Snow reflects the sun, intensifies UV rays, and exposes normally protected parts of your body, which can add up to horrible sunburn, dehydration, fatigue, and snow blindness. Protect your exposed skin, remembering that the sun also reflects upwards meaning you need to coat the underside of your chin and nose. While a sunburn might just seem like a temporary inconvenience, skin cancer is caused from repeated exposure to the sun. Using a Buff® neck gaiter can increase protection for your neck, which typically can get the most exposure on your body. The sun, cold, and wind can also wreak havoc on your lips, so be sure to bring an SPF lip balm to help sooth splits and chapped lips.Reflecting sunlight on the snow can damage your eyes , make it hard to see, and cause pain. Make sure to wear sunglasses for eye protection, even when it seem cloudy. Look for glasses with ventilation, but good coverage on the sides.
There aren’t too many activities where you strap sharp, pointy objects all over your body. A fall while rock climbing might mean some scrapes or bruises, but a fall or slip on the ice could lead to a severe injury or puncture wound. Carry a small first aid kit with supplies focused on stopping bleeding for a deep cut or puncture: cloth tape, QuikClot® gauze, and some type of tourniquet. A small tampon can be inserted in a puncture wound or help stop bleeding for a broken nose. Aspirin and ibuprofen can help smooth out the pains of a long day. A few high-strength painkillers can be invaluable on a multiday route if something goes wrong. Bring antibiotics for multiday trips.
Keep an emergency survival kit, including a space blanket, multiple fire starters (e.g., waterproof matches, lighters, or magnesium strikers), waterproof fuel starters, and a small knife. Wrap three to six feet of duct tape around your trekking pole or water bottle to patch rips, plug holes, or fix broken items.Consider taking a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder course. If you spend a lot of time in the outdoors, chances are that you will encounter a need for first aid, whether it’s your own party or one you come across on your journey. Having the necessary skills to help someone in need can make the difference between life and death. https://www.rei.com/events/a/wilderness-medicine ›
- Jumper cables, standard cables or self-contained, battery-charged cables
- At least one shovel
- Tow straps
- A 0° sleeping bag
- Food and water
Before you head out, make sure others know where you are headed and what your planned objective is. Providing a “pin drop” on an online map of your intended trailhead parking as well as information on the route can make a huge difference to first responders if something bad happens. Take a photo of the guidebook description, topos, and maps and make sure someone at home has them in case of an emergency. Canadian ice climbers have a tradition of visibly displaying the route they are heading to on their vehicle, so that other climbers arriving after them can decide whether or not to hike to the same route. This can also help first responders to know where you are planning on being.
Take an avalanche education class. The better you know why avalanches happen, the terrain they occur in, how to travel safely through this terrain, and how to perform search and rescue after an avalanche, the safer you will be.AIARE/ ›
- Before you head out, check the avalanche conditions. Follow your local avalanche forecast center and check the avalanche forecast daily. Doing this over time will give you a good feel for the snow conditions and how they react and change over time. The more you understand how and why conditions change, the better you can read and respond to unsafe conditions.
- Always carry avalanche safety gear and know how to use it: beacon, shovel, and probe.
- Here are a few essential avalanche resources throughout the U.S.:
Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center ›
Mount Shasta Avalanche Center ›
Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center ›
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center ›
Central Oregon Avalanche Association ›