The more you pack on your sled, the less weight you carry on your back. Getting strategic about your gear storage will keep the necessities close at hand while allowing you to still be nimble in your maneuvers. From handlebar bags to those that stow under the windshield, there’s a variety of sled storage configurations. The most popular combo is a backpack and tunnel bag.
Your tunnel bag is a great asset for storing extra gear items and back-up equipment for your sled. This may include, but is not limited to, extra oil, a spare belt, spark plugs, a tow rope, snow bungie, zip ties and duct tape. Registration stickers should be applied to the exterior of your snowmobile so that they can be easily checked by local officials.
What you put in your backpack depends on the size of your pack and the weight of your individual items. The DSG Backcountry Pack was designed with the easy storage of the essentials in mind. Think about items that you wouldn’t want to be separated from if your sled was not within reach. If you have multiple snowmobiles you own or ride, you’re more likely to forget something when you switch if it’s not generally stored in your backpack.
Tools of the Trade
For both your safety and comfort, hand warmers are always good to have on hand. You never know when the handlebar warmers on your sled might go out—they last a long time, but not forever. A multi-tool is another great asset to any sledding adventure. You’ll see these come out of packs for everything from cutting up a lunch item to adjusting a throttle’s position. Similarly, a saw or hatchet is one of those items that you will yearn for the most when you need it, but don’t have it. Look for options that are lightweight and compact, and you’ll be thankful when you find yourself stuck in a tree. Finally, always carry plenty of water—more than you think you’ll need, and snacks. Small snacks that are packed with protein are ideal. Snacks that you can eat on the go will help you refuel quickly throughout the day.
There’s no shame in packing items that will keep you comfortable throughout the duration of a long day of snowmobiling. Prepare for changing temperatures and unexpected dampness. Most riders will keep extra socks, goggles, balaclavas and layers in their arsenal. During stops and lunch breaks, sunglasses and a hat are two things you might be missing while you chat with your companions. Finally, for women, toilet paper or wipes (although these may freeze in their packaging) may be a valuable commodity in the backcountry.
*These items will often store best in a tunnel bag as well
Your beacon won’t be in your back because it should be on your person. Some avy packs have beacon storage pockets in the chest area to provide for easy access. An avalanche pack is highly recommended, especially if you are a backcountry rider. These packs vary in size and weight, so it’s best to find one you can try on first before buying, so that you can make sure you are comfortable in it. Other avalanche tools would include a probe and backcountry shovel. These items are usually light and collapsible. The best way to familiarize yourself with their proper use is by taking an avalanche course. Most avalanche packs will have designated storage for these items that keep them close at hand and easy to access.
Communication: Two-way radios are a great asset to keeping in communication with your group, whether on the trails or in the backcountry. Stop trying to be heard over the sound of your sled or through your helmet. Communication helps avoid separation among group members and allows for the quickest access to assistance if someone finds themselves in a sticky situation out of sight. A whistle is another great communication tool, as are mini flares in an emergency.
Navigation: We are spoiled with electronics in our daily lives, but these connections often fail or are altogether unavailable off the beaten path. So, for your safety, go back to the basics—carry a map of the area you’re riding, and throw a good old-fashioned compass in your pack for good measure.
Emergency: You can’t prepare for every emergency, but you can certainly try. Always carry a first aid kit that contains essential items like gauze pads, antiseptic, latex gloves, bandages, pain medication and a sling. You’ll also want to be prepared to spend the night outside. This means carrying a bivy sack (which can also be used to keep an injured person warm at any hour of the day), a headlamp and flashlight with spare batteries, and fire-starting equipment. Because you don’t know what might fail you when you need it the most, many riders will stock their fire-starting kit with fire starters, a lighter, and stormproof matches. In a pinch, tampons or pads can be dipped in your snowmobile’s gasoline and double as a fire starter.
Every rider is different, but the safety equipment and gear you carry on your back and on your sled will be essential to combating the elements you may encounter on your rides. This list may vary by the type of riding you’re doing, but most of these items are going to be an asset to any snowmobile adventure. At the end of the day, most of this gear is worthless if you don’t know how to use it. Familiarize yourself with each item you carry. Doing so will make sure you are prepared to put them to use in situations where you are under stress.