If playing outside tops your personal bliss list, you may already know about the ten essentials.
They’re the basic items you need for outdoor adventure, whether you’re hiking for a few hours or trekking into the backcountry for a multi-day adventure.
While we covered summertime’s most crucial ten essentials in this blog post, winter conditions call for tweaks to the list to keep you warm, safe, and giddy at the splendor of Bend’s winter wonderland.
Here’s what you should gather before setting out for your next winter drive, hike, or snowshoe:
Nothing beats an old school compass, which comes with key advantages over the one on your phone. Unlike your phone, a compass doesn’t have batteries that deplete quicker in cold temps. Using a paper map or guidebook means you won’t be stuck searching for a phone signal or holding your breath as your charge runs down. If you’re determined to rely on your phone, make sure to pack a battery backup or portable charger.
This may sound weird in winter months, but Bend’s winters bring just as much sunshine as our summers do. Even in subzero temps, you can still get scorched to bits. Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of trekking 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. Even if it’s sunny and warm when you set out, temps can change quickly and you need to be prepared for all kinds of conditions.
Know what we see again and again in situations where someone needs rescue in the great outdoors? 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.
Have you ever found yourself cursing a blue streak because the lighter you brought camping won’t freakin’ work? (*raises hand*). It’s way worse when the weather’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 fire starters, 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 pocket knife. 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 plan to be out on the trail. High-carb energy bars like Bend-based Picky Bars are perfect! I’m a fan of cheese, apples, and crackers myself, though keep in mind how things hold up in cold temps. Whatever you do, don’t pack the sort of energy bars that turn into teeth-breaking ice bricks when it’s cold.
Here’s where a well-insulated beverage container or thermos 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 (another reason your firestarter is so essential).
Packing a tent may not be practical if you’re setting out for a half-mile snowshoe, but it’s wise to have some form of shelter if there’s a chance your day trip could become an overnighter.
This one’s tougher in wintertime, since you could end up freezing 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 great on frozen turf. 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 can make the difference between living and…well, not. Remember 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).