The most valuable item on the backcountry checklist–knowledge–is not in this gear guide. Remember, when you step into the wilderness none of this equipment means a thing without the proper education and practice. Check into avalanche-awareness classes before you expose yourself to the dangers of backcountry travel.

Packs: 1, 2, 3

A good pack will carry the necessities to get you through the mission: food, extra layers, water, and rescue gear. This year, look for models that offer horizontal board-carrying straps and built-in hydration systems.

Probe Poles: 4

Probe poles are used to search beneath the surface of an avalanche for buried victims.

Avalanche Transceivers: 5, 6, 7, 8

Probably the greatest advance in life-saving technology for backcountry travelers, these devices transmit a 457 kHz signal for locating buried victims. A transceiver being used without knowledge is like using a parachute without a ripcord.

Snowshoes/Ascension Skis: 9, 10, 11

You must get up before you rip down; check out these means to an end.

Collapsible Poles: 12

These poles aid in ascension and collapse for easy storage during the descent.

Shovels: 13, 14

These shovels fit easily into a daypack, are strong enough to dig through avalanche debris, and handy enough to build big-ass kickers.

John Chorlton

Packs: 1. Da Kine Frontier Pack, $130, www.dakine.com 2. Burton AK Teardrop, $110, www.burton.com 3. The North Face Oryx, $159, www.thenorthface.com • Probe Poles: 4. Life-Link Sectional Probe, $67, www.life-link.com • Avalanche Transceivers: 5. Ortovox USA Inc. M1 (Digital and Analog), $300, www.ortovox.com 6. Survival On Snow F1-ND (analog), call for price, www.sos-find.com, (780) 973-5412 7. Backcountry Access DTS Tracker (Digital), $300, www.bcaccess.com 8. Pieps 457 (Analog), $249, www.life-link.com • Snowshoes/Ascension Skis: 9. Atlas Summit 33, $279, www.atlassnowshoe.com 10. Vertsclimbing snowshoes, $80, www.dakine.com 11. K2 Clicker Ascent Skis, $299, www.k2snowboards.com • Collapsible Poles: 12. Smith Approach Pole, $100, www.smithsport.com • Shovels: 13. Voile Tele Pack Extreme Shovel, $49, www.voile-usa.com 14. Red 457 Shovel, $55, www.red-corp.com