Credit: SPOT

SPOT Gen3 (pictured above)


The SPOT Gen3 improves on the features that have enabled these personal locator beacons to assist in more than 3,000 rescues since 2007. It is lighter (114 grams) and smaller (8.72x6.5x2.5 cm) than last year’s. Battery life is also improved — in Nunavik’s frigid winter climate, I used it daily, GPS tracking on, for a week without significant drain. Notably, it has a motion-sensitive location tracker that follows your progress (viewable via an online map) only when you’re making progress — to further save battery power. Of course, custom message, check-in, help/assist and S.O.S functions remain. I can attest that the former two are handy for letting your spouse know where you are and that you’re OK, even from the Arctic. Which means the latter two would work just as well to inform search-and-rescue (or dutiful friends, in help/assist mode) where you are and that you’re not OK. 

Credit: ABS

ABS Vario Base Unit


I don’t ski in the backcountry without an airbag. And neither should you. Need some supporting data? Tests indicate a 97 per cent survival rate for users who inflate an ABS unit in an avalanche situation (84 per cent remain uninjured!). These units function via the principle of inverse segregation — by increasing your volume without measurably increasing weight, your chances of staying atop an avalanche also increase. A yank on an ABS unit’s activation handle explosively puffs out twin airbags, instantly adding 170 litres of volume. Several ABS models are available, but I like the Vario Base Unit — it zips onto compatible backpacks (such as the Osprey on this page) and though it adds 2.5 kilograms, it also adds peace-of-mind and genuine backcountry safety.


Credit: Osprey

Osprey Kode 22+10 ABS


Dubbed a dedicated “snowplay” backpack, Osprey’s expandable and ABS Vario Unit-compatible pack is equipped with everything the winter requires. Wet/dry organization? Check. Insulated hydration-pack ready? Check. Ski/snowboard/snowshoe carry? Check. Helmet, goggle and avalanche gear compartments? Check, check, check. I especially appreciated the dual-hip-belt pockets and supportive back panel, both of which utilize comfy EVA foam right where it counts. But the Kode 22+10 ABS goes beyond snowplay — this is a four-season, multipurpose pack. Puffed out to 32 litres, it’s a weekender or fast-packing bag. Compressed, the 1.6-kg pack is great for gear-heavy day-hikes.