter)
If you are not experienced at packing for some winter recreation in the backcountry and want to be absolutely sure you don’t miss anything, visit

Remember to treat the British Columbia back country like it was your own backyard. It is!

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