Splitboarding Oh Sh!t Kit
Backcountry snowboard gear that can get you out of a jam
Call it Murphy’s law, the law of averages, or just plain old bad luck—spend enough time splitboarding in remote backcountry terrain, and something is all but guaranteed to go wrong.
Even the most seasoned backcountry snowboarders have had a mission derailed due to challenging conditions, an untimely gear failure, or (Ullr forbid) an accident that leaves someone in your crew injured and unable to continue on their own.
Fortunately, carrying a handful of key items in your touring pack can keep a minor inconvenience from turning into a major issue—or prevent a more serious incident from becoming a life-threatening situation.
Here’s a quick look at some of the common problem-solvers you should consider carrying into the backcountry, in addition to the non-negotiable essentials like avalanche safety gear. (We learned most of this stuff the hard way, so hopefully this list saves you some future headaches!) Also if you are ski touring check out our ski touring kit recommendations.
- Spare screws & bolts: Losing a bolt on one of your tip clips or splitboard pucks can make it difficult to secure your bindings in ride mode—and losing one of your touring brackets can turn a simple skin back to the car into an hours-long slog. It’s wise to carry at least one of every different type of bolt or screw anywhere on your board or bindings, in case one decides to escape. And of course, a little preventative maintenance and inspection before you arrive at the trailhead goes a long way.
- Spare ladders & buckles: If you’ve snowboarded in very cold weather, it’s likely that at some point you’ve accidentally stepped on your straps or ladders while strapping in, and snapped the extra-brittle plastic clean in half. Carrying some spare ladders and adjuster straps adds nearly zero weight or bulk to your pack, and can save you a lot of struggling, both uphill and downhill. Spare toe and heel buckles are also light and compact, and can prevent having to jerry-rig a less-ideal solution, should one of them go missing.
- Multitool: There’s not much point in carrying spare hardware if you don’t have a way to install it! Screwdrivers or Allen keys for your various hardware attachments are the bare minimum, but a fold-out knife can be useful in a variety of situations, as can plier heads for fixing things like bent heel risers.
- Ski straps: Also known as Voile straps, these stretchy, rubbery, tough-as-nails little miracle devices have a multitude of uses, from securing skins that won’t stick to closing your boots after a lacing-system blowout. You can even use them as a replacement ankle strap by weaving them through the baseplate of your binding. Carry a handful of them in varying lengths, and you won’t be sorry.
- Spare pole basket: It’s amazing how this tiny little plastic flower can make such a huge difference in your ability to keep your balance and streamline your stride. Keeping an extra one in your pack can save you hours of painstaking struggle, as your basket-less pole punches through to the ground like an avalanche probe instead of floating atop the snowpack.
- First aid essentials: In general, you should carry a kit equipped to treat common issues like sprains, abrasions, and cuts, and also be prepared to fashion a splint or a sling to stabilize more serious injuries. It’s also a good idea to keep some anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medicines in there.
- Skin wax: Nothing saps your energy faster than giant, heavy globs of snow collecting on your splitboard skins after you go through a wet or slushy patch. Skin wax comes in either rub-on or spray-on forms, and either of them will be your best friend in spring conditions when warming temperatures cause the snow (and your skins) to get sticky.
- Wire & paracord: A short length of wire or even an old-school lift ticket wicket can work magic in a pinch when something comes loose that shouldn't be. Similarly, a few feet of paracord can help you fix broken boots and bindings, administer first aid, or even build an emergency shelter. You can even use the interior of the cord as tinder for a fire, if you’re in a really tough spot.
- Duct tape or hockey tape: Duct tape has a near-infinite number of uses, and it’s easy to carry a length of it wrapped around each of your touring poles without even noticing it’s there. However, duct tape does have its limitations in harsh weather, which is why some people prefer hockey tape insead—it stays sticky, even in cold or wet conditions.
- Headlamp & spare batteries: Getting stuck after dark with no light source is no fun at all. A reliable headlamp will light your way if a tour goes much longer than anticipated, and will also make it much easier for SAR teams to locate your group. Protip: pick a headlamp that uses the same size batteries as your avalanche transceiver, so your spare batteries will work for both.
- Space blanket or emergency bivy: If someone gets injured and goes into shock, or your party gets stranded overnight, these lightweight and compact pieces trap an incredible amount of heat for how little room they take up in your pack. They can also be used to help evacuate a severely injured or unconscious person if necessary.
- Weatherproof fire kit: In an emergency situation, the ability to make a fire can make the difference between an unpleasant experience and a life-threatening one. And a gas-station lighter likely isn’t gonna cut it. Waterproof matches and a firestarter stick (or a DIY version like candle wax and dryer lint) can make it much easier to start a fire that will keep your party warm while also signaling your location to rescuers.
- Wayfinding & rescue essentials: Don’t rely on your phone for your route-finding. Your battery could die, or your touring partner could chuck it into the woods after you take one too many skin-track selfies. Have a waterproof map and traditional compass, and know how to use them. It’s also smart to carry a safety whistle, a signal mirror, and maybe even a glowstick to make yourself easy to find, just in case disaster strikes.
- Extra layers, gloves, & accessories: It’s easy to stay warm on the skin track, and when you’re shredding the fruits of your labor. But it’s always best to plan for the possibility of being out there longer than you expect. Having an extra packable puffy for when sun dips below the horizon is a good move, as is carrying extra gloves and a balaclava in case your main ones get soaked.
- Plenty of food & water: It’s always wise to have extra nutrition and hydration on hand. Best case, you’ll have plenty of snacks to share, and you’ll be extra popular with your touring partners. Worst case, you’ll have enough energy to sustain you until help arrives, or until you can make it out on your own.
While it’s impossible to plan for every potential scenario, carrying this stuff in your pack should prepare you to handle many of the most common situations that arise during a backcountry snowboard mission. And though these items may add a little weight to your load, carrying a few extra ounces will surely waste much less energy than post-holing your way out of a remote backcountry zone because your bindings are busted or your skins won’t stay on.
Besides, you’ll likely end up using your emergency supplies to help out your touring partners at least as often as fixing your own gear, which is not only excellent trail karma—it’s a great way to find yourself enjoying a free beer or two at the end of a successful tour.
TJ Parsons is a semi-reformed snowboard bum who now has a semi-adult career as a professional writer and creative. He's a self-proclaimed perpetual intermediate who thinks the outdoors are for everyone, and who wants to help dismantle gatekeeping and elitism in outdoor sports. When he's not squeezing brain juice into a keyboard, you'll find him riding boards or bikes throughout the Intermountain West.
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