Snowmobiling Gear Checklist - Backpack, Safety Gear, and Electronics

With the beginning of a new snowmobiling season I like to pull all of my gear out of the closet and check it over.  It seems like there is an ever growing amount of electronics gear that is associated with Snowmobiling, so we'll review some of the new gear added over the summer to the gear I used last year.

First up is the gear I pack on my back

.  What to carry while snowmobiling

Starting on the left is the pack itself.  I'm using the BCA Float 30.  It is an inflatable backpack with a rip cord on the shoulder.  When inflated it creates a large balloon at the back of the pack.  The theory is that when inflated, the rider, pack, and inflated bladder will have a combined density that is less than the avalanche.  When the avalanche stops and compacts in the last 2-3 seconds, the rider will 'float' to the top instead of get buried.

There are a number of other products on the market.  I used this one all last season and found it to be well designed, rugged, and as a bonus it was about half the price of some other ones on the market.  My only complaint is that the shovel holder area isn't designed as well as it could be, but it still works so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

OK, next over to the right and at the top is the BCA (not meant to be marketing!) avalanche beacon.  This is new to me this year, I just upgraded to a 3 transceiver model.  We'll do a test run in the mountains and let you know how we find it, compared to the Peeps and other models.

Next we've got the cell phone, Samsung Galaxy S.  Great mulitool for fun and communication.  I had a terrible time with my old phone battery while riding last year so we'll see how this one does.  I plan on riding with it in 'airplane' mode most of the time so it doesn't waste the battery trying to attached to cell towers.

Bottom, 2nd column, is the Go Pro Hero digital video camera and helmet mount.  This little beauty is something to behold.  It captures super high quality video in a tiny little package - water proof, impact proof.  Was speaking with the guys at Mountain Bike magazine, they said in three years of constant use they have lost 2 of them but have never broken one, and you know they are giving it hell.  We'll see how the battery fairs in the mountain.

Middle column we've got the water bottle, knife/mulitool, GPS, level, and laser.  The gps is the Oregon 300 by Garmin.  I had a terrible time with it last year, didn't find the menus and functions very intuitive.  I had trouble using it to navigate, trouble using it to download and Am having more success recently in using their online tool, which has useful outputs of the display and track.  The level is to help assess risk points in the mountains.  Avalanches only really occur between 25 degree - 45 degree slopes.  The level helps assess the terrain for riding and to choose viewing points for watching others.  The key here is if you're watching at the bottom, you want to be at least 25 degrees away from the top of the danger area, that way if someone does trigger a slide you'll be safely out of the danger area and able to help rescue.  The final item here is a laser, from Greatland Laser.  This is especially helpful if things have gone really wrong.  It can be used to flag search and rescue planes or helicopters.  The laser produces a plane of beam.  By slowly scanning the plane past the aircraft, the pilot can't help but be alerted to your whereabouts.

On the right we've got a shovel, probe, and rope.  The Samson rope is very strong, with over 2500 lbs breaking strength.  Polyester cover with spectra core.  Ideally you'd have a rope with more stretch than this one has for towing a sled out of the bush, but this one is very light for the strength so I use it instead.

As a note, we're also getting alpine radios to have better reliability in communicating with each other.  Isn't delivered yet so not in the picture.

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