As part of our annual New Hampshire AMC ski leader training refresher, we discussed group gear.
What is group gear? We couldn’t quite agree on that. To some people it’s the big bulky safety items that you offload on participants. To others it’s anything that the group needs only one or two of. I have split up the list into three categories
- bulky group gear
- smaller emergency gear for the group carried by the leader
- personal gear for emergencies
Whenever possible, reduce weight by finding solutions that serve two or three purposes.
Bulky Group Gear
- Shelter and/or tarp. As we found in our scenario practice, an immobilized person takes a big tarp or two tarps. Then you still need another tarp or bothy bag for the rest of the group. (Also useful for lunch time with kids.)
- (deep snow) Shovel to dig snow shelter instead of bringing a shelter. Possibly useful to build evacuation sled.
- Thermos with hot drink — honeyed tea, tomato soup, hot chocolate, or dry sugary drink mix packets.
- Stove/fire starter and a small pot. Fire starter is lighter and will get warmth below tree line. Above tree line, you need a stove. And, as we found in our scenario, the stove will be much more effective at heating water in either location. For the stove, you may need to preheat the fuel inside someone’s jacket. Fire starter can either be something special purpose, or alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Folding saw, snow saw, or chain saw. Lots of uses. You may need to clear a downed tree blocking the trail. You can use the saw to cut a branch for a pole repair. If someone impales themself on a branch, you shouldn’t pull the branch out because that will worsen the injury. Instead you have to cut it off at a manageable length.
- First aid kit for life-threatening injuries
- Ski and equipment repair kit
- Ice axe if going on steep terrain
- Sleeping bag
The major first aid kit should contain
- glucose gel – diabetic
- Aspirin – for cardiac arrest. Chew one at first symptoms.
- 3 triangular bandages
- blood stopper
- trauma shears
- blanket pins
You will note there is no splint in the first aid kit. You are expected to use what you have on hand — ski poles, foam pad, sticks, etc.
The most common items in our repair kits were
- large multi-tool. Also useful for cutting wood for fire.
- black diamond binding tool and spare screws
- zip ties
- pole repair metal flashing and hose clamps (see the 2016 leader training for instructions on how to do a pole repair.)
- pole basket
- pack belt buckle
- hydration bladder bite valve
- bailing wire
- “Tenacious tape” fabric tape/kenyen ripstop patch
This is smaller stuff that a responsible leader should carry. Responsible participants should also consider carrying these.
- Rope/cord for many uses: fixing gear, making a sled, towing the sled, rigging a tarp in trees, safety line for descending a steep slope, etc.
- Straps: gear repair, sling rigging, ski storage if you have to carry them.
- Sterile gloves for administering first aid. Size extra large to fit over liner gloves
- Roll up sled
- Full or 3/4 length foam pad for warmth and for splints. The more foam pads on the trip the better.
- Extra hat and warm mittens to loan.
- Matches or something that makes a spark
- Dry, functional cell phone that someone can use to call for help when they reach signal.
Personal Emergency Gear
In our discussion, we decided that everyone needs to carry their own of these small items
- Minor first aid kit
- Foam pad at least big enough to sit on
- Repair supplies specific to your bindings and other equipment
- Headlamp and spare batteries
- Bivy sack
- Spare socks, base layer, and plastic bags in case you fall in the water
- Enough warm layers to stand around all night.
- Stretchy ski straps
Personal first aid kit
- Blister treatment (My favorite is branded Compeed or Bandaid Hydro-Seal)
- Benadryl for allergies, nausea, high altitude sleep aid, cramps, etc
- Ace bandages, especially the large knee sized ones
- Medical tape
- Paper and pencil
We ski 75mm backcountry bindings and NTN bindings. We have spare bits for both types of binding in our repair kit.