Get Your Backcountry Gear in Working Order for Winter

Soon the snow will fall (in some places it already has) and the stoke for getting in the backcountry will rise. Tempting as it is to just grab whatever gear you can find and get out there after the first storm arrives, doing some simple prep before your first trip will save you headaches and you will get to enjoy the winter weather more.

Snow gear costs money, but there’s a reason for this: It’s made to be extremely durable, and when you take care of your gear, it can last a long time. We spoke with various winter sporting goods companies and have compiled a quick checklist for getting your winter backcountry gear in order before (and during) the season.

Did you leave you leave the batteries in your beacon all summer?

Time for a refresher.

Always check out your gear prior to heading out into the backcountry. Photo: Courtesy of Orthovox.

Don’t worry: If there aren’t any signs of corrosion, you can put in fresh batteries, of course checking to make sure all functions work at the same time. If there are signs of corrosion, take it in to your local beacon avalanche safety technician. If you don’t live near one, contact one and email them a photo of your terminals. They will likely have you send in the beacon, but in some cases, they might be able to help you clean it out yourself.

This is likely the most important thing you can do prep-wise for winter. And in the future, don’t store your batteries in your beacon all summer!

Recalls, warranties, repairs and updates.

The fine writing.

Recalls aren’t always front page news, and if you haven’t registered your product with a company (like auto recalls) you will likely have to find out on your own. It is suggested to visit the sites of the brands you use to see if there are any recalls. You don’t want to find out during the season and be without gear.

Some responsible manufacturers will issue recalls and updates to address even the most obscure safety concerns, like when Ortovox recently issued a recall on its 3+ transceiver in order to update the software when a potential scenario arose. That theoretical scenario could have added seconds to search times. Seconds matter in a real-world search.

Ortovox recommends that beacons be sent back to the factory for a checkup five years after purchase, then every two years after that initial check, then replaced within 15 years, at the most. Other brands have similar suggestions.

Also, always look for software updates, especially for beacons.

Check if you can warranty any of your gear or get it repaired. Brands like Patagonia, Deuter and Arc-teryx offer lifelong guarantees and repairs on their products. There is absolutely no reason to throw out gear that can be repaired.

Have you greased your ski box lock?

Dig it out of storage.

Sticky skins are good, sticky locks are not. Photo: Courtesy of Thule.

Unless you ride all winter, you will likely be exchanging your bike rack for a ski box. Hopefully you have stored your ski box inside all summer.

“For skiers and riders, this time of year means dusting off the cargo box and loading it back on your roof for trips to the mountain,” says Chris Richie, Communication Manager for Thule.

“Over the offseason it’s recommended to periodically turn the locks on your cargo box to ensure a smooth operation, and things like graphite or dry lubricant are great options to help keep the locks turning like new,” Richie says.

Another tip during the season is to carry a lighter in your vehicle to heat up the lock during very cold days.

Have you checked your skins? 

Time for a tune-up.

Keep your skins working well, or it will be an uphill battle. Courtesy of G3

“Check out the glue on your climbing skins to make sure it’s still functioning as well as it did last year,” says Cameron Shute, Director of Product at G3. “If it needs a tune-up, consider regluing them, and as always pay attention to the key long and short term storage tips for optimal glue durability,” says Shute.

Are your bindings working properly?

Give ’em a once-over before heading to the hill.

“Often in the spring your skis and bindings can get dusty and dirty due spring conditions,” Shute explains. “A quick rinse with lukewarm water and wiping down will help remove grime and dust prior to doing any tuning or maintenance.”

“Once you’ve removed dust and grim off your bindings, it never hurts to give them a bit of love with some plastic friendly grease (G3 sells binding grease that’s safe for plastics), but know that household and /or automotive lubricants are not safe for putting on bindings,” Shute tells us. “The key areas to hit on tech bindings are inside the heel turret, and in the heel track so the heel can slide back and forth smoothly as the ski bends and the forward pressure spring compensates for that movement.”

When you get everything back together, make sure that your bindings are working properly. Test the releasing and catching mechanisms.

Have you washed your waterproof ski gear?

Time for a rinse.

Make sure your gear is still waterproof. Photo: Courtesy of Kate Erwin.

Yes you can wash GORE-TEX and you should. Check out how to take care of your softgood adventure gear here.

Have you tuned up your skis?

A little extra attention never hurt.

Get your skis tuned up (you don’t want to catch an edge early in the season and get injured.) Even if you might be shredding in a shallow snow patch that might be rocky and mucky and you aren’t too worried about wax, at least give your bases a grind or clean up your edges with a diamond stone.

Keep learning.

Knowledge is power.

Practice with friends and keep your friends alive. Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Jerome.

Now is the time to sign-up for your AIARE (in the US) or AST (in Canada) courses. Brush up your skills with friends before you go out in the backcountry. Also you can check out online resources like – G3 University and Orthvox Safety Lab that have great tips.

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