Welcome to a special Backcountry Issue installment of Gear Spotlight from FREESKIER. Here, we provide a close-up look at the equipment and accessories that everyone should know about when heading off-piste. Can’t get enough gear? Click here to see our entire 2019 Buyer’s Guide.
This three-layer DryVent kit offers the protection, breathability and waterproofing needed to withstand the elements inherent in high-altitude ski objectives. The designers at The North Face employed an elongated center back length that helps keep your bum from freezing up, while pack-friendly chest pockets allow uninhibited access to stowed gear and pit zips ensure you’ll never overheat on the skin track or bootpack.
The Condor comes with a single retractable whippet, great for those who like to use an ice axe on steep snow climbs, but want to consolidate their equipment load. The pick can also come in handy for self-arresting should you lose your feet in the no-fall zone… but let’s try and stay upright for the fun of it.
The Hannibal’s mid-90s waist width, light weight and stiff build all equate to a quite pleasurable peak-bagging ski. By milling offset channels into the gut of the
paulownia wood core, Fischer cuts weight without compromising much of the ski’s rigidity. Then, Titanal inserts and full length carbon stringers are employed to strengthen up the ski sans weight sacrifice. An early rise tip eases turn initiation and full camber throughout the rest of the ski ensures more than enough edge contact.
The Suunto 9 multi-sport watch can track all of your stats in addition to providing you with real-time information about the environment you’re traveling in. The watch features over 80 sport tracking modes, allowing you to follow your performance (heart rate stats, caloric output, etc.) from the treadmill to the weight rack to the skin track. The Suunto 9 also gives accurate GPS tracking with visual route and waypoint navigation as well as a realtime “breadcrumb trail” to ensure you find your way home if you get off-path out there.
The Spindrift 26 is big enough to fit your essentials, comes packed with enough exterior features for additional storage if needed, yet in a compact, lightweight package that won’t weigh you down on your thousand-plus-foot-vertical ascent. Dual hip belt pockets allow quick access to snacks and tools, while a 26-liter main compartment houses your safety equipment and bigger pieces of gear. Ice tool and crampon attachments on the outside are the icing on the cake of this pack.
The Wind Jacket 2.0 is a great option for both ascending and descending your backcountry line. The oversized lens helps shield your eyes from high alpine sun and snow glare, while a removable strap helps keep them on your face at all times. They come with Oakley’s renowned Prizm lens, which produces incredible color contrasting—an essential trait when navigating spring snow sharks lurking in your path of descent.
The F1 checks the box on weight savings, but still packs enough punch to stand up to aggressive descents. The boot weighs in at 1,219 grams while maintaining a 95 flex rating. The use of a carbon fiber frame that wraps under and around the sides of the boot, through the length of the foot, provides stiffness without bulk. On those long approaches, the boot’s 62-degree walk mode range of motion ensures optimal stride efficiency, getting you to your objective quicker and with less effort.
This thin, low profile glove is geared toward warmer weather missions or for those who easily overheat when touring. A Gore Windstopper shell helps shield your extremities from the wrath of high alpine gales, a neoprene cuff closure helps keep moisture out and the glove’s synthetic suede palm and form-fitting design provide ultimate dexterity. Grab these as your first option, but be sure to carry a heavier pair in your pack in case the weather turns for the worst.
Big mountaineering days demand that all skiers be at least slightly weight conscious. At 490 grams per pair (Marker’s lightest touring binding to date) the Alpinist helps lighten the load to save energy on your ascent. As far as downhill capabilities go, the heel’s fixed upward release and adjustable lateral release with a 15 mm adjustment range helps boost safe release, as ejection will occur from the heel and not the pre-set toe springs. The wide 38-mm mounting plate ensures stability for those firm, steep descents, too.