It’s time again. The snowflakes are just beginning to fall and it’s time to make sure your gear is as up to the challenge of winter backpacking, hiking, and snowshoeing as you are. Here are a few quick tips to make sure your gear won’t spoil your first winter adventures of the year.
|Worn out crampons on my old Tubbs Altitude 25 Snowshoes|
1. Snowshoes: Check your crampons to see if they still have bite. If they’re worn down (like in the picture above) spend a few minutes with a file to bring them back to life or replace them if they're ready for that big crampon place in the sky. If your snowshoes have any screws, check to see if they need tightening (or loosening to allow a toe cord to more freely rotate for example). Check all rivets that attach the decking to the frame as well to see if there are any pressure points that look like they're about to pull out.
2. Trekking Poles: If you use them, switch out your regular baskets for snow baskets. It’s as simple as unscrewing the old ones and screwing the new ones in. If you don’t have them, they’re pretty cheap and keep your poles from sinking too deep into the powder.
3. Clothing: Run some water over your shell and snow pants and let it sit. If it beads up and stays on the surface, you’re good to go. If it seeps into the fabric, you might need to restore the Durable Water Repellent coating (DWR). First, wash it with something like Tech Wash from Nikwax. Then, dry it in the dryer on low. The Tech Wash will remove things like sweat and oils that affect water repellency and the heat from the dryer will restore the DWR.
4. Boots: Leaky boots suck. If you have all synthetic boots, try a spray on repellent. For boots with leather uppers, something like Snowseal is a better (though slightly more labor-intensive) choice. Check your laces too to see if they're frayed and need to be replaced.
5. Stove: Many people carry white gas stoves in the winter because they perform better than canister or alcohol stoves in extreme temperatures. Yet, one bad O-ring can ruin everything, leaving you hungry when your body needs fuel most. Take your stove apart and check all of its O-rings for degradation. Replace if necessary by getting a stove maintenance kit. Do the same for your fuel bottle as well. The best thing to do is to do a test burn or two in a safe place to see if your pump, jets, and fuel line are all in good working order. Depending on the type of stove you have, you might have to do some minor maintenance if it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.
6. Heat: Check your inventory of chemical hand & foot warmers. If you’re low, buy in bulk to save and get you through the entire winter season on the cheap.
7. Pack: Check all the straps and buckles on your pack and make sure everything is in good condition. Winter amplifies the effect of every gear failure and a something as simple as a broken buckle that is a minor inconvenience in summer could cause a major problem in winter.
8. Food: (Yes, food is gear too!) Leftover Halloween candy usually makes for a good stock of high-fat, high calorie snacks for winter snowshoeing and backpacking (exactly the kind you need). But for entrees, you’ll want to stock up your favorite, hearty dehydrated staples as well. Luckily, many gear shops have sales on dehydrated food this time of year because sales slow down since for most, it’s not “backpacking season” anymore.
What are some tips you have to gear your gear ready for winter?