We all have that friend, the ultra-light maniac that literally counts every single gram of gear in their pack and is continually scanning the internet to find the newest, lightest and most packable gear, regardless of cost. They’re the snow sport enthusiasts that repackage their food to shave a few grams in bulky packaging; the ones who take the batteries out of their avalanche beacon (please don’t ski with someone that does this, but I’ve heard tales) to minimize weight schlepped; or those convinced that they’re fit enough to complete the entire day’s ski tour with only a one-liter Nalgene.
Whether you know someone like this or not, trust me they’re out there, and while these examples might seem neurotic and in some cases, unsafe, the underlying thought process is sound. The less one carries into the backcountry, the more turns they can rip, the more terrain they can access and the more shakas can be thrown. For the rest of us that prioritize the “fast and light” mentality, but won’t pull out all the stops to get there, here are five must haves that are attainable on any budget.
The North Face Rapidus 30 backpack is built for all-day ski-mountaineering missions, providing skiers with technical features in a fast and light package. This minimalist pack boasts an insulated water bottle holder on the shoulder strap, a side-accessed crampon/skin pocket and the “quick-setup” ski carry system allows you to retrieve your skis without even having to take off your pack. This Summit Series pack utilizes FlashDry fabrics in the back panel, which are engineered to facilitate evaporative cooling and speed up the removal of moisture from your skin as you move at no additional weight or bulk. And at a measly 500 grams, you’d be hard pressed to find a more streamlined 30 liter, ski-mountaineering specific pack out there.
The Stealth 240 Carbon Avalanche Probe is the quintessential minimalist and lightweight probe on the market. Aside from the laser etched depth markings that provide accurate snowpack/burial depth measurements and the 55-gram savings from its non-carbon sibling, the Stealth 240 Carbon’s most alluring attribute is the Stealth Quick-Lock Tension System. This mechanism eliminates the excess cable that most probes have and allows the trigger to nest inside the next probe length, which reduces the diameter of the probe bundle when it rests in your pack, as well as the total number of probe segments. This weight-conscious probe offers no compromise in performance.
The B-1 EXT is one of the lightest and most packable shovels on the market while still being ultra-effective. The shovel boasts a remarkable strength to weight ratio, an oval shaft construction—which requires less metal to produce and makes for a simpler connection point—and a compact, streamlined construction. While other shovels in this category may be a few grams lighter, BCA’s most popular shovel weighs in at 600 grams, has top-notch torsional rigidity and can fit in even the smallest of summit packs. And at less than $50, what else could you ask for?
The PIEPS Micro avalanche beacon is the smallest and lightest three-antenna beacon money can buy. At $389.95, this beacon is still reasonably priced while saving, on average, 50-70 grams as compared to other popular beacons on the market. In addition to its minimalism, this bad boy features a 40 meter range, a flagging function for multiple burials and is the first beacon to utilize sensor technology. This sensor tech allows the beacon to switch itself from send to search mode as you remove it from your pocket or chest harness. This innovation removes one more variable from the equation that allows you to stay focused on the objective at hand.
The Ski Skin Proof from Nikwax is simple to apply and can be the difference between smooth, efficient backcountry travel and soaking wet, heavy skins. Apply this once a season to your skins and never deal with sticky, wet globs of snow weighing you down. Spread this remedy evenly with the included sponge applicator to the entire skin surface, wait five minutes, then wipe away any excess substance with a damp cloth. Not only does this product repel water, stop saturation and improve glide, but it prolongs the performance and life of your skins. This product is an essential for any ski mountaineer.