If you’re skiing in the backcountry, you want reliable high-performance gear. Here’s my list of the 14 halo products I’d take with me when the lines get steep and the snow gets deep—all recently tested during an 11-hour day of climbing and skiing down 14,180-foot Mount Shasta.
AIARE Field Book ($30)
This is the most important tool I bring into the backcountry. Knowledge of the snowpack and conditions is crucial for anyone venturing beyond resort boundaries. I use this book, as well as the training I got with it, as my baseline to help guide smart decisions. It’s where I jot down my plan for the day, and it’s my rescue lifeline.
DPS Tour1 Wailer 112RP2 Skis ($1,050)
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DPS made its already insanely lightweight skis even lighter for winter 2015–16. The company combined a balsa core with its proprietary carbon laminate in a cap construction to shed extra ounces while maintaining enough stiffness to make descents controlled and enjoyable. I noticed the light weight on the ups and the torsional rigidity on the downs. Available next winter.
Dynafit TLT Radical FT Bindings ($600)
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The classic tech binding, the TLT Radical FT is durable, lightweight, and sturdy—the perfect combination for long tours and aggressive descents. You can shave five ounces by opting for the lighter STs, but the extra rigidity—thanks to the baseplate—more than makes up for the slight weight increase.
Dynafit TLT 6 Boots ($750)
The TLT 6 is close to a slipper as a ski boot can get. I walked for miles under a heavy pack while climbing Shasta and didn’t develop so much as a single hot spot. The boots’ range of motion doesn’t hold me back on the up, and the plastic insert makes them plenty stiff for descents.
Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix STS Skins ($165)
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These skins—made from 65 percent mohair and 35 percent nylon—weigh just 24 ounces and slide and grip as well as any skins I’ve tried.
Ortovox 3+ Beacon ($369)
I’m thankful that the only times I’ve switched this beacon to search mode was while practicing companion rescues. The display is intuitive, and the three antennas proved very sensitive during those practice sessions.
Mammut Nirvana Pro Pack ($200)
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This 35-liter pack is plenty big enough to hold the essentials during daylong expeditions. It uses a combo Velcro-and-strap system for the A-frame ski carry—one of the most intuitive designs I’ve seen on a backcountry pack. The Nirvana Pro has the compulsory back zip, which allowed me to pack my calories, layers, and crampons in their own compartment without interfering with my shovel and probe.
Mammut Probe Plus 280 ($50)
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This lightweight aluminum probe packs down small to easily fit in a pack but extends to over nine feet when you need it.
G3 Avitech Shovel ($65)
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The Avitech aluminum shovel is simple, reliable, lightweight (just over 27 ounces), and breaks down to 18 inches long, making it easy to slide in my pack.
Camp XLC Nanotech Crampons ($200)
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When the slope gets too steep for skis, I use these lightweight (just 21.1 ounces) aluminum crampons with steel reinforcements up front. They give me plenty of grip on icy sections and are easy to throw in the pack as an insurance policy.
Black Diamond Traverse Pole ($85) and Carbon Whippet ($140)
I prefer the aluminum Traverse to the carbon model even though it’s a bit heavier because it’s a good deal more durable and less expensive. But I sprang for the carbon fiber self-arrest Whippet to use on my longest days when I appreciate every ounce I can shave.
Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp ($60)
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The 130-lumen Revolt runs on both rechargeable lithium ion batteries and AAAs. I can charge the headlamp via USB the night before and bring spares just in case.
Giro Range Helmet ($240)
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I’m currently testing the Range for Outside’s 2015 Winter Buyer’s Guide. But here’s a little spoiler: The helmet uses a cool new fit system that ratchets the exterior shell to fit your head, rather than an interior lining controlled with a dial. The fit was remarkably comfortable and prevented cold air from creeping in. But I still found that the ample venting kept my head from overheating during the ascent. Available in August.
Hestra Fall Line Gloves ($145)
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My Fall Line gloves have proved plenty waterproof while fiddling with gear in the snow. Cowhide leather makes the exterior durable for climbing, and the lack of interior seams combined with neoprene wrist enclosures make them feel superplush despite the rugged face fabric.