How to get the most out of gear

There’s no denying it—backcountry gear is expensive. And while touring may offer freedom from purchasing lift tickets or a season’s pass, the cost of a new setup can quickly creep well above $2,000, which isn’t an annual line item in many a skier’s budget. Traveling through wild places tends to be rough on gear, too, more quickly gouging bases, dirtying pants and stinking up boots than happens in the relatively cozy confines of the resort. Through a few simple steps, however, it’s possible to get the most years out of each item of gear.

Cleaning, care and ski straps; the best recipe for gear longevity. [Photo] Jason Hummel

Buy it Right

No rule states that more expensive gear will last longer. But higher quality gear (which tends to cost more) is generally built with more effective materials—think down with better insulating properties or a reliable waterproof/breathable membrane, rather than a low-quality knockoff. And gear that works well stands a better chance of remaining in the kit longer than a saggy jacket or those boots that were a screaming deal but are a half size too small. If the checking account will support it, don’t cut corners when purchasing. Cherished gear lasts longer, so buy what you want the first time, and you’ll replace it less frequently. 

Treat it Well

Tools not jewels? Some people yard on their gear as though it were built to be bludgeoned at each turn. Others protect their stuff like it’s a newborn baby. Backcountry gear is meant to be used in adverse conditions, but there’s a line between abuse and serious use. Tread lightly, travel conservatively when conditions are marginal and hang onto old items to swap in when the weather doesn’t cooperate—rock skis, rainy-weather goggles, muddy-approach pants. The best way to treat clothing well is to clean it regularly: washing won’t only eliminate odors but reinvigorates breathability, loft and waterproofing. Just use an unscented, softener-free detergent for best results. Come summer, make repairs or send things away for warranty—many companies offer repairs or replacement parts at minimal cost (or even for free), and a new zipper or walk mode will reinvigorate an item otherwise headed for the bin.

Store it Properly

Most gear spends the majority of its life in storage—tuck it in nicely to reduce passive wear. During the season, let things dry thoroughly by taking everything out of the car or roof box—where edges can rust seemingly overnight—as frequently as possible. Invest in a boot dryer to keep foot stink from festering; hang skins after every tour to prevent moisture from permeating the glue; unpack it all before taking a shower or turning on Sunday afternoon football to make caring for gear a priority. Once the season closes, clean and tune everything before storing it in a cool, dry, mouse-free place so it’s ready to go come fall. Remove batteries from beacons and radios; once they’ve received a thick coat of summer wax, store skis flat to preserve camber; wash off boot shells and stuff a drier sheet in each liner to enhance freshness.

Dispose of it Responsibly

The adage of one man’s trash being another’s treasure was probably coined in relation to ski and snowboard gear—each definition of “beat up” varies immensely, and one person’s core-shot-filled skis might be another’s prized, new setup. Consignment shops and ski swaps aplenty promote reuse while helping to pad next season’s gear budget, and many dumps have collection and donation areas for items that are no longer worth cash—contact your nearest recycling center to see what options exist. If they can’t help, start collecting for one of those ski-backed Adirondack chairs—they might look tacky, but at least they keep stuff out of the landfill. 

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