Get Your Gear Ready for Winter with this Quick Checklist

Winter Backpacking Gear

It’s time again.  The snowflakes are just beginning to fall and it’s time to make sure your gear is as up to the challenge of winter backpacking, hiking, and snowshoeing as you are.  Here are a few quick tips to make sure your gear won’t spoil your first winter adventures of the year.

Worn out crampons on my old Tubbs Altitude 25 Snowshoes

1.  Snowshoes:  Check your crampons to see if they still have bite.  If they’re worn down (like in the picture above) spend a few minutes with a file to bring them back to life or replace them if they're ready for that big crampon place in the sky.  If your snowshoes have any screws, check to see if they need tightening (or loosening to allow a toe cord to more freely rotate for example). Check all rivets that attach the decking to the frame as well to see if there are any pressure points that look like they're about to pull out.

2.  Trekking Poles:  If you use them, switch out your regular baskets for snow baskets.  It’s as simple as unscrewing the old ones and screwing the new ones in.  If you don’t have them, they’re pretty cheap and keep your poles from sinking too deep into the powder.

3.  Clothing:  Run some water over your shell and snow pants and let it sit.  If it beads up and stays on the surface, you’re good to go.  If it seeps into the fabric, you might need to restore the Durable Water Repellent coating (DWR).  First, wash it with something like Tech Wash from Nikwax.  Then, dry it in the dryer on low.  The Tech Wash will remove things like sweat and oils that affect water repellency and the heat from the dryer will restore the DWR.

4.  Boots:  Leaky boots suck.  If you have all synthetic boots, try a spray on repellent.  For boots with leather uppers, something like Snowseal is a better (though slightly more labor-intensive) choice.  Check your laces too to see if they're frayed and need to be replaced.

5.  Stove:  Many people carry white gas stoves in the winter because they perform better than canister or alcohol stoves in extreme temperatures.  Yet, one bad O-ring can ruin everything, leaving you hungry when your body needs fuel most.  Take your stove apart and check all of its O-rings for degradation.  Replace if necessary by getting a stove maintenance kit.  Do the same for your fuel bottle as well.  The best thing to do is to do a test burn or two in a safe place to see if your pump, jets, and fuel line are all in good working order.  Depending on the type of stove you have, you might have to do some minor maintenance if it’s been sitting in the garage all summer. 

6.  Heat:  Check your inventory of chemical hand & foot warmers.  If you’re low, buy in bulk to save and get you through the entire winter season on the cheap.

7.  Pack:  Check all the straps and buckles on your pack and make sure everything is in good condition.  Winter amplifies the effect of every gear failure and a something as simple as a broken buckle that is a minor inconvenience in summer could cause a major problem in winter.

8.  Food:  (Yes, food is gear too!)  Leftover Halloween candy usually makes for a good stock of high-fat, high calorie snacks for winter snowshoeing and backpacking (exactly the kind you need).  But for entrees, you’ll want to stock up your favorite, hearty dehydrated staples as well.  Luckily, many gear shops have sales on dehydrated food this time of year because sales slow down since for most, it’s not “backpacking season” anymore. 

What are some tips you have to gear your gear ready for winter?
Get Your Gear Ready for Winter with this Quick Checklist Get Your Gear Ready for Winter with this Quick Checklist Reviewed by Jason Klass on November 06, 2010 Rating: 5


Husky Hiker - Jim Bradley said...

great tips and a great reminder... I know what I am doing at least one night next week.

Liam said...

Off topic comment - but just had to say as a spork fan I love your tagline. Top stuff.

Matt Lacuesta said...

This is a perfect post for those evenings when I am sitting at home looking for something to do.
When checking your jacket and pants I like to use Seam Grip on rips, cuts, tears...sometimes I like to re-enforce by sewing first.
The seam grip holds up well in the wash as well.
What do you use?

Jason Klass said...

Hey Matt,
I've heard Tenacious tape works well too but I haven't tried it myself.

I've got some Nikwax stuff on the way to get my softshell back in shape.

It's snowing now in Denver and I can't wait to get out into the mountains and do some snowshoeing!

Jason Klass said...

Thanks Liam!

Matt Lacuesta said...

I used Tenacious Tape on my rain fly and it is still holding strong after about a dozen uses, so I'm pretty happy with it.
I wrote a bit about it a while back at
and I recently saw someone who used it on snowboarding gear and looked like a pretty solid way to extend gear another season.

Anonymous said...

What sources are available for replacement crampons for snowshoes

Jason Klass said...

It really depends on the snowshoe. I contacted Tubbs directly and was able to purchase crampons that would work with my snowshoes (with a slight mod). You should contact the manufacturer and see what they have available.

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