Avid outdoor adventurers know the phrase “ten essentials.” Some even have a list tattooed on their foreheads.
But for more casual explorers, a few reminders can be helpful. Yes, we know we should pack that mini-flashlight for our ski picnic, but where the @#$% did we put the darn thing?
Find it. And find all the rest of the stuff on this list before you set out, since even a short snowshoe outing can turn dangerous if you’re not prepared.
We covered summertime essentials in this blog post, but here’s what you need to gather before setting out for your winter adventures in Bend.
There’s nothing wrong with an old school compass, and in fact, it has advantages over using your phone (which is more prone to battery depletion in cold temps). A paper map or guidebook is smart, too. If you’re determined to rely on your phone, make sure to pack a battery backup or portable charger.
I know this sounds weird in the winter months, but Bend boasts bountiful sunshine even in subzero temps. Not only that, but Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow) can lead to a nasty sunburn. Even if it’s chilly or overcast, pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and a good pair of sunglasses in case conditions change.
Layers, layers, layers. That’s the name of the game in Central Oregon’s rapidly changing conditions. This time of year, wool and some well-made water-resistant layers are crucial. Stuff an extra pair of socks and gloves in your pack in case yours get wet.
Know what I’ve seen over and over again in articles about winter explorers needing rescue? They counted on cell phones as flashlights. Not a good gamble, especially if you’re sapping the battery for directions or Instagram selfies. Carrying a small headlamp can make a return trip in the dark hands-free (allowing you to use that compass and map you’re toting). If a headlamp isn’t your thing, you can buy a small, powerful flashlight for next to nothing these days. Do it, and make sure your batteries are good before setting out.
First aid supplies
You never know when injuries can strike, so nab a small, packable first aid kit. You’ll find some great options at outdoor equipment retailers like REI. In the wintertime, it’s helpful to have one that has a space blanket in it, too in case you need extra protection from the cold and wind.
Ever been stuck at a campsite with a lighter that won’t work? It’s a lot worse when it’s snowing sideways. Pack smart and include waterproof matches and a lighter. You also need some firestarter, which doesn’t mean filling your backpack with kindling. Some folks swear by dipping cotton balls in wax to make cheap and easy firestarters, or stuff an empty toilet paper roll with dryer lint as an alternative to newspaper. Fire can be a lifesaver in cold conditions, so don’t shortchange yourself on this one.
No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your Nordic skiing adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife. Also think ahead to any sports-specific repair items you might need for your gear.
The rule of thumb is to carry at least 200 calories per person for every hour you will be out. High-carb energy bars like Bend-based Picky Bars are perfect! Steer clear of the sort of energy bars that turn into teeth-breaking ice bricks in cold conditions.
Here’s where a well-insulated beverage container like Hydro Flask is essential to keep hot liquids warm and cold ones from freezing. Pack at least 1 liter of water per person for short outings and 2.5 liters for longer ones. Keep in mind that if you run out, you’ll need to melt snow for water (which is why that firestarter thing is so critical).
This one’s tougher in wintertime, since you’re a lot more likely to freeze to death if you’re not prepared. A couple garbage bags might suffice in warmer months to insulate you from the ground, but they’re not so effective on frozen ground. An insulating pad is a must-have if there’s a chance you’ll be sitting or sleeping on snow. A space blanket (maybe the one in your first-aid kit?) or a bright plastic tarp is also a must, and keep in mind that you’ll need a shovel to dig a snow cave. If there’s even a remote chance that could happen, buy a small, packable one. Better safe than sorry!
P.S. While this isn’t technically one of the 10 essentials, make sure you have a good, sturdy pack to carry all your stuff. Trudging through snow is tough enough, but doing it with an ill-fitting or broken backpack can seriously wreck your day (not to mention your back).