If you are willing to walk far with a heavy pack your front door can look like this.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do then by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor and catch the trade winds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER." - Mark Twain
This quote has gotten me off the couch and packing my overnight gear more then once. The comfort of the living room, a warm bed and a stocked refrigerator lull me into home life more then they should. The quiet call of the wild gets louder and louder the longer I go without real immersion in wilderness and disconnection from society. “Life is not meant to be lived in the padded cells of society and certainty”, I tell myself as I grab my overnight gear, crampons and ice axes.
Spring is the start of adventure season and the time of year I start looking at more serious lines and more grandiose missions. The days are long, my legs are strong, the mountains are filled in and the snowpack is usually more stable. It is the time to make a go at that hidden valley, high peak, or dream line I have been watching fill in all winter. It is the time to tick something off my mental “hit list.”
But every time I cross a line off the list I seem to add another dozen to it. No complaints though. That is the most wonderfully awesome problem to have. There are truly an infinite number of wild and untouched lines to keep one inspired and motivated for many lifetimes. There is no end game. A snowboarder willing to walk far and sleep on the ground will never say, “I have seen it all, been there done that or there is nothing left to do.”
With humble gratitude to our forefathers who fought so hard to protect national parks and wilderness areas, now is the time to celebrate their efforts by chasing away from society and exploring some new country. To inspire you to wander outside your comfort zone, here are a few tips to help you suffer a little less sleeping under the stars and my gear packing list.
Up with the sun and summoning the strength to shoulder this pack for a 14-hour push to camp. 70% of the time I loved the sled. The other 30% I battled like I have never battled before.
There is no need for extra clothes other then one pair of socks. You should be wearing everything you brought when the temps are coldest, otherwise you over packed. Have clean clothes at the trail head. Otherwise you may not be allowed in the restaurant for that much earned burger and beer.
This is the one area I do not skimp on. I bring less clothes, but an extra warm sleeping bag. In AK I bring a -20 degree bag, in the Sierra I use a 0 degree bag. A warm bag offers great piece of mind when freezing around camp as you know you can crawl in your bag and get warm. If you are under gunned and cold at night, go to sleep with a water bottle full of boiling water in your bag. Wrap the bottle in clothes so you don’t get burned and make sure to tightly close the lid. I also bring two sleeping pads - a lightweight inflatable pad and a foam pad. The foam pad will save you if your inflatable pad pops and it’s nice to sit on when cooking or chilling around camp.
Jimmy Goodman is the master of packing light and setting up a good bivy. Minimalist bivys can make for some hard nights though. Here he wakes from a cold night of massaging his toes.
Quick boil canister stoves may be small and lightweight but they can be finicky in cold temps or when you need to boil snow for water. For longer trips or boiling a lot of snow I always bring a liquid gas stove with a refillable fuel bottle. A broken stove or running out of fuel will end a trip early if you need to melt snow for water. Camping next to water can save you a ton of precious fuel.
If something goes wrong will you have communication with the outside world? Communication is crucial because any serious injury in the backcountry will likely require a heli evacuation. If there is no cellphone reception in the area you are traveling you should bring a sat phone or emergency radio/beacon. Also do not rely strictly on Search and Rescue to save you. Depending on the country or area you’re in, Search and Rescue may not be prepared to stage an immediate rescue plus bad weather and nightfall can shut down an evacuation. It’s crucial to have enough medical supplies to stabilize a person for the night if possible. For that reason, serious lines should be ridden in clear weather and in the morning. Always keep in the mind the consequences of an injury in the backcountry. Even minor lines can be a “no fall zones" depending on how remote the location.
The dream has changed for me. It use to be spending 20 grand on a private heli and riding 7 or 8 lines a day. Now the dream is to set up a base camp in a remote zone and spend a month climbing and riding virgin terrain.
Sleds are a great way to get the weight off your back when touring on roads or across glaciers, but traversing or climbing even a short hill can turn into a twelve round MMA fight.
As much as we try, keeping your boots dry when camping is next to impossible. Don’t be confused by that golden moment in between frozen boots and wet boots when your boots seem dry. The illusion will clear up in in the morning when your boots are frozen.
A few hour drive from home, some cold night/hard mornings and two days of walking is the price I paid to get here. Thirty years into snowboarding and it is the act of walking into new terrain for the first time that has me frothing over snowboarding like never before.
Socks (one pair for each day)
Down booties for camp
Lightweight tour gloves + warm riding gloves
Beanie + sun hat + neck gaiter
Insulated bottle for tea/coffee
Sleeping Pads (inflatable+foam)
Warm Sleeping Bag
Ultralight tent/bivy or tarp
Repair kit (ski straps, duct tape, zip ties)
First Aid kit
Ice axes or axe-pole
Splitboard + skins
Emergency radio or Sat phone