Timeless Tools: Backcountry items that never lose their virtue

Beyond our skis, boots and poles, beyond our shovel, beacon and probe, there are certain very valuable items we all take into the backcountry. Each one transcends the virtue of creature comforts into backcountry civility, safety and style. They are the standard by which we live and breathe. When it comes to bring it or don’t, it’s like sex; it’s better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it. So it goes for my list of compiled must-haves.

1. Utility: Voilé Straps | $4-8.50

Made from stretchy polyurethane and a hardened aluminum buckle, these straps are invaluable. Sold in various lengths, they can be used to lash skis, fix skins, take the place of a missing upper cuff buckle—the list is simply too long to get into detail here. voile.com


2. Down/Synthetic Puffy: Arc’teryx Cerium LT | $365

No matter where you go in the backcountry, having a compactable, insulated jacket is a no brainer. This hybrid Cerium hoody has synthetic Primaloft insulation mapped under the arms, chin, wrists and shoulders, whereas the remainder is toasty 850-fill goose down for maximum warmth. arcteryx.com


3. Multitool: Gerber Crucial | $45

There’s always an excuse for having multitools. Ropes need cutting, as does sausage, and wire cutters, needle-nosed pliers and screwdrivers all come out over the course of a winter season. The Crucial is a compact multitool that’ll handle a host of quick fixes on the fly. gerbergear.com


4. Gloves: Kinco Gloves | $16-20

These grain pigskin leather palm gloves are the norm for just about every on-hill resort employee in North America. There’s a good reason for this. They’re inexpensive and they work. Buy two pair, slather on some Sno-Seal, and you’re good for the entire season. kinco.com


5. Sunglasses: Smith Wayward | $208

Unless it’s blowing 50 mph in a snowstorm, skinning in goggles is ill advised. Sunglasses are the superior tool for high output activities where heat pours off our head. Smith’s Chromapop lenses offer sharp contrast and UV protection for long days on the skin track below the powerful winter sun. smithoptics.comsmith

6. Goggles: Julbo Revolution | $200

Skiing powder in sunglasses can get you street cred with salty patrollers, but it’s not always practical. Julbo’s Revolution has a polarized, photochromic lens that lightens or darkens with the intensity of the sun, making them an ideal one and done option for powder shredding. julbousa.com


7. Headlamp: Petzl Tikka Plus | $40

Cold, early mornings or late treks back to the trailhead share a common denominator: darkness. The simple headlamp poses a small weight penalty for maximum value when it counts. The Tikka Plus has 140 lumens, adjustable headstrap and no frills. Stow it in your pack and forget about it. petzl.com


8. Hard Shell: Patagonia M10 | $379

While skinning is better left to softshell fabrics, the hardshell is the closer when it comes to bad weather. Light and packable, it fits in a pack until the right time. The M10 has one Napolean pocket and high-collared, helmet-compatible hood for solid, first-line defense against serious conditions. patagonia.com


9. Fire maker: Exotac Nano Striker | $27

Lighters are simple and easy, but they can fail. The Nano striker is a much more dependable source of fire that has the capacity to save your skin. Consider it a solid backup when the lighter runs out of gas, gets wet, or gets lost. exotac.com


10. Thermos: Stanley 17oz. Vacuum Bottle | $25

No other item in a pack forces you to stop and live in the moment as much as a thermos full of warm goodness. Whether halfway up the trail, on top, or back at the car, a warm drink makes the day a little richer. stanley-pmi.com


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  1. Which of these multitools has a pozidriv setup that works on a Dynafit toe piece? The leatherman skeletool doesn’t, because the extension is too bulky to fit through the various access holes. Does the Gerber work better in this regard? I hate carrying a full sized screwdriver for this, but I do.

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