Map and Compass should always be your fail safe navigation technologies. In addition to packing them it is essential that you know how to use them. GPS devices are also incredibly useful, especially in those total white out situations. Just remember to never rely on an electronic device.
Sure we all hope that our adventures go off without a hitch but should something happen how are you planning to call for help? Who are you calling? Communication devices you should consider are your cell phone, a sat phone, a radio, and a SPOT device. Remember that each device has its own pros/cons so it is important to do your research. You may also want to consider a few low -tech methods such as a signalling mirror/flare/colors, and ground to air signals.
It doesn’t matter how extreme your adventure is, you should always have a first aid kit of some description with you. First aid kits are available in various sizes and styles that will depend on your type of activity, length of activity and group size. We recommend Adventure Medical Kits. They have a variety of kits that can easily be purchased at Mountain Equipment Coop or online through Amazon.
Shelter includes everything from an extra layer of clothes and dry socks to a siltarp and thermarest for ground insulation. It does not take long for the cold to set in during an emergency where you are not moving. Be sure that you are prepared for this! It is easier to keep warm (manage the warmth you have) that to try to warm yourself.
There are many different types of fire starting devices and techniques available. The important thing is to choose one, carry the tools with you and know how to use them. Like any other skill practice is essential so get out there and build some fires!
All too often I see and hear about people that head out in winter with just 1 litre of water. For some reason people find it acceptable to leave with much less water than they would in the summer. Though we may not be as perceptive to our need for water, our bodies need just as much or more. 2L should be a minimum for a day trip. You should also consider having a way to melt snow should you require more!
Photo Credit: Bryan Unruh
While you may not have thought about it directly, our bodies burn a ton more energy in the winter. Not to mention it takes a lot of effort to slog though waist deep snow! Be sure to pack enough calories for the day but to also pack extra in case of an emergency. You should ensure that the food you are packing contains both simple sugars and complex sugars. Candy and hot chocolate would be simple sugars while a granola bar or a sandwich would be complex sugars.